A Beginner’s Guide: How to Train A Dog

A Beginner’s Guide: How to Train A Dog

Confused about how to train a dog?

Training a puppy is always a challenge—especially if it is your very first one.

The process of training begins even before you bring your new family member home and it starts with you. As a dog owner and pack leader you must know that training requires consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement.

It is also important for you to know that building good habits take a long process which must begin as soon as you bring the little one home.

In this blog post, I’ll help you understand the process of training a dog and help you raise a well-behaved puppy.

So, without further ado, let’s jump right in, shall we?

Here we go!

How to Train a Dog Hack: Training Tools You Should Absolutely Invest In!

In this section of the blog post, I’ll to go through a few items you need to purchase before you start training your puppy.

You should ideally get them before you bring your new puppy home so that you can start the training process as soon as your furry friend enters your home.

So, let’s take a look at a few things you’ll need to get started!

  1. Clicker
    A clicker marks the desired behavior when it occurs both, naturally or as a response to a command or a cue. They come in various styles and shapes and sometimes are even built-in with the leash.
    You can also download a clicker app on your smartphone.
  1. Target stick
    Target sticks help in teaching your dog basic behaviors such as walking on a leash, or complex behaviors such as bow or spin. A target stick could be of a fixed-length, collapsible, or may even come with a clicker.
  2. Treats
    Treats are positive reinforcements that keep your dog motivated. These could be anything from dog biscuits to fresh fruit or pieces of chicken. Following are a few things you should keep in mind while choosing a treat:
  • It should be something that your dog really loves to eat
  • It should be small (or cut up in small pieces)
  • You should be able to carry it around with you
  1. Portable Mat
    Portable mats act as a bed which becomes a sort of a ‘safe space’ for your dog. It could be anything from a blanket to a foldable bed just as long as it is washable and is easy to transport.
  2. Leashes
    You’ll come across a variety of leashes when looking for a training leash. The leash you should choose should be long enough for your dog to be able to walk comfortably. You can even use a waist-clip if you wish to keep your hands free when training your dog.
  3. Collar and harness
    Your dog’s collar must hold the ID tag, and you can also clip a leash to the collar when in need.
  1. Barriers
    Barriers are essential if you want to keep your new puppy away from certain areas of the house—be it the fancy living room, stairs, the kids’ play area, or the kitchen. Barriers are an important tool for house training your pup.
  2. Toys
    Toys make an excellent reward for a playful pup if he’s been a good boy consistently. You can pick any toy which your puppy seems to enjoy playing with.
  3. Treat bag
    Treat bags make it easy for you to carry treats without getting your pockets dirty and smelling like dog food! They come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes and are easy to carry.
  4. Food Puzzles
    Puzzles help keep your dog’s mind sharp and also discourage unwanted behaviors.

Puppy Training Schedule: What’s Age-Appropriate?

It is extremely important for a dog owner to know what to expect from a puppy at a given age and be prepared to train him accordingly.

Following graphic will explain what you can expect from your pup:

You should create your own training schedule keeping your pup’s needs in mind. This is just a general timeline and you must not strictly adhere to it.

Each and every puppy is different in his own way and develops differently than the others.

The Psychology Behind Training Your Dog: Behaviorism on How to Train a Dog

When it comes to training a dog, Psychology has a lot of insights and ‘hacks’ to offer which, in this section of the blog, I’ll be going through a few concepts of Psychology that’ll help you become a better and more effective dog trainer.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Ivan Pavlov was a Nobel prize winning physiologist who conducted a research on the workings of the human digestive system. Before the human trials, he conducted his research on dogs and found something that he dedicated his life to.

Wondering why this is relevant? Well, you’ll know in a bit…

Pavlov’s subjects were dogs and these canines used to start drooling in anticipation of food when they sounded the bell which announced the feeding time.

This means that even though the food wasn’t physically present, the dogs had conditioned themselves to the sound of the bell because it was always followed by food.

And, that’s what we now call Classical Conditioning.

The concepts of Classical Conditioning and that of Instrumental Conditioning are now widely used to train all sorts of animals (and even humans)!

