How To Train (& Not To Train) Your Dog
Since my Chihuahua, Nunuu, is 9 months old and behaving more or less as a grown-up dog (even though he is a teenager), I though it could be fun to share my experience and information with dog training. Nunuu learnt to pee outside almost immediately, he can do many tricks (e.g. roll around), loves to be around other dogs (also big dogs), can do agility, travel in this box without problems, and is a good family dog overall. Recently, I also got a Chihuahua puppy. His name is Nanok. You can follow my dogs on Instagram: nunuu_chihuahua
Don’t pick up your dog, when it meets another “scary” big dog – then you will only teach your dog to be scared of other dogs or big dogs.
Remember, you are the strong leader in the pack, and if you lift your dog up when you meet dogs, he/she is scared off or that is big, you will increase your dog’s insecurity. Your dog will be thinking “Big dogs or dogs, in general, are scary, and I need to be afraid of them, since my mum/dad save me from the episode, and lift me up for protection and comfort”.
Disclaimer: The only time it’s okay to lift your dog, is when its actually in danger (e.g. a dog that bites comes at you, or a big dog runs too fast to greet your little dog. E.g. a little Chihuahua can’t get run down by a Great Dane, it will hurt and maybe cause injuries to your dog). Use your common sense, and pick up your dog when you need to.
Don’t run after your dog, if it’s running away from “scary” dogs – you will only teach your dogs that you’re also scared since you are moving around and that it’s necessary to run away from the danger.
A strong leader runs if there is any legit danger, and stands still if it’s safe. The pack follows the leader. So, if your dog is scared of other dogs, and runs away, stand still, and wait for your dog to come back to you.
Disclaimer: If you’re in the center or close to dangerous traffic, of course, you need to run after your dog because it gets hit down by a car or gets in any other danger. But if you’re in a safe dog park with a fence all around the area, it’s ok to let the dog run. Use your common sense, and only let your dog run without a line in a safe closed area.
Don’t curse at your dog, and don’t put its head to the ground, if it has peed inside – you will only get a bad relationship with your dog, and it will not understand that your punishment has anything to do with the peeing.
Instead, you should hurry and take your dog outside. Every time your dog has an accident, take it outside. Don’t say anything. Every time your dog is peeing outside, praise the dog. The way to make your puppy used to pee outside, is to be around the dog 24/7, and take it outside every 3rd hour, or when it looks like it’s going to pee (they go around sniffing). Raising a puppy is a fulltime job, and you should take a holiday form your job for 14 days. The more you are taking care of your puppy in the beginning, the faster the puppy will learn.
Tug of war and throwing balls are no go! – It will just stress your dog.
In pet shops, you can buy rope designed for tug of war, and balls to through back and forth. You can buy it, and your dog can play with it itself but don’t play with this kind of toy with your dog, since it will increase its stress level, since violent games like this, is the same kind of game when it’s hunting an animal. In the wild, the dog needs the stress level in its body when it’s hunting, but if you want a relaxing family dog, you don’t want your dog to be stressed all the time. You can through a ball once in a while, and learn your dog to “let go” of the tug of war, but don’t play with this kind of toy all day. There are many other ways to play with your dog, e.g. through the dog food on the ground, and let your dog find it or learn your dog “sit”, “roll” or other tricks. Many dog owners are not aware of this problem with a tug of war, running after balls, and the stress level it causes, but e.g. dogs for hunting must not learn to play this way. Hunting dogs needs to retrieve the prey, not “playing” or “killing” the prey.
Don’t curse at your dog when it’s barking – Your dog doesn’t bark because it’s being annoying, but because it’s afraid.
Instead, you should even 1) make your dog sit, and pet it at its chest since it makes your dog calmer.
2) Distract your dog, showing a treat or it’s a favorite toy. Here it’s important not to reward your dog when it barks, but distracting it, by first give the treat/toy after it follows you or sits.
3) Ignore the barking when you have your dog on a leash and are going for a walk, keep the leash short, and make your dog walk next to you – not in front of you, and keep walking by whatever makes your dog bark.
4) If your dog barks inside your house, make your dog sit or stay behind, while you go against what the dog is barking at (e.g. something outside the window, go to the window and look), and “check” that there is nothing to be afraid of. Go back to your dog. By doing this, your dog will see you as the leader, who took action and made sure everything is all right. If your dog is the leader in your house – and not you, it will stress your dog, and it will try to watch everything and make sure it’s not a threat.
Socialize your dog – if you don’t, your dog will end up being “aggressive” and barking at other dogs, because it’s afraid of them.
Take your dog in dog parks, where there is fences around the area, where dogs run free, and let your dog meet other dogs. Let them say hi and continue walking, or let the dogs play. In the beginning your puppy will be anxious because its afraid of other dogs, and doesn’t know what to do. With time, your puppy will find out that dogs are not dangers. Socializing your dog is the most important dog training, in my opinion.
Train your dog to be alone – if you don’t do this, your dog will be anxious and stressed when you finally leave it.
Start by taking the dog in another room. Close the door, and first open the door when your dog is quiet. Puppies cry a lot when training this, so be fast to open the door, and reward, if it’s quiet for 3-4 seconds. Start by letting your puppy be alone for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then increase later in training. You can train this every day, but not too long. It’s very hard for your puppy, and it will be very exhausted afterward.
Give your dog a “safe space” – A place where it can be alone, and nobody comes to bother it.
The safe space can be your dog’s traveling box, a blanket, or its dog basket. Your dog needs to relax and be alone, especially if you have kids or have guests. The safe space must always be available for your dog, and a place it feels safe.
Get your dog used to travel – in a travel box or walking in public transport.
By getting your dog used to travel, it’s easy for you to take your dog in the car with you, on the bike or in public transport. You must get your dog used to public transport – even if you only go around in the car, because one day you will need to take the bus or train with your dog, and then it will be stressful for your dog if you didn’t teach it since it was a puppy. Don’t force your puppy in the travel box, but let the travel box stay in your room, and remove other blankets and sleeping places. You can also put some treats in the box. Let your dog walk inside the travel box. If you try to force the dog inside the box, it will be so scared of the box, and feel as its inside a prison. Make the travel box a nice and safe place to be. E.g. my dog’s safe place is its travel box. When your dog is inside its travel box in the car, it will probably cry. Ignore the crying, keep driving, put some radio on, and praise the dog when it’s finally quiet. In the end, your dog will get tired of crying, if you don’t take your dog out of the box.
Stop and wait for your dog, when it’s pulling in the line, and first continue walking when your dog sits – If you want your dog not to pull when taking it for a walk.
Do never ever pullback in the leash, this will make your dog pull back or not do any good. Instead, you should stand still, taking a break, if your dog runs and pulls in the leash. First, your dog will cry or try pulling, but in the end, it will sit and wait. When it sits, you can continue walking. This method requires that you have patience, but your dog is not stupid and will learn to walk nicely by your side if you are consistent.
There are a lot of dog training methods. The once where you use force and curse at the dog, are mean and outdated, and modern research shows that dogs are best trained by being patient and loving to your dog. When in doubt, listen to your gut or ask your wet. Don’t listen to all the other dog owners (especially not if their dog is not behaving well).
In addition to dog trainers, I love Cesar Millan (speaking English) and Dogwhisperer.dk (speaking Danish). You can search for them on YouTube. I hope you could use some of these tips, and that it made dog training a little bit easier. Good luck with your puppy.