Dog training can be a breeze.
But it can also be a pain in the… neck.
Especially when you’re just starting.
So you search for the perfect guide that can help you begin.
Well, here it is.
Continue reading to discover:
- 37 smart dog training tips for beginners.
- 3 crucial steps to generalize your dog’s training.
- Why consistency is the most critical aspect of training your pup.
- And many more…
Table of contents
- 37 dog training tips for beginners
- #1: Puppy-proof your house
- #2: Start training at an early age
- #3: Engage in playful behavior with them
- #4: Socialize them
- #5: Start with the basics
- #6: Train daily and consistently
- #7: Train before meals
- #8: Regularly exercise your dog
- #9: Provide enough mental stimulation
- #10: Keep training sessions short
- #11: Establish consistent rules in your household
- #12: Be consistent with cues and signals
- #13: Assign a specific cue for a skill
- #14: Don’t leave food within reach
- #15: Be in control of their environment
- #16: Use high-value treats
- #17: Reward them with something they like
- #18: Stray away from aversive methods
- #19: Don’t yell at your dog
- #20: Use positive training methods
- #21: Prepare several approaches to try
- #22: Timing is everything
- #23: Only say a cue once
- #24: Deliver treats properly
- #25: Don’t overly rely on treats
- #26: Show them what you want
- #27: Lead with confidence
- #28: Train your dog to generalize
- #29: Don’t expect results too soon
- #30: Don’t continue training when you’re frustrated
- #31: Keep a positive attitude during training
- #32: Decrease bribing as training goes by
- #33: Watch out for fear and anxiety signals
- #34: Be mindful of the behaviors you encourage
- #35: Associate their name with positivity
- #36: Be happy when they come to you
- #37: Don’t be afraid to ask for help
37 dog training tips for beginners
#1: Puppy-proof your house
This tip isn’t just important to avoid accidents from happening to your puppy…
Puppy-proofing is also helpful in dog training because:
It helps eliminate the chances for destructive behaviors.
And without the opportunities for those to arise…
You’ll prevent Fido from developing problematic habits.
With that, here are where training and puppy-proofing can overlap:
|Puppy-proofing checklist||Relevance to training|
|Moving electrical plugs and wires out of reach||Stashing those will discourage chewing.|
|Keeping toilet lids closed||Prevents them from drinking water from the toilet.|
|Secure trashcans||Reduces their attraction to smelly things that make them curious.|
|Keeping doors and windows closed||Decreases escaping behaviors.|
|Putting up gates/fences||Limits your dog’s access to things they must not reach.|
#2: Start training at an early age
They say, “The early bird catches the worm.”
And that applies to dog training.
Because the earlier you start it, the better.
Doing so prevents the development of problematic behaviors ahead of time.
According to PetMD, dog training should begin at 8 weeks of age.
At that age, they can learn basic cues such as:
Note: If your dog is older than 8 weeks, don’t delay their training anymore.
#3: Engage in playful behavior with them
Training doesn’t require you to be serious all the time.
Yes… You can have fun!
One way to spice it up is to engage in play from time to time.
That’s why I recommend taking short breaks during your drills with Fido.
A 5 to 10-minute recess will do.
And you can play a quick game of fetch or tug-of-war with them during it.
Such practice is essential in training, especially in the beginning. Since you still need to earn your dog’s trust and attention.
Moreover, according to research:
Playing decreases cortisol levels in dogs.
Which is the primary stress hormone.
With less cortisol, you can boost your pup’s mood. As well as improve their attitude toward training.
“But wouldn’t a break from training distract them?”
Quite the opposite.
Because a short recess can make your dog focus on you again.
Or keep them motivated since you can treat a break as a reward.
#4: Socialize them
Dog socialization begins at birth.
Because they interacted with their mother and siblings.
But once they’re taken away from their litter…
Socialization could come from the following:
- Other animals.
So when they’re exposed to those…
Your pup learns to master their reactions toward the world they’re exploring.
That’s why socialization leads to a decrease in fearful tendencies.
And with all those beneficial factors…
Your training will go smoothly if your dog receives proper socialization.
To back that up, research says:
Well-socialized puppies are less likely to:
- Be distracted.
- Have body sensitivity.
- Experience anxiety (general and separation).
“Is it too late to socialize my adult dog?”
Although AKC firmly recommends it starts at 3 weeks of age…
You can still socialize your adult dog.
