A Guide to Training the Basics for Beginner Trainers
July 29, 202210 min read
The first step into the world of dog care is an exciting one, but it’s also full of obstacles and challenges along the way. To establish boundaries and raise your dog as your own, training is one of the most important aspects of taking care of your dog. Starting off by teaching your dog the basics will not only expand their vocabulary, but benefit you as an owner, too!
What You’ll Need For Dog Training
To begin training the basics for your pup, there’s a few things you’ll need:
A clicker is a small handheld device used to make a short sound, usually associated with a reward for your pup. Clickers usually make a short, distinct sound, which you should condition your dog to expect a reward shortly after.
Why you need it:By using a clicker, you can ‘mark’ exactly when your dog does whatever command you’re trying to teach them. This makes it crystal clear what your dog did right and what they can expect as a reward.
Lots and lots of healthy treats
Treats are an incentive used to encourage your dog to complete a certain task. The definition of “treat” varies from dog to dog- some dogs absolutely love to munch on pieces of real meat and others adore chasing a neon yellow ball. Finding your dog’s favorite way to learn is a great way to strengthen your bond and make training much more fun!
Why you need it: Like the clicker, treats are used to mark good behaviors and show your dog when they did something right. They can also be used to lure a dog into a certain position, like lowering into “down” or walking next to you in a “heel.” Treats are an extremely powerful training tool, and are best paired with a clicker in your other hand.
A dog collar and leash
A collar and leash are essential items for your dog, ensuring their own safety and the safety of others around them. Both are important for exercise, training, and safety purposes!
Why you need it:One of the biggest “don’ts” in dog ownership is to never let an untrained dog outside without a leash. When your dog is still learning, they will not be prepared to listen to you while outside and around countless distractions. To ensure your dog’s safety during walks and teach your dog essential skills like loose-leash walking, always have a collar and leash.
A dog crate
A crate is an enclosed, comfortable space that is established to be your dog’s safe space. Dogs instinctively seek out small shelters as a safe haven, being the place they go to sleep, relax, or hide when they are startled.
Why you need it:Having a safe space is necessary for nearly every living creature to maintain its emotional health. By establishing a “room” for your dog, your dog will develop skills like how to hold their bladder, ride in a car, or deal with stress healthily.
Endless patience and love:
Love and patience are essential for training any dog, since they thrive on positive reinforcement and reward-based training.
Why you need it:No one ever said dog training was easy; you and your dog will both go through some frustrating moments during training, and some days you may feel like nothing is getting done. By providing your dog with support, patience, and love during training, you and your dog will both feel motivated to continue, making training smoother and much more fun!
11 Essential Dog Training Skills and How to Teach Them:
Teaching your dog to sit is relatively simple and usually the first command your dog will learn. By teaching sit, your dog is open to lots of other commands, each stemming from the classic “sit.” There are two ways you can teach your dog this command:
With a treat in hand, approach your dog, using the treat as a lure.
Slowly move the treat over your dog’s head; they should follow it with their noses.
Once your dog goes into a sit position, click and feed your dog the treat!
Repeat with the treat as a lure, eventually phasing the treat out and using your hand to lure your pup into position.
Grab a bag of treats and approach your dog.
Stand in front of your dog, waiting for them to naturally go into a sit position.
After your dog sits, click and reward!
Repeat, adding the word “sit” and your choice of hand gesture as your dog improves.
Down is another simple, easy, and fundamental command that every dog should learn. It’s a great way to get your dog into a relaxed position, and is another one of those versatile tricks that will open the window for many other commands.
How to teach “Down:”
Get your dog into a sit position and prepare a delicious incentive!
Guide your dog’s nose with the treat, leading your dog into a down position. Click and reward when your dog’s booty touches the ground.
As your dog becomes familiar with the motions, attach a hand gesture and the word “down” to the action.
