A photo of a dog trainer and a doodle mix dog doing sit

Puppies are babies kidnapped from another planet. Training provides more than just sitting on command or shaking paws–it’s about teaching your baby alien how to operate in a weird human world. It builds your dog’s confidence and provides all-important mental stimulation. Better trained dogs have access to more public spaces, broadening their world and freedoms. And finally, by teaching you, the human, how to speak the language of Dog, it enhances communication between you and your pet and strengthens your bond.

Tips on training your dog

  • Be consistent. Keep verbal and non-verbal cues consistent to avoid confusing your dog.
  • Have realistic expectations. Training helps you know your dog and understand what you’re asking of them. For example, most dogs can be taught to come on cue–but few dogs can be left off-leash, unattended, in an unfenced area with wildlife, and be trusted not to wander away.
  • You get what you reinforce, not what you want. Dogs don’t repeat behaviors that don’t work. You probably don’t want your dog stealing food, but leaving leftovers unattended in an area your dog can access reinforces counter-surfing.
  • Keep sessions short, fun, and positive. Training should be fun for everyone. Most people don’t have an hour in their day to devote to training alone, and trying to find the time can be frustrating. Your dog can also get tired and frustrated if a session drags on too long, and over time become less willing to work and learn.
  • Move slowly. Training can be a time-consuming endeavor and progress can be slow. Rushing it can lead to confusion and frustration for everyone involved.

Foundational skills

  • Sit: The cornerstone of everything and the starting point for multiple skills
  • Down: Encourages your dog to be calm and remain out of the way
  • Place: Teaches your dog to settle down in any situation, and over time builds confidence and calmness in different environments
  • Stay: A safety skill that teaches impulse control

Suggested equipment

  • Clicker (if using)
  • Leash and collar/harness
  • Portable mat
  • Treats + Treat Pouch

When should you start training your dog?

If you’ve ever heard that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, rest easy–that’s nonsense. While it does take longer to unlearn an old habit than to train a new one, dogs benefit from training at all ages. Not to mention, if you let your dog train themselves, you may not appreciate the end result.

Modern dog training uses non-aversive techniques appropriate for puppies from a very young age. Some breeders choose to start while they’re still with their mothers. Training can happen as soon as your puppy comes home as long as sessions are kept short and are developmentally appropriate.

Gentle Beast offers online training courses led by pet behavior expert Alex Sessa, CPDT-KA. Our Foundational Skills workshop teaches you not only how to train your dog to sit or lie down on cue, but also how to take these skills to the next level and apply them in the real world.

About the Author

A picture of Melody smiling towards the camera
Melody Lee
Contributing Writer

Melody Lee is a contributing writer for Gentle Beast, and is a CPDT-KA dog trainer. She lives in Manhattan with two feral cats, Littlepip and Alphonse, that tolerate her clicker training attempts. One day, her cats might let her adopt a dog of her own.

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