And you mustn’t delay this need anymore.
So start as soon as you can.
#5: Start with the basics
Think of dog training as a game that levels up.
Kicking it off means going through the first level.
Otherwise, you can’t advance to more complex skills.
And in training Fido, level 1 is equivalent to starting with the basics.
Here’s a short video of a 6-month-old pup, Guppy, beginning his training:
In that video, Guppy started with a positive reward marker. And it built the foundation of his following training sessions.
Which is the point of sticking to the basics at the beginning.
To further explain, here’s an example:
You want to teach your pooch the rollover trick.
But before you can do that…
Ensure that they know how to lay down on your command.
Because that skill is the groundwork for the trick you want to teach Fido.
#6: Train daily and consistently
When starting dog training, fur parents settle for this:
Simply enrolling their pups in weekly classes.
Now, I’m not stopping you from signing Fido up for such.
As they offer great help for your pup’s training.
But the issue is simply settling for a once-a-week class.
Remember that once you begin training your dog, it must be consistent.
So I highly advise doing daily drills with them at home.
Try a simple 10-minute session every day to recall their weekly classes.
Doing this ensures Fido won’t forget the things they learn from there.
Moreover, consistency also requires you to:
Stick to a regular training schedule
Your pup will appreciate knowing what time of day they can predict their training.
With that, they’ll know what to expect from their day. And that can make them less anxious.
So if you train your pooch every morning…
That’s what you stick to.
#7: Train before meals
After giving my previous tip, most fur parents ask me this follow-up question:
“Then what time of day should I be training my dog?”
My number 1 answer to that is:
Schedule your pup’s training before their meals.
In my experience, this can make your sessions more effective.
Because with this strategy…
Fido will pay closer attention to your instructions.
Compare that to training them right after a meal:
They won’t be interested in earning treats.
Since they just had their food and they might feel full already.
#8: Regularly exercise your dog
When I suggest this tip, most fur parents are confused. It makes them ask:
“What’s the connection between exercise and training in dogs?”
Well, exercise is a vital form of enrichment for Fido.
Your canine needs at least 30 minutes of physical exercise per day.
Otherwise, they’re going to have excess energy.
And that extra amount of stamina can get in the way of a training session.
Because it makes them less disciplined and more distracted.
And as if that’s not enough inconvenience…
Your pooch will also get bored if they lack exercise.
Based on this study:
Boredom leads to issues like:
All of those will lead to the development of problematic behaviors and habits.
Which you’ll need to correct through more training.
#9: Provide enough mental stimulation
This tip is best practiced with #8.
Because your dog needs enough mental stimulation to use their energy too.
Moreover, this type of enrichment ensures they stay sharp and content.
And what I like most about this one is:
It doesn’t require you and Fido to go outside.
You can provide mental stimulation for your pooch through interactive toys.
Like this dog brick interactive treat puzzle.
Even making them play games on a screen is exciting.
That’s why there are iPad games for your dog to enjoy.
For more mentally stimulating activities for dogs, here’s what AKC suggests:
- Treat hunt.
- Hide and seek.
#10: Keep training sessions short
A study says:
The average attention span of dogs is 1 minute.
On the other hand…
The average professional training session can be too long for Fido.
Which can take from 30 minutes up to an hour.
Considering your dog’s short attention span, that’s an issue…
And while you can’t change the program of such classes…
Try to shift those that you have at home.
Remember my advice under tip #6?
I mentioned trying daily 10-minute sessions for recall training.
Pro tip: Try doing that 3 times a day. Doing so completes the 30-minute training time required for Fido’s progress.
#11: Establish consistent rules in your household
By now, you must know that:
Consistency is the most important aspect of dog training.
And this tip will further prove that.
As pack animals, dogs will understand better if their family follows the same rules.
So if you have multiple canines in your home…
Set constant laws for them in your household.
Here’s an example of how this tip can help you:
Your living room couch is off-limits for dogs.
And you just scold one of your pups (let’s call them Woof) because they hopped on it.
But when Woof came back to the living room…
You’re on the couch cuddling with their canine sibling, Fido.
Once Woof sees that they’ll be confused.
So they’re still going to hop on that couch. Because they can’t understand what you want.
#12: Be consistent with cues and signals
Don’t switch up the signals you use every training session.
Instead, stick to the first cue you’ll use when training Fido.
Say you want them to learn the trick “play dead.”
And you use the word “Bang!”
