dog obedience training at home
Follow up your puppy or dog basic training (formerly called dog obedience training) classes with training at home. Aim for three short sessions a day. © Westend61 / Getty Images

Guide to Dog Obedience Training

If the lines of communication between you and your puppy are getting crossed, dog obedience training — now referred to as manners or basic training — can help. Our expert digs in.
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Picture being transported to an alien world where nothing makes sense. Similarly, entering your home can be such a confusing, scary place at first for your dog. He doesn’t know our language or our rules until we explain them to him.

This is where basic training or puppy training comes. Some people still call it dog obedience training. However, dog obedience training is not a term positive reinforcement trainers use anymore as they don’t focus on forcing a dog to “obey” but rather work on helping us effectively communicate with our dogs. Today we call it puppy training, manners training, basic training or dog socialization. This type of training communicates to your canine companion what behaviors you desire and what’s expected of him. Exercising his mind makes him more confident and relaxed. As a bonus, basic training furthers your bond.

Before training your dog on your own, check the many helpful dog training resources available both in books and online. Or, hire a private dog trainer to assist you in your quest to communicate with your pup.

How much does puppy or basic dog training cost?

Private dog training is usually more expensive than classes, running from $50 to $150 per session and up, depending on where you live.

Alternatively, attend a class with your canine companion. Instructors usually teach pet parents how to train their pups as much as they train the dogs themselves. Classes generally run from $30 to $60 per session or more, for four to eight sessions.

Puppy training at home

Even if you use a trainer or attend a class, you must do short dog training practice sessions at home on your own. Train for no more than five to 10 minutes at a time and three sessions a day. Start without distractions, adding them only after your dog understands what’s expected of him. And don’t bore him by repeating an exercise too many times. After he successfully performs the cue a few times, end on a positive note.

Always set your dog up to succeed during dog training sessions. If you have a high-energy pup, exercise him with a walk or play session prior to the training session. You’re teaching certain behaviors and a language to your dog. Everyone working with him should be consistent in the language and methods used. Always be patient. It may take weeks or months for a dog to reliably perform a cue.

Puppy training classes

Most puppy training classes teach certain core behaviors to the dog, such as how to pay attention, sit, lie down, walk on a loose leash and leave dangerous items on cue. This is why we now refer to commands (which falls into the old obey type of training) as cues.

If your puppy is 8 weeks to 6 months old, a puppy kindergarten training class can fit the bill. A puppy training class covers a lot of additional information regarding how to raise a puppy, such as crate training, house training, handling, socialization, bite inhibition and impulse control.

Adult dogs over 6 months old can attend a basic manners or beginner life skills class.

group of dogs at obedience training class
Group dog basic training classes are typically more cost effective than private training. © Apple Tree House / Getty Images

Puppy training using positive reinforcement

Current, science-based dog training uses positive reinforcement. This means that you use a reward marker like stating “yes” immediately after your dog correctly performs the cue (such as “sit”) that you gave. After praising your dog, give a primary reinforcer like a small treat. Always have your reward treat ready prior to giving your cue.

Positive reinforcers can be much more than treats. Something that your dog finds valuable can be used, depending on the behavior.

Puppy or dog basic training positive reinforcers include:

  • verbal praise
  • play
  • life rewards like a walk, toys, chews and petting.

As a bonus, positive dog training methods further the bond with your canine best friend and have him look forward to working with you.

What to avoid during puppy training

Don’t use aversive dog obedience training methods that employ punishment, pain or fear to force a dog to perform a cue. These include leash pops, yelling, throwing something and harsh physical handling. They aren’t scientifically valid, can ruin your bond and may lead to unwanted behaviors, such as reactivity or aggression.

Puppy training communicates to your canine companion what’s expected of him, which helps him be a confident, happy pup. Working as a team furthers your bond and enriches your lives. Think of all the adventures you’ll go on together when he understands his world!

  1. Paying attention. Your canine companion needs to learn how to pay attention to you so that he can perform the cues you give.
  2. Recall — coming to you when called. A reliable recall can literally save his life!
  3. Sitting. Teaching him to sit on cue can solve some other behavior issues, such as jumping.
  4. Lying down on cue. This behavior can make him welcome many places, such as dining outside with you or visiting a friend.
  5. Loose-leash walking. Training him to walk on a loose leash makes walks more pleasant, which leads to more frequent walks, furthers your bond, and enriches his life.
  6. Leave it on cue. This is used only for items that your pup can’t have, such as the TV remote or the roast on the counter. It can potentially save his life, preventing him from needing life-saving surgery for blockages.

For tips on how to teach your dog these behaviors, read our article, Tips for Training 6 Core Behaviors on Cue

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