If you’ve ever owned a dog, you know how much work it can be. But as pet parents, it can also be very rewarding. Especially when your dog is well-trained.
Training your dog is a process that requires time and attention. If you’re a new dog owner or looking to sharpen your skills as you train your dog, learn all about dog training in this article.
Keep reading for 45 dog training tips for beginners.
Dog Training Essentials
Dog training helps build trust and set expectations between you and your dog. It's all about creating a language that you both can use. Start with these tips when you begin your training journey.
1. Set a purpose for training your dog.
It's important to understand why you want your dog to do a particular behavior, not just the name. Each command needs to have real meaning for both of you. For each command or trick you teach, set an intention that you enforce each time.
2. Collect proper dog training tools.
Having the right tools is key to successful training sessions. When you use the same supplies your dog will begin to familiarize these items with good behavior.
Here’s a list of training tools to collect before you begin:
- A leash
- A harness
- A clicker (for clicker training)
- High-value treats (like chewy treats)
- Baby gates
3. Foster a trusting relationship.
Training can help shape a dog's overall temperament by building trust between you and your pet over time. If your pet has learned to trust you as their leader, they'll be more likely to listen to your commands. After all, a dog who is confident, happy, and well-behaved will be easier to train than one who is anxious or fearful.
4. Pick a method and stick with it.
When you're first starting, it's best not to try and teach your dog everything at once. Instead, pick a dog training method and stick with it until they understand the command well enough to move on. Some methods include:
- Clicker training
- Positive reinforcement training
- Classical conditioning
If you have questions about the best method for your pet, don't be afraid to ask a dog trainer, veterinarian, or fellow dog owner for help.
5. Learn to read your dog’s body language.
Understanding your dog’s body language is key to knowing what they need. Dogs are very receptive to your energy and their environment. Pay special attention to breathing, eye contact, and tail wagging. If you notice your dog beginning to exhibit signs of stress from training, encourage them verbally, give them gentle pats, and take breaks frequently.
6. Practice positive reinforcement.
No matter what age or temperament, always use positive reinforcement. Reward good behavior with treats, toys, or praise by letting them know the treat will come after they do what you ask. Don't wait until the dog is finished with the behavior otherwise, they may obey because they want the treat — not because they followed the command.
7. Never punish your dog.
As humans, we’ve learned certain things are off limits through the word no. But, dogs don’t speak our language so punishing poor behavior can be counterintuitive. Use positive reinforcement rather than negative. Punishing your dog can train your dog to be aggressive.
8. Vocalize one word per command.
Try to use only one word (and the same word) per command at a time. The more words you use, the more complicated it will be for your dog to understand. Watch your tone when giving verbal commands. Being too forceful or too soft with a verbal command can be confusing for your dog.
9. Experiment with hand signals.
Dogs understand hand signals better than spoken commands at times. When you establish the word for your command, pair it with a hand signal. For example, when you say “sit” hold a fist in front of your dog’s face. No matter what you choose, make sure that you are consistent with the hand signals you use for each command.
10. Tire your dog before training.
The old saying goes, “a naughty dog is a bored dog.” When a puppy begins to chew on furniture or destroys a sock it's likely because they are bored. And if your puppy is full of energy they likely won’t pay attention to your commands.
Before you start training, make time to play with your pup to wear them out with these tips:
- Take them on a long walk
- Let them run around in the backyard
- Throw a ball or squeaky toy
- Play tug of war with a rope toy
11. Keep training sessions short.
Your dog likely has a short attention span. And, too much mental stimulation can lead to boredom. Limit sessions to 10-15 minutes at a time. This will help ensure your pup doesn’t get too tired, frustrated, or lose interest altogether.
12. Stay consistent.
It's important to be consistent when training your dog. What you do once, you should do every time. There are countless ways to demonstrate consistency, including:
- Feeding your dog a treat or reward the same way each time
- Vocalizing a command once and only repeating it as needed
- Practicing at the same time every day
13. Be patient.
When training your dog, it is important to remember that dogs learn at varying speeds. This means that patience is key. If one method doesn't work after several tries, move on, give your pet a play break, or try again in your next session. And always end on a positive note by rewarding with a treat, toy, or snuggle.
14. Have fun.
Dog training is serious business, especially when you have a new dog. But, to train your dog effectively you should make it a fun and rewarding process for both of you. Treat every command as a fun, new level for your pup to surpass, rewarding them.
There are a handful of basic manners that are important and helpful in dog training. From sit and stay to practicing recall, these are the most important commands to include in your basic training sessions.