For the hand signal, you made a finger gun gesture.
Now, if that’s how you introduced the trick to your pup…
That’s how you must train them until they master it.
#13: Assign a specific cue for a skill
Use a particular signal for a certain skill, activity, or behavior.
Don’t use the cue “Come!” in general.
Instead, assign prompts for a specific place you want Fido to go.
If you’re going to call them for a bath, try “Fido, bath!”
And if it’s time to walk them, you can say, “Let’s go!”
Now, when I give this tip out…
Some parents don’t believe me that it’ll save them time in the long run.
Because you’ll have to train your pup for so many cues.
However, doing this prevents cue poisoning.
Which is when you corrupt a command by generalizing it. And using it in something your dog doesn’t enjoy.
When that happens, the cue you worked hard for can become ineffective.
So you’re actually saving yourself time by following this tip.
#14: Don’t leave food within reach
Like the logic with tip #7…
How do you expect your pooch to work for your rewards…
If they can effortlessly access their treats on a low table?
Or if they can grab food from your counters without any sweat?
So, to make training more effective…
Ensure that you stash away the rewards properly.
They must be out of your dog’s reach.
And the only time your pooch will see the prizes will be during their drills.
#15: Be in control of their environment
This is a crucial responsibility in dog training.
But it’s often misunderstood or given less importance.
Some parents figure that being in control is simply choosing the area to train Fido.
However, there’s something more you can do apart from that.
And it’s being proactive when it comes to your pup’s environment.
Say you want to teach your dog to stop chewing…
Before you start with the drills themselves…
You can be proactive by putting away your shoes so Fido won’t nibble on them.
With that, there’ll be better chances that the wanted behavior will stick. Since your dog won’t have any opportunity to practice them anymore.
#16: Use high-value treats
At the beginning of training, most professional trainers use high-value treats.
Now, what makes a treat high value is when your pup doesn’t get it often.
Some examples are portions of cooked chicken, pork, or beef.
You can also cut up chunks of hotdog if Fido enjoys them.
Or there are commercial treats available in the store that are high-value.
Those are rich in their advertised flavor. And they smell great to tempt dogs better.
Read also: 13 Worst Dog Treats (Avoid #7 At All Times)
#17: Reward them with something they like
Based on a study:
Your canine has food preferences.
Which are determined by their genes and environment.
When training them, that means your pooch can play favorites among rewards.
So the treats you use will have an impact on their training.
Because they’ll be more excited and motivated if they like the goodie they’re working for.
With that, I recommend taking Fido to the pet store.
Then, let them sniff around and decide which treat to buy.
Continue reading: 7 Reasons Why Dogs Like Treats So Much + 5 Dangers
#18: Stray away from aversive methods
Training methods matter.
That’s why one of my biggest tips when beginning dog training is:
Don’t use negative reinforcement on your canine.
Those are also referred to as aversive-based methods, some of which are:
- Using shock or e-collars.
- Applying force (like hitting your dog).
- Pulling your dog’s leash when they won’t comply.
Now, there’s no denying that those techniques can be effective.
However, the cost will be your canine’s mental health and welfare.
As research revealed:
Aversive training methods put dogs under stress and anxiety.
Which was detected through high concentration levels of cortisol. The main hormone that’s related to stress.
Moreover, these methods make your dog pessimistic.
That causes them to get anxious when things don’t go their way.
So they’ll get stressed when they get the drill wrong.
Thus leading to a decrease in confidence. And ultimately delaying their progress in training.
Reading tip: Will My Dog Forgive Me For Hitting Him? 13 Vital Tips
#19: Don’t yell at your dog
Apart from their ability to understand a few human words…
VCA Hospital says your pooch can also sense what you mean through your:
With that, they can distinguish the following reactions from you:
So watch how you speak to your dog during training.
As yelling can only make them anxious. Which leads to delays in their training improvement.
And another reason shouting won’t work is based on this study’s findings:
It says that canines listen better if humans calmly talk to them.
You might also want to know: Do Dogs Understand Human Language? 7 Mind-blowing Facts
#20: Use positive training methods
What I suggest is the total opposite of aversive-based methods.
And it’s using positive reinforcement.
If you recall the video under tip #5…
The trainer started Guppy’s training by teaching him how to react to positive reward markers.
That’s an effective approach at the beginning of dog training.
Positive associations have a powerful effect on an animal’s emotional response.
So employ positive reinforcement in training.
