How to Train Your Dog to Be Obedient

Easy
2-7 Days
General

Introduction

Basic obedience is about teaching your dog good manners, and keeping the dog safe and under control. Quite simply, not everyone is a fan of dogs. Imagine the scenario in a park and your dog runs up to a toddler and bowls them over. The child creams and irate parents push the dog away. He then thinks this is a great game and bounces and jumps even more. The situation rapidly spirals out of control and could end in threats to call the police...when all the dog wanted was to play.

Not everyone understands the difference between a playful dog and an aggressive one, so to avoid confusion it's essential your dog is obedient to your commands. The good news is that using reward-based training methods means the dog is eager to be obedient as he realizes good things happen when he does as requested.

Reward-based training represents a quantum leap forward in dog obedience. Older training methods that rely on dominating the dog have no place in today's world and are not only outdated, but flawed to their very core. With this in mind, let's find out more about how to train your dog to be obedient while having fun at the same time.

Defining Tasks

Obedience is about having the dog respond promptly to your commands. Key to training this skill for life is to motivate the dog so that he's eager to respond. This is the principle on which reward-based training methods rest.

There is, however, a fine line between rewarding a dog's good behavior and bribing him. The difference depends on expecting the dog to work harder over time, before he earns his reward. In practical terms, this means phasing out food rewards and making them less predictable, as the dog gets the hang of what he's expected to do.

Rewards take different forms for different dogs. If you have a food motivated dog then congratulations, because you can use tiny morsels of treats as a reward. For those dogs less enthusiastic about food, try rewarding him with a game with a favorite toy or simply with lavish praise. All dogs have something they are prepared to work for, so it's a matter of identifying what does it for your dog.

From puppy to adult or senior, no dog is too young or too old to benefit from reward-based training. However, always keep training sessions fun and not overly long so as to tire the dog. Several shorter sessions in a day are better than one long training episode. And as a rule, end each lesson with a command the dog knows and has mastered, so you can praise him and end on a high.

Getting Started

When getting started, train in a quiet place with few distractions so that the dog's focus is on you. If training outdoors, then a collar and leash are beneficial to stop the dog running off. You'll also need to work out what motivates your dog to work, be that a food treat, toy, or fuss.

The basics for getting going include:

  • Collar and leash
  • Training treats and a pouch to keep them in
  • Patience

When using food rewards, be sure to keep them teeny-tiny. The dog should get no more than a taste in the mouth, or else training will be constantly interrupted by the dog settling down to chomp his way down through a large biscuit.

Also, consider having a basic food reward (such as some of his kibble) plus a super tasty treat (a cube of cheese or sausage) for that extra special reward when he does something particularly well.


The Reward Based Training Method

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Reward Based Training method for Be Obedient
Step
1
The concept
Reward based training works by rewarding good behavior so that the dog wants to repeat the action in order to earn the treat.
Step
2
Teach 'sit' on command
Hold a treat in front of the puppy's nose so he can sniff but not eat it.
Step
3
Follow the treat
Keeping the treat near his nose to hold his interest, describe a shallow arc in the air, over the dog's head
Step
4
Encourage his butt to drop
As the dog's head follows the treat, his butt should naturally drop to the ground.
Step
5
Label the behavior
As soon as his butt hits the deck, label the behavior "sit".
Step
6
Give the reward
Now give the treat to reward the sit.
Step
7
Reward
Work on this several times in a row. Ultimately, you can start saying "Sit" a fraction earlier, so the dog starts to anticipate what he needs to do to earn the treat.
Step
8
Lose the treat
Over time, stop rewarding every "Sit" and give a treat for every second or third response. This stops complacency and keeps the dog working to earn the reward.
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The Clicker Training Method

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Clicker Training method for Be Obedient
Step
1
The concept
Clicker training works by teaching the dog that ‘click-clack’ means he's earned a treat. You then label the desired action by clicking, which tells the dog exactly what he did that earned the reward. But first you must get the dog linking ‘click-clack’ to treats.
Step
2
Scatter treats
Throw a handful of treats on the floor
Step
3
Click as he eats
As the dog eats the treats, click each time he picks one up.
Step
4
Scatter individual treats
Now toss one treat at a time on the floor. As he eats the treat, click.
Step
5
Click and wait
Now try clicking and see if the dog looks at the floor. If he does, then he has made the mental leap between click and a treat. Give him a reward.
Step
6
Click to label
Now try teaching "Sit" as in the Reward Based Training method. Only this time, click as soon as his butt hits the floor. Then give the reward.
Step
7
Phase out the treats
Clicker training allows you to tell the dog the exact moment he acts correctly. This allows you to lay down an IOU-one-treat on that action. Ultimately, this allows you to string actions together before giving a food reward.
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The Handling Bad Behavior Method