By sharing these basic concepts of Psychology, I’m trying to teach you how to fish and understand how to train a dog on a deeper level.

I have made a graphic that’ll help you understand the concept of classical conditioning without it being too technical or boring.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

To understand the concept, there are a few things that you must know of:

  • An unconditioned stimulus is something that activates a natural response.
    In this case, the treat acts as an unconditioned stimulus as it activates your dog’s salivary glands
  • A conditioned stimulus is something that is coupled with the unconditioned stimulus or UCS until it activates the same response
    In this case, the since the bell is accompanied with the food, it acquires the same response to the food which is why your dog salivates in anticipation of food when the bell is rung
  • An unconditioned response occurs on a natural or biological level
    For example, humans as well as dogs salivate when they see food in anticipation of it, we naturally blink our eyes when a foreign substance comes close to it, etc.

  • The conditioned response is acquired through learning when you pair the unconditioned stimulus with the conditioned one.
    In this example, the bell is associated with food for a long period of time, which is enough for your dog to understand that the bell will be followed with the food 

If you understand the workings of conditioning, it’ll be easier for you to grasp the concept of training your dog as well.

Classical Conditioning and Training Your Puppy

Classical conditioning one of the most common techniques is used to teach a dog some basic and complicated commands alike.

But, there’s a catch.

Did you know that your furry friend can easily ‘unlearn’ commands?

In fact, this is one of the most common problems that dog owners face because their dog seems to unlearn a command as fast as he learns it.

Let me explain this in simple words.

In above graph, you can observe how it doesn’t take a lot of time to acquire a conditioned response. However, you can also see how it doesn’t also take time for extinction to take place as well.

I won’t go into the concept of spontaneous recovery because it isn’t relevant to us at the moment, but let’s talk about acquisition and extinction.

Acquisition is when your dog understands that the food is associated with the bell. So, he starts salivating when the bell is rung.

However, the process of extinction takes place when you keep on ringing the bell without giving your dog the food or treat.

This is when your dog understands that the bell isn’t followed by the food so, there’s basically no need to salivate.

Reinforcements and Instrumental Conditioning

When introducing this section of the blog, I had also introduced the concept of Instrumental Conditioning. This concept has been used widely in training animals and is used by the experts out there.

And, you know what? It’s also been used on you since your childhood!

I’m sure that you have heard the word ‘reinforcement’ a lot and now I’ll help you figure out what it means in Psychology.

Let’s Talk About Reinforcement

In simple words, reinforcement is a consequence or outcome associated with a type of behavior which generally increases the chances of it repeating.

It is something that basically helps increase the probability of a response occurring again.

So, if you give your puppy a treat when he’s a good boy and he sits on command, you’re giving him positive reinforcement. That treat will increase the probability of your dog sitting again when you command him to.

– The Two Types of Reinforcement

You maybe aware of the concept of positive reinforcement, but there are actually two types of reinforcements that you need to know about:

  • Positive reinforcement: A favorable consequence to an acceptable behavior
  • Negative reinforcement: An unfavorable stimulus removed when an acceptable behavior occurs

I’ll go into detail about each one so that it is easy for you to grasp the concept.

– Positive Reinforcement: The Main Motivator

Did you ever get something you wanted after getting good grades in school?

That was positive reinforcement!

Basically, positive reinforcement means that you simply ‘reward’ your puppy with something that he’ll love after he does something desirable—like relieving himself outside the house or sitting on command.

Positive reinforcement can be anything that your puppy likes such as your affection, a treat, a new chew toy, etc.

– Negative Reinforcement

Did you ever get grounded when you were a teenager?

That’s negative reinforcement. The concept includes two main things:

  • Removal of aversive stimuli
  • Removal of positive stimuli

In the case of the removal of an aversive stimulus, always know that you are subtracting something unpleasant from your puppy’s environment. For example, removing your puppy from ‘time out’ after he’s acting like a good boy.

However, in the case of the removal of a positive stimulus…

Suppose you left your puppy home alone for a few hours and came back to find that your puppy chewed all of your nice shoes. Now, you can take away your pup’s favorite chew toy for a few hours as punishment.

Why You Should NEVER Hit Your Puppy!

