I’m going to talk about a dog training checklist that’s going to help you get more focus from your dog. And I’m going to let you in on a couple of secrets. that I’ve learned from thousands of dogs that I have trained at my dog training facility. I’m not going to talk about how to train a dog to sit, or teaching skills in this article. but I am going to talk to you about some basics that most of the dog owners skip. who are struggling with training their dogs, and not getting what they want.
And then, we will move on to the advanced training guide. Let’s get started with these basics that you have to consider to be a successful dog trainer. And this is a series of training from start to the end covering everything you want to know. So, don’t forget to visit our dog training page for a complete dog/puppy training guide, it’s a vast topic that I can’t cover in just one article.
Dog Training Basics:
Do you feel like your dog’s a little unpredictable when it comes to sitting or lying down, or when you ask them to stay, you’re not sure how long they’re gonna do that for? The reality is the unpredictable one here is probably you.
Your dog isn’t a mind reader. Imagine what it would be like if they were, though. Every time we train our dog, we wanna be clear, consistent, and fair. You work pretty hard to have reliable and speedy responses to all of your verbal cues, but how does your dog know when they did their job done? Is it when you move away? Is it after you’ve rewarded? Your dog needs a more definitive cue to let them know that they can stop doing whatever it is that they’re doing. You’re gonna see that you struggle with stationary exercises, for example, more if your dog doesn’t know when they’re allowed to move.
For our release word, we use the word, okay, and okay doesn’t specifically mean that you’re allowed to move. It just means you can stop doing whatever it is we’ve asked you to do. Using our method, we have two stationary hold skills, one’s a stay, and it’s a little more formal, and one’s a wait, and it includes a remote release. So for the stay, we’d return to our dog’s side, and we’d say, okay, but with the wait, we can be at any position, any distance, and say, okay, and your dog is released.
Maybe you’re working on walking on a loose leash skill with your dog in at your side, and you see them giving great effort. If the dog is in the position for a more extended period than normal, you can use your okay. And those entire okay means is that they don’t need to work so hard in at your side. Or you can even use your okay when you want your dog to go sniff the grass or go potty, that way there’s no confusion when you ask them to get back in at your side.
They can maybe move around in front of you, and maybe you can have a game of tug or do something fun for them, but that okay means you can stop giving me that amazing attention and being in that tight position at my side. We had a great question come in on our facebook page on. And I’m gonna paraphrase a little bit from Cameron Hughes, she asks, for lease training, we’re working on the house and the yard, but how do you suggest handling the every-day walks, just when she’s beginning to learn to walk on my left-hand side, and she also mentions that she goes on two 30 minutes walks every day.
And this is the perfect example of using that release command with your dog, whether you use okay, or whatever word you choose. It isn’t fair to expect your young dog in training to walk for 30 minutes in that great, at-you-side position, it’s probably a little overwhelming for them, and you wanna set them up to be successful. So break things down a little bit. In this example, I might tell Cameron to pick to light standards on your walk and ask your dog to get in at your side and walk with that great attention, and when you get to the second one you can tell your puppy or young dog, okay, and they can break it off a little bit. Maybe two more light standards down your walk, you can ask them to get back in.
That way, you’re reinforcing the great choices, and you’re not struggling to maintain their attention for that entire time. And now, back to your regular scheduled program. You can use this release word in your training for your dogs to exercise a little bit more self-control. For example, when we let our dogs out of their crates, we’ll open the door, but they’re not allowed to run out until we’ve said okay. This is especially helpful if you are maybe in a busy parking lot with your dog in your vehicle and you let them out of their crate, or even if you have them in the back seat and you’re allowing them out, they’re not allowed to leave, you can clip your leash on, and then you say okay once you’re ready. By using this word, you immediately become more predictable.
You expect your dog to keep doing whatever it is you’ve asked them to do until you use that release word. You do need to be a little bit self-aware, though, when you use this release word.
