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5 Simple Rules for Dog Training

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Editor's note: January is National Train Your Dog Month! If you are beginning the new year with a new pet, or would just like to have a better behaved one, we want to give you and your pet everything you need to train better.

Each day this month we will be featuring helpful training tips from our Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Certified Training Partners (CTP). From housebreaking to leash and door manners to coming when called, we'll cover the training topics and challenges you need to understand in order to help your dog become the great dog you always knew he could be.

Ready to get started? Keep in mind these five simple rules for positive, fun, and successful dog training from KPA CTP Dawn Gilkison:

1. Focus on behavior you want.
Decide exactly what you want your dog to do when the doorbell rings, or when you are eating dinner. There are thousands of "wrong ways" for your dog to behave during these events. If you want your dog to go to his bed when the doorbell rings, train that behavior chain.

2. Use force-free methods.
Use positive reinforcement to shape and increase behaviors you want. Punishment does not teach more appropriate behaviors, and can result in fear or an increase in aggression.

3. Reinforce good behavior.
Catch your dog doing something right! Find ways to reinforce behavior you like throughout the day, when it occurs. Use a verbal marker "Yes!" and reinforce with life rewards if the clicker and treats are not available. Your dog is always learning, so you always have opportunities for reinforcement.

4. Set up training for success.
Break new behaviors down into baby steps, so your dog can be successful and you can reinforce more often. When you are training a new behavior or working in a distracting environment, keep the rate of clicks and treats high—10 clicks/treats per minute is not too much!

5. Teach your dog self-control.
Realize that your dog ultimately controls his own behavior. You can sometimes control the environment and you can give consequences if you are on the spot. Teach your dog that calm, controlled behavior will get him what he wants.

KPA Training Tips of the Day are brought to you by Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners. You can find more articles, ideas, and inspiration to help you train better and enjoy a lifelong bond with your dog on our website.

About the author
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With a background in biology and teaching high school students, lifelong dog enthusiast Dawn Gilkison, KPA CTP, now provides in-home dog training services and seminars. Dawn's experience with a variety of canine sports and skills makes it easy for her to provide personalized training plans for dogs and families.