Class Is In Session! Revisiting Dog Training Fundamentals

September 1st, 2023

Aren’t we all reminiscing a little bit about some of our favorite summertime memories and languishing over all the sun, nature, trips, and friends we surrounded ourselves with for the last couple of months? Summer is slower and more relaxed; you go at a different pace, soaking it all in. Our routines take a back seat for a moment, and they should; the change-up is nice and needed.

happy hound with glasses and bow tie with books


But now, as we enter fall, we are reminded routines are good and healthy for us and our furry pals, too. Whether you are in school or not, the fall season gives off those back-to-school vibes, which translates to getting back to some consistent routines and freshening up on some skills that may have fallen by the wayside.

With its laid-back and adventurous traits, summertime can lead us off course, and our dogs are no exception. They’ve likely spent the last couple of months soaking up the freedom of being outside – jumping in lakes, laying on warm patios, meeting new people and 4-legged friends, exploring all the unknown places, and taking in so many exciting smells. Fortunately, with a little effort and much love, you can get your dog back on track to a healthy and structured routine, often incorporating some training consistency, that will benefit you and your favorite furry student.

Let’s take a moment to get back to the basics (the ABCs & 1,2, 3’s) of some key dog training habits and get everyone into the groove of the love for learning. It’s a little tune-up to head into fall and get started on the right paw.

happy hound holding homework in mouth


Lesson One: The Building Blocks

These basics are easy to incorporate into any routine, are fun, and provide the stimulation your dog is always up for! It’s also a great way to build communication by creating a language between one another. Having clear commands like these also keeps your pet pal safe and provides some structure that helps them know what to expect and how to respond.

  1. Sit: Teach your dog to sit on command. Hold a treat above their head and reward them as they look up and sit.
  2. Stay: Train your dog to remain still until released. Begin with a short period and then gradually increase the time.
  3. Come: Practice recall by calling your dog’s name followed by “come” and rewarding them when they come to you.
  4. Down: Teach your dog to lie down on command. Use a treat to guide them into the down position and praise them.

A little Extra Credit:

  • Shake: Lightly tap or lift your dog’s paw with one hand and a treat in the other, praise them, and provide the treat so they know the correlation. Repeat. As soon as your dog’s paw makes contact with your hand, even if it’s just a slight life, immediately give them a treat.
  • Leave It: A bonus command so your dog learns not to pick up or touch certain objects – a good safety measure. Hold a treat in your hand in a closed fist; make sure your dog knows it’s there. Show your hand with the treat and say “Leave it” firmly but calmly. At first, they may try to get it from your hand using their paw or licking your closed fist. Wait a moment. When your dog stops trying to get the treat and looks at you. In that instant, your dog stops, say “Yes,” and then hand over their favorite snack.

happy hound holding leash in mouth next to backpack


Lesson 2: Taking the Lead

The summer may have meant giving them the freedom to walk ahead and explore on hikes, run along the beach, or more time at dog parks, letting them run loose. Nature lends itself to that feeling of being out in the open with no restraints. Your dog will rejoice in it because they can zoom about and be their crazy selves! And that is absolutely necessary for their well-being and mental health!

Getting back to more leash time for their walks can mean some pulling and lunging that can be uncomfortable for you and your dog, so we’ve got some quick steps you can take to get back to some healthy leash etiquette.

  1. Start Indoors: Begin with leash training inside in a peaceful, distraction-free setting. Your dog should get used to the feeling of the leash being attached to their collar.
  2. Positive Associations: Encourage your dog to approach or exhibit interest in the leash by giving him treats, compliments, and soft pets.
  3. Walking Rules: Teach your dog to follow you while wearing a slack leash. Use rewards to entice them into the desired position and to encourage them to stay there.
  4. No Pulling: Stop moving and wait until your dog comes back to your side if they start to tug on the leash. This teaches them that pulling causes the walk to come to a stop.
  5. Maintain Consistency: Practice daily, slowly increasing your walks’ length and complexity. Tackling this every day, even for short walks around the block, is beneficial.

happy hound snuggling toy in crate


Lesson 3: Crate Comfort

Crate training is often associated with a way to confine your dog for potty training or to keep them safe when running errands. But it is also their safe sanctuary – a comfortable place to retreat and relax. They love their own little den; it’s in their nature.

  1. The Best Crate: Choose a crate that is big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably, but not so big that they can go to the bathroom in one corner and sleep in another.
  2. The Introduction: Gradually introduce the crate. To draw your dog in, fill the space with goodies, toys, and cozy bedding. They can explore at their own leisure with the crate door left open.
  3. Dining In: To establish a positive relationship, feed your dog inside the crate. This makes their crate seem more inviting to them.
  4. Gradual Closure: Once your dog feels secure inside the crate, briefly close the door while you’re around. Slowly extend the amount of time they spend in it.
  5. Positive Experiences: When your dog enters the crate freely, reward him with food and praise. Never use their crate as a way to punish them.
  6. Alone Time: To help your dog get acclimated to being alone, confine them to their crate for brief periods while you’re at home. Extend the time in intervals and lead up to leaving the house for short periods before eventually being able to leave for longer timeframes.
  7. Bedtime: Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as taking a quick stroll before bed and then retiring to their sleeping place.

happy hound corgi in training


Your dog’s favorite teacher? YOU!

Your pet pal is overjoyed and loves spending time engaging with you, so learning for them is the best thing ever! Not only do they get your undivided attention, but the mental and physical stimulation is a big bonus…well, that and, of course, all their favorite treats and “good doggy” accolades that come along with it. You’re the best teacher they know, and they will reward you with their form of “thank you’s” like all those happy, slobbery licks and cuddles.

Here are some quick tips to set yourself up for success before diving into obedience training.

  1. Set Specific Objectives: Take a moment to think about what you hope to accomplish through training. Having specific goals will help guide your training efforts, and then when you reach those goals, you can celebrate the wins!
  2. Pick the Right Place: Training should initially take place in a quiet, distraction-free environment. Minimize noise and other distractions that might interfere with your dog’s focus. Gather what you need – treats, a leash and collar or harness, and a clicker if you decide to use this.
  3. Positivity All-Around: Reward good behavior with treats, praise, and petting. Remain patient- training takes time. Your dog can sense your feelings, so make sure it’s calm, and it will make them feel more relaxed as well.
  4. Day-to-Day Schedule: Dogs love a little predictability, so incorporate a daily routine that may include times for meals, potty breaks, walks, playtime, and rest; if your dog’s routine has been interrupted for a while, slowly reestablish it. A sudden change might be intimidating, so begin with minor modifications. Adding training to your routine will also help them understand this is a consistent occurrence and will begin to expect it and even look forward to it!

Your adorable companion might not consistently be the top-performing student, but just like any newly learned skill, it requires patience and time. We’re pretty certain your dog pal will undoubtedly become the cherished “teacher’s pet” in no time! And as a reminder, there’s always going to be both good and challenging days. We all have them. Even when your furry companion seems to struggle with everything, remember that these are still some of the brighter days because their unwavering companionship and little personality we feel in love with always earn them an A+ grade.

happy hound wearing graduation cap


Sometimes our furry BFFs need some extra help. We’ve got you covered – whether you are working on leash training, social anxiety, potty -training, ,etc. our team of teachers at Happy Hound can provide guidance, tools, tricks, and support so your pal can succeed. View all training options here.