Training a dog is an indispensable part of a quadruped owner’s daily routine. It is as important as walking, feeding or stroking. Without it, we cannot talk about satisfying basic needs, because it is training that „feeds the brain”. It is one of the most important elements of our care for a dog, unfortunately often overlooked and neglected.
Dogs have a different communication system than humans
Dogs, despite being so well adapted to living with humans, have a completely different communication system.
They do not understand what we say to them unless we teach them first.
Nor do they understand our behaviour, which is often completely out of character for them.
So before you start „explaining” to your dog what not to do or what you expect of him, you need to teach him.
You must show your dog what norms and rules apply in your life together.
Give him clear instructions about what he can and cannot do. Then life will be easier for everyone. After all, you can’t do everything you want in any „pack”. This is what your dog expects from you – that he understands his environment and knows what the rules are.
Why is dog training so important?
Without training and intentional teaching, you will not build a proper relationship with your dog, you will not create a space for him to feel safe. In the absence of training, there is also a high likelihood that unwanted behaviours, communication problems, extreme stress and loss of control will occur.
A trained dog:
- does not pull on the leash,
- does not attack people,
- does not bark at other dogs, passes them calmly,
- does not run away, returns when called,
- can carry out basic commands,
- stays at home alone.
What is important, is you can take your dog with you everywhere and it will not spoil your trip. A trained dog is a happy dog. He understands his surroundings, he is not afraid, and he knows what he can do and what is forbidden. It is confident and relaxed. And most importantly, he feels safe with us.
Dog training – a form of fun
Training with a dog is also fun. It tires a dog perfectly. It satisfies the need for activity, both physical and mental. It also fulfils the need for cooperation and communication. It is a time when you get to know each other and „talk”. And without that, there is no way to build good relationships and interspecies friendships. Therefore, the more often you train with your dog, the closer bond you will form with him.
When should I start training with my dog?
The best time is now, which means right away. From the first day your dog arrives in your home, you can start training with him. It doesn’t matter if you have a puppy or an adult dog. Start teaching him already on your first walk together. Don’t wait, don’t waste time and don’t leave it to fate. Because the dog will learn anyway, the only question is: will he learn what you want?
Of course, there is a chance that you will „somehow” get along with each other because you certainly know many dogs who have never been taught anything and yet are polite. Maybe… But it’s a lottery, like playing the lottery. We only hear about those who won, but nobody tells us the number of those who lost… Therefore it is worth following the rule that luck favours those who are prepared and plan your training with your dog.
This approach gives you a much better chance of winning, which means having a dog that doesn’t give us problems. Don’t wait for problems to arise, for a walk to turn into a nightmare.
With dog training it’s like with health – prevention is better than cure.
Don’t think in terms of: „he’s still a puppy, I have time” or „I don’t need it, because now he’s polite”. Believe me, you won’t even notice the moment when it will be too late, and it will be very difficult to make up for all the negligence.
How to start training with a dog – 5 steps
Make a training plan with your dog
Before you pick up the leash and food, think about why you have a dog in the first place. How will you spend your time with him, what is most important to you in your daily life and what things do you want to teach him? It’s hard to train a dog if you don’t know what you want to teach him.
Make yourself a list of the skills your dog should master.
Write down on a piece of paper what you will allow him to do and what he cannot do.
Think about whether you can bring him up on your own or whether you need the help of a specialist.
Make a note of what literature you want to read or which websites you will use.
If you decide to teach your dog yourself, work out where you want to start. Which behaviours are a priority and without which you cannot imagine e.g. your daily walks?
In my opinion, the minimum and absolutely basic package of dog skills should include such behaviours as:
- responding to name and recall,
- walking on a loose leash, calmly passing dogs and people,
- walking on the spot,
- positions: sit, lie down, stand,
- calmly tolerate grooming and veterinary procedures.
Complete the equipment
A leash, collar, food pouch and clicker are the bare minimum. Adjust the equipment so that you are comfortable.
