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

In contrast, how many things are there that he can do right? It’s a safe bet there are only one or two, and they involve lounging around quietly. You can spend a lot of time punishing Zippy for all the things he does wrong, or you can spend a little time setting him up to do something right. So there’s your task--figure out how to get Zip to act all loungy-like.

Let’s say Zippy’s a year old and most days he gets 20 minutes of morning fetch. He spends the day by himself, except for a short visit from the dog walker, while you and your wife are at work. Then, in the evening, what do the humans do? They hit the couch. Young dog, antsy, nothing going on: he’s climbing out of his skin with pent-up energy and he is bored.

So you gird your loins and add an early-evening fetch session to Zippy’s day. You also deliver dinner in a food-dispensing toy. While you’re at it, for a bit of insurance you gate the kitchen and hide the shoes as well. Zippy’s pleasantly tired from his game of fetch and has a project to occupy his mind. When he’s done extracting dinner from his toy, he curls up on the couch next to you and goes to sleep.

Figuring out what you do want from your dog in a given situation is almost always quicker and easier than killing off the 437 behaviors you don’t want. It’s a lot easier on your relationship with your dog, as well. Teach the desirable behavior, or put your dog in a position to do it spontaneously, then kick back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Train Yourself to Notice Good Dog Behavior

Here’s a common sight. A person is walking with her new puppy, who’s trotting along next to her, giving her that “Hey! I’m walking with my person!” look. The person, however, isn’t looking at Pupaloo. She’s just walking along. There may be an iPod or cellphone involved.

Suddenly, Pupaloo stops dead. He’s fascinated by the dirt in a crack in the pavement, or he’s pumping his nose full of McDonald’s aroma thanks to the jerk who dumped that greasy wrapper next to the curb. Or a friendly passerby wiggled his fingers and smiled at Pupaloo. Whatever it is, it trumps the puppy-ignoring person at the end of the leash.


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).