Training a dog is not easy, especially not if you are trying to do it yourself at home. Planning ahead and thinking about the training itself is the best option – but that also means figuring out which training methods and exercises will work best.
If you are not sure where to turn, then there are some reliable training exercises that will work for most dogs. But what should you focus on first, and what kind of exercises might be the most consistently useful for your dog’s learning and development?
One of the best ways to get a new puppy or untrained dog to listen is to make them understand when you want their focus. There are a few ways you can do this, but the most reliable is with eye contact training – rewarding your dog for matching eye contact with you.
Not all dogs like eye contact, and some might not even be able to keep it for very long before getting distracted. While it might be a while before you can get them to respond to their own name, sometimes eye contact training can be the best way to get them to behave so that you can start training them in other ways.
Attention Span Training
Many dogs have incredibly short attention spans and will easily get bored or distracted by other things. While you can’t necessarily increase their attention span very much, you can still make it easier to keep “resetting” that attention span so that they pay attention for longer.
Try to practice things like saying certain words to get their attention, using focus training (as mentioned above) in a more subtle way, or doing other things that could train them to pay attention if you are giving them attention back.
Training with Wants
When dogs want something, they will make that fact obvious in different ways if they can’t get it. However, instead of letting your dogs scratch at cupboards to get food or bark for attention, try to make them seek permission if you can.
This could mean things like not opening the front door for them until they sit or not letting them go and wander over to another dog until they look at you and hear you say a certain word. This simple but subtle type of training can help make sure that your dogs will actually wait instead of acting on impulse.
A huge mistake that many dog owners make is displaying a treat clearly before they ask their dog to do something. Here, you are not rewarding them for the act – you are training them to assume that the act will get them food or that they should always do it when you are carrying a treat (or even something that they assume is a treat.
As mentioned in articles like https://www.gooddog-academy.com/best-dog-training-focus-exercises, you do not want your dogs to enter training knowing that they will be given a treat. Make it a surprise to build up the behaviors you want, and to prevent them from assuming that they are still earning a treat if they misbehave.