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How to Train a Dog

To know how to train a dog, you have to understand how dogs think. Dogs aren't like people; they don't understand English, and they behave in terms of packs and ranks. When training any dog or puppy, you have to present the lessons in a way your dog can understand.

1) Understand Your Dog

To your dog, you and all the members of your household are his pack. A pack has only one leader, who gives orders to the other members and receives their respect ad obedience. Most dogs are happy to have you step into the leadership role; they feel safer this way. However, if your dog sees that you're an ineffective leader, he might try to take your place.

2) Start Early

Training is most effective when you start with a young puppy. Young puppies learn faster than older dogs. Early training also reinforces a dog's natural urge to depend on others.

However, don't believe that an older dog can't be trained or re-trained. While it might take more time and patience, it is possible to train or re-train an older dog.

3) Earn Your Dog's Love and Respect

When training your dog or puppy, always be firm and consistent. Don't let him get away with anything. Demonstrate your superior rank once in a while; eat your meal before feeding him his, or make him get off the couch when he jumps up. Stand your ground even if your dog appears reluctant to obey.

Don't abuse your dog. No matter how frustrated you become with training, yelling at or striking your dog only teaches him to fear you. This makes it harder for your dog to concentrate on what you're trying to teach him. It also makes him less willing to obey; a dog who loves and respects you will obey more readily out of a desire to please.

4) Reinforce Good Habits

Reinforcement is the best way to train your dog. When your dog repeats the same action over and over again, consistently, it will begin to form a habit. When training your dog, repeat the commands over and over until he's got it. Don't stop reinforcing after your dog has mastered his tricks. Test him now and then to make sure he still remembers.

5) Make Housebreaking a Part of the Training Process

You'll want to begin housebreaking your new puppy right away, between the ages of eight to twelve weeks. You can use a crate to help housebreak your dog; since dogs don't like to soil their sleeping areas, this is a good way to prevent accidents while you're out of the home or asleep. If you're confining your dog to the crate at night and need to work all day as well, find someone who can spend some time with your dog during the day. Leaving him crated for too much of the time can cause behavioral problems.

6) Make Training Sessions Brief and Frequent

Training sessions should occur for about fifteen minutes at a time, two to three times a day. Start with basic commands, such as "Sit," "Down," and "Come;" once you're dog has mastered these, you can move on to tricks.

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