Whether it’s a new puppy or the stubborn old dog that’s been in the family for years, training can be frustrating.
Although you may want to pull your hair out when you come home to an accident or your favorite pair of shoes torn to shreds, consider this:
Just like we need time to settle into a new environment, so does our pup. Does that mean they won’t chew up the couch or pee on the floor in the meantime? No. But as their owner, it’s important to be patient as they get accustomed to their new home.
When your pet doesn’t obey commands, more often than not, it’s not because he is untrainable. The fact of the matter is, your dog is an animal. He doesn’t instinctively understand or conform to human manners. Teaching your pup “good”, or to put it another way, your standard of behavior can take time and effort.
However, this doesn’t mean you need to completely overhaul your training regime. For some dogs, even the smallest adjustment in your training program can help your dog make strides in behavior improvement.
If you are having a tough time reigning in your pup’s out-of-control behavior, take a look at these eight steps for training a seemingly untrainable dog:
First thing’s first: Understand your dog needs training. They will not arrive home and magically know the boundaries or rules of the house. It would be unrealistic and completely unfair of you to assume your dog’s behavior can shift in a day or a week.
If you stay patient and understand that your dog will need a few weeks to learn your rules, the process will be less frustrating for both of you.
2. Take it slow
Which brings me to step two: take it slow. Even once you do start training, good behavior doesn’t develop overnight.
Start by working on familiar behaviors. Another tip is to create a positive association with training by giving rewards for even the slightest improvement. For example, you can reward your pup with their favorite treat or a gentle belly scratch to show them they are behaving correctly. Once they realize training is a good thing, take small steps. Focus on one behavior at a time.
Some good, basic behaviors to start with include “come,” “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it” commands.
3. Consistency is key
Without consistency in training, it’s easy for your dog to get confused. In fact, you might be mistaking your dog’s confusion for stubbornness. You can’t have some members of the household reinforcing behavior while others are correcting it.
For example, take teaching your dog to sit when visitors come to the door, when someone arrives at the door, make sure your kids aren’t encouraging the dog to jump up the second the individual walks through the door.
You’ll also want to make sure the members of your household aren’t asking for the same behavior in different ways. When you begin training, get everyone on the same page about which behaviors you are working on and then establish consistent cues, commands, and rewards for those behaviors. Then repeat, repeat, repeat!
4. Control the environment
Set your pup up for success by beginning training in a calm environment.
Begin training inside in a space free from distractions so your dog can stay focused. Rid the room of toys, certain sounds, and other people. Once they have mastered a command, you can add a distraction back in like the TV or another person. You may even take the training session outside to the yard or back porch.
You’ll know you are making progress when your pup notices a distraction but isn’t consumed by it.
5. Avoid Punishment
Rather than using punishment to enforce a behavior, consider using positive reinforcement.
In the process of conditioning your pet, using positive reinforcement after every good behavior that they exemplify reinforces their action and makes it more likely that the command will occur again in the future. When a favorable outcome, event, or reward occurs after the desired behavior, that particular response will be strengthened.
On the flipside, punishment decreases a behavior. In pets, punishment can increase anxiety and diminish trust. In fact, in the long term, punishment can actually lead to more aggression.
Consider positively reinforcing your pet with a treat or reward when they behave correctly, rather than punishing them when they behave incorrectly. This will build trust, strengthen positive behavior, and give them confidence over anxiety.
6. Make Training a Habit
Training is not a once a day event. In fact, it’s far from it. You should make training part of you and your dog’s daily routine. In order to see the most success while training, work on desired and behaviors throughout the day and as opportunities arise. This can be as simple as asking your dog for a specific desired action, such as a “sit” or “down,” and rewarding his success with treats, play, or petting.
7. Set boundaries
Boundary training is considered an intermediate level behavior and is a key part of your training regime, whether it’s restricting certain areas of the household or your outdoor garden.
Unlike using treats on basic command training, the goal here is to make your dog understand and respect the boundaries you have defined.
First, decide what areas will be off limits and temporarily barricade them. Perhaps this is the dining room with your nice china, the nursery, or your bedroom so your dog doesn’t try and sleep with you. Restricting access early on promotes a higher chance of success down the road once barriers are removed.
Next, help your pup understand the limits. Let them loose and see if they understand what the boundaries are. Use positive reinforcement whenever the boundaries are respected.
8. Ask for help
If training just isn’t working or your dog is showing signs of aggression or fear, don’t be afraid to call in the pros. An expert’s opinion and guidance can prove very valuable for both you and your pet. Ask your vet for trainer referrals.
About the Author
Lisa is a freelance writer from Raleigh, NC that has suffered from anxiety and insomnia since her teenage years. Due to her condition, she is passionate about educating on the importance of sleep health and how pets can help ease anxiety. When she isn’t writing, you can find her practicing yoga or working on mastering a new recipe to try!