Training your dog to follow basic commands builds a positive relationship with her and helps ensure her safety. These dog training tips will help you get started.

By Karen Weir-Jimerson
August 24, 2020
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There are plenty of reasons that training will make your life—and your dog’s—better. Dog training helps build a positive relationship between the two of you, and it helps ensure your pet’s safety. While there are a wide variety of training methods and techniques, all professional trainers agree that training your pooch for a variety of situations is a positive thing for both of you. Here are five reasons dog training will enhance the life of your dog (and yours, too!).

1. Training Enhances Your Relationship

Zazie Todd, PhD and author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy, endorses positive reinforcement as the best way to create a good relationship with your dog. 

“Positive reinforcement will help you teach your dog the behaviors that you like,” she says. Think about it. Would you want a friend who complimented you or insulted you? Of course, positive is the way to go. “There's a lot of information about training that is very old-fashioned and very outdated,” she says. And that means punishment, such as yelling at your dog. Todd cites studies that indicate punishment-based, aggressive dog training methods can result in behavior problems for dogs.

Todd recommends building trust with rewards. “Reward-based methods are best,” she says. Positive training methods include giving treats, petting, and play time. But don’t underestimate the power of a good treat. “Praise doesn’t mean anything unless you follow it up with a treat,” she says. “Dogs like to work for food.” Rewards motivate a dog for good behavior. This allows you to create a relationship with your dog based on respect and friendship rather than fear.

2. Training Creates the Dream Roommate

Do you remember the roommate in college who left her dishes in the sink? Well, an untrained dog will leave more than dishes around. Yep, she will pee and poo on your favorite rug. House training helps your dog understand she needs to go outside to do her business. Training your puppy/dog to go to the bathroom outdoors will make your pet a better (and cleaner) roommate. 

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University recommends taking your puppy/dog out to do their business on a schedule that’s based on their age. Puppies may need a visit outside every one to four hours when they are awake and active. Adult dogs can usually go without a potty break for six to eight hours during the day and eight to 10 hours overnight.

Speaking of roommates, it’s nice to have one who’s comfortable spending time in her own space when the situation calls for it. Likewise, crate training your dog will give your pet a safe, private retreat where she can feel comfortable. Positive reinforcements such as treats, a snuggly blanket (and more treats!) will help you teach your dog to enjoy her crate.

3. Training Ensures Your Dog's Safety

Your dog doesn’t need to be able to shake hands, roll over, (or ride your Roomba around the house for your YouTube channel), but she does need to master a couple of basic voice commands in order for her to be well mannered and safe. 

“Come” is the first command to teach. Having your dog return to you (called “recall”) is important if your dog is off lead or has escaped from your house or yard. “Sit” is an important command so your dog doesn’t run out the door when you open it for visitors. Todd also suggests “Leave it” or “Drop it” are important training commands that will help keep your pet safe. “If your dog comes upon something he shouldn’t eat, a command that stops him will keep him safe,” she says.

4. Training Makes Walks Together Fun

If you’ve ever seen an owner being dragged like a reluctant water skier behind their golden Lab, you can see the benefit of controlled leash training. You and your dog should be going on a walk together; your dog should not be walking you. Leash training makes walks with your dog a fun experience for both of you. But walking at the end of a lead isn’t a thing a dog will naturally know how to do. Training your dog to walk beside you (called “heeling”), rather than pulling out in front of you, will help your walks together be more rewarding.

5. Training Helps Your Dog Become More Confident

Training through socialization makes your pet friendly toward other dogs, kids, and adults. The Animal Humane Society recommends exposing your pet to new people, situations, and dogs, to make him more well rounded. “Socializing your dog through puppyhood and adolescence is one of the best ways to ensure that they become a friendly and confident adult,” the organization says.