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Your guide to training your dog or puppy

Bringing a new puppy or dog home is an exciting time. But once the initial novelty wears off, the real work begins - it's time to start training your new furry friend! Proper training establishes good behaviours and prevents problem behaviours from developing. With patience and persistence, you can teach your dog key skills that will make them a pleasure to live with. This guide covers the fundamentals of effective dog training suited for pet owners.

Start with vet checks

Before beginning training, take your dog for a veterinarian check-up to rule out any medical issues affecting their behaviour. Make sure to keep their vaccinations up to date as well.
Gather the necessary supplies – a comfortable collar and lead, tasty treats for positive reinforcement, and toys. Settle on a designated training area with minimal distractions to start. Short, 5-10 minute sessions are ideal for puppies or adult dogs with limited attention spans. Try to train before feeding when your dog is alert and eager to work.

Don’t skimp on house training

One of the first goals is teaching your dog proper toilet habits, or you’re in for an unpleasant life of cleaning and bad smells.
  • Take them out frequently and reward them with treats and praise for going in designated areas.
  • Limit access before they are house trained and always supervise them.
  • Establish a schedule around mealtimes and nap times.
  • Notice signs they need to go and give a cue like "toilet time", or whatever term you prefer.
Avoid punishment for accidents - remain calm and immediately take them outside. With consistency, your dog will learn house training etiquette. Hardwood or tile floors are easier to clean than carpets during this process, so it would be helpful if your dog is trained before introducing it to carpeted areas of the home.

Obedience training is essential

Mastering basic commands is the foundation of good behaviour. Use reward-based methods (usually small treats), not punishment or scolding. Here are some to start with:
  • Sit - Hold a treat at nose level and move it above your dog's head. Praise and give the treat when they sit.
  • Down - Show the treat in your closed hand. Move it down to the floor and forward just out of reach. Reward when they lay down.
  • Stay - Have your dog sit. Say "stay", take a few steps back, then return and reward. Gradually increase the distance.
  • Come - Call your dog's name excitedly. When they come, give treats and affection.
  • Leave it - Have a treat in your closed hand. Say "leave it" when your dog tries to get it. Reward them only when they stop trying.
It’s important to get your dog used to being led on a lead. Practice obedience commands while on the lead. Don't allow pulling, if they do, stop and wait until there is slack before continuing. Use treats to keep their attention focused on you while walking. Work on heel commands, reward them for staying by your side. Proper lead manners will make strolls much more pleasant.
Proper obedient training leads to happier dogs, since they develop a strong notion of what their owners want from them, and how to behave.

Preventing problem behaviours

Unwanted behaviours like barking, digging, chewing, and jumping up can be avoided with sufficient physical and mental stimulation.
  • Make sure your dog gets adequate exercise.
  • Provide appropriate chew toys to discourage chewing on furniture.
  • Crate training establishes a safe space and prevents destructive behaviours while you are gone.
If attention-seeking actions persist, ignore your dog until they are calm. Rewarding good conduct is more effective than punishing bad, since dogs do not have the capacity as humans to learn from being scolded.

Negative feedback must be avoided

It can be tempting to shout, scold or punish your dog for misbehaving in a moment of weakness. But negative reinforcement is risky and it’s unlikely to work. It can instil fear and anxiety in your dog, this erodes the trust between you, and they may respond defensively by becoming more aggressive.
Instead, remain calm and redirect behaviours. For example, interrupt excessive barking by engaging your dog in a fun, distracting activity. If mistakes happen during training, simply go back a few steps rather than criticising your dog. Reward-based methods build a constructive foundation of trust and cooperation.
Remember, you’re working with a dog. It does not have the capacity to understand everything you do or say, or the intention behind them. Dog psychology can be complex, and while negative feedback can curb negative behaviours, your dog may never be the same because of the fear and anxiety it instils.

Be patient and consistent

Training takes dedication, but the payoff is a happy companion animal, and one that will make you even happier. Stick to established schedules, reinforce commands frequently, and be patient.
Involve the whole family and make sure everyone uses consistent cues and rewards. Refresher training sessions are helpful to maintain manners. Proper socialisation and training makes for a polite pooch who is a joy to live with!
Now that you’ve trained your canine companion to perfection, you need to safeguard their health. Research into pet insurance and use our comparison tool to find the best provider for you.