- A trusting relationship is key!
It’s important to build a strong, lasting bond with your dog so that they can trust you to keep them feeling safe and secure and lead them away from dangerous, frightening or over-exciting situations where they might easily become overwhelmed. Having fun with your dog, playing with them, training them and getting them out and about to explore the world around them, as well as settling down for quiet time together too and giving them confidence on their own, will help your bond go from strength to strength. The good news is that Dog School classes teach all these things!
- Understand what your dog tells you and how to give them what they need to be happy
Learning exactly what your dog needs to be happy and confident, as well as how to recognise how they are communicating with you and what they need from you at any given moment will enhance your relationship and help your dog to trust you. Our page on dog body language will help you understand your dog’s communication and to respond appropriately to avoid them getting into difficult situations.
- Preparation makes perfect - setting things up for success
You can help your dog to behave well by guiding them into being much more likely to make good choices, so they just can’t go wrong in the first place!
Ask yourself “how can I set things up so my dog will behave in the right way?” before you do anything new, then prepare what you need to make sure your dog does well! For example, if you’re visiting friends with your dog this might be very exciting. They might jump up, bark and be unsettled. Planning ahead and taking calm, relaxing things for your dog to do, such as their blanket to lie on with a long-lasting tasty treat or food-stuffed Kong toy, gives them something quiet, rewarding and enjoyable to do that you can be proud of!
- Always reward good behaviour
Dogs learn through the consequences of their own actions. If something good happens to them directly in response to their behaviour, they’ll be more likely to behave that way again as it worked out well for them. If things don’t work out well for them, well they probably won’t behave that way again!
We can help them learn that ‘good behaviour makes good things happen’ by always being ready to reward them for being good, or by making the way we’d like them to behave rewarding all by itself! Rewards can be anything that your dog likes, for example being groomed or travelling in the car! It all depends on what your dog enjoys! All dogs are different so they will all find different things rewarding, however most dogs enjoy food, toys and our attention!
- Ignore – or interrupt if you can’t – unwanted behaviour
If your dog is behaving in a way you’d prefer they didn’t be careful not to accidentally reward this by giving them attention in any form. If you can, ignore them until they are doing something different that you do like and reward that much better choice. If you can’t ignore them – they might be doing something dangerous or upsetting someone else – then interrupt them calmly and quietly, without too much direct attention, and give them something else to do instead that you are happy about and can then reward so they know this is a much better choice in future.
- There’s no need to punish – getting angry never helps!
Dogs Trust Dog School encourage fun, reward based training so that your dog will always enjoy learning, and do not advocate any training which causes pain or fear.
Experts now know that historical training methods which use punishment or pain can lead to a number of behavioural problems. These include confusion and fear (which we now know is the biggest cause of the problems that people seek professional help for) as well as a breakdown in the bond between you and your dog.
Your dog needs you to be someone they can trust to guide them safely through life, so it’s important to emphasise that getting cross or frustrated when they’re getting things wrong is counter-productive. Getting angry can make your dog worried or confused about you, which can potentially lead to problems in the future.
- Be clear and consistent
Consistency means always giving your dog clear guidance on how you’d like them to behave and making this good behaviour rewarding for them, so they’ll do it again! Making sure everyone in your household treats your dog in the same way means they won’t become confused! Think carefully about how you would like your dog to behave and make sure you always reward these behaviours. Decide on a rule and be consistent in sticking to it so your dog always knows what to expect.