Last week Luna completed her basic manners training class and I have to say that this course was a major game changer in regards to training Luna and how to go about training any future dogs I may have. We took classes at ARF (the Animal Rescue Foundation) in Walnut Creek, it took us a while to get into the course, they sell out quickly but after attending I can see why. I’m 100% blown away by ARF, I highly recommend if you are in the East Bay and want to enroll your dog in a training course to sign up with ARF. We took the basic manners course for any dogs over 18 weeks old, which is great because it allows anyone who feels they need help with their dog’s behavior at any age can get help. I’m so won over by ARF that I signed up Luna for a tricks class starting this month, she really enjoys learning and picks things up quickly that I plan on continuing enrolling her in classes so she can constantly be challenged and engaged.
I wanted to share some of the things that I learned from the dog training course that were a serious game changer for us when it came to training Luna. They are so simple yet incredibly effective and easy to implement consistently:
- Have a short word to mark desired behavior: Whenever your dog performs a command like sit, make sure you praise with a short word like YES or CORRECT instead of using good girl or good dog. The reason for keeping it short is simple, mainly dogs don’t understand our language. So if you consistently use a short word marker, ours is YES, they will quickly pick up that they did the correct behavior once they hear yes. The easiest way to establish the marker is to make sure you reward with treats immediately after the marker every time so that way when you need to train your dog to do another command it will be easier when you mark it, their understand that they just did what you wanted them to.
- Keep commands short: Basically short is key! Just like the marker word you want to keep all of the commands short and sweet so your dog can remember/understand the command. So instead of lay down say down. Come here should just be come. There will be a few exceptions like leave it or let’s go but if you can try to keep commands to one word if possible.
- Use food as your guide: When you are first teaching/showing your pup the desired behavior, instead of just saying sit and rewarding once they finally touch their bum to the ground, use food/treat as a guide to get your dog to do said desired behavior, then once they do immediately mark then reward. For example, if you want your dog to sit, put the treat on their nose without giving it to them, then guide it up above their head to follow and gently lead them to the sitting position.
- Consistency is KEY: Then the easiest thing repeat repeat repeat. You want to make sure you spend time training every day. You don’t have to spend hours training just even fitting 15 mins a day will be enough.
That being said there are still things we are working on with Luna that will definitely take some time and loads of effort in order to get the desired behavior but that’s standard. We are working on her on-leash behavior: she currently goes a tad crazy when she sees other dogs on leash and tends to pull occasionally. She has improved but we want her to not bark at all when seeing other dogs on-leash mainly because we would love to take her to public places without her causing a scene. She also needs practice listening to commands in public or when there are distractions around.
Regardless these simple tips have been a game changer when it comes to training for us. Luna has picked up the commands really quickly except when distracted like in class because she would rather attempt to say hi to everyone than listen to mom and dad. Our next steps are to start practicing training in public places filled with distractions, it will be stressful at first but I know as we continue to practice Luna will pick it up quickly. I’ve found that getting excited about dog training also really helps because if you’re excited about it, you’re motivated to spend time every day working on it. If you are struggling with puppy training and haven’t yet signed up for a class I hope these tips help! Remember consistency is key and it can get incredibly frustrating but it’s completely worth it.