10 Dog Training Tips for First Time Pet Owners

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5 Minute Read
Updated December 1, 2020

Getting a new dog is an exciting time in a person’s life as they get a new friend and companion. However, when you get a new dog, you also need to be sure to train it. If not, you could have a badly behaved pet that destroys your home and terrorizes any visitors you have over.

Unfortunately, training a new dog (especially as a first time owner) isn’t always easy. They can be notoriously stubborn and simply might not want to listen to what you have to say. To help get you started, here are some dog training tips to give you the best chance of successfully training your new dog.

10 Dog Training Tips

Whether you are training your dog to sit, to be housetrained, or anything else, the training tips in this article will help the process be as simple as possible.

1. Don't Be Afraid to Use Treats

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There is no doubt that dogs like treats. No matter what they are doing, most will come running if you’re about to give them a treat. This can make treats an incredibly effective tool at training dogs. They can be used to reward good behavior, or even to get the dog to complete a desired action.

You can even use treats when you’re not home. For example, try a dog camera that dispenses treats so you can encourage and reward good behavior even when you’re out and about. Of course, treats shouldn’t always be relied on to get dogs to do what you want, but they can be an essential tool early on while building and encouraging good behavior.

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2. Don't Wait Too Long to Start Training

When you get your new dog, you shouldn’t wait too long before you start training it. The longer the dog goes without sufficient training, and the older it gets, the harder training it will be. While puppies have short attention spans, they can generally learn certain commands within their first few weeks of being alive.

While training quickly is a good idea, this also depends on the age of the dog for certain kinds of training. For example, most dogs don’t get good control of their bladder until they are around 12-16 weeks old. So if you try to potty train them before then, it might not be very effective.

3. If at First You Don't Succeed...

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While it would be lovely if a dog could become fully trained in an afternoon, that is not the case. It can sometimes take multiple months for a dog to become fully trained, though this depends on many variables of course. As a result, being patient is incredibly important to the training process. Your dog is likely still warming up to its new living arrangement; add training to that, and it can be a stressful time for the dog.

If you get upset with the dog every time it doesn’t get something right the first time, it will only make the whole process much more difficult. Also, don’t take things personal, your dog certainly isn’t purposely failing to annoy you, it just needs some more work, time and encouragement. If you find your patience wearing thin, it is best to stop the training session for the day instead of lashing out.

 4. Eliminate Distractions

The number one inhibitors of a successful training session are distractions. Just like people, dogs can often get distracted by a variety of things. Because of this, it’s a good idea to eliminate distractions when possible during training sessions. Keep their toys away, close the windows and try to do it in quiet places away from your children or other pets.

Also, even without distractions dogs will eventually lose their focus and become more difficult to train. In general, keeping your training sessions to around 10-15 minutes is the sweet spot. Anything longer and many pets will begin to get distracted by anything and everything.

5. Be Consistent 

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Repetition is important. For your puppy to associate routine and behaviours to rewards and verbal commands, then you need to be very consistent. Keeping a regular schedule for feeding, potty breaks, physical activity, and down time are all going to provide structure to help your dog learn. 

Different types of training may work better than others for your dog. Treat training is the most common, but clicker training offers an consistent audio cue that your dog will associate with a reward. This helps him identify when he's correctly responded to your verbal commands.

6. Be Concise

Dogs can learn a variety of words and phrases, but when you first start your training, their capacity of the English language is very basic. When teaching beginner commands and behaviours, it's best to stick to easy one-word verbal commands. 

Words like sit, stay, down, and paw are some of the most common commands for puppies that are starting basic training. Using full sentences, or multi-step commands will just confuse your puppy, and he may not be able to associate the words with the action. 

7. Wait for it…

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When you ask a basic command of your dog, give him a few seconds to react. Sometimes they just need a minute to put the pieces together. Whether your dog is being stubborn or is just trying to figure out what you are asking, a brief pause after verbal commands will do wonders for training. 

Rapidly repeating the command over and over might just confuse him more. Instead of-  “sit, Sit, SIT, SIT! - and getting more and more frustrated in your tone, say it once and count to five in your head. If he hasn’t responded, try again with a visual aid like a hand motion. 

8. Get the Right Gear

Training is easier when you have the right training aids. Regardless of your training style, having the right tools will help you connect with your pup better and help to keep him engaged. It can be as simple as a treat pouch to keep rewards nearby and easy to grab, or a comfortable and well-fitted harness, like the Ruffwear Front Range Harness

Training requires some preparation, but when you have the right gear, you can find a variety of opportunities to incorporate training into your everyday activities. 

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9. Ask for Help

Some dogs need more training than you might be able to give on your own. Don’t be afraid to connect with a trainer, your vet, or your local pet community for advice and help. Some behavioural issues, like anxiety, can make training very difficult. 

Seeking professional help is more than just teaching your dog, it’s about teaching you too. Trainers and classes can give you the methods and tips to confidently continue your dog’s training at home. 

10. End on a Positive Note

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When you end any training session that had decently successful results, it is important to end on a positive note. Your dog has spent a lot of time trying to impress you and work with you, and you need to show your appreciation. This can be shown in a variety of different ways, from handing out a few treats, to petting or playing with the dog for a little bit.

How you leave a session can often set the tone for the next, so keep that in mind. You want the dog to associate the training time with happiness and fun, not anger and sadness. Ending on a good note will ensure the dog is open to the next session and will be ready to go.

No matter the behavior you are trying to train, the tips in this article will be able to help. These are far from the only training tips to help you succeed, but are some of the most important to keep in mind for the best results.

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Got any dog training stories? We’d love to hear about them. Let us know your dog training struggles, successes, and tips in the comments below. 

Written by

Ashley Lipman

Ashley Lipman is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion for providing knowledge to readers worldwide on topics closest to her heart - all things digital. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches touching the digital sphere.

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