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Image of a dog in the countryside

Dog training: the secrets to success

Rather than telling you what your dog should learn this year, we spoke to our pet behaviourist to find out how your dog learns, so you can teach them whatever you like!

Having a better trained dog has many benefits and statistics even show that owners with better behaved dogs have a stronger bond.

It’s also a two-way street with well-behaved dogs; a dog that is well-trained is happy, relaxed and more responsive to the owner, which means that owners are happier and have more enjoyment with their dog. This means that dogs can be included in family activities and have more varied walks; on the beach, through woodland and off lead.

How dogs learn

Remember that behaving well comes from a human concept; dogs don’t really know what is expected of them and they don’t know the difference between good and bad behaviour - to them, it is just behaviour. This is why dogs need to be trained!

They learn in three ways:

  1. By making associations with something they can already do
  2. By repeating a behaviour
  3. By watching and copying

Being consistent with your rewards, words/phases and actions is one of the secrets to effective dog training. Rewarding your dog in initial small stages of training can help build and strengthen the training that is required.

It is well known that dogs who are rewarded for an action are more likely to repeat the action again.

How we should train them

Ideally, we would all enrol into a reputable and recognised training school or employ a qualified training instructor, but there are still plenty of ways we can put things into practice ourselves on a daily basis, to reward the right behaviour and action.

  • Owners will need to spend at least 15 minutes per day carrying out training. This can be broken down into three five-minute training sessions.
  • Training can be combined with daily activities - for example, out on a walk.
  • Incorporate training in different environments, such as pavement walks, walking through busy towns, out in the park and so on.
  • Get the family involved with training. You cannot expect the dog to respond to someone who has not taken the time to carry out some training.
  • Train day after day, week after week and month after month and be consistent.

Jackie Murphy is one of the UK's leading dog behaviour specialists with over 10 years' experience in behaviour training. She runs the Specialist Dog Training and Behaviour Centre in Borden, Kent.

Find out more about Jackie Murphy.