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Part of making your family pet as kid-friendly as possible involves teaching them some basic commands and appropriate behaviors. This information will cover the basic essentials of dog training, so that you can get your family pet to better heed your commands and behave according to household rules.

Basic Dog Training Tips:

  1. The first step in dog training is to figure out what motivates your mut. Some dogs like balls, others respond to food, and almost all dogs love attention. Different dogs may respond differently to these different carrots, so figure out which one is most effective for your dog.
  1. Once you’ve got your reward, the next step is to ration your motivator. You want to restrict that treat as much as possible during everyday routines and use it to reward your dog when she acts how you want her to. Just make sure you establish a bond with a new dog first-you don’t want to start withholding affection as a training tool before your new pet has become accustomed to the home.
  1. Before the training session, get your dog excited about the reward. Show them the ball or treat, then do some training work. Reward them and play for a little bit, then do some more training work.
  1. As Dog Whisperer Cesar Chavez always says, become the pack leader. Play when you want to, not when the dog demands it. Make your dog follow you, rather than you trying to keep up with your dog. Just like parents when it comes to kids, the dog owners with the most rambunctious pets tend to be those that give in too easily when their dog whimpers or demands something. If you buy a child candy every time she throws a fit, then you’ll soon have a fit every time you go to the grocery store. Dogs are the same way. If you coddle them too much and give in to their every demand, they have no incentive to be good or do what you want them to.
  1. Break your task into steps. In shaping your dog’s behavior, it’s sometimes easier to start with small steps and build on them. For example, if teaching a dog to roll over, have them lie down first, then lie down and roll on their side, and finally roll all the way over.
  1. Limit environmental distractions. If your dog loves to chase things, it’s going to be hard to train them in the front yard if you have a squirrel running up the tree or bike riders strolling down the sidewalk. You want an area as free from distractions as possible; unless, of course, you’re trying to train your dog NOT to chase things. In that case, exposure to the thing they have problems with is necessary.
  1. Decide what words you will use as commands, and then be sure to use the same commands each time. When one family member is yelling “stop,” another “stay,” and yet a third “heel” all for the same instruction, it will confuse the dog and slow down the training process. Because we understand the similar meaning behind all these words, it’s easy to interchange them and forget that to a dog they are as different as night and day. So sit down as a family and decide which words will be used for specific commands, then stick with them.

Training a dog to obey your child

Many dogs look toward kids as equals rather than pack-leaders. The more a dog sees your child as a master and provider, the better behaved they’ll be around them, and the more likely your dog will be to obey your child’s commands. So try these simple tricks to establish your child as the pack leader:

  1. First, have your child open her hand and hold it out towards the dog. When rover touches his nose to her palm, he wins a treat. Have the child give him the treat. It’s a good exercise to get the dog familiar with your child, and to teach him that she is also a master and provider; a source of sustenance.
  1. Once your dog gets this trick down, include your child in some of the other training steps during training sessions for other things, so that your dog grows accustomed to taking commands from your child.
  1. Have kids help you feed the dog or put food in their bowl, eventually to the point they can do it on their own, so that your pooch comes to regard them as a caregiver.
  1. When it’s time to go outside or come inside, (especially when this is something your dog wants to do), have your child call the dog and open the door, so he or she gets used to the idea of the child as a person with authority. Also have your child put on or take off the leash, or put them in charge of other routine caretaking responsibilities.

Teaching a dog to “Leave it”

This is an important command for families with kids, since you don’t want your dog hauling off toys that are on the floor or running away with other important items. Put your dog on a leash and gather several of your child’s toys or baby items. One by one, toss a toy in front of the dog while saying “leave it.” When the dog goes to grab the toy, gently pull the leash and repeat the command in a firm voice. Give your dog lots of praise when you throw a toy and he obeys your command to “leave it” by staying put. If your dog doesn’t go for the toy, or if they have problems taking other objects, use that item and conduct the same drill.

Training a dog to obey “stop” or “enough” commands

Sometimes a dog’s affections or general rambunctiousness can get out of hand, and so you want a command that will help you intervene when this happens. Start by putting a dab of peanut butter on your hand or on a spoon you’re holding, and allow the dog to lick it for a few seconds. After 3 licks, say “enough” and pull your hand away. Then repeat the process. As you practice this command, your dog will learn to stop once you say “enough” even without you having to pull your hand away. When this happens, praise them and reward them with a different treat.

Once they’ve gotten the hang of this, repeat the same training process with play. Wrestle or play with your dog for a period of 15 to 30 seconds, then say “enough” and push the dog away while going into a statue stance and sitting completely still. If the dog continues to try and wrestle, repeat the command while sitting completely still. Eventually the dog will learn to stop at the “enough” command alone.

Training a dog to “stay”

This is one of the most important commands you can teach a dog. Start off by putting them on a leash either in the house or in the yard, and then stand still. Keep a few doggy treats in your pocket. The dog, not content to stand still in the middle of the yard doing nothing, will likely start to tug on the leash. Give the command to “stay,” wait for the tugging to stop, and then reward the dog with praise and a treat. Walk for a little bit, then stop and say “stay.” Again, wait for the tugging to stop, and then reward the dog with a treat, affection, and movement. Repeat this process over and over again in 10 minute sessions over the course of a few days to a few weeks, depending on how fast your dog learns, gradually phasing out the treats as you go. When it gets to the point that your dog starts to obey the command every time without tugging, remove the leash and practice the “stay” command without it. Praise the dog with affection or a treat every time he or she stops and stays at your command.

Stroller training for dogs

If you plan to take walks with both dog and baby, you should train your dog ahead of time for walking with a stroller. So before the new baby arrives, strap a doll into the stroller (or just leave it empty) and take your dog for a walk. Walking around with a doll or an empty stroller may seem awkward at first, but if you encounter anybody, they’ll understand when you tell them you’re training your dog. If the baby is already here, you can use the real life situation to train them, so long as your dog isn’t so rambunctious that it might be difficult to control both at the same time. You should have an extra person with you just in case.

As you’re walking with the stroller, whenever your dog starts to run ahead or pull you with the leash, you should immediately stop in your tracks, give a tug on the leash, and wait. Stay still until your dog either sits down or returns to your side, then start moving again. It’s the same concept as telling a child we’re not going to start the car and drive to the playground until you’re buckled up. Your dog wants to be active, so you want them to understand that they will only be rewarded with activity when they walk at your pace without pulling. Practicing this ahead of time when you have the ability to be patient will save a lot of frustration later.

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