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How to train your dog

Molly Cerreta Smith loves writing about all things mommy, parenting, food, health and travel. When she's not staring into the face of her Mac, she loves to hike, read, do messy crafts with her kids and compete in BBQ competitions with he...

Sit, boy... Good dog

You don't have to be the Dog Whisperer or hire a professional trainer to have a well-trained dog. You can actually train your dog yourself with some crave-able handheld treats and these simple-to-follow steps.
Woman training dog to sit

Start with the basics

While teaching your dog to skateboard sounds like an awesome idea (and a great way to get some traction on YouTube), you may want to back up a bit. Make a list of things you'd like your dog to be able to do on a daily basis (sit, stay, heel, etc.). Put them in order of importance and work on each accordingly (remember, commands that keep your four-legged friend safe are more important than the ones he just looks cute doing). Once your dog has mastered simple tasks, you can move on to more complex training sessions.

Check out these dog-training tips from the Dog Whisperer himself >>

Use simple commands

You may think "could you please sit, Fido?" is a very polite request and one that will teach your children good habits, but your dog will probably just be confused. Keep your commands short, simple and consistent (and say them with authority). Skip the "please" and just command her to sit.

Are you house training your new dog? Here are some helpful hints >>

Use positive reinforcement-based reward system

Yelling -- or worse, hitting -- your dog is not an effective training tool. A positive reinforcement-based rewards training system is much more effective. When training your dog, reward him each time he performs the command you've asked of him. You can use a yummy dog treat, a favorite toy or praise (or a combination). Give the reward immediately after the dog performs the correct command. Also, never discipline your dog unless you catch him in the act.

Switch it up

Instead of repeating the same command over and over and over ad nauseam, switch it up. Work on one command for no more than 15 repetitions, then start working on a new or different command. You can come back to the initial command later in your training session. This will not only prevent your pup from becoming bored, it will teach her to do the commands as asked instead of trying to memorize some sort of pattern.

Keep training sessions short

Your dog's attention span isn't any better than yours. Much like you don't like sitting through that boring morning meeting rehashing the same old stuff, your dog will get bored if you try to work on commands for too long. If your dog starts to seem restless, the training session is over. Some breeds may have a longer attention span than others, but in general, keep it to 15 minutes or fewer.

Have patience

You've got to have patience when training a dog. Remember, he's learning and these things take time. Keep your training sessions consistent and don't give up. If your training sessions aren't successful the way you're doing it, try another method or even another location or time of day. There are many variables that may make that particular setting or time difficult for your dog. If you don't think you can make any more progress than you have, it's not your dog's fault. He's just not adjusting to your method and it's time to hire a pro.

Make time for play

Don't consider your training session with your dog your only bonding time. Make specific time every day for walks, throwing her the ball or simply giving her a good belly rub. After all, they don't call her (wo)man's best friend for nothing!

Tell us

How long did it take you to train your dog? Share in the comments below!

Frustrated? Check out these tips for training a difficult dog >>

More tips for pet owners

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Ten pet tricks
Pets are good for your health

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