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Handling Bad Behavior method for Be Obedient
Step
1
Ignore bad behavior
Try not to shout or punish bad behavior. This only makes him fearful and may make him wary of you.
Step
2
A short, sharp "No"
If the dog does something dangerous that needs instant reproof, then a short sharp "No" labels the action as unacceptable.
Step
3
Don't go chasing
Be aware that chasing after a dog to retrieve that stolen slipper, only makes this into a game and he learns it's a great way to get attention
Step
4
Use a distraction technique
Instead, distract the dog with another, more interesting behavior. Get his favorite squeaky toy and squeak it to get his attention. Make the toy far more appealing than the slipper, so that the drops the latter. Then reward the dog with a game of tug with his toy.
Step
5
Withdraw attention
Most dogs are attention junkies, and don't mind being told off if it makes them the center of attention. If the dog is being naughty and has stopped listening to you, then make sure he is in a safe place and leave him alone. Withdrawing attention sends out a powerful message that the fun stops if he misbehaves.
Step
6
Reward an alternate behavior
And last but not least, give a command you know the dog will obey such as "Sit". Then you can reward this good behavior, and distract him away from naughtiness.
Step
7
Plenty of exercise
Bored dogs or those with too much energy are apt to behave badly. Short cut this by providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Baloo
Pointer Lab mix
5 Months
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Question
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Baloo
Pointer Lab mix
5 Months

Hi there! We are having trouble with our dog complaining to go outside during the day when we’re working. We want him to be trained to ask to go outside when he has to go potty, but right now he is begging at the door 6-7 times a day and will go potty outside about half those times. How do we fix this without undermining the progress we made on his potty training

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
667 Dog owners recommended

Hello Caitlyn, First, take pup potty on a leash to keep the trip boring and business-like, so pup isn't just asking to go out to run around and play. When pup tells you they need to go potty and they actually go, calmly praise right when they go, quickly take them back inside and give a treat when they get back inside. If they ask to go out and do NOT go potty, bring them back inside after giving no more than 10 minutes outside on the leash to see if they need to go, and put them into the crate for an hour - they can have a chew toy in there. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Cj
Goldendoodle
1 Year
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Cj
Goldendoodle
1 Year

Hi! I have a super sweet and friendly dog but recently, he’s gotten into a few dog fights at the dog park and I’m not sure what the trigger is. It’s pretty scary and usually comes out of nowhere. Any advice on how to combat this?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
91 Dog owners recommended

Hello! It is a bit tricky for me to answer this without seeing the altercations, but I will do my best to give you advice you can utilize. This is unfortunately fairly common for male dogs between 9 months and 2 years, and it doesn't matter if he has been neutered or not. I like to say, think of them as 23 year old human males in a bar. If he starts fighting, your best bet is to simply break it up and leave. And then address any potential problems at a later time. Regardless if he is instigating the fights or not, you can start working on positive associations with him. Taking him on walks, having him sit and focus on you whenever a dog is approaching or passing by. Set yourselves up at a bench, have some tasty treats in hand, and whenever a dog is approaching, ask for a sit and then give him a treat. This seemingly super simple exercise works wonders with this type of stuff. He will quickly learn that the presence of another dog means calm behavior and rewards. You can increase the intensity of this exercise by moving from the bench to walking him, and then practicing this right outside the dog park. In the mean time, you can start tiring him out before going to the dog park, which I know seems a bit counterintuitive because the purpose of the dog park is exercise. But for right now, the purpose is going to be working on his social skills. A nice long walk before going to the park will also aid in this process. As I said, this is somewhat common for dogs his age. While that is no excuse, just know that it isn't something that will likely continue. Nor is it much of a sign that he is an "aggressive dog". He is just flexing his muscles right now so to speak. It is just another phase to work through. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in!

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Question
Claire
Schnoodle
11 Months
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Question
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Claire
Schnoodle
11 Months

Hi, my dog is almost one, and doesn’t seem to sleep through the night. I just adopted her about 2 weeks ago, and it seems when I peek in on her at night, she is always up. She also doesn’t nap during the day. I’ve tried tiring her out and mental stimulation, but it doesn’t seem to work. How can I get my dog to sleep. For reference, bedtime is about 8:30, and I wake up at 7. I usually check on her between 2:30 and 4 am, and she is usually up.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
91 Dog owners recommended

Hello there! You are off to a great start with the extra exercise and mental stimulation. I would continue doing that, even after she has adjusted to her new way of life. It is likely she is just a bit on the anxious side since she is in a new environment. It typically takes dogs a full month or so to adjust to any transition. This can even be said for something like moving, or a new family member moving in, etc. The adoption process is pretty stressful for dogs. I would just continue doing what you are doing. Giving her lots of attention during the day. And maybe start doing some sort of bed time routine every night so she understands there is some sort of process with a schedule. You can take her for a quick walk, play some sort of game, or work on simple training commands. Or maybe she gets a special toy every night only for bed time. If this behavior continues after a few more weeks, I would have her evaluated by your veterinarian. She could have an underlying health issue that is keeping her up. Sometimes dogs have very quiet symptoms. I wouldn't worry too much, as I am fairly certain she just needs time to adjust. But it is worth checking into if it persists. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in!

