Training is an important step in your dog’s emotional development and socialization skills. Training provides your dog with self-control. It helps him develop good social skills around people and other dogs. And it ensures that your dog will be a safe dog, not one who will jump on people or run out into a busy street. Training also helps strengthen the bond between you and your dog.
When and how often to hold your training sessions
There are different opinions about how often and how long to train your dog. The standard advice has been to train in short sessions, several times a day. However, a controlled experiment with beagles found that those that were trained only once or twice a week actually learned twice as fast as those that were trained every day, either with one daily session or three daily sessions.
It depends, of course, on the age and attention span of your dog, your dog’s breed, and the task you’re teaching, so you may want to experiment. But you should train in each of your sessions until the dog actually learns something. Don’t stop the training until at least some progress has been made.
Train your dog when he is neither starving nor full. If he’s too hungry, he might go a little nutty to get those yummy treats! If he’s too full, he might not be very motivated. Choose a calm space without distractions.
How to train your dog to sit
Do not push your dog’s hindquarters to the ground to "forcefully" put him in sit to show him what to do; this is not a good bond. Some dogs, especially untrained rescues, may react poorly to this treatment. If you’ve tried training your dog and it hasn’t worked, or if you’ve begun having behavioral issues, it might be time to switch approaches. The American Kennel Club has some very useful tips about how to best train your dog:
- With your dog standing, hold a treat to his nose.
- Slowly lift the treat over his head towards his rear. As your dog lifts his head to follow the treat with his nose, his back end should drop to the ground.
- As soon as your dog is in a sitting position, click your clicker and/or praise him and offer the treat as a reward. A clicker is not necessary, but it helps to mark the exact desired activity. For instance, click the moment your dog’s hindquarters hit the ground.
- To get your dog standing again, walk away and call him over or toss another treat a few feet away. Then repeat steps 1 to 3.
- Once your dog will reliably follow the treat into a sitting position, it’s time to fade the lure. Now use an empty hand to lure your dog and reward the sit with a treat from your other hand. The movement of your empty hand will become your hand signal.
- When your dog reliably sits for your empty hand, you can add your verbal cue “Sit” right before you give the hand signal. In time, your dog should respond to the verbal cue alone.
Most dogs will pop back up on their own and will not stay seated until you walk away or throw a treat, so it’s important to take the next step to train “sit and stay.”
- Choose a release word, such as “OK” or “free” or “all done.” Use only that word consistently when teaching the stay behavior.
- Have your dog in a sit position (this can also be trained from a standing or lying down position).
- Give the dog the command “stay” followed immediately by the release word, for instance, “free,” and follow the release word with a body gesture, such as stepping back or clapping.
- Gradually extend the time between the two commands. Once his tail hits the floor, say “stay.” Repeat the command “stay” and treat him as he stays. Then give the release command and step back. Work up gradually to longer stays with fewer treats until he will stay until you give the release command. Then give the treat.
- If your dog breaks the sit before you give him the release command, turn your back to indicate no treat is coming. Then turn back once he seems to get it and start again with the sit command.
Once your dog successfully sits and stays for up to 10 seconds and responds to your release command, you can begin training him to stay as you walk away and to stay even in the presence of distractions.
You should also reward your dog when you catch him sitting down. You can do this in between sessions, by saying “sit” and “good dog” and providing a treat. This will remind him that sitting is desirable, and he may begin to choose that as his default position.
Don’t forget to use a high-value healthy treat. These treats should be considered part of your dog’s food intake during the days that you train, so they should be nutritious as well as yummy. Our Saint Rocco’s Sprinkles are the perfect size for training and for putting in a baggy in your pocket so you’ll always have some when you catch your dog doing the action you’re trying to reinforce.
You can also cut up our larger treats ahead of time to have them ready for training. If you don’t know what your dog would like best, try our Beef Sampler or Chicken Sampler Bundles and see which treats your dog responds to best. We use these treats to train our dog Cooper, so we know they work.
Make training enjoyable and a real bonding time with your dog by following the suggestions above and by using one of our healthy, additive-free dog treats.