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Positive Techniques that Make Dog Training Fun for the Whole Family

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

I was 10 years old when I got my first dog, Bear. Bear was a pitbull and basset hound mix. That is definitely a funny combination! My great uncle from the very beginning told me how important it is to train a dog. I was always told if I wanted a loving, loyal, family, pet then I needed to put forth the work in making one. So that's what I did with Bear. I taught Bear how to sit, lay down, shake, and a little agility. Let me tell you, I thought I was awesome for teaching my dog those commands at that age. haha. He was the dog that made me love training dogs. I could do it for hours and found it fun! Ironically, I never knew I wanted to make a career of it until 10 years later.


Now that I have two daughters of my own, I wanted to incorporate our dogs' training with them. I feel it is very important for the dog to listen to ALL family members, big and small! My oldest, Addy, took a huge interest in dog training at two years old. Whether it was teaching obedience or working my K9 Athena, she was right there helping. Addy can tell our dogs to sit, lay down, stay, and even take them on a walk by herself! Of course she has to have a ball or treats for them to listen, but that is progress! Hopefully, after this you will incorporate your kids in training at home! Now lets talk about positive training.


Rewards

The easiest way to get your dog to perform the behavior you're asking for is to find his "currency." Every dog has something that they will work for harder than anything else. For most dogs, this will be food. It may be delicious treats from the grocery store, cut up chicken, hot dogs, ect. Other times your dog may absolutely love one toy that he would do anything for. It may take some trial and error, but there is something that your dog loves more than anything. (other than you of course)


Verbal Praise

When you are training your dog you will be using something visible, such as a treat. You treat your dog every time he does something you want him to do. That treat or toy reward is very encouraging, but a verbal phrase is just as valuable. Instead of just handing your dog a treat, try to mark the desired behavior with a "yes," "good girl," "good boy," ect. Also, put some animation in your voice as well! Your dog will love it and get super excited what he has done! That will for sure make training fun for both of you.


Take Turns

In every family I hear at least one person say "the dog listens to Susie or Bob better than me." I can almost guarantee that the person the dog listens to the most is the person that spends the most time with them. Dogs notice who supplies all the good resources such as attention, food, water, walks, toys, treats, and training. To ensure the dog listens to everyone equally in the house, simply take turns. If you don't take the time to care or train the dog then the dog will not take the time to listen to you. Create a bond with your dog.


One Handler at a Time

When training the dog it is best to do it one-on-one. Do not have the entire family crowd the dog during lessons. This will only confuse and excite the dog therefore the dog cannot focus. It is important that everyone in the house trains the dog exactly the same way. Meaning everyone walks the dog on the same side and commands are the same. I often hear families commanding their dog to "down" when they want their dog to lay down on the ground and for jumping. These are two opposite behaviors so we must use to different commands. I use "down" to teach a dog to lay down and "off" for jumping. If you want to use "down" for jumping then you must use "lay" to teach your dog to lay on the ground. Another command mistake is telling the dog to "sit down" when the family wants the dog to sit. "Sit down" is two commands. If you want your dog to sit, simply say "sit." Little errors like these confuse the dog. If needed write down all the commands on a sheet of paper so everyone in the house remembers your dog's commands.


Don't Push to Failure

We all have a goal in mind before we start training. Once we get in the moment and your dog starts messing up, STOP TRAINING. Continuing will lead to frustration, which you're likely to take out on the dog. If you take out frustration on the dog, he may become scared during training and have little to no motivation. The dog may also become scared of you. Creating a loss for both of you and ruining your bond. You must always end training on a positive note by asking him to do something he already knows. Then give lots of praise! If all fails, try again tomorrow!


Last but not least, Have Fun

For some reason, it never occurred to some trainers that training should be fun. No yelling, hitting, pain, or fear should ever be needed to train a dog. Whether you are training a police dog or a family companion, no pain should ever be used.

Addy and Athena

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