House Training Your Dog
Potty training is all about consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. Start with the basics:
- Supervise your dog. When you’re just starting to house train her, limit her access to other parts of the house, whether that means closing off doors to bedrooms or crate-training so she has her own space.
- Set a routine. Dogs are creatures of habit. By feeding your dog at the same time each day and offering regularly spaced walks and outside potty breaks, you can condition her to “go” at set times each day.
- Never punish your dog for eliminating indoors. Accidents happen, and dogs don’t understand cause and effect the same way people do. Clean up the mess, remind yourself that it will get better the more consistent you are and move on.
- Reward your dog for getting it right. Give her a treat as soon as she goes potty in the designated spot.
Training Your Dog to “Come”
Coming when called is a basic command you want your dog to have on lock because it can keep her safe in potentially dangerous situations. Also known as “recall training”, it makes everything, from outings to the dog park to scary moments like her rushing out the door safer and much more controllable. “Make it a party” every time your dog comes when called. No matter what they’re leaving behind, coming to you should be the best thing that happens to them all day!
To train your dog to come when called, start on leash in a quiet area. Back away from your dog while enthusiastically telling her to “come!” Only give the command once, but be enthusiastic, and keep your body language relaxed and open. You can show your dog a treat to encourage her to head your way. Once she starts towards you, say “yes!” (or click) and reward her with a treat. Over time, you can gradually increase the distance between you and your dog, and start practicing in a variety of situations.
Training Your Dog to Stay
Teaching your dog to “stay” isn’t only about getting them to sit still. Like “come,” it’s a command that can keep her safe from harm.
Build on your dog’s “stay” skills with the Three D’s of training:
Start up close to your dog, placing her in a sit or down position. Hold a hand out toward and say “stay.” After a moment, reward her. Repeat this until your dog gets the idea that she’ll get a treat if she holds her sit or down position. Over several training sessions, increase your distance from your dog and the duration before you release her, and introduce distractions to test her resolve.
Train Your Dog to Leave It
The “leave it” command is another essential for keeping your dog safe, whether from something they might pick up and swallow or another dog growling at them from across the street. It’s also a skill that takes time and consistency to master, so be sure to take it in gradual steps, building on the three D’s mentioned above.
To teach “leave it,” start with a treat in hand and your dog in a sit or down position:
- Show your dog the treat, say “leave it,” then place it under your shoe.
- Wait. Your dog will try to get the treat—sniffing, licking, even pawing at your foot. Let her try. When she eventually gives up, immediately say “yes!” and give her a treat from your hand (not the one still under your shoe!)
- Repeat. Your dog may go back to sniffing around your foot; as soon as she stops and looks away, mark the desired behavior with “yes” or a click, and reward.
Once your dog has mastered the art of ignoring a hidden treat, you can work up to a treat in plain view, and eventually “leaving” more compelling distractions. Then, put the training in motion by asking her to walk past and “leave” the other floor.
Train Your Dog to Sit
Useful in so many situations, “sit” is often the first command dogs learn. In fact, most dogs “sit” on their own, so all you have to do is connect the command to the behavior.
First, while your dog is in a standing position, hold a treat in front of her nose and raise it slowly towards the back of her head. When her head follows the treat up, her butt will go down. Once her butt hits the floor, say “yes!” and give her the treat.
Once your dog is sitting reliably with the treat lure, you can transition to a hand signal and verbal command. View the above video from the AKC for a clear explanation of the whole process.