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Dog Training – Dog Training at Home

Training at Home – Part 1

Putting Together a 5-minute Training Session

Training Tips

Much of the training you do at home will occur during every day interactions with your dog. For example, when your dog jumps up, you should turn your back, fold your arms and reward him with attention only when all four of his feet are on the floor. Be conscious of all your interactions with your dog! Make an effort to reward behavior you like and avoid rewarding behavior you don’t like.

In addition, devoting a few minutes a day to a training session is invaluable. Many of the techniques we are teaching in class require you to develop new skills, such as timing, reading your dog and simultaneously juggling clicker, treats and leash. The ultimate goal, besides a better-behaved dog, is for you and your dog to learn to communicate effectively. Training sessions allow you and your dog to focus exclusively on each other. For this week, try to build a habit of at least one short training session per day.

Rules for training at home:

  • One trainer and one dog at a time.
  • Be prepared. Have your rewards, such as soft stinky treats, ready and decide what you are going to work on before you begin.
  • Set your dog up to win. Progress comes from building on successes.
  • If your dog is not “getting it,” change something you are doing.
  • Keep it short, keep it happy and always end on a high note.

A session that ends with both of you happy is a successful session!

Putting Together a 5-minute Training Session

How to get started:

  • Find a place to train where you and your dog can be alone. Spectators are allowed only if they promise to sit down and be quiet. Other dogs in your home should wait their turn outside the training area.
  • Get your treats ready. Positive reinforcement methods require positive reinforcements. Treats should be small, soft and something your dog is willing to work for. You can put treats in a bowl on a table, put them in your pocket or in a fanny pack.
  • Pick a few behaviors to work on before you begin and decide what you will click for. Help your dog choose the behavior you want, by luring or by limiting his choices, and reward him when he gets it right. He can’t succeed if you’re not clear in your own mind on what you want. On the other hand, be ready to ask for an easier behavior if your lure fails or if he never offers the behavior you have in mind. For your next training session, pick different behaviors to work on. This keeps it interesting for both you and your dog. Avoid making training sessions into repetitive exercise drills.
  • Set your dog up to win. Click and treat frequently to keep your dog in the game; the learning comes when he is getting it right. If you do not get an opportunity to click and treat within 30 seconds or a minute, ask for an easier behavior. Then assess what is wrong (see below) and try to fix it. Repeated failures, such as when your dog is not responding to your first cue, may establish a pattern in the dog’s mind of behavior you don’t want.
  • Keep it short, keep it happy and always end on a high note. A good training session has a beginning, a middle and an end. Begin with a few easy behaviors your dog already knows, so you can give a few clicks and treats right away. Then spend a few minutes on learning a new behavior or improving an old one. End the session on a success – go back to a known behavior if you need to – then give a big reward and let your dog know the session is over. Following a training session with play, a meal or a walk is a nice plus.

The whole session may last less than 5 minutes – don’t keep going so long that your dog loses interest in the game. A tiny amount of progress in any individual session is all you need. Add up all the tiny steps and you will soon see very big changes.

If you are getting frustrated, try again later. Continuing will do more harm than good. What is most important is that both you and your dog enjoy the process, so you are motivated to train again the next day.

Having problems? Does your dog seem anxious, confused or disinterested?

If anxious, don’t lean over your dog, use a softer tone of voice and don’t gesture or click right in his face.

If confused, make sure you click precisely when you see the behavior you want and that you click for the same behavior each time.

If disinterested, try better treats or a place with fewer distractions. Another possibility is that you need to improve your timing. Once your dog understands this is a game worth winning, he will be interested.

Training at Home – Part 2

Challenging Your Dog to Improve Performance and Reliability

Training Tips

By this time, your dog can probably perform a few behaviors, such as “sit,” “touch” and “watch me,” some of the time. However, you’ve probably found that with any small change in the environment your dog may “forget” what he’s just learned. Teaching your dog the new behavior and its cue are only the first step. Your dog hasn’t truly mastered these new skills until he is able to perform reliably, which is at least 80 percent of the time, in the presence of distractions.