Most people think that spanking, hitting, kicking, their puppy is okay if he’s done something really bad.

Usually, some cultures do that more than others.

This is known as the aversive technique where the puppy is physically hurt whenever he does something wrong. The idea behind this technique is that the pup would associate the pain with what he did and won’t do it again.

But, does this really work?

In some cases, this technique does really work. However, it is known to be too risky.

The puppy is simply intelligent enough to understand that you are the source of his pain and not the task that he was doing. Eventually, dogs can ever snap at or bite their owners if this is continued.

Other than that, the puppy also learns the following things:

  • A stranger’s hand coming closer the pup will be associated with hitting and the pain associated with it
  • The pup will start acting defensive and may even hurt those coming near him
  • The pup would start considering the owner and all other humans as threats
  • The puppy may feel that biting, growling, etc. are a part of normal play

The use of this technique can cause your puppy to be severely antisocial and may even result in behavioral issues later on.

“The quicker the positive reinforcement is delivered after the behaviour, the easier it is for the animal to learn the relationship between consequence and behaviour.”

Let’s Get to Work! Training Your Dog

In this section of the blog, I’ll be going through the basics of training your puppy and walk you through the most basic training and commands.

So, let’s just get started.

Considerations for the First Week

This is probably the most critical time to house train your pup. If the first week goes smoothly, the rest of the training would go amazingly well.

Before you even get your tiny bundle of fur home, you need to answer a few questions such as:

  1. Will you allow your pup on the furniture?
  2. Would the kitchen be off-limits for your puppy? 
  3. Where would the pup be sleeping?
  4. Who would be in charge of feeding the puppy?
  5. Who is to clean after the dog?

Try to ensure that you have a set of rules and regulations in place before you bring your new puppy home. Have your family sit down together and divide the responsibilities among the members and communicate the do’s and don’ts with them.

You must start the training process from the moment you bring your puppy home.

Keep in mind that the little one had just left the comfort and warmth of his mother and littermates behind and that your home is very new to him.

Following are a few things I’d like you to know about your pup:

  • Pups are really fast learners and quick to pick new habits up—good or bad
  • You should aim to establish a set routine during the first week—spoiling your puppy would only turn him into a brat
  • You should never wake a sleeping puppy as they’re growing as they sleep
  • You should never be too harsh or hit the little one

Puppies are really cute and it is very hard not to let them in your bed or on the couch when they look at you with their sad puppy dog eyes. But, you need to realize that boundaries are there for a reason.

If you let your furry friend on your bed, chances are that he’ll end up sleeping on there for the rest of his life. So, learn to say no.

You’re in charge of making the rules and you should also be the one who follows them.

House Training a Puppy

In the first section, I’d like to go through something very important: house training a new puppy.

Keep in mind that you have to start this the moment you bring the little one home.

So, let’s get started.

House Training Done Right

Puppies don’t have a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.

So, naturally, they don’t know what’s an appropriate place eliminate either. That’s why pups go wherever they feel like. It is your job as the owner to teach your dog the right behavior.

There are two important things that you need:

  • The right kind of environment
  • Consistency and a routine

The Right Environment

Providing your puppy with the right environment can help you make housetraining him much easier task.

1. Understanding the Puppy’s Eye View

Your puppy views the world a lot more differently than you do and thus isn’t aware of your perception of what’s right and what’s wrong.

So, peeing on the rug isn’t a bad thing in your puppy’s eyes! He may think that it’s the perfect spot to.

It is your job to teach your puppy the difference between right and wrong.

2. Teaching the Right Behavior

This will involve the concept of classical and instrumental conditioning.

For teaching your puppy to go outside, you will first have to rely on coincidence and take your pup outside and just wait…

If you don’t like playing the waiting game, you can look for some ‘cues’ in your pup’s behavior in order to determine if he wants to go to the toilet and then immediately take him outside.

What you basically need to do is to establish that your pup should always do his business outside the house and praise him or give him a treat when he does.

However, accidents are bound to happen. If your pup happens to pee or poop inside the house, you should do the following:

  • Interrupt the pup in the middle and say ‘Outside!’
  • Scoop the pup up and take him outside to the designated spot
3. No Punishments Is Good

Accidents are bound to happen.