Buy a lead that will allow your dog to explore its surroundings, while keeping it under control. I recommend the so-called Flexi automatic leashes or those that are about 3 metres long.
Fit the collar so that your dog can’t pull his head out of it. Unfortunately, most owners come to me with an ill-fitting, too big collar. There is a high risk that the dog will be able to escape.
The pouch must be such that you can freely put your hand in it when reaching for the reward. It’s good if it also has extra pockets where you can stow the clicker and poop bags, and sometimes your phone and house keys. It is also important that it is attached and fastened so that it does not fall off during training and treats do not spill out of it. However, colour and material are not important. The important thing is that you like it.
Of course, if you plan more advanced training, you will need more equipment. However, I recommend that you stock up on essentials gradually, as you progress. Buying everything at once will only cause unnecessary confusion and mess. After a few training sessions, you’ll figure out for yourself what you’re still missing.
Check what motivates your dog
You need to know what your dog likes. If you don’t have something he cares about, don’t expect him to do what you ask him to do. That’s how nature works – without motivation, there is no response.
And importantly, the motivated one must be the dog, not you.
Find something that your dog will want to get. It could be food that you give him during training, rather than pouring it into a bowl. It could be treats or favourite biscuits. It must be a dog menu and not sausages or pate. Remember that what is good for us can be harmful to your dog.
You are probably wondering why I am not writing about toys? Because if we are talking about the beginnings of training, it is better to use food for motivation. I introduce play only in more advanced training when the dog can learn and knows basic commands. Of course, you can play at the end of the training, to relax and use up energy. However, do not use play as your dog’s primary form of reward.
Plan time for training and resting
How much time do you need to train your dog? It will probably surprise you. Very little indeed. It’s not the length of training that counts, but the quality. If you have a puppy, plan and treat every walk as a training session.
Even a simple walk is an opportunity for your dog to learn about new objects, other dogs, people, vehicles or different surfaces. It’s a great time to learn:
- responding to his name,
- walking on a loose leash,
- greeting people,
- overcoming obstacles.
Four to five sessions of 10-15 minutes each are enough for a toddler during a day. Better more often and shorter than once but long. For each training session, focus on one thing only. Set yourself one goal, set yourself one task and concentrate on it.
Set yourself priorities, which you will carry out step by step. You can’t learn everything at once. Start with the basics, with getting your dog to want to exercise with you at all, and not just chase his friends or, worse, go home straight away. Watch the progress and set further goals.
However, remember a very important rule. What you need to teach your dog above all else is rest. Without this, there can be no good training. A tired dog will never be able to learn. So make sure you take a proper break after every training or play session.
On the other hand, if your dog is already an adult and can learn, you can do longer sessions. You can introduce more difficult exercises or combine several tasks in one training session. Still, a training session that lasts an hour is too long.
Always observe your dog and adjust the number of sessions and their length accordingly. It is not good if your dog comes back from training exhausted or stops cooperating due to fatigue. If you have an older dog and have just started training, approach training as if you had a puppy.
Choose a training location
If you want to teach your dog to walk on the spot, comb or trim his claws, you can train at home. All other training should be done outside.
The home is the place where the dog should, above all, rest.
It is not a playground or an entertainment centre. Therefore, teach him right from the start that the house should be quiet. And the place where he can have fun and where he should be active is outside.
For the first training sessions, choose quiet places, not frequented by people or other dogs, far away from city noise, children, bicycles and all kinds of distractions. For the training to be effective, the dog must concentrate.
If he is distracted by everything around him or does not feel comfortable in a given environment, he will not be able to listen to you. This is why choosing the right place is so important. Very often the reason for a failed training session is an environment that is too difficult or too attractive. So before you start calling your dog when he is playing with another animal, train this behaviour in a few calm and familiar places for your dog.
Remember also that a dog cannot generalise the behaviour. Therefore, if you teach him behaviour in one place, you must explain and practice the same behaviour with him in several other places. Only then will he understand that what you taught him at home is also valid in the park and the city.
So put the leash and the food in your hand and get to work! Start building a great relationship with your dog right now. Good luck.