Training Procedure

Mastering any new behavior usually involves these five steps:

  1. Get the behavior, usually with a lure.
  2. Name the behavior, using a verbal cue or command.
  3. Change the lure to a hand signal, using a visual cue or command.
  4. Make it a little harder, changing distance, duration, speed and precision, one aspect at a time and in small increments.
  5. Add distractions.

Rules for Making It Harder

  • Make one aspect of behavior harder at a time and in small enough increments so that the dog will succeed frequently.
  • Temporarily make other aspects of the behavior easier.
  • Once she has it, make the other aspects harder again.


“Stay” – your dog will hold a stay for sixty seconds while you stand right next to him, but you want to increase the distance you can move away from him while he stays:

  • Distance is the aspect of the behavior you are making harder and you need to increase the distance in small increments, so give your command and move one step away from the dog.
  • Time is an aspect of the behavior you can make temporarily easier by decreasing the length of the stay to five seconds. Then, reward your dog for at least three or four five-second/one-step away stays.
  • Now, gradually increase the time while you remain just one step away from the dog. Do this until he can stay for sixty seconds with you at a distance of one step. Note that it may take four or five sessions to work back up to a sixty-second stay at the one-step distance.

Adding Distractions

  • Temporarily make the behavior easier when introducing a new distraction.
  • Initially add small distractions that the dog is capable of ignoring.
  • Gradually increase the level of distraction.
  • Once he can easily resist the distraction, make the behavior harder again.

Challenging Your Dog to Improve Performance and Reliability Homework Exercise

Let’s say your dog will sit, but he stands and looks at you for several seconds before he sits and you are giving several cues. You’d like him to sit promptly on the first command.

First, perform the behavior a few times at the dog’s current level of performance and click and treat each successful sit, even if it’s very slow. Perform the behavior, “sit,” a few more times, but this time only give one cue and only click and treat your dog if he sits in 5 seconds or less. At this point, it doesn’t matter if he sits lopsided or not directly in front of you. Your only concern is time. If he sits but it takes him too long, speak to him with a happy voice, “that was a nice sit, but it doesn’t get a cookie.” Then, get him up and try again.

Soon you should see his average response time improving. Once he sits within five seconds, at least 80 percent of the time, decrease the time you give him to respond. Now reward him only when he sits in four seconds or less. Continue decreasing the time until you are getting an immediate response. Now put back any other requirements you have, such as sit directly in front of me, and only reward sits that are fast and straight.

Now you want to add distractions. For example, you have been training in the living room and your dog does great. Now you go to the backyard and children are playing across the street. Suddenly, your dog acts like he has never heard the word “sit.” If your dog is looking across the street and not at you, forget “sit” at the moment and try “watch me” a few times. When you have your dog’s attention, ask for a sit. Click and treat every sit, even if it’s slow and crooked.

If your dog is very distracted, you may need to go back to luring him into a sit, making the behavior easier. Keep the lesson short. You may want to give a big reward, the jackpot, when he gives you a good sit, then end the session. Remember, you always want to quit on a high note. The next time you train with children across the street, he will remember that paying attention to you is rewarding.

Improved performance and reliability will probably take many short sessions. That’s OK. A little progress each time is what keeps you coming back for your next session.

Examples of Distractions:

  • Change your body position. Stand at the dog’s side, sit down or stand three feet away from the dog.
  • Have another person in the room, ignoring the dog but doing something, such as talking or jumping up and down.
  • Go to different locations, such as the park, walking on the sidewalk or in pedestrian malls.
  • Go to an obedience class where you’ll find many distractions!
  • When your dog is doing a stay, tug GENTLY on the leash while repeating, “stay,” or using your hand signal for stay. You can also wave your arms, make odd noises or walk around your dog. Your dog learns to ignore everything except your release word, such as “free,” “okay” or “all done.”

Article courtesy of Dumb Friends League
Reproduced by permission – All Rights Reserved.

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