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Once you’ve chosen your training philosophy, it’s time to teach your dog some specific behaviors. Since life gets hectic, one of the easiest ways to start off right is to do a puppy class; you can learn together and spend some quality time as a family with your new pet. While it’s OK to have one person teach the dog a new behavior in class or while practicing at home, as soon as the dog has mastered the behavior, it should be taught to the rest of the family so that the hand signal or voice cue is always the same.
The person who originally taught the cue can demonstrate it by doing the cue and rewarding the dog for performing the behavior. After multiple repetitions, have another family member ask for the same behavior by mimicking the vocal cue or gesture. If the dog makes any attempt to do the behavior, treat immediately, even if it’s not the full behavior; gradually move to only rewarding the dog for doing the completed behavior. If the dog doesn’t do the behavior at all, have the new person offer the specific hand or voice cue, wait two seconds, and then have the person who originally taught the behavior do the signal. Your dog will quickly realize what he is being asked to do and will respond with the appropriate behavior.
Dogs should consistently be rewarded for performing certain behaviors. When a dog goes a prolonged period without getting rewarded for performing a behavior, or when he is inconsistently rewarded for a behavior, his desire to do this behavior is decreased, and his success is hindered. Regardless of the reward — a treat, toy, petting, praise or walk — your dog should be consistently rewarded every time he successfully completes a behavior, no matter which family member is giving the cue.
Even when you aren’t in active training sessions, your puppy is learning all the time, which means family members all need to have similar ways of interacting with the puppy. Consistent rules about how everyone is expected to interact with the dog will prevent him from developing or keeping bad habits. For example, if just one family member allows your puppy pull on the leash, the habit will be harder to break. Begging is another behavior that will persist even if only one person in the family occasionally sneaks the dog food from the table; your dog won't learn that begging doesn’t pay off if he gets rewarded every so often for begging. Talk regularly with your family about expectations for interaction in order to keep harmony in your pet’s training.
In the end, the key to successful puppy training is communication, which starts when you choose a training method, and continues as the family sets training goals and works as a team.
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