Whether you’re teaching good manners or fun tricks, dog training is rewarding for both you and your pup and an important part of being a responsible partner to your canine pal.

Dogs are born pleasers. They live for our approval. They are motivated to learn when the training is fun and when the trainer — you — is being friendly and patient.

Animal behaviorists have proven that dogs learn best with positive reinforcement. That means teaching behaviors you want with praise and treats, not yelling at them when they make mistakes. Dogs quickly learn that rewards occur when they do the right thing, which makes them want to work and figure out how to earn rewards.

illustration of girl walking dog on a leash

Illustration © Ryan Wheatcroft, excerpted from A Kid’s Guide to Dogs

Dog Training Tips

Start your lessons in a quiet spot in your home or yard where you both can concentrate. As your dog learns, find new places to train where there are more distractions — it’s important that your dog knows how to behave in all kinds of situations.

Hold your training sessions when you aren’t feeling rushed or impatient. Try for at least one session a day, but breaking training into several shorter lessons will be more fun and often less frustrating for both of you.

Keep the mood positive and have plenty of bite-sized healthy treats to reward your dog. Your dog will be more motivated if you hold training sessions before meals so she’s a little bit hungry.

Be supportive by proclaiming Good! when your dog does what you ask her to do. Pair that word with the training cue, for example Good sit! Always use a happy, upbeat voice so your dog knows you’re pleased with her.

Quit on a good note. That means ending each lesson after your dog has been successful, instead of being discouraged if you can’t make her understand what you want. If you’re having trouble, go back to a behavior she knows so you can praise her for doing it right. Dogs don’t like being frustrated any more than you do!

Once your canine pal has aced basic obedience cues, you can start working on all kinds of cool new tricks. The more she knows, the more she’ll want to learn! The sky’s the limit on what you can teach her. Invest a few minutes each day focusing on one trick at a time to help your dog expand her number of tricks.

TEACHING SHAKE

Here is a fun way to teach your dog to say hello to your friends. It starts with the basic canine handshake and then adds a crowd-pleasing wave. Start by mastering the canine handshake.

Illustration © Ryan Wheatcroft, excerpted from A Kid’s Guide to Dogs

Have your dog sit facing you. Kneel down and lift his right front paw into the air with your left hand. As you pick up his paw, say Shake and give him a treat. Do this a few times.

Illustration © Ryan Wheatcroft, excerpted from A Kid’s Guide to Dogs

Next, take a treat in your left hand. Without touching him, move your hand slowly toward his right front paw. Stop and wait for him to lift his paw off the ground.(If he only sniffs at the treat, wait patiently for him to realize that you want him to raise his paw.)

Illustration © Ryan Wheatcroft, excerpted from A Kid’s Guide to Dogs

Quickly take his paw in your right hand and say Good shake as you hand over the treat. If necessary, go back to step 1. Treat and praise your dog each time he lifts his paw off the floor for you to take.

Text excerpted from A Kid’s Guide to Dogs © 2020 by Arden Moore. All rights reserved.

Arden Moore

Arden Moore is the author of more than two dozen books on cats and dogs, including A Kid’s Guide to Cats, A Kid’s Guide to… See Bio

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A Kid’s Guide to Dogs

by Arden Moore

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