Stay is a tricky command to teach at first, but it is definitely one of the most important. “Stay” can be used in thousands of situations, sometimes even being able to save your pup’s life!
How to teach “Stay:”
Get your dog to sit or lay down into the position they will remain for the duration of the stay.
Hold out your hand in a “stop” sign, with the palm of your hand facing your dog, and back away half a step. When your dog gets up to move, put them back in a sit and repeat.
When your dog doesn’t move from their position, click and reward!
Add the “stay” vocal to the command and hand signal.
Repeat, adding more steps and a longer duration as you go.
“Leave it” is another command that can be used for a wide variety of situations, some being possibly life-saving. This is a command that exercises your pup’s impulse control and patience.
How to teach “Leave it:”
Place a treat on the floor and cover it with your hand, letting your dog sniff, paw at, and attempt to dig up the treat.
When your dog stops trying to get the treat, click and reward. It’s important to reward your dog with a different treat than the one on the ground to ensure that they know for sure not to eat things off the floor.
When your dog can reliably leave the treat on the floor alone, take your hand off. When your dog shows disinterest in the treat and isn’t trying to eat it, reward them.
After your dog knows to leave the treat alone, you can start adding the “leave it command.”
Apply the command to different situations- for example, use “leave it” when your dog tries to eat a piece of food that you may have dropped while cooking.
“Come” is an easy command to teach, but a difficult one to master. Teaching your dog to come on call in any situation is essential for their own and others’ safety, and opens up lots of opportunities of exploration with your pup!
How to teach “Come:”
Run a few steps away from your dog with an exciting treat or toy.
Call your dog’s name, being as extravagant and enticing to your dog as you can! Kneeling down can help encourage your dog further if they’re having trouble.
When your dog comes to you, click and reward like crazy!
Increase the distance your dog has to come to you, adding the word “come” before you call their name.
To master this command, begin exposing your dog to distractions with a long leash; bring your dog outside and repeat the training, gradually training them in more distracting environments and greater distances.
Despite common belief, the “wait” command is different from the “stay” command. “Wait” is best used when your dog is supposed to anticipate something, like a reward or release, and has to wait for it; stay is used for more extended durations, making it clear that your dog is not supposed to move until you give the command.
How to teach “Wait:”
Training your dog “wait” at dinnertime is a great way to introduce the command. Start by having your dog’s meal ready and your dog’s full attention on you.
Put your dog into a sit position and begin lowering the food to the ground. When your dog gets up to eat it, place the food back where it was.
When your dog is able to wait until the bowl touches the ground, click and reward with a treat.
After your dog can leave the bowl alone for a second or two, add the command “wait” and a hand gesture like a held up finger.
Extend the duration of the “wait” over time, and let your dog go for their food after they’ve shown some progress.
“Drop it” has a lot of benefits, enabling your dog to understand when to drop dangerous or valuable items that they should not have. This command is important, especially if a “leave it” fails to get through to your pup.
How to teach “Drop it:”
Offer your dog a low-value toy; something they have enough interest in to play with, but not wag their tail like crazy over it.
While your dog is playing with or holding the low-value toy, bring an enticing treat up to their nose. When your dog drops the toy to eat the treat, click and give them the treat.
Once your dog has finished eating, repeat the steps below, adding the “drop it” verbal command when your pup begins to understand the process.
“Heel” is a command in which your dog walks directly beside you, putting all of their focus into staying in line and focused on your movements. When you stand still, your dog is expected to sit, and when you move, your dog should remain right by your side the entire time.
How to teach “Heel:”
Start by standing facing your dog, high-value treats and your clicker in hand.
Lure your dog beside you with the treat, putting them into a sit after they’ve positioned themselves beside and slightly behind you. Click and reward after they sit.
When your dog knows to follow the treat as a lure and knows how to get into the “heel” position, start by moving one step forward, luring your pup along with a treat.
Reward your pup for every step they take with you, having them sit after you’ve taken the step. Attach a hand gesture and the “heel” vocal as your dog gets the hang of it.