Which the Humane Society describes as:
An approach that reinforces behaviors through positive rewards. Some of these are:
#21: Prepare several approaches to try
No dog is the same.
Keep that in mind when you begin dog training.
What took 1 canine 1 week to achieve might take a month for another pooch.
Sometimes, 1 approach might not even work for others.
When that happens, you’ll have to move to the next method to try.
That’s why I highly advise preparing several approaches to test.
If the first one doesn’t work, you’ll immediately have backups.
Thus not causing any delay in your dog’s training.
#22: Timing is everything
Training your dog takes practice on your end too.
And within the beginning, you can make several mistakes.
One of which is incorrect reward timing.
Here’s what can happen:
You’re teaching Fido how to sit down.
And they successfully followed your command.
However, it took you long to reward them.
So once you hand the treat to them, they’re already jumping at you.
With that, you didn’t reinforce the “Sit!” command.
What stuck to Fido is:
Jumping at you gets them a treat.
That said, perfectly time your rewards to reinforce the right behavior or trick.
Pro tip: From my experience, I give them the prize while they’re doing what I want them to do.
Learn more: 27 Common Dog Training Mistakes + Fixes
#23: Only say a cue once
In dog training, there’s such thing as command nagging.
It’s when you keep repeating a cue because your canine didn’t respond the first time.
Don’t do such a thing…
Because repeating a cue won’t help you establish the behavior you want.
Instead, it can ruin your pup’s training.
For one, Fido will begin thinking it’s okay not to respond the first time.
Or they need to do the trick the third or fourth time you say it.
So, only say a cue once.
And if you see your dog’s not listening to you during training…
Hold your command for a while.
Then, only go back to training when they’re fully attentive.
#24: Deliver treats properly
Here’s a scenario where this applies at the start of training:
Fido is on your right side.
And you asked them to sit down.
They did, so you’ll reward them.
However, the treat was in your left hand.
With that, your pup got up and snatched the snack from there.
Unfortunately, that canceled out learning the command.
Because what Fido picked up from the session is getting the treat from you.
What’s more, the cue you used will be corrupted. And you’ll have trouble applying it to the intended skill.
So, if your pooch performs the trick on your right side…
Remember to deliver their treat on the same end.
#25: Don’t overly rely on treats
Remember that treats shouldn’t be your only assistant.
Because as time goes by, you’ll have to gradually decrease their use.
As you don’t want your pooch to develop a dependence on treats.
That said, here are other positive rewards that help you reinforce wanted behaviors:
- Petting your pooch.
- Playing with them after a trick.
- Praising them for a job well done.
#26: Show them what you want
You and your dog don’t speak the same language…
But that shouldn’t get in the way.
As you can still break the barrier by showing your dog what you want them to do.
Research has discovered that canines can determine their human’s emotions.
They can tell how you feel by looking at your face and analyzing your vocalizations.
And after knowing how you feel…
Your pup will catch those emotions.
So they’re likely to feel the same way.
That’s how much your actions can affect your canine.
With that, ensure you show them the behavior you expect from them.
#27: Lead with confidence
Literally and figuratively speaking:
Your dog looks up to you.
So even if you’re still new to dog training…
You must lead with confidence.
Put trust in yourself as well.
Otherwise, Fido’s going to take control of the training situation.
Which will make it hard for you to establish authority as their parent or trainer.
Now, when I say that, I don’t mean applying the alpha or dominance theory.
Because leading with confidence is simply letting them know what you want.
With dog training, you can show that by:
- Being consistent with cues and signals.
- Establishing constant rules (from tip #11).
- Setting up (and following) regular training schedules.
#28: Train your dog to generalize
There’s no denying that training your dog is exciting.
And reaping the results will make you happy.
But when that time comes, 1 problem might arise:
Your pooch won’t do the trick you taught them around other people. Or in a new place.
So to avoid that from happening…
Teach Fido to generalize a skill
Step 1: Start with no distractions
To build your pup’s training foundation…
Start by holding sessions in a place with no distractions.
Ideally, pick a room inside your house.
One where there’s no foot traffic. And the noises from outside aren’t heard much.
Step 2: Incorporate distractions while inside
When your pup shows improvement with their training…
It’s time to add some distractions in the initial area you hold your sessions.
You can ask someone to watch while you train Fido.
Or you can open the room’s door or window to show people passing by.
Step 3: Train them outside
This will be the setup for most of the training sessions.