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Pongo
Dalmatian
1 Year
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Pongo
Dalmatian
1 Year

We have a year old Dalmatian. He is deaf, can only hear up close and at very high frequencies. We are having MAJOR nipping and biting behavior issues. To the point we are being left with scratches. We have tried every sign command, but he used to respond to them better when he was younger, even though we consistently do the same things and reward good with treats he’s not listening to them anymore. We had used the pointer finger and “alligator mouth” with fingers for “no” but he is now trying to jump up and bite us every time. We know his breed needs sufficient exercise which he gets. At least 2-4 hours of running, walking and we go on hiking trails. And he gets bored very easily. We’re having chewing around our house, biting my husband and I, jumping on counters and taking items he is not supposed to, even though we consistently tell him “off” nothing is working. It seems he’s confusing play behavior with normal behavior with our hands and arms. We cannot have a biting dog and really can’t lay out extra funds at this time to take him somewhere. We have another dog, who is already trained and well behaved, completely opposite of Pongo.
Could you give us suggestions to help correct these behaviors???
Thank you

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
667 Dog owners recommended

Hello Katie, I suggest teaching him to look at you using a vibration collar first. You can do this similarly to clicker training. First, purchase a high qualify vibration collar. Have him wear it around while it's turned off for a few days to get him used to the feel of it. While things are calm, briefly vibrate the collar and offer a smelly, delicious treat. Repeat this a few times then take a break. He will probably act like a bug is on him at first - just do this a few times, take a break then have lots of other short sessions to help him associate the sensation with a treat and not get overly excited about it during any one session. Once he is calm about the vibration sensation and expects a treat each time, begin holding the treat next to your eye. Vibrate the collar and as soon as he looks to you and makes eye contact because of the treat next to your eye, give the treat. Repeat this during training sessions until he always looks to your eye to find the treat. When he will always look to your eye, pretend to hold a treat there but have it in your hand behind your back instead. Give the treat behind your back when he looks you in the eye. Repeat this a bunch. Finally, keep both hands behind your back and wait until he looks you in the eye when he feels the vibration collar, then give a treat from behind your back. Practice at different distances and randomly throughout the day, until he consistently looks at you whenever he feels the vibration no matter where you are in the room. Once he has learned to look at you when you vibrate the collar, then practice the "Working method" from the article linked below, having him look at you due to the vibration, then perform one of the commands you have already taught him using hand signals - such as Sit, before you give him anything he wants like food, a pet, a walk, ect... Work his commands into his day, all through out the day, so that his attitude toward you calms down, becomes more respectful, more focused, and less demanding. He has to earn what he wants in life by doing a command first for a bit. Teach him commands that build self-control, like a long Place command, but use hand signals instead of words to teach it - such as pointing to Place instead of saying it and using the vibration collar to get him to look at you first so that he sees the cue. Keep a drag leash on him around the house so that you can enforce the command calmly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Keep a drag leash on him around the house right now in general while you are at home to make training and following through with him easier right now. Give him things to do that challenge him mentally - which can actually help with calmness even more than the physical exercise (although he does need physical exercise too). Focus on commands and habits that require him to concentrate and are a bit hard to really wear him out, such as working up to staying on Place for 1-2 hours - you can also give food stuffed hollow chew toys or puzzle toys to keep him occupied then. If the mouthing and jumping are aggression based, you will need to hire a professional trainer. If it is playful and simply rude, check out the article linked below. If you aren't sure, err on the side of caution and be careful - with aggression there is always a risk of a bite and certain precautions like a basket muzzle need to be taken during training. Leash method and Step Toward method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Here is another example - be careful with this method if the issue may be aggression and not playful and simply rude. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcwvUOf5oOg Finally, I suggest teaching OUT - which means leave the area. You can teach it using a hand gesture like moving your arm across your body and pointing to where pup should go, instead of the word Out. The section on How to Deal with Pushy Behavior found in the Out article also details how to enforce the command calmly using your body language also (once you have initially taught the meaning of Out using treats). Again, if you are dealing with true aggression, additional safety measures need to be in place here - like a muzzle. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Eleanor
Labrador Retriever
3 Years
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Question
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Eleanor
Labrador Retriever
3 Years

How do I get my dog to stop jumping on people?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
667 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emma, Check out the article I have linked below on jumping. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Wag also has many other topic specific articles that deal with teaching specific commands and dealing with particular behavior issues under the www.wagwalking.com/training section of the website. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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