Increase the amount of steps you take, stopping every so often and waiting for your dog to auto-sit.
“Place” or “Go to your place” is a command to tell your dog to go somewhere and remain there until you say they can be released. The “place” in this command is usually your dog’s safe space, like a crate or bed.
How to teach “Place:”
First, establish what your dog’s “place” will be. Set up a nice area for your dog and make it comfortable and safe; we recommend starting with your dog’s crate, making this command much easier if your pup is already crate trained.
When your dog goes to sniff, investigate, or put any attention toward their place, click and reward.
As your dog realizes that going to their place gets them a reward, they will start to pay more attention and maybe even enter it. Once your pup enters their place and has all 4 paws in it, click and reward.
When your dog is in their place, lure them into a down and click and reward. This is where the “place” command is going to come through.
Continue putting your pup into the “down” position in their place, increasing the duration of time before you click and reward. Once your pup gets the memo, you can add the phrase “place” or “go to your place” and a hand gesture to the command.
“Focus” is a surefire way to get your dog’s eyes and attention on you when it’s most needed. Teaching your dog to focus on you and you alone is important for training other commands, as well as catching their attention during a crucial time.
How to teach “Focus:”
Start by holding a treat up to your dog’s nose and luring it between your eyes, at the bridge of your nose.
When your dog follows the treat and looks at your forehead or eyes, click and reward.
Phase the treats out, using just your hand to signal your dog to look at you. This is how you create a hand gesture for the command.
When your dog begins to catch on, add the command “focus” or “look at me” before you move your hand to your face.
All dogs need exercise, which is why walks are so important. Unfortunately, walking an untrained dog can be extremely difficult, which is why loose-leash walking is such an important part of training.
How to teach loose-leash walking:
It’s important to note that before expecting your dog to focus on loose-leash training, you get them used to distractions. Your dog will have a hard time focusing on you and even your treats if there are distractions around.
Fill your pocket or a fanny pack to the brim with extremely high value treats and decide which side your dog will be trained to walk on, holding a few treats in that hand. Hold your pup’s leash in your opposite hand.
Take a step, then stop, making sure that your dog stays next to you and is focused on either you or the treat. Feed your dog a treat or two.
Repeat, gradually taking a few more steps at a time.
When your dog pulls ahead, immediately stop walking and call your pup back. Lure them back into position with the treats and take a few steps before feeding another treat.
Give this kind of walking a command, such as “with me” or “let’s walk.” When your pup no longer needs to walk in such a focused position, release them with another verbal command like “all done” or “okay.”
Always train with positive reinforcement, prioritizing praising your dog over yelling at or shaming your dog. Dogs thrive in a positive environment!
Keep training sessions relatively short. Shoot for 2 sessions of 10-15 minutes per day, making training a short and productive part of your daily routine.
Make sure that everyone in the house is training the dog the same way; consistency is key, after all!
Provide your dog with sufficient exercise and an optimal diet to make sure that they’re always at their best- physically and mentally!
Don’t force your dog to do something they don’t want to do! This will result in a fear for whatever you tried to force your pup into, which can permanently hurt your bond with your dog. This includes using aversive training methods and handling your dog too roughly.
Allow your dog to socialize. This will make your dog well-balanced and increase their emotional health.
Have boundless patience, love, and compassion for your pup! Dogs are known for being man’s best friend- make sure to repay them with all the love you can give.
Best Training Treats For Dogs:
Here at Cali Raw Nutrition, we believe in providing our dogs with not only the best natural dog food, but also healthy treats.
Our treat line, Crafted Dog Treats is a 100% natural, single-ingredient, dehydrated meat treat brand, meant to give your pup lots of nutritional benefits and delicious treats as a reward for their best training!
There is a large selection to choose from at Crafted Treats, including dehydrated muscle meats, organ meats, or chews. These make for great training treats.