Behavior Modification: How to Teach Your Dog Commands (Pt 1 of 2)

Teaching your dog basic commands is beneficial in many ways; it deepens the bond between you and your pet, it builds your dog’s confidence and exercises his mind. Knowing basic obedience commands makes your dog a good canine citizen that will be welcomed and safer in public places. There are several methods for teaching dog obedience, but no matter which behavior modification method you choose, the most important factors may be consistency and patience.

Positive Reinforcement

This is the type of training that most pet owners utilize whether they realize it’s a “method” or not. The “sit” command may be the easiest place to start using positive reinforcement because it’s something dogs do naturally. For example, with a treat in your hand you tell the dog to sit, when he does you give him the treat and reinforce the action with praise and affection. At first the dog doesn’t relate the actual act of sitting with the word “sit,” but through repetition and positive reinforcement he eventually learns the two things are connected.

Most types of command training use positive reinforcement of some kind, though verbal or food rewards may be used in conjunction with other stimulus.

Clicker Training

Clicker training is a method developed by animal behaviorist Karen Pryer. With this method the trainer uses a small hand-held clicking device and activates it when the dog responds positively. The clicking sound is then followed by a treat or positive reinforcement of some kind. The theory behind clicker training is that the dog will learn to associate the sound of the click with rewards, so when he hears the click he knows he’s doing something right.

Lure Training

Lure training relies on treats or favorite toys to reinforce positive behavior while teaching commands. As the training progresses the “lure,” the reward, is eventually eliminated. Lure training uses a series of hand signals instead of verbal commands and is especially successful with puppies, timid or difficult dogs.

Attending obedience classes with your dog is a great way to learn more about command training. At obedience classes your dog will also have the added benefit of socializing, which is important in building confidence. Whether you train your dog at home or with the help of a professional the important thing is that you take the time to train him.