Common dog training questions

I frequently hear very similar questions from multiple clients. I also have random dog training thoughts that come to mind that might not lend themselves to a complete blog post. So, I thought I could blend the two and start this as an occasional series. This might contain questions and answers, observations or other dog training thoughts. When applicable, I will also reference other posts that expand on the answer for you.

Why does a trained dog sit?
If you are using positive reinforcement, he has a history of being rewarded for sitting. The cue is a signal that if he sits he might get a reward. If you use positive punishment, or training using fear or pain, your dog is sitting to avoid pain. I hope you are using positive reinforcement.

How much should I train my dog every day?
Your dog is learning every single, waking moment. If you want him to learn what you want, it is up to you to supervise, guide and teach him so he learns what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in his new home. Institute a "nothing for free" regiment to train your dog. Make him sit before he gets his food, make him sit before he goes outside, make him sit before you will pet him. When you are doing active training sessions, do short 2-10 minute sessions multiple times every day for a total of at least 15 minutes. 

How do I motivate my dog?
Dogs need to eat, drink, play, and socialize. Use whatever he wants at that moment as the reward.

How do dogs learn?
Dogs learn through associations and consequences. If a behavior brings about a reward, either from you or the environment, the behavior is likely to be repeated. The best way to "tell" him and establish good behavior in your dog is to associate behavior you like with rewards so that he learns that it is in his best interest to repeat good behavior.

What should I use for treats for my dog?
As long as there are not specific dietary restrictions, you should experiment with many different treats. A treat is anything your dog finds enjoyable. There are a wide variety of treats available for sale. You can also use cheese, liverwurst, boiled chicken, lunchmeat, summer sausage, hot dogs, bananas, mango, etc. Don't forget you can also use "life rewards" as treats. These include praise, petting, tug, throwing a tennis ball, Frisbee, chase, playtime with another dog, etc. Keep in mind that there is always a balancing act of treats and the possibility of diarrhea. If this happens, rotate the treats until you find something that is OK with your dog's tummy. Remember to compensate by giving him less kibble each day as well. Some dogs work great on kibble, others need more interesting treats. It is usually really helpful for training to provide new treats every few weeks to keep your dog interested. Make it fun and experiment.


What is dangerous for my dog?
Chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, grapes, onions, antifreeze, certain plants, cooked chicken bones, rat poison, plastic bags, among other things. Here is a list for you to familiarize yourself with dangerous items. Visit the ASPCA site for a list of dangerous food and plants.

Will playing tug make my dog aggressive?
No. If your dog already is aggressive, tug can escalate behaviors and cause problems. But, tug does not cause aggression. Watch dog training videos on tug and other topics at my video site.

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