Your pup is just way too small to be able to control his bowel movements and his bladder. Punishing the little pup wouldn’t be advisable as it could:

  • Instil fear in your pup
  • The pup will go in hidden and areas inaccessible to you in the house
  • It may even lead to behavioral issues

Positive training is always a good option to go with in any case.

4. The Age and Toilet Training

The smaller the puppy, the smaller the bladder and obviously, the more frequent the need to pee.

The following chart will help you figure out what you should expect from your pup when toilet training him:

The puppy’s breed is also an important determinant:

  • Large breed dogs are easier to housebreak
  • Smaller breeds have faster digestive systems that increase their need to eliminate
5. Crate Training

Crate training is a good option for people who have to leave their pups alone at home for a few hours.

Pups don’t like to soil the place where they sleep and so, don’t necessarily ‘go’ inside the house when you’re not present.

6. Pick an Outdoor Spot

Your puppy will need a designated stop that’ll act as a cue for him to take a wee and eliminate.

Make sure that the spot is:

  • Providing you and your pup shelter from rain or wind
  • Is close to your house
  • Isn’t a busy area (like a roadside)

You should always take your dog to this designated spot to do his business and not change the spot ever so often.

Creating A Routine

Consistency proves to be extremely important when you are house training a puppy.

Dogs are generally very good at keeping a track of time and do very well when put on a routine.

1. Feeding Schedule

Instead of topping off your pup’s bowl letting him eat whenever he wants to, try to put him on a fixed schedule so that it is easier for you to expect his next bladder or bowel movement.

This trick will certainly help you a lot when housebreaking a dog.

You should take your pup out for a walk a good 15 or 20 minutes after feeding him and let nature do its work.

2. Potty Schedule

Maintaining a ‘potty schedule’ is as important as maintaining a feeding schedule. The more consistent you are, the more predictable your pup becomes.

Try and take out your pup:

  • Right after waking up in the morning
  • After every meal
  • After playtime or naptime
  • Right before going to bed

This will help you reduce the number of accidents for sure!

3. Housebreaking on Day One

Like I had said before, it is extremely important for you to start housebreaking your dog from day one.

The first thing that you need to do after bringing your puppy home is to give him some water to drink and take him straight out to the designated ‘potty spot’ and just wait for the little guy to take a leak.

Don’t forget to praise him afterward!

Offer your puppy clean water to take a drink and then, take him out immediately to the designated ‘potty spot’. As soon as your puppy goes to the bathroom, shower him with praises.

4. The Subtle Cues

Puppies are intelligent beings and try to communicate with you in their own way. Before a puppy has to absolutely ‘go’ he will try and warn you that he wants to go.

Following are the cues that you should keep an eye out for:

  • Scratching the door
  • Sniffing to find look for a spot
  • Barking
  • Squatting
  • Restlessness

In order to ensure that no ‘accidents’ take place, you’ll have to keep a close eye on your tiny friend.

5. Consistently Using the “Go Potty” Command

Associating a command with going potty is always a wise thing to do. It helps your puppy understand exactly what is expected of him.

So, use the concept of Classical Conditioning and make sure to say “Go potty” every time your dog is about to defecate and he will soon learn what that means.

6. Positive Reinforcement Will Help You

Positive reinforcement is something that I’ve talked about in the previous section and I feel that it is necessary when you’re training your puppy to go outside.

Try and make sure that you always praise your puppy and give him a treat whenever he does something right.

Consequences play a big role in determining action.

The Basic Commands Your Puppy Needs to Know

In this section of the blog post, I’ll go over five of the most basic commands your puppy needs to know.

The commands include:

  • Sit
  • Lay down
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Heel

If you successfully teach your dog all five of these commands, they’ll lay the groundwork for more advanced commands.

The ‘Sit’ Command

This is probably the very first command that you should be teaching your puppy. This command is mainly used when you want your puppy to be waiting patiently for you.

