Group of Dogs on a Table

Basic Information On How To Train A Dog

Lets take a look at must know information on training your dog. First and most important is positive reinforcement!

Positive Reinforcement Training For Dogs

You can do this yourself. Positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools you can use for changing or shaping your dog’s behavior, because rewards make a dog more likely to repeat the behavior that you have rewarded.

Rewards for dogs include treats and or praise. There are some basic guidelines for rewarding your dog for good behavior.


Clicker – using a clicker in addition to the treat or reward can improve your timing and more clearly help the dog understand the connection between what he did and the reward.

Immediate – the dog must get the reward within seconds to associate it with the proper action.

Clicker Used on a Border Collie

Short, Short, Short!

Dogs don’t understand sentences. Remember how Charlie Brown’s teacher sounded? Or the dog in The Far Side cartoon who only hears “blah blah blah, Ginger, blah blah blah, Ginger.”

Commands for dogs must be uncomplicated and short. Here are the most common dog commands:

  • Come
  • Down
  • ​Good dog
  • ​Heel
  • ​Leave it
  • Off
  • ​Sit
  • ​Stand
  • Stay
  • Watch me


To avoid confusing the dog, each person in the family must use the same commands for the dog – post a list on the fridge.

Always reward the wanted behavior and never rewarding the unwanted behavior.

Dog Training Stay Command

Don’t Reward Unwanted Behavior With Positive Reinforcement

Examples of rewarding an unwanted behavior:

  • Letting your puppy out of his training crate the second he starts to whine without waiting to be convinced that he needs to pee – you are teaching him that whining gets him all of his whims
  • Letting your dog outside every time he barks at a noise out there – you are teaching him that barking gets him access to the yard whenever he wants

Use Positive Reinforcement To Teach Commands And Reinforce Good Behavior

Examples for reinforcing good behavior and teaching commands:

  • Have her sit before feeding her (teaches her manners)
  • Have her sit before being petted (teachers her not to jump on people)
  • Have her sit at the curb while the light changes (teaches her to pay attention to traffic)

Technique: Shaping Behavior

This is using positive reinforcement to gradually achieve a behavior you want. Start with reinforcing something simple that is close to what you intend, and then gradually require more from the puppy or dog before they get the reward.

Human Giving a Food Treat to an Obedient Dog

Example – “Shake Paw”:

  • Reward for lifting his paw off the ground
  • Reward for lifting it higher
  • Reward for touching your hand
  • Reward for letting you hold his paw
  • Reward for actually shaking hands with you

Types Of Rewards For Positive Reinforcement

Most dogs are very motivated by food, so food treats work very well. But there is also a beloved toy or game, petting, or plain old praise. All dogs are different.

Food Treats

  • Food treats need to be absolutely irresistible to your dog - experiment
  • Small and soft and immediately gulp-able so she will look for more
  • ​Keep a variety in your fanny pack or pocket to prevent boredom
  • Give verbal praise along with the treat – “good dog” or “yes”

Other Rewards

Some professional dogs who sniff out drugs or cadavers or perps are successfully rewarded with just their favorite toy or being petted or a chance to play ball for a few minutes.

When To Give Treats

Continuous reinforcement – while your dog is learning a new behavior reward him every time he does it.

Intermittent reinforcement – once your dog has learned the behavior, continue with praise but decrease the number of times he gets the actual treat (gradually).

  • Always continue with praise.
  • Switch up the pattern of treat reinforcement so he doesn’t catch on to the schedule—he knows that he will always get your praise and sometimes he will also get a treat.
  • Your dog may become frustrated if you decrease the rewards too quickly.
Dog in a Tuxedo on Bed

Puppy Learning Checklist

Here is a puppy learning checklist:

  • To be comfortable and happy in a crate whether you are home or not
  • To go pee and potty outside
  • ​To be respectful of human skin, which means no mouthing or nipping
  • ​To not jump up on people or furniture
  • ​To view the owner as the pack leader
  • ​To release food or objects when commanded to do so
  • To come when called
  • ​To be comfortable or tolerant when being handled
  • ​To leave an item on command
  • To be in control and not chase people, animals, or objects
  • ​To not pull when being walked
  • ​To sit, stay, and go down when commanded to
  • To be comfortable and well behaved when introduced to new people, places, and situations
  • ​To be comfortable and relaxed when left alone, and to not be nervous in the presence of others
  • ​To be able to play independently from the owner
  • To be tolerant of other dogs
  • To not be overly protective of toys and food
  • To be quiet when commanded
  • To happily greet strangers without jumping or showing signs of nervousness
  • ​To not rush ahead of the owner through doorways or down stairs
  • To move to a new location when commanded

Training You Can’t Do On Your Own

Sometimes you need a pro. There are many kinds of dog training classes available in everybody’s area.

Obedience Training Basics

This itinerary comes from the Canadian Canine Training Academy

  • Focus – Getting the dog’s attention is imperative. It is impossible to teach anyone anything if they are not paying attention.
  • Communication – The dog must know the meaning of the commands. Once you have the dog’s attention, you can condition the dog to associate a certain action with a command or hand signal in order to earn rewards.
  • Dominance – It is also imperative that the dog looks up to you as the leader of the pack with love and respect and, when given a command, simply follows without hesitation.
Professional Dog Trainer with Four Dogs

In Your Area there may also be - Puppy socialization classes (your dog socializes with other dogs and you learn basic grooming, nail clipping, and toy selection); Courses for puppies and older dogs who need to learn the basics; Therapy and service dog training; Training in agility and other dog sports.

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