Back to dog school

Training is an essential part of dog ownership and, if you’ve taken some time off from it over the summer, September is the ideal month to get back in the training zone. Whatever age your dog is, training should be part of their regular routine. Rehoming charity Dogs Trust says: “Dogs are never too young, or old, to start training.
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15th September 2022

Training is an essential part of dog ownership and, if you’ve taken some time off from it over the summer, September is the ideal month to get back in the training zone.

Whatever age your dog is, training should be part of their regular routine. Rehoming charity Dogs Trust says: “Dogs are never too young, or old, to start training. Training your dog is an important part of being a responsible owner, because it can prevent unwanted behaviour problems developing. Through training, you can make sure your dog is rewarded for good behaviours that will enable them to lead a safe and happy life.”

However, training is not about issuing commands and expecting your dog to instantly react to them. The secret to successful training is mutual understanding and rewarding positive behaviour. Otherwise, how can your canine chum do what you ask if he or she doesn’t understand what it is you want from them – and isn’t rewarded when they get it right?

Training helps dogs to make sense of the confusing human world

Veterinary charity PDSA advises: “Training is a great way to keep your dog’s mind active. It also helps you bond and understand each other. Without training, the world can be a pretty confusing place for your dog. We all expect dogs to behave in set ways and follow certain rules. Your dog needs to understand those rules before they can stick to them. It’s easier to learn when it’s fun. The kindest and most effective method is called ‘reward-based training’ – also called ‘positive reinforcement’.”

The technique works like this – by rewarding your dog when they do what you want them to, they’ll want to behave that way again. With regular repetition, your dog will eventually respond to a command without needing the reward – although it’s always nice to keep the positivity going by giving your best furry friend the occasional treat when they’ve been especially good.

Dogs Trust adds: “Training with rewards is the best way to encourage your dog to behave as you would like on a day-day basis (for example learning to settle themselves down when people are busy, instead of pestering!). Science tells us that reward-based training is the best way for dogs to learn, it’s fun, and helps build a positive bond between dog and owner. Reward based training can help build confidence and encourage dogs to think for themselves.”

Set you and your canine chum up for success

If you follow these top tips from canine behaviour experts, you’ll be off to a great start:

  • Begin each training session in a quiet, calm place such as your living room – without any distractions, interruptions or temptations – and when both you and your dog are happy and relaxed.
  • Have lots of rewards to hand. These have to be something that your dog really likes, so that they’re prepared to work for them. Some dogs like tasty food treats, others prefer praise or a favourite toy.
  • Getting the timing right is really important. Help your dog link the behaviour you want with a reward by giving it during the behaviour or immediately after they’ve done it.
  • Keep rewarding when your dog does what you want. It may take lots of repetition but, with patience, your dog will eventually understand the command and what it is you want them to do.
  • Use short, clear commands. Avoid confusion by only using the command for the behaviour you want.
  • Focus on training one command at a time. When your dog has learnt one, then you can move on to the next.
  • Every dog makes mistakes. It’s not their fault – it just means they haven’t learnt the task yet. Ignore the mistake and give the reward next time they get it right.
  • Don’t make training sessions too long, or your dog will lose interest or get frustrated.
  • Always end on a high, after a success.
  • Never, ever punish your dog. Shouting, smacking, using gadgets such as water pistols, or rattle cans and choke chains are all forms of punishment. They cause anxiety and fear, which are proven to make animals learn slower. It’s unkind and teaches your dog that people can’t be trusted, which can lead to behavioural problems. Always use positive, fun, reward-based training – it’s kind and effective.
  • Get everyone who has contact with your dog on board with the training routine, praising the right behaviour, using the same commands and ignoring mistakes. This way, your dog will get the same message from all the humans around them, rather than getting confused.

Start with the basics – sit, stay and come

By using positive, reward-based training techniques, you can start teaching your dog the four essentials: sit, down, stay and come, as set out by the canine behaviour experts at Dogs Trust. There are also some great Dogs Trust Dog School online videos to accompany the charity’s top tips so you can watch how dogs learn.

Training your dog to SIT

  • The best way to teach your dog to sit is by using a lure. Luring means using your dog’s reward to guide them into the sit position, so they get it right from the start and it doesn’t involve any pushing or pulling them into the sit – which might hurt and/or make them worried about you.
  • You don’t need to say ‘sit’ at this stage – remember your dog no idea what the word means at this point. Take a treat and hold it out to your dog’s nose, then slowly and smoothly raise your hand above and over their head. Your dog should move their head back as they follow the treat with their nose and when doing so, as their body hinges, their bottom should touch the floor.
  • As soon as your dog’s bottom touches the floor say “yes” and then quickly give them their well-deserved treat. Remember that dogs learn by repeating things. If they’re struggling, have a break and come back to it – learning is not always as easy for them as we might think. If we take things gently and go at their pace, they’ll be more likely to enjoy learning and remember what they’ve learned.
  • After they’ve got the hang of this, start to say “sit” as you lure them into the sitting position. Carry on saying “yes” as soon as they sit down and following this with their reward. Repeat this stage several times so that your dog has lots of opportunity to connect the word “sit” with the action of moving into a sitting position.

