A well trained dog is a pleasure to own and a valued part of the family. Ideally your dog's training should start as early as possible, as puppies learn very quickly and are yet to learn bad habits. However it is never too late to learn and you will find that even old dogs can learn new tricks!
We recommend reward based training, a method which is based on the proven theory that if an animal is rewarded for a behaviour, the behaviour is more likely to be repeated. The reward can be anything that your dog perceives to be a reward including food, toys, praise, attention and play.
When commencing training, food rewards are recommended as they are usually more powerful and produce faster results than praise or patting alone. Food rewards should be very small in size and varied to avoid your dog becoming bored or distracted. Once a behaviour has been learnt, food rewards can gradually be replaced by verbal and physical praise.
Find out more about the basics of training and why we actively discourage using punishments to train your dog.
Teaching your dog to come when called is one of the most important lessons they will ever learn. When practising recall initially, choose a safe enclosed area such as the backyard and it is a good idea to use a long lead until you are confident that your dog will return to you safely.
Use your dog's name to get his/her attention. Once your dog is looking at you, face him/her and say "Come" in a happy voice. Take a few quick steps backwards - it usually helps to get down low - and lure him/her towards you using a food reward. When your dog comes to you, reward with the treat and use plenty of praise.
When your dog is standing close to you, hold a treat just over his/ her nose and move your hand slightly back over the head. The aim is for him/her to follow the treat upwards and backwards with the nose which will automatically encourage him/her to drop their rear-end onto the ground. As soon as your dog's bottom touches the ground reward him/her with the treat. Do not try to push your dog into position.
Once sitting every time you lure him/her with a food treat, introduce the word "sit" and just reward with pats and praise, phasing out the food treats.
With your dog on the lead, place him/her in the sit position. Tell him/her to "Stay" then take one small step backwards away. Pause then step back to your dog and reward him/her. Gradually increase the distance from your dog and the time before returning to him/her for praise.
To teach your dog to walk calmly on a loose lead you will have to work with him/her every time he is on lead. If you allow him/her to pull on the lead even 5% of the time, that may be enough to reinforce the pulling action.
With your dog on the lead, lure him/her into position beside you with a food reward. Begin to walk and encourage your dog to come with you. You can use a command such as "Heel." Praise your dog whenever he/she is walking nicely beside you and offer food rewards at frequent intervals to encourage the good behaviour. If your dog starts to pull on the lead, stop walking and encourage him/her back to your side.
Remember, the secret to having a dog that walks successfully on a lead is to NEVER allow him/her to move forward when the lead is tight.
Training is for life, not just for puppies starting out in life. Continue to use rewards based training throughout your dog's adult life..
For puppies between 8 and 15 weeks check out Vetwest Puppy Preschool. If your dog is older than 13 weeks, we recommend RSPCA Dog Training. For more information about the courses, locations and costs, please visit the RSPCA website.