Imagine calling your small dog over for training. He runs over excitedly, watches you eagerly, and sits in anticipation of what comes next. You show him the steps for a new trick and reward him each time that he gets it right. He progresses quickly, and before you know it he has mastered another trick. That makes twenty commands that he knows now. You feel proud. Not only does he know a good number of commands, but he also listens when you take him places. You watch as other dogs pull on their leashes and ignore their owners, and you appreciate all of the hard work that the two of you have put in. You remember the days when your pup was not so well behaved. When he ignored you when you called him, bolted out your front door, and barked incessantly, but all the training you have done has really paid off.
Positive reinforcement is a wonderful way to train a dog. It speeds up the learning process, motivates your dog to learn, strengthens your relationship with your dog, and is fun for both of you. It also improves communication. Rather than just telling your pup what not to do, you are telling him what he should do instead.
In addition to being a wonderful way to teach commands, positive reinforcement is also very effective at treating fear-based behaviors and socializing puppies. By pairing the source of your pup's fear with rewards and praise, you can help your dog become comfortable around something that he is afraid of. You can also increase the speed at which Fido learns by utilizing a clicker in your training., making the training both fun and easily understood by your dog.
If you do not wish to utilize a clicker, you can still use 'The Clicker Training Method'. Simply replace the clicker with your voice, telling your dog when he does something correctly, and follow the rest of the steps using your voice in place of the clicker when the step indicates to use a clicker. When you use your voice, choose an easy-to-say word, such as "Yes!", that you can say right when Fido does the correct behavior. If you are using your voice instead of the clicker, spend time pairing your "Yes!" with rewards, like you would do if you were using a clicker. Do this before you begin teaching a command to speed up the training later on.
To get started you will need lots of small, easy-to-eat treats. You can also use your dog's own dog food for this. If you are using 'The Clicker Training Method' or 'The Lure Reward Method' then you will need a resource to teach you how to train specific commands. Wag! Walking's Training Resources page is a great place to find training articles. Another option is to find a local dog training class in your area, that focuses on the tricks, commands, or behaviors that you would like to train. If you are using 'The Clicker Training Method', you will also need a clicker, good timing, and possibly a treat pouch, or small Ziploc bag and pocket, to place your treats into.
If you are using 'The Lure Reward Method' then you will need a treat pouch, or a small Ziploc bag and pocket, to hold your treats. You will also need patience and a positive attitude. If you are using 'The Counter Conditioning Method' then you will need the object, person, or animal that your dog is afraid of, to practice around, and similar objects, animals, or people, to practice around also. You will need the similar ones to help your dog overcome his fear of those types of things in general, opposed to just overcoming his fear of one item or person.
For all of the methods you will need a positive attitude, lots of praise, focus on your dog, a sense of humor, and the willingness to have fun.