15. Know how to teach a command.
Every time you teach your dog a new command you should follow these simple steps:
- Make sure your dog is calm and has plenty of room to move around.
- Teach them the command and reward any good behavior.
- Then, get them to perform the exercise using treats as motivation.
- Repeat the process until they get the hang of it.
16. Start with “sit” and “down”.
Sitting is a basic command you should teach your dog. It’s also a good one to start with because it is easy for your dog to pick up and can be used in many situations. Teaching your dog to sit can help you control their behavior around other people or animals. Take this command one step further and make “sit” the default behavior whenever you open the door.
17. Move on to “stay”.
“Stay” is one of the most important basic commands to teach your dog. A dog that knows when to stay and when they are free to roam will remain where they are until they’ve been released. This command can help you control your dog in high-traffic, high-stress situations.
18. Practice your dog’s recall.
Recall is the most useful in a dog's repertoire. It’s vital that you train your puppy to respond to it. There are many scenarios where this simple word can save a dog's life. Make sure your cues for this command are consistent and strong enough for real-life situations.
19. Stop your dog from jumping on people.
It's normal for dogs to jump on people, but it can turn poorly because most dogs don't know their strength yet. If your dog continues to jump on new people consider these steps:
- Create space between your dog and the friend
- Tell the person to turn around or ignore your dog
- Reward them when your dog has all fours on the ground
- Step on their leash to keep them closer to the ground
- Remove them from the situation entirely if needed
20. Spend time on “drop it.”
“Drop it” is a command that will keep your dog from stealing the remote control, eating your favorite shoes, and destroying valuables. Teaching this command will be super valuable for your dog. No matter if you use clicker training or positive reinforcement.
21. Tell your dog to “leave it.”
“Leave it” is an important command for the safety of your dog. When your dog follows this command you can prevent them from eating dangerous items they shouldn’t and potentially save their life. Practice with a favorite toy or treat and eventually move on to more serious items.
22. Limit barking, howling, and whining.
Howling, barking, and whining are natural dog behaviors. Dogs vocalize to:
- Let other dogs know they are in the area
- Establish a pack hierarchy
- Communicate with their people
Certain levels of distraction are great for encouraging your dog to stop barking. The second your pup starts, make a loud noise (i.e., clap hands). Have a treat or a toy on hand to get them to focus on you and stop barking.
To get your dog to walk on a leash nicely, you'll need to teach them that being on a leash can be an exciting time. Consider these training tips for better walking behavior.
23. Always use a leash.
In most states, leashes are required in public areas. Using a leash when walking is a good practice and gives you complete control over them. Keep your leash short and close to your side. This will prevent tangles and give you better control through your training.
24. Practice walking indoors.
You want your dog to be prepared before going anywhere near traffic or unfamiliar humans. If you’re still working on control and trust with your dog, do a few practices at home. You can walk your dog indoors or in your backyard to build confidence. Only progress when you and your pup are both ready.
25. Walk the same way every day.
Whether you walk your dog with a harness, backpack, or only a leash, be consistent. Use the same equipment every time to set expectations that this is training time, not playtime. If your dog walks on your right side, do so every time to help them learn how they should behave.
The importance of socialization can't be overstated. But, socializing a dog is about more than just exposing them to new people and places. Follow these tips to socialize your dog properly.
26. Begin socializing early.
As a puppy, your dog will have lots of time to get acquainted with people and other animals. But, it's important to set them up for success as an adult. If your puppy doesn't get enough socialization during their first few months of life, they may become aggressive and fearful of:
- Vacuum cleaners
- Other dogs
- Noisy vehicles
27. Build confidence.
Socialization starts by helping your dog be confident in new environments. There are two main ways that we can help our puppies become comfortable with other dogs. The first is by boosting their confidence at home. The second is taking your dog to public places to interact with new people and pets.
28. Grow your habitats.
To build your dog’s confidence and trust, start growing your dog’s habitat. The more comfortable your dog is in new places the better your training will be. Here are a few places to start in your own home:
- The kitchen is a great place to practice good behavior while ignoring the tasty scraps within reach.
- The living room provides ample space for practicing commands like sit, down, off, or place.
- The bedroom may seem too private for training purposes, but many dogs end up sleeping there at night anyway.
29. Get support from friends and family.
Consistency is key. Ensure your friends and family are on the same page with your training process. Let them know what you’ve been working on and communicate with them how they can help. When you have guests over confine your pup to a room with a closed door, safe toys, and water.
30. Enforce bite inhibition.
Teaching your puppy not to bite is an essential part of socialization. The sooner you start working on this habit, the better off you'll be later on. Focus on creating new biting habits through positive reinforcement training.