Because once Fido responds well to step number 2…
Take the sessions outside.
However, pick a controlled environment.
That means distractions are visible and heard…
But your pooch can’t pursue them since there are barriers.
#29: Don’t expect results too soon
Beginning is often the most challenging part of any journey. Including dog training.
So cut your pooch some slack when they’re not as good as you expect them to be.
Trust their learning process.
And don’t rush your pooch for results.
Typically, it can take them 6 weeks to learn a new basic command. If it’s a complicated skill, it’ll take longer than that.
#30: Don’t continue training when you’re frustrated
As I mentioned under tip #26:
Your pup knows how you feel by looking at your facial expressions.
So even if you don’t raise your voice at them…
One look at your face, and they can tell you’re frustrated.
Now, I’m not asking you to master a stoic look and attitude before Fido’s training.
But when you’re holding sessions…
You’ll need to react accordingly and ensure you’re not overdoing it.
When they successfully do the trick, you can act excited about it.
Then, you’re allowed to be disappointed when they won’t comply.
Just ensure you won’t get carried away by your frustration.
If you do, that can make your canine anxious.
Thus affecting their progress in training.
#31: Keep a positive attitude during training
As I mentioned, your pooch can sense how you feel.
That’s why you must keep a positive attitude during training.
As it’s important to maintain a calm yet enjoyable mood during the drills.
So don’t just do it to achieve what you want…
Instead, training should be fun for both you and Fido.
And what I love about this tip is:
It’ll also help you strengthen your bond with your canine.
#32: Decrease bribing as training goes by
Bribing is when you show your pup the treat they can gain if they’re a good boy/girl.
And it’s a typical practice at the start of training.
But keep in mind that you must decrease its use as training continues.
Otherwise, they’ll not perform well unless they see a reward.
So when your canine starts to understand the drills…
That’s when you begin keeping the rewards out of sight.
“Won’t their motivation decrease?”
Guessing if they’ll get a treat motivates them the same way.
#33: Watch out for fear and anxiety signals
When exposed to new situations and activities…
Some dogs can be nervous and anxious.
So at the beginning of training, look out for signs of fear and anxiety in your pooch.
According to PetMD, those are:
- Trying to hide.
- Tucking their tail.
- Sudden panting (without physical exhaustion).
When you catch these indications during training…
Give your pooch a short break.
And distract them during that recess by playing with them.
Doing so assures them that they have nothing to worry about.
You might also want to know: 7 Weird Reasons Why Your Dog Is Acting Scared + Tips
#34: Be mindful of the behaviors you encourage
You’re bound to make unintentional mistakes at the start of dog training.
And one of them is encouraging the wrong behavior.
Take it from this experience:
I wanted to train my pooch to stop demand barking.
So every time she barks at me, I tell her to stop by saying a firm “No!”
What I didn’t know was she wanted attention…
And my reaction was rewarding for her because she got me to focus on her.
With that, no matter how much I trained her to curb the unwanted behavior…
My method actually encouraged her more.
So, be watchful of your reactions and methods. To avoid making the same mistake I did.
#35: Associate their name with positivity
Then again, positivity brings it all together in dog training.
That’s why using your pup’s name negatively can affect their performance.
They might associate it with your disappointment. So when they hear their name, they get anxious.
With that, don’t yell their name when they’re not doing what you want.
Instead, use cues like a simple but firm “no” or “stop” for that.
Then, when rewarding them…
Say their name when giving them the treat.
#36: Be happy when they come to you
One of the first things you get to teach Fido is to come to you.
But even if you didn’t call them…
React positively when they go to you.
Not only does that reinforce the behavior…
It also improves your relationship with them. Which can help with your training sessions.
#37: Don’t be afraid to ask for help
When I began with my dog’s training…
I was a bit lost too.
At first, I tried to steer the ship myself.
Although I reaped a few results…
Reaching out for help gained my dog and me more benefits.
So, don’t hesitate to ask your friends for advice. Or contact experts.
Even watching training videos on YouTube does the trick.
You can also enroll your pooch in weekly classes. Then continue training daily at home.
But if you’re an aspiring trainer, you can ask your fellow trainers for advice too.
Moreover, reach out to vets.
Because you’ll experience handling challenging pups.
In some cases, they’re facing underlying medical issues. Which affects their training performance.
P.S. You’re already doing well in terms of this tip. Because this read is here to help you and Fido start your training journey.