For example, if I reward my dog, then say okay, and then reward my dog and then say okay, reward my dog and then say okay, what do you think your dog’s going to expect the next time you reward them? They’re going to expect you to say okay. And the same thing goes for motion. We will talk about the wait scale in next series, and it’s such a valuable skill, but if I ask my dog to wait at the bottom of the stairs, and then every single time I get halfway up, I release them, they’re going to start to expect that every time I hit that halfway point, they’re allowed to go. So be self-conscious and self-aware of when you’re using that release word, and mix it up a little bit.
Mix up the timing of your okay, and mix up the distances that you’re releasing your dog from and really soon you’re gonna start to see better longevity in your stays, for example, you’re gonna see your dog remaining in position, even when tough distractions go by, because they know that’s it’s your expectation that they remain there until you release them.
Success and failure in dog training:
Any experienced dog trainer knows that a reliable skill built on a solid foundation of success. Now, what if you feel like you’re not getting any successes with your dog? What if you feel like the day is full of failures and nothing’s going right? What if I were to tell you that you just weren’t seeing those successes? We’re gonna talk about success and failure. So, let’s not waste any more time.
Sometimes a student will say to me, “My dog doesn’t like to sit.” And then, I’ll get them to show me, and their dog will be in a sitting position for a moment, and another dog will pass by, or something in the room will distract them, and they’ll get up out of that sit. The student will do a good job of showing the dog how to sit and then wait for another distraction to go by, and the dog will get up. Now, what’s happening here is the student only sees the failures in their training.
They’re only seeing the dog getting up out of that sit, but there are several seconds, while the dog was remaining in position. The student wasn’t able to acknowledge that moment. We need to be able to show our dogs at that moment that they’re right. Whether it’s a sit-stay, walking on a loose leash, and come when called. There are lots of moments to acknowledge the success, but we’re so caught up in the failures, that we fail to recognize them.
Shaping is a good example of acknowledging small successes in dog training. You need to acknowledge those successes to let your dog know what you want. It’s all about the baby steps. Remember, if you’re having an especially tough training session, that if your dog keeps making mistakes, that’s on you. They don’t know what your expectation is unless you’ve clearly shown them. So if your dog keeps getting up out of a stay, for example, and you continue to use whatever distraction is getting them out of that stay, your dog doesn’t understand that they need to remain in position.
What you need to do is moderate that distraction, or lessen that distraction. So that your dog can be successful so that you can show the dog how to be right. Ultimately it’s your responsibility to make sure that you are the one setting your dog up for success. It also makes training a lot more fun when you get to reward your dog and praise him for making the right choice. But don’t take the failures to heart. It’s an important part of learning.
When your dog makes a mistake, that’s a great opportunity to lessen that distraction, or make the challenge a little bit less difficult for your dog and have an opportunity to reward them. They need to understand what’s right and what’s wrong, and finding those levels of failure are really important. Remember, rewarding those small successes is quite motivating for your dog, and it builds a strong work drive. What I want you to take away from this is that if you feel like you’re failing, your dog’s making a mistake after mistake, you need to set them up to be successful.
Having realistic expectations:
Expectations are an important term in dog training because it’s the difference between a dog who truly understands a skill. And one who does it like a trick or one who makes their own choice and chooses to do it whenever they want to. We are going to talk about a word or a phrase in dog training to help you better understand how your dog thinks and to help you better train your dog.
So let’s not waste any more time. With a young dog, we can’t have any expectations of them to know a skill or to do the trick or to perform some sort of action without having put in the work first without having taught them how to be right. We can’t assume because our last dog was good at something that our new dog will be the same. Every dog is different, and we need to put in that effort and put in that work to train them on how to be right.
Once your dog has a clear understanding of a skill or behavior, and he’s right 99% of the time, at that point, you can raise that bar. You can set that level of expectation to that point, but you’ve helped him get there. And to make sure that he maintains that speed and that accuracy, keep that level of expectation high.