WATCH the Dogs Trust Dog School video – Easy tips on how to teach a puppy to sit and lie down >>

Training your dog to STAY

  • Ask your dog to sit and wait one second before rewarding them with a treat. Then encourage them to move about and have a brief break, before repeating. Gradually build up the time between asking them to sit and rewarding them, until your dog can stay sitting still for five seconds. At this stage you will still be standing right next to them.
  • Now you can add the word “stay”. Ask your dog to sit, then say “stay” and wait five seconds before rewarding them with a treat. Then encourage them to move away and have a short break. Only say “stay” once, don’t repeat yourself as you want your dog to be able to listen after just one ask.
  • Gradually continue to build up the time that your dog stays sitting still. Once your dog can sit still for 10 seconds, start to make the length of time you ask them to stay still longer before rewarding them. For example, ask for three seconds before rewarding them then letting them move, then four seconds before rewarding, then two, then five, then eight... and so on. This means your dog won’t be able to predict how long you need them to stay still for, so they shouldn’t start to get ready to move about until you have made it clear by returning to them and rewarding them.
  • If your dog gets up before you have rewarded them, this could mean that the length of time you’re asking them to stay still for is too long at this point, or you have been training for too long and they’re tired or getting bored. Go back to some shorter stays, then finish the session or do something simple your dog knows well and can get right.
  • Always return to your dog before you reward them. This is to reinforce that the position they are staying in is really rewarding, as it always results in you returning and giving them a treat. If you give the reward to your dog as you’re going back to them and they get up, you’re actually teaching them that getting up gets them the reward, so they’ll start to get up as soon as you start to return to them. Be careful to reward exactly what you want, which is your dog in the position in which you left them.

Training your dog to COME

  • Teach your dog to respond to their name before adding recall as it makes it easier for you to grab their attention when you need it. After you’re confident you can get their attention, you can add in your chosen recall cue.
  • Choose a short, snappy word like ‘come’ or ‘here’, or a whistle if you prefer. Also add in a visual cue, like holding your arms open wide, in case they can’t hear you. Make sure everyone in your household knows which word and movement you’re using to prevent your dog getting confused.
  • Use your recall cue sparingly, giving your dog at least five seconds to respond before calling again. Don’t call again if you think they’re unlikely to return, as this could teach them that it’s okay to not come back.
  • Start indoors, in your garden, or in another enclosed space with some tasty treats to hand. Get your dog’s attention with their name, then use your recall cue and take a step away from them. Reward them with praise and a tasty treat when they come to you. When calling them, use a happy, excited voice and welcoming body language (crouched down, arms open).
  • Always praise your dog for coming back no matter how long it takes. As your dog improves, you won’t need to give them a treat every time they come back. But remember to reward them every so often to keep them motivated.
  • Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog and the level of distractions you call them away from. Eventually leaving the garden and venturing out into the world. Let them move away from you before using your recall cue, and use a long line attached to their harness to keep them safe during training.
  • If they ignore you, stay calm – getting angry or shouting will make them not want to come back to you. Instead, gently guide them in with the long line, or go and collect them. Never use the lead to pull your dog towards you. This could make them not want to return.
  • Reward them with high value treats when they return without this extra guidance, so they build up a positive association with coming when called.

WATCH our Burgess Supadog training video with dog trainer Lyndsey, who explains how to teach your dog that tricky little number, recall >>


Something tasty for every dog

After all that training, your dog deserves a first-class dinner! Burgess Pet Care is a British, family-owned company and all our dog foods are made in our own factory in the heart of Yorkshire. We use premium ingredients to ensure excellent quality and superior taste to help keep your dog happy and healthy – from puppy, to adult and senior.

We’ve also developed foods to meet the specific nutritional needs of sporting and working dogsGreyhounds and Lurchers and dogs with sensitivities. And we’re very proud of our Paul O'Grady's 'No Nasties' dog food range, which comes in Hypoallergenic and Grain Free varieties.

All Burgess dog food is a complete food. This means, whatever variety you choose for your dog, it will contain all the nutrients they need in the correct balance.

By choosing Burgess dog food, you know you can feed your canine companion with complete confidence And, by signing up to Subscribe & Save, it’s easier than ever to give them the top quality, tasty, nutritious food they deserve, every single mealtime. Simply:

  1. Choose your pet’s favourite Burgess Sensitive dog food and click on the Subscribe & Save 10% option
  2. Decide how often you’d like your food delivered
  3. Head to the checkout and complete as normal – then sit back and relax, knowing that your order will be delivered straight to your door!

Is your dog a Burgess dog? Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.

CARE MORE Find out more about caring for your dog from Burgess, the pet experts. Training, nutrition, grooming and general care. It's all here >>

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