How to Train Your Dog Better

Think about training the right way – you'll be more effective (and it's more fun, too).

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
6-minute read
Episode #64

We tend to think of dog training as a series of steps for teaching particular behaviors. To teach a dog to stay in a particular position, you reward her as she remains in place for gradually longer times, at gradually greater distances, with gradually increasing degrees of distraction.

Now, this is fine--training does involve teaching dogs specific behaviors with a step-by-step approach. This week, though, I’m going to discuss three mental habits that will not only enable you train more effectively but also make life pleasant for both you and your dog. All this, without magic, mojo, or one single drop of noni juice.

How to Train Your Dog Better

In any given situation, focus on what you do want your dog to do instead of on whatever he’s doing wrong. For example, suppose that on many evenings, your young dog gets busy looking for trouble just as you’re digesting your dinner.

He grabs a boot from the mat by the front door and gallops through the house with it. You yell at him and take it away. He grabs its mate. You yell and take it away. He heads for the kitchen and starts checking out the counters in case something tasty’s been left behind. You chase him away. And on and on, until you’ve lost your temper and torn out clumps of hair you can ill afford to lose.

You want Zippy not to steal your shoes and not to countersurf. You punish the heck out of him for these activities, never mind how, and sure enough you get him to quit. But the next night, you find that he has quietly chewed through two table legs while you obsessed over the final episode of Lost. Now you can punish him for that, and, assuming you’re successful, for the next activity he comes up with, and the one after that, and the one after that.

Train Your Dog Better By Focusing on Good Behavior

Okay, I’m exaggerating for effect. But notice how many things Zippy can do wrong over the course of an evening.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).