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Pet parenting in the 2020s isn't easy. Social media is chock-full of dog training advice, suggestions, and (seemingly) perfectly obedient dogs. It's easy to feel like you should train every command and trick you see — anything less feels inadequate.
But it isn't! First, most training videos on social media only show the result or the final stages of training. Also, every dog is different — and so is every dog parent.
It's okay if you don't want your dog to perform advanced off-leash behaviors. It's okay if you want your dog to heel whenever they're on leash. Train the dog in front of you!
For a good baseline, here are eight basic behaviors to consider when training your dog.
1. Name Response
Your dog may know their name, but how reliably do they stop what they're doing and look at you when you call?
A dog can only follow a command when their attention is on you. When you teach them to respond to their name, you set up that attention so you can ask them for whatever you need — to come to you, sit down, or leave the spilled treats on the floor, for example.
Name response is an accessible command even if you've never trained a dog before. You call the dog's name and reward them (through a food or toy reward, verbal praise, or play) as soon as their eyes are on you.
Recall, or "Come," is an important cue for your dog's safety and sociability. If you establish it solidly and generalize it so your dog responds in multiple situations, you can use it anytime you need your dog to come to you.
Recall can be a challenging command to train well. It's easy to establish in a distraction-free environment, but it's only useful if it works when the dog is distracted. You'll need to practice it in multiple situations and places so the dog responds reliably.
"Touch" teaches your dog to tap your hand with their nose whenever you ask for it. Like recall, it redirects your dog's attention to you and away from distractions.
Touch tends to be simpler than recall at first, only because it's more concrete. Rub a treat against your fingers and hold them near your dog's nose. The second the dog's nose touches your fingers, reward them with another treat from your other hand.
You can then make the exercise progressively more difficult — holding your hand to the side of the dog's face, stepping back a pace, and eventually adding distractions.
4. Loose Leash Walking
This is another essential safety behavior for you and your dog. Many dogs are "pullers," tugging their owner along behind them as they strain against the leash.
Your dog needs to know that if they want to enjoy a fun walk, they need to stop putting tension on the leash.
The concept is simple. If the leash is loose, you walk. If not, you turn around and try again. But teaching your dog those associations takes patience. It's important to be consistent and only offer the walk when the leash is slack.
5. Polite Greeting
A safe and people-friendly dog keeps all four feet on the ground, especially when greeting people. If you like when your dog jumps on you, you can teach that behavior on command — but first, it's important to teach your dog good manners.
Dogs often jump when greeting people because they're excited to get attention. To train them away from this behavior, you need to offer that attention when their feet are on the ground. You also need to deny that attention if they jump.
When the dog learns that jumping doesn't get them what they want, they'll offer a more polite behavior.
"Sit" is one of the foundational behaviors you learn in most group training classes, and for good reason. A dog with a solid "sit" is easier to handle, if only because a seated dog isn't running around and getting themselves into trouble. Sit is also the foundation of down.
There are multiple ways to teach the sit command. If you want to teach force-free using positive reinforcement training, start by showing your dog a treat and raising it above their head a few inches until their bottom naturally touches the ground. From there, you can fade out the treat until only a hand signal or verbal cue is sufficient.
"Down" is an important command to teach because it puts the dog into a calm and relaxed position. It's also the first step of several fun tricks, including "roll over."
You can teach down from a sit or from a standing position. The approach is similar to sit, but the goal is to get your dog's elbows on the floor. Once your dog reliably goes into a down, you can extend it into a stay by waiting longer to release them.
"Place," also known as mat training, is one of the most useful behaviors if you want a well-socialized dog. When you teach place, you teach your dog to go to a specific spot and stay there until you release them.
Like recall, teaching place takes time and patience. First, you teach the behavior of lying down on the mat or bed you choose. Then you make it increasingly more challenging — adding duration before you release them, introducing distractions, and asking for place when you're farther away from the mat.
The more distractions you can layer in, the better. Take it one step at a time and be sure to reinforce the behavior every time you add something new.
How to Start Training
There's more than one way to train a dog. You can do an in-person group class or private lesson. Many trainers now also do virtual sessions. Or, if you prefer to be truly self-paced, online programs let you explore training concepts on your own.
If you choose to work with a trainer, keep in mind that dog training is an unregulated field. A trainer doesn't legally need a certification to practice, but there are certifications from well-respected organizations that indicate a trainer's background.
Do your research. Look for a dog trainer with certifications that align with your values and training preference. For instance, if you prefer positive reinforcement training, find a trainer that works without force and punishment.
Then, stock up on treats. Ketona low-carb kibble makes a great training reward! Not only is it a high value reward, the kibble is small enough that you can easily portion out an amount of your pup’s daily mean to use as training rewards.
Want to up the ante? Add a bag of Ketona’s single-ingredient freeze-dried chicken liver treats to your order. These high-value training treats can be used as rewards for the more difficult behaviors like trick training.
Share with us on social media your dog training journey by tagging us @ketonaturalpetfoods with the hashtag #ketonabff for the chance to be featured on our social media!