Crates can be a handy tool to help with house training, travel, and more. It's also an excellent way to keep your dog safe. Try these tips when using crates in your dog training.
31. Pick the right crate for all life stages.
You'll want to begin by picking out a crate that will fit your puppy once they reach adulthood. Crate sizes vary widely between manufacturers. Look for ones that can expand or contract based on your needs.
32. Make it cozy.
Your dog’s crate should be a sacred and safe space for your pets. Add bedding so your dog has something soft to lie on. Towels or blankets work great because they can be washed regularly. Consider leaving toys out of the crate so your puppy doesn’t choke on or swallow pieces that break off.
33. Utilize your crate daily.
Crate training is an easy and effective way to train your dog. It’s also a critical tool in helping your dog adjust from their former home to yours. Some common uses of crates include:
- When guests come over
- While preparing meals
- For downtime, like chewing bones
- Traveling or leaving the house
34. Improve separation anxiety in dogs.
Crate training is great for dogs with separation anxiety. Getting your dog used to being in a crate helps create a familiar and safe environment for them to relax. Then when you leave, your puppy will associate being in the crate with relaxation and may begin to feel more comfortable when left at home alone.
35. Bring your crate when traveling.
Crate training can ensure a smoother ride when you travel. If this is a place of refuge for them, it can make traveling that much better. Just make sure they can stand up and turn around as needed. Place several blankets on the crate floor to give your dog more stability and comfort on bumpy roads.
Training Tips for Puppies
Puppies are fun, but they can be a hassle with all that energy and curiosity. The longer you wait before beginning a proper training routine with your dog, the sooner they’ll develop bad habits and attitudes. Follow these tips for training your puppy.
36. Start training early.
Wait until your puppy or new dog has settled into their new home and you have time to dedicate to training. Then let the process of training them begin. The earlier you start, the easier it will be in the long run to train your dog and establish good habits that last for years.
37. Enroll in a puppy class.
You can usually enroll your puppy in obedience training when they are seven or eight weeks old. These classes cover all the basics while interacting with other dogs in a safe environment.
Here are a few best practices for attending your first class:
- Make sure your puppy is vaccinated and dewormed
- Bring high-value treats you’ll use in the future
- Pack a few poop bags for any accidents
- Stick a blanket and water bottle in your car for the ride home
38. Focus on house training.
A well-behaved dog is also house (or potty) trained. But, young puppies don’t have much control over their bladder at first and accidents happen. As they get older they'll be able to hold it for longer periods. Potty training should be your starting point when training a new puppy.
39. Take them outside often.
As your puppy begins to potty train, you’ll start to learn how long they can wait before going in the house. While you continue to perfect your pup's potty breaks, be sure to take them out often. A good rule of thumb while potty training is to let them outside every one or two hours until they hit their stride.
40. Prevent destructive chewing.
Don't reward destructive behavior with attention, affection, or treats. Use a command like sit or down and praise them for good behavior. Ensure your dog has enough exercise to keep them from acting out and use bones or chew toys to motivate them to gnaw on their toys instead of furniture.
Food and Eating Tips
41. Use high-value treats for training only.
High-value treats are a great way to get your dog to respond quickly and reliably, especially if your dog is food-motivated. High-value treats are those that your dog will simply not be able to resist. If you're unsure what constitutes a high-value treat (aka the good stuff), try cooked chicken or hot dogs, cheese, beef jerky, and peanut butter.
42. Coach them to eat when you decide.
Dogs can get very territorial and protective over their meals, especially if they’ve had to scrounge for them in the past. Coaching your puppy to follow your cue before eating can promote better behavior. It can also:
- Prevent them from stealing food off the floor or counter
- Stop begging for food from you or your guests
- Help them eat slower which can help their digestive system
- Encourage them to share their food with other pets
43. Swap your reward according to your intent.
High-value treats are great for training, but they can be a big distraction if your dog is overly food-motivated. Avoid using treats if you are working on food-related training. Instead, use praise, affection, and even toys as rewards for good behavior.
Aggressive Dog Training
Obedience training is a good idea for pets and their humans. Training helps you communicate with your dog. It also helps you understand their behavior and improve it.
44. Learn how to recognize aggressive behavior.
Dogs can act out on their aggression through biting, growling, lunging at someone, and showing teeth. Recognizing your dog's behavioral issues is important so you know when to ask for help.
45. Hire a professional dog trainer.
Professional trainers are a great source of individualized advice. They can customize their approach based on your dog's age and skill level. If you have an aggressive puppy, seek help from professional trainers or consult the American Kennel Club for more tips.
Training doesn't have to be hard