If you have a young puppy, we recommend that you wait until he’s at least 8 weeks old
to begin formal training.
Before you begin the formal training lessons with a dog of any age, please plan to follow
these keys to success:
1. Be patient. Each dog is unique, and can only learn at his own pace. Some dogs
learn quickly; others take more time. Patience is indeed a virtue when it comes to
effective dog training!
2. Be kind. This goes hand-in-paw with “Be patient.” Don’t lose your temper if your
dog doesn’t “get it” right away, or appears to be ignoring you. Please do notpunish your dog for not learning quickly enough. As a matter of fact, don’t punishyour dog at all. (We’ll be teaching you effective ways to stop or preventinappropriate behavior—without punishment.)
3. Be flexible. If your dog is struggling to learn, be willing to change your training
routine. The location may be too distracting. The time of day may be too close (or
far from) feeding time. The length of your training session may be too long (or too
short). The training exercises may need to be broken down into smaller, simpler
steps. Remember, each dog is unique. Be flexible and willing to do whatever you
can to help your dog succeed.
4. Be generous. Be generous with your rewards and your time. Always reward
your dog’s correct responses generously. Don’t be stingy with the treats—he’s
worked hard and deserves a generous reward! And commit ample time to your
training lessons. We’re all busy these days, but this is “quality time” for you and
your dog. You’ll both enjoy and benefit from the lessons, so make sure your
schedule is adjusted accordingly!
One of the biggest keys to success with positive reinforcement training is rewarding
your dog properly. This means giving him something he loves at exactly the right
Your first task is to figure out what kind of reward will best motivate your dog.
All dogs are unique individuals. Most dogs are motivated by food that tastes and smells
good to them. Food treats can be very small, which is handy for keeping them in your
pocket or a pouch to use during training—and important to maintaining your dog’s
caloric intake to healthy levels. So that’s the form of reward we’ll be using throughout
Be sure what you’re giving your dog is good for him. But don’t rely on the packing of
store-bought treats to tell you “Your dog will love it!” Strong-smelling meat and cheese
treats are usually winners, but many store-bought treats are made primarily of other
ingredients. Your dog may not appreciate artificial colors, tastes or smells.
Small morsels of cooked chicken are a popular home-made treat. But keep in mind that
what motivates other dogs may not motivate yours. Experiment and find out what he
loves to eat.
What if your dog isn’t motivated by food (rare, but a possibility)? You’ll have to find
something else that motivates him. You may think a couple of pats on the head are a
great reward, but your dog may not. He might not even like it (most dogs don’t)! Try
scratching his belly or some other form of petting. Again, experiment to find out what
your dog loves.
Another form of reward to consider is play. Tossing a ball, playing tug-of-war, or
playfully chasing your dog for a few minutes may be his idea of heaven.
The Best Reward
Let your dog show you what he truly loves. He’ll do this with his reaction to the
reward you offer. You just need to pay attention to how he responds. Just because he
accepts a piece of kibble doesn’t necessarily mean he loves it. Watch him carefully
when you’re giving him a treat, petting, or playing with him. If he looks away or walks
away, he probably isn’t all that thrilled about what you’re offering. But if he gets excited,
stays close and begs for more, he’s showing you that he loves it and will be willing to
work for that reward in the future.
For initial training, we highly recommend using a food treat as the reward. It’s the
easiest to work with and gets the fastest results…just make sure your dog really likes it!