Next is the consistency of expectations, so every member of the household needs to have the same level of expectation for their dog. It wouldn’t be fair to expect your dog not to have one of the family members feed them. Or not allow your dog to put their teeth on you and have one of the family members think that it’s a fun game. Or not allow your dogs to counter surf, and I don’t mind once in a while. No pulling on the leash means no pulling on the leash regardless of the scenario.
Dogs are so situational that if I were to allow the dog to pull when walking to the park and insist on a loose leash when I’m walking anywhere else, it just isn’t fair. It just doesn’t make sense to them. That means you need to train in different environments. Maintain those same high expectations regardless of where you are. You’re gonna practice your recall at the park, in the backyard, maybe near the dog park, or a wide-open space with lots of distractions. But you need to maintain those same high expectations regardless of the location. Maintaining those levels of high expectation for your dog throughout their life is important, and if they find a new distraction that they’re crazy about or a new location where they’re not listening as well, take a step back.
That’s a great opportunity to train them through that situation and make sure that they’re safe. Give you the freedom to know that your dog is going to listen to you when you need them to
Best Time Of Day To Train A Dog:
What’s the best time to train your dog? We often get asked that question. People wonder, should I train them before dinner? Or when they’re hungry? And we have a pretty simple answer to that.
The actual best time to train your dog is multiple times throughout the day. It’s actually best to work in your training sessions to your everyday life situations with your dog, because often what happens is people might set a time, an hour a day to train with the dog, and that’s great if you can do that, but we don’t want the dog just to learn to listen when you strap your bait pouch on and put their training leash on and then you set out to do your training session. And then for the rest of the 23 hours of the day, they are allowed to misbehave, or you’re inconsistent with your rules.
That’s why people don’t understand why there isn’t change in their dog’s behavior. And if we look at their training patterns or the times at which they’re training, it’s not necessarily setting the dog up for the best success, so instead, we recommend trying to incorporate your training sessions into just everyday situations where you’re already interacting with your dog. So, it could be you’re getting breakfast made in the morning, and you have to wait the three minutes for your toast to pop or whatnot, take those three minutes, and work on a few basic skills. Sit down, look at me, those types of things. You have to let your dog outside to go to the washroom a couple of times a day. You have to do that. So make that a training session.
What we do usually make the dog sit at the door when they’re young, and have them show a bit of impulse control, a little bit of respect. And then we’ll let them outside, and generally, we’ll have them wear a long leash or line to ensure we have control. Then once they finish going to the washroom, we’ll practice our recall. We’ll call them back inside. And if they’re able to be a good listener, then we’ll reinforce that generously with their favorite treats. We often will put their food, rather than giving them their whole breakfast. We’ll save a quarter of it, and put it in a little baggy with a bunch of extra delicious treats and use that to reinforce the dog throughout the day.
Setting them up for success and trying to work your training sessions every day is the best way to go about things, we feel. – For sure, and it also keeps it fun. Those multiple short training sessions will keep it more fun for you; it’ll keep it more fun for your dog. And that’s what we want here. You’re gonna build on a foundation of success, and if you’re having fun while you’re training, you’re more likely to be successful, and you’re more likely to be consistent.
Whether you are a new puppy owner who is trying to give your dog the best information, or you have an adult dog, and you’re trying to stop some unwanted behaviors, you must understand how to establish leadership with your dog. If you search on YouTube or a quick search on Google, it seems like a pretty polarizing topic.
Everything from doing alpha roles with your dog and never allowing them to walk in front of you, all the way to it completely ignoring some of these unwanted behaviors, but I want you to think about maybe a teacher in your life that you really liked, or a sports coach who is able to, you know, motivate you to work a little bit harder. These people were great leaders. Those people were able to bring out the best in you, and you didn’t have to listen to them, you wanted to.
After training thousands of dogs as a professional dog trainer, the one thing that I’ve noticed is the people who get success the fastest with their dogs are the same people that can overcome unusual training challenges along the way. These people understand how to be a great leader for their dogs. They know when to give their dogs a little bit more freedom. They know when to allow their dogs to make some choices on their own, but they’re there to set them up to be successful, and if they make the wrong choice, then they’re there to guide them through the process.
