How to Train Your Dog to Be Obedient

How to Train Your Dog to Be Obedient
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon2-7 Days
General training category iconGeneral

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 Older training methods that rely on dominating the dog have no place in today's world and are not only outdated, but flawed to their very core.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.

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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.

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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.


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The Reward Based Training Method

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Reward Based Training method for How to Train Your Dog to Be Obedient
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.

2

Teach 'sit' on command

Hold a treat in front of the puppy's nose so he can sniff but not eat it.

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

4

Encourage his butt to drop

As the dog's head follows the treat, his butt should naturally drop to the ground.

5

Label the behavior

As soon as his butt hits the deck, label the behavior "sit".

6

Give the reward

Now give the treat to reward the sit.

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.

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.

The Handling Bad Behavior Method

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Handling Bad Behavior method for How to Train Your Dog to Be Obedient
1

Ignore bad behavior

Try not to shout or punish bad behavior. This only makes him fearful and may make him wary of you.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Clicker Training Method

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Clicker Training method for How to Train Your Dog to Be Obedient
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.

2

Scatter treats

Throw a handful of treats on the floor

3

Click as he eats

As the dog eats the treats, click each time he picks one up.

4

Scatter individual treats

Now toss one treat at a time on the floor. As he eats the treat, click.

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.

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.

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.

By Amy Caldwell

Published: 10/24/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Leo

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kombai

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1 Year

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Question

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My dog is too aggressive and badly behaved. How should I make him obedient and well behaved?

Sept. 12, 2021

Leo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Kriti, Could you be more specific please? Generally dogs are first taught basic obedience commands to teach them what words mean. Intermediate comes next, which is where a dog practices those same commands but on leash around distractions to increase their level of obedience in all situations. After intermediate comes advanced obedience, also known as off-leash, where pup practices the things they practiced on leash around distractions working up to being off leash and obeying around those same types of distractions. Generally listening and obedience comes from going through that process with pup as well as being calm and very consistent with your own rules, commands, and expectations from pup, and ensuring calm follow through, like if you call pup to come, be ready to attack a 20 foot training leash and reel pup in when they don't come, repeating several times until pup is coming willingly. By doing so, you are calmly enforcing your command to help pup learn that coming isn't optional without being overly harsh or increasing aggression or fear in pup. Treating aggression needs to be done carefully, and depends a lot on why pup is aggressive and what type or types of aggression. Is pup fear aggression, resource guarding things, possessive of you, territorial, prey driven, dog aggressive, ect...Determining the type of aggression effects how you train and what safety measures need to be taken while training, like a basket muzzle or back tie leash. You can check out trainers like Thomas Davis from the canine educator on youtube to learn more about types of aggression, but I also highly recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression to evaluate pup and work with you in person to get started with training. Basket muzzle desensitizing (I prefer basket muzzles): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Sept. 13, 2021

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Nala

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Mixed

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7 Months

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She won’t always come when called when she is barking at something (another pup, a passing car, etc.) even though she knows her name. I’ve tried distracting her with treats and other items but this does not work once she has started barking. She acknowledges you call by looking at you and makes the decision to continue barking instead.

April 13, 2021

Nala's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to give you information on how to teach recall. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.

April 13, 2021


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