Puppy Training Toolbox
If you’re like most pet owners, your goals and dreams with your pet include good behavior, cooperation, and a bond that gets stronger as time goes on. No matter the age, breed, or gender of your dog, an excellent method to achieve these goals is by working together to get your pet an “education”!
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Training your dog isn’t necessarily something only done through a pet trainer or training school - it’s something you can start with at home to lay the foundation for your pet to learn anything from cool tricks to essential things like how to crate or potty train.
Below is a list of helpful tools to have on hand to start working with your dog at home, and some other useful tricks to get you started!
A motivator for your pet is the most helpful thing to start learning new behaviors. For some dogs, this is a food reward (like commercial treats, low-fat deli meat (turkey/chicken), or even their own kibble!)
For other pets that aren’t motivated by food rewards, it’s simply important to find something they highly value. Does your dog love to play with a tug rope? Do they love their ball? Do they value your love and affection above all else? Whatever it is, finding their “motivator” is essential to helping them perform (and desire to cooperate) with new tasks or skills.
This reward will be given to help them learn when they’re correct in what you’re asking of them! Some common food rewards are training treats which are soft and easily breakable, or small slices of a high-value deli meat. Just be aware that any treats given are added calories and should be overall limited to not replace their normal meals!
2. Fanny Pack
Although it’s not the 1990s anymore, fanny-packs are in-style in the dog training world! Especially for those pets that respond to treats, a satchel or bag worn at the waist can be very helpful in having the reward on hand to give readily!
3. A 5 to 6-Foot Leash
Although retractable leashes offer more freedom for your pet, any type of leash training should start with a leash of predictable length. Even when working in a controlled environment (such as your living room) a leash can come in handy to help teach commands and keep your pup in the space you’d like them to be while focusing.
4. Consider the Training Environment
One of the most essential things in having good training results is ensuring that your “classroom” sets you both up for success. Find a quiet space with few distractions that is controlled. Remove any other pets from the room or family members not directly involved in the training when first starting new skills. A pet focused on their handler is much more likely to learn, just as students thrive in less chaotic classrooms.
Timing is also essential - withholding the specific “reward” before the session increases the motivation of your pet (like before a meal, for example) and your pet has a higher drive to cooperate and figure out what you’re trying to teach them.
5. Clicker for Clicker Training
A common technique using reward-based training is often referred to as “clicker-based training”. In this method, when your dog displays the correct behavior, a clicker is used to inform them that they’re correct in their attempt (even if it’s only partially correct). This clicker is associated with a larger reward such as a treat but helps them learn the exact behavior you’re seeking. For more information regarding clicker training, click HERE.
6. Gentle Leader (or other head harness)
For more rambunctious dogs or those that struggle with leash pulling, a well-established tool that’s helpful is a head harness (brand name “Gentle Leader”).
This is a different method of leashing a dog that follows the logic of why horses are led by their heads and not collars around their necks. The harness fits over their muzzle and behind their ears. It is not painful for the dog but does give the handler much more control.
Learning to wear a head harness does take some training, but detailed information comes with most types to help fit your head harness to your dog as well as teach them to wear it. This can help your pet stay focused on you, as well as limit the amount of force needed during walking or other training sessions to help you both work together in harmony.
A Word About Punishment Based Training (shock collars, prong collars, choke collars)
Although there are situations where these tools may be used in training by professionals (for protection dogs, for example), these are largely considered ineffective methods for family pets, and at worst, can create dangerous behaviors in your pet.
Fear-based training is no longer in favor, including choking, shocking and aggressive corrections during undesired behavior. Studies continue to confirm that learning is most effectively done through reward-based training (positive reinforcement), which is the technique we describe HERE.
If your pet displays dangerous behaviors such as aggression toward people or other animals, we recommend finding a veterinarian who can direct you to the best resources locally to you, which likely include a board-certified behavioral specialist.
Have more questions about training your puppy or adult dog?
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