This is a guide I wish I had before I was a first-time dog owner. I made all the wrong choices; that’s why I felt it was so important to share this with you today.
Now, we talk about being a great leader for your dog and setting them up to be successful, and not having to tell them, “No, not that.” “No, this way. No, this, you can’t do that.” It’s important that we set our dogs up to be successful. It’s also really important that we follow through and show them how to be successful if they make a mistake, that we have a leash or, you know, a line, a house line on them, or something like that, and I wanted to talk starting with a little bit of freedom in the home. When do you know?
So let’s talk maybe how you and I will bring a puppy sort of into more areas of freedom. giving them more opportunities, more access to rooms. one of the things that we’ll do when we have a young dog is we will control where they can go with some of the things that I talked about before. whether it’s baby gates, leashes, crates, that type of thing. and typically what we’ll do is when we’re ready to give them a bit of freedom. we might start by keeping them in the same room as us, but maybe we don’t watch them quite as closely anymore. So maybe like we’re cooking dinner, for example.
We’ll barricade the puppy in the kitchen with us, and you know, we might make dinner, chat, you know, we’re sort of thinking about each other, and we’ll just glance down at the dog from time to time, and maybe give them something to do, and that would be like their first little taste of freedom where I’m not like literally following them around and watching their every move and every decision, which is what I would do with the first little bit that I have the puppy. And then, from there, I might open the opportunity up if they can have like the kitchen and the hallway. For example, and they can roam in and out of those two places. And I’m not gonna worry too much about it.
And when I feel comfortable giving the dog the freedom, I know that my dog already knows how to ask me to go outside. So if I’m giving my dog a bit of freedom and they do need to go out. we’ve already worked through that thing. I also know before I give my dog freedom if I can trust whether they’re gonna chew things in my house or not. So if I feel pretty good that they understand what they’re allowed to chew and what they are not, then again, I might feel more comfortable giving them a bit more freedom.
And then lastly, how well do they listen? Do they respond to me when I say, “Leave it”? get off the couch when I ask them to? stop barking when I ask them to? come to me when I ask them to? Can they sit? Can they down? When I’m getting good listening skills, and they can sort of say okay, you know, I feel confident that I’m in pretty good control. My dog’s, you know, responsible, making good choices. Now I’m gonna maybe give the dog a little bit more freedom. So, what we don’t recommend that you do is give the dog freedom and then see what happens. – Right. – We recommend giving your dog freedom when you feel pretty confident that your dog is gonna knock it out of the park and do a great, great job.
And for some dogs, it takes time. And for our dogs, it hasn’t been the same amount of time for each dog. It hasn’t been like, “Okay, they’re six months, let’s just let ’em have free-range.” Some dogs earned it a bit quicker, just based on their training or their personality, and other dogs needed to be monitored a lot longer than others. Again, based on how they were doing with their training. We adopted a nine-year-old dog. And we had to go back and do things with him, that we did with our puppies because he had never lived in a house before. He lived in a barn. So, it just depends.
And just to interrupt quickly, maybe you have a re-home dog. Maybe you got a dog from a shelter. You’re gonna go back to the first steps because it’s all about introducing your puppy, your dog, to space with good information. It’s all about letting them know that you’re worth listening to. So using something like a crate is such a valuable tool when it comes to in your home, when it comes to sort of managing their interactions, when it comes to, you know, making them see so much value in you, because every time they come out of that crate, they get to do something with you. It builds that drive. And that understanding, and desire to like, be right. And do stuff with you, so, you know, don’t overlook your crate.
