Dog Obedience Tips

No matter what behavior you are trying to correct, there are some basic dog obedience tips that can be effective in many situations. The most important thing to remember is to be consistent in your reaction so your dog knows what to expect each time it performs a behavior.

Nothing in Life Is Free

If your puppy is acting out all the time, a Nothing in Life Is Free (NILIF) program will help you get control. We give our dogs way too many freedoms without making them earn them. We place food, water and toys on the floor, and give them doggie doors to go in and out.

Remove some of those freedoms. Pick the food up off the floor and make your dog do a sit-stay before you put it down. If you are having problems with reactivity or aggression, hand feed the food a handful at a time, making your dog perform a different behavior for each handful.

Make your dog sit before going outside, getting pets or playing games. Once your dog is under control, you don't have to be so strict with the rules, but don't lighten up until they have earned those privileges.

Ignore Unwanted Behavior

We often inadvertently reward bad behavior thinking that we are punishing it. For example, when your dog jumps on you, you might yell at him, push him or kick him. To him, however, all he sees is that you are looking at him, talking to him and touching him. This behavior will never go away.

Instead, walk past your dog without any eye contact. If your dog is barking non-stop, get up and leave the room. Put a small leash on your dog when you are home and walk him to a timeout area if he is too out of control. But don't yell at or touch your dog. This will reinforce behaviors.

Avoid Punishment

Many owners say their dogs "know they've done something wrong" because they "act guilty." This is a myth. Dogs do not realize what they've done wrong unless you catch them in the act. Punishing hours, even minutes, later does not work. Your dog is "acting guilty" because you have angry body language, and dogs are very perceptible to body language.

Even if you catch your dog in the act, they may not understand why they are being punished. For example, if you punish a puppy for peeing on the carpet, he may think you are angry at him for peeing, not just peeing on the carpet. Then, he will work harder to find better hiding places so you can't see him pee.

If your dog is chewing things up or peeing on the carpet, you are giving them too much freedom. Restrict their access when you can't watch them, and then teach them what you would rather have them chew on or where you would rather have them go when you are home.

Effective dog training involves communication. Dogs do not understand situations the way we do, so it's important to relate to them on their level. Don't inadvertently reward bad behavior. Instead, teach your dog what you would rather have him do and reward that.