A reliably obedient dog is possible for every owner, regardless of breed, age or size, and it all starts with these Tips for Beginner Obedience Training:
1. Consistency is Key: Use consistent verbiage and adhere to the predictable command sequence. If you use “come” one week, “come here” the next, and “come here, girl” the following, you’ll confuse your dog.
2. Keep it Simple, Then Gradually Progress in Difficulty: Systematic progress is essential – You cannot jump to a “level 8, 9, or 10” of difficulty without first working through “levels 1, 2, 3”.
Start with an easy command in a familiar place with no distractions. Once your dog responds consistently, add distance, duration, and distractions. Stand one step away from your dog, then two steps away; ask for a one-second stay, then a two-second stay.
Wait until your dog has mastered the current challenge before you add a new one. When they mess up (which is inevitable), just reduce the level of difficulty and try again, this time making slower progress.
3. Don’t Repeat the Command: Only state the command once, even if it takes several seconds for your dog to comply. We have a tendency to repeat the command over and over – “Max Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit”. Don’t do this, it teaches your dog that they don’t need to respond promptly to your first command.
4. Use Food Treats As Lures and Rewards: Use food treats as both a lure to get your dog into the command and as a reward for completing the command. You can mix in verbal praise and/or physical petting as a reward, instead of treats.
5. Time it Right: The praise and reward needs to come immediately after your dog performs the command.
6. Reward Every Repetition, Then Sporadically, and Eventually None At All: Dogs are more motivated by unpredictable rewards. Once your dog gets the idea of what you’re asking them, dispense treats only for the best responses – the quickest sit, the best down, etc. Eventually you can phase out treats altogether – verbal praise (“Good Boy/Girl”) or minimal petting will be enough.
7. Keep it Short and Sweet: Training is most effective when it’s fun. Make sure to stop before either you or your dog gets bored/frustrated. Short more frequent training sessions are better than one long training session. Aim for two or three sessions of about 5-10 minutes each day.
8. Mix-Up People and Places: It’s important that everyone in your household practices commands with your dog. Commands must also be taught in different settings (i.e. kitchen, living room, outside, when on walks, etc.).
9. Keep Calm: Raising your voice and using force won’t teach your dog how to “Sit” or “Come”. It will only set a bad precedent and deteriorate your relationship. If you feel your patience is running short, just end the session and try again later. Fair, calm, and consistent training is the best way to get your dog to listen and respect you.
10. Use Commands in Everyday Life: Once your dog has a clear understanding of the commands, begin using them in “real life” practical situations. Have your dog perform a command before you: give them a treat, a toy, their meal, start a play session, go out for a walk, or anywhere else it is applicable.
Now that you know the Tips for Beginner Obedience Training, it’s time to move onto the specifics of how to teach the commands.