When we’re first starting to give our dog freedom, I wouldn’t necessarily do that like for the first time and like go to work for eight hours. – I might leave them loose in one room, and I might go down to the driveway, end of the driveway, and get like the recycling bin, or, you know, grab the mail or whatever it might be, and then I come back in and see what happened. And if things are going well, then I might leave for them a few minutes when I like to run down to the general store to get some milk or something, and then build in slowly from there. And when we first give our dogs freedom, especially if we’re gonna be leaving them alone. We don’t give them free range of the house.
We might give them a free range of the house eventually. When they’re older and we are home, but when we leave, we don’t give any of our dogs’ free range of our house. We have an area that we sort of confine them in, it’s very large, and they have their dog beds, and they have water, and they have their bones. So that’s sort of what we do when we leave. I wouldn’t dream of leaving my dog loose on their own, and even really giving ’em a lot of freedom in the house before like eight months to a year.
They aren’t making bad choices when we’re there. – Not chewing things. Not going to the bathroom in the house. listening well in the house, being respectful, making good choices, that’s when we would say, “Okay, I think you’re ready “for a little bit more responsibility.” But if you’re still getting yipping and biting and unwanted barking and you know, they’re stealing stuff in your house that you’re not supposed to, you better believe they’re gonna have a party when you’re gone, or they might be barking when they’re not supposed to. Your dog is going to be the best indicator to you, whether they’re ready for that or not based on their behavior.
Let’s talk about how we allow our dogs’ more and more freedom when they’re outside. Some of the common things that we’ll do with them, how we’ll start to remove the training wheels and how we’ll make sure that they’re maintaining great responses when we’re outside with them? I often walk our dogs out in the big fields out at our training school. It’s about 22 acres of like open fields, so there are a lot of opportunities for our dogs to take off and run. Runaway from us, If they wanted to. So when we’re first working on this with our younger dogs, when we go for long walks, and there’s a lot of opportunities for our dogs to possibly run away, we will put long, long lines on them. You know, up to 25 feet.
And we will let our dogs have a bit of freedom, and they drag that line to get around. we might even start by holding the line in our hands and practicing our recall. practicing our response to name, practicing some random downs. So we say, “Lie down.” The dog will lay down.
So we work on some training skills and then once our dogs can do it with the leash in our hand, or the line in our hand, then we’ll let the line drag around and the line is there so that if I call my dog back and my dog decides that chasing the cars down the fence line, or you know, digging in this hole over here is more important than listening to me, I can pick the end of the line up and I can give it a little tug, To encourage the dog to come to me.
And then we can play games as well, so often I’ll have some treats or some toys, and I’ll, know, sneak the toy and put it in the back of my pants Or under my shirt, so the dog can’t see it. And then I’ll call them, and they turn and look at me. I’ll say, “yes,” and then I’ll take off running the other direction. So that they race across the field, and when they catch me, we’ll play like an awesome game of tug. So that the dog, I have a lot of dogs that will run out, and they’ll turn around, and they’ll look at me because they’re like okay. They almost don’t even want to go and investigate because they want to do the whole running and chasing and plaything.
And that just conditions the dog to really love to like look for me, pay attention to where I am. I can start to give them a bit more freedom, and then eventually, once the dog’s doing a good job. I will start to shorten the line over a series of months. until I can’t remember the last time I had to use the leash or redirect them. then I’ll take them for off-leash runs from there, but it’s a very slow process depending on the dog. And it’s not necessarily like you take one step forward, you take the next step forward. You may find that when you shorten that leash to or shorten that line too like, a third, and your dog makes a mistake. So you go back to half a leash, or two-thirds of a leash.
I put my 12-year-old dog on a line today or yesterday. It’s a dynamic process. And you may encounter like new distractions. Maybe there’s something that your dog’s never seen. And, what’s important here is that you identify those challenges and that you know what you’re going to do to train through them. So, putting your dog on a line and working on that recall.
Now, if you enjoyed this article, you’re going to enjoy our dogs training page or scroll down to additional training articles. If this is your first time on the blog, make sure you hit that share button. We publish a new guide every single week to help you have a well-behaved four-legged family member. On that note, I’m Malik. See you again.