Following are the steps:

  1. Using the concept of Classical conditioning, command your puppy to sit whenever you feel that he’s about to
  2. Using the concept of Instrumental Conditioning make it a point that you praise and reward your puppy when he sits
  3. You can even teach your pup a hand gesture for this command
  4. Practice this command consistently until your furry companion acquires it

Moving on…

The ‘Lay Down’ Command

The lay down is also referred to as the “Down” command which is mainly used to control the dog’s hyperactive behavior.

The main thing that your dog needs to understand is that all behavior and activity must come to a screeching halt when this command is used.

You should follow these steps to teach your dog the command:

  1. Start by commanding your dog to ‘sit’ and then proceed to lower your puppy’s head to the floor and use the command ‘down’
  2. Once your puppy’s face touches the floor, make sure to praise him and give him a treat
  3. You need to repeat this consistently until your puppy understands what you expect from him

– The ‘Come’ Command

Also known as the the recall, the purpose of this command is to ensure that your puppy comes to you whenever commanded to.

This command can be especially useful when you have your puppy out in public without a leash and it can also be a life-saving command.

I urge you to make sure that you practice this command consistently with your pup.

Following are the steps that you should follow:

  1. Start by commanding your dog to “sit” and try to sit as close as you can to your puppy, but not too close
  2. Take your pup’s name and command him to come to you while pulling him closer to yourself
  3. Make sure to do this consistently and always reward your puppy when he comes to you
  4. Make sure you practice the command with your puppy in different situations as well as places to ensure that it is strengthened

– The ‘Stay’ Command

This is another important command that your dog needs to learn. This one can even be proved to be a life-saving one in the time of need.

You need to make sure that you practice this regularly for your dog to be able to stay put for a longer duration.

Follow these steps to teach your dog this command:

  1. Start by commanding your pup to sit
  2. As you hold onto your dog’s collar, command him to stay
  3. Reward your dog when he makes no movement for a few seconds
  4. Repeat this process until your puppy stays put every time you use the command on him
  5. Make sure you gradually increase the ‘stay’ time

– Teaching Your Puppy to Heel

Out of all the basic commands that I’ve gone through, “Heel” is probably the most complicated and the hardest one to teach.

The purpose of this command is to ensure that your dog follows the right etiquette when you take him out for a walk.

Following are the steps that you should follow:

  1. Command your dog to sit next to your dominant leg—people usually prefer the right leg
  2. Follow this my commanding your puppy to “heel” as you take one step forward
  3. If your puppy tries to hurry past you, make sure that you pull him back to you and repeat the command
  4. Try and encourage your puppy to stay next to you and reward him adequately when he does
  5. Make sure you praise your puppy for being good—there’s no better reinforcer than praise

I would like to conclude this section of the blog post by saying that being consistent with your puppy’s training is extremely important if you don’t want the commands to go extinct.

Following are also a few things that you need to keep in your mind as well:

  • Make sure you take small breaks between the training sessions as your puppy can get frustrated
  • Try not to be too harsh with the little guy
  • Make sure that you keep the training sessions short as your puppy may not have a large span of attention 

Learning Never Stops

It is true for humans and it is also true for dogs. Learning never stops.

With each stage, you’ll find that there’s a new challenge that you and your dog will need to overcome.

Which is why I included almost everything you need to know about how to train a dog in this blog.

I am of the opinion that you should lay a solid foundation during puppyhood to be able to easily combat all other challenges that life with throw at you and your puppy friend.

I feel that the knowledge and tools that I have provided you in this book will help you go a long way without you facing any problems. The underlying concepts of Classical and Instrumental conditioning will help you keep your pup in line throughout his life.

Conclusion

I hope that this blog post helped you learn how to train a dog!

Training a puppy can be fun but at the same time, it can be frustrating as well. Following are a few things that I’d like you to keep in mind:

  • Reinforcement acts as an extremely powerful tool that you can use to your advantage to training your puppy.
  • Hitting a puppy will cause severe behavioral problems in the long run so, I’d advise against it
  • Patience is key when training a puppy
  • You need to be consistent in your behavior and training for the best results

Puppies are very intelligent and can catch onto things rather quickly. It is your duty as the owner to teach your pup the difference between right and wrong.

Do you have any questions on how to train a dog? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row]