When done correctly, training can benefit your dog in a number of ways. It’s often recognised as being positive for your furry friend’s long-term development but it can also improve their obedience, discipline and trustworthiness as well as help to build a relationship with you as their owner and puppy parent. As such, dog training helps to set key foundations and strengthen the bond you share with your dog.
It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’, but many experts claim that a dog can learn new skills at any age. However, by setting patterns and clear instructions for your dog from an early age, you’ll be putting it into a routine that should set them on the right track and help them as they grow.
In this useful guide, we look at the most effective way of training your dog in three important fields: sitting, staying and resisting the urge to bite.
How to train a puppy to sit
Often regarded as the first skill you teach your dog, getting them to sit on command will encourage them to show discipline and refrain from jumping up on people. It could also be an important tool during walks, as you can use this skill to safely stop at the kerb before crossing busy roads.
Steps for getting your puppy to sit:
- as a starting point, get your dog to stand up and pick out a treat that you know they’re especially fond of.
- hold the treat near their nose but at a safe enough distance that they won’t be able to snatch it from your hand.
- move the treat above their head until they arch their back and sit down.
- as soon as they sit down, give them the treat as well as plenty of praise.
- during the command, use the same word to differentiate it from others. It’s common to use the word ‘sit’, but you may be more prone to say ‘sit down’ or something similar.
- make sure that you only say ‘sit’ or your other chosen word at the correct time, otherwise your dog could associate it with another action.
- continue to carry out this process on a regular basis.
- after every training session, use a word like ‘okay’ or ‘good job’ as a cue to indicate the end of training.
If you’re unable to get your dog to follow this command after months of trying, check for any discomfort in your dog as they sit. Some dog breeds are stubborn but if your puppy is refusing to sit despite knowing they’ll get a treat for it, it could be that they’re experiencing pain from sitting down.
How to train a puppy to stay
There’s a significant jump in difficulty from teaching your pooch to sit to teaching them to stay, as it can be difficult to keep any dog to remain stationary in the same position for long - especially when they’re young and full of life. However, it’s a useful skill as it will prevent them from potentially putting themselves in danger.
One of the most common techniques for getting your dog to stay is called the ‘down-stay’. Steps for the down-stay are as follows:
- start by standing in front of your dog, holding out your arm towards them and leaving your palm facing outwards.
- as with teaching your dog to sit, you can choose your own words as long as you stick to them, but it’s advisable to use the word ‘stay’ as you hold out your arm.
- after a few seconds of them staying still, reward your dog with a treat and give them lots of praise.
- when you’re happy that they’ve understood this command, ask them to go ‘down’, step backwards and tell them to stay.
- once again, after a few seconds of them staying still and keeping down, reward them with a treat and provide lots of praise.
- over time, gradually increase the time they’re staying still and how far you’re moving away from them, but make sure you do this over several weeks.
If your pup fails to stay still or keep down during training, don’t get angry with them or say anything. Just don’t reward them with a treat or shower them with praise. It could take several weeks or even months for it to work, but it’s worth doing, as the ability to stop your dog from moving impulsively could potentially prevent them from putting themselves in dangerous situations.
How to train a puppy to stop biting
When you first bring your puppy home, the odd nip can be cute during playtime, but it’s a different matter when they get bigger and begin to hurt you with their sharper teeth. As with their inability to sit down or stay still, biting is a sign that they’re excited and incapable of keeping calm in moments of pure joy. However, it is possible to train your puppy out of this behaviour.
Steps for getting your puppy to stop biting:
- pick out a treat that your dog is particularly fond of, present it to them and hold it in your hand, wrapping your fingers around it and clenching your fist.
- when you dog attempts to retrieve the treat by pawing, biting or licking your hand, don’t react or let them have it.
- watch your dog closely and as soon as their nose moves away from your hand, give them the treat.
- continue this process over a number of weeks and months to properly train them.
Additionally, you can encourage your dog to refrain from biting by making a loud ‘ouch’ if they ever bite your hand while you’re playing. This should deter them from biting you even when they get carried away playing. If they regularly play with other dogs, they may even recognise that they’ve had the same reaction from fellow woofers they’ve also been biting.