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Training Tips That Really Do The Trick

Aug 17, 2007
To train you dog, you first need to understand just how your four-footed friend thinks. Dogs, no matter how cute and cuddly, are descendents of far wilder ancestors - wolves.

Though they've become more docile and responsive to our commands over the centuries, these beautiful animals have kept their excellent eyesight, keen sense of small, and their need to be a member of a pack. Only today that pack is you and the other members of your household.

To train your dog, you need to understand, learn and use this to your advantage. A pack has one leader (that's you) and others (everyone else in the house) who show respect to that leader. Most breeds, with a few exceptions, don't want to lead the pack; they feel safer with someone else in charge. If your dog senses that you're a wimp in need of direction, he'll gladly step into that leadership role and rule the roost. Somebody has to be the top dog - if you won't, your dog will.

When it comes to training, what you want to do is redirect the dog's natural inclinations to outlets that are acceptable to you. Training continues the work of building a relationship between you and your faithful companion. The process, done correctly and with patience, helps to establish communication, enhance understanding and is a subtle demonstration of your command over the dog.

Whether house training, training for obedience, or teaching your four footed friend a few more involved tricks to impress company - start with an attitude of quiet confidence. From there, use some of these common-sense guidelines while working with your dog:

1. Always be firm and consistent - this will show your dog that he can't get away with misbehaving, even if he is the cutest thing you've ever seen.

2. Keep training sessions short - no more than 10 to 15 minutes two times per day, depending on your dog's attention span.

3. Find a distraction-free place to work - choose a quiet, familiar environment free of distractions so the dog's attention isn't drawn to other things that make it hard to focus on what you want to teach.

4. Every so often, show your dog who's boss - make him move and take his place, or eat your meal before feeding him his, these simple actions put your pet in his place and establishes you as a leader.

5. Never yell at or hit your dog - this teaches him to be nervous and fearful around you and keeps him from learning what you want to teach.

6. Use repetition - do things over and over and over again, using the same tone of voice, command and hand gestures until he gets it, reward every time your dog does as you ask.

7. Use reward - not only the treats your dog loves, but lavish your dog with praise in a high-pitched, happy voice and add lots of squeals of delight for effect and be sure you say his name frequently.

8. When issuing commands like "sit" or "come" use a low, gruff voice - dogs don't understand any of the words we say, but they do recognize and respond to a change in tone.

9. Practice learned tricks regularly - even after he's got a trick, reinforce what he or she knows by doing the trick again and again every day; teach only one new trick each week.

If you're having problems training your dog - don't lose hope (or patience). Start by talking to your vet (or breeder) and asking for some suggestions. You might also want to talk with other owners whose doge are well behaved and get some tips and tricks to use. If you like to use the computer, go online to some of the discussion forums devoted to dogs, visit dog.com for example, to talk to other dog owners who are also struggling to get their "best friends" to behave properly.

The time and effort you spend working with your dog will make a huge difference in his life, and yours. Not only will your dog be happier and easier to control in dangerous situations, but also he or she will have more freedom because you can count on your pet to behave properly in your home, with company or when you're out and about.
About the Author
Valerie Slaughter is a veteran marathoner and author of "You Want To Do What!?" who trained for marathons with her dog, Sam. For more articles, information and tips about caring for pets (dogs, cats) visit: http://doghealthynews.wordpress.com/
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