Speak Softly and Carry Lots of Treats: Seven Obedience Tips for a Well-Trained Dog

Dogs. They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and oh-so-lovable. They know just how to comfort you after a long day and have the ability to turn a simple walk around the neighborhood into an exciting adventure- when trained with the proper guidance, boundaries and consistency. However, much like a poorly behaved child can be a sore spot in the community, so can a badly behaved dog. In fact, property management companies will tell you that some of the most common community complaints are about problem pets.

So what’s a good doggie parent to do? Just give your four-legged friend lots of love and follow these seven simple guidelines, gathered from this original post, and soon you—and your neighbors—will be singing the praises of your beloved four-legged family member.

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Tip #1: Make him a class act.

No dog is born knowing basic commands like “sit,” “down” and “stay,” yet these commands are the foundation for a well-trained dog. To help you instill the fundamentals in your furry friend, trust a professional and enroll your pooch in an obedience class. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers provides a handy search tool on their website that will help you locate a trainer and class near you.

Tip #2: Be consistent and calm.

Let everyone in your family and your community know that you’re in the process of training your dog, and give them clear instructions on what they should and shouldn’t do. If your dog receives too many conflicting commands, she can become confused, which may delay or halt her progress. And when you’re training your dog, do so calmly and firmly, and reward calm behavior every chance you get. Calm and consistent commands—not physical or aggressive measures—are the best way to train a kind, well-behaved dog.

Tip #3: Leave on a good note.

Dogs are incredibly social creatures, which means they hate to be left alone. To reduce or relieve your dog’s separation anxiety, calmly say goodbye and greet him in a subdued manner when you return. This reassuring behavior tells him that leaving is no big deal. You may also want to leave on a soothing radio station or TV show at a low volume, and give him toys that can provide comfort and entertainment while you’re gone.

Tip #4: Dump the jump.

It’s great that your dog is happy to see you, but don’t reward her exuberant jumps with added attention. This positive reinforcement will only make a problem behavior worse. Trust us—no matter how much your guests and neighbors love dogs, most would prefer not to be pounced and pummeled. The key to dumping the jumping is to ignore the behavior completely and praise your dog when she calms down with “all four on the floor.”

Tip #5: Knock off the noise.

If you would like to preserve good cheer around your community, nip barking in the bud before it gets out of hand. First, don’t respond—not even by scolding her—when she barks. Or, you can redirect her energy with a command like “stay” or “sit,” then reward the good behavior with a treat or attention. Other ways to prevent excessive barking are to eliminate stimuli by closing blinds and curtains, and distract her with healthy activities like toys and exercise. You may also want to reinforce the “speak” command, which tells your dog that there’s a time and a place to be heard.

Tip #6: Soothe the baby beast within.

Dogs can be big babies when it comes to certain noises and situations, and this can become a very real problem when you’re faced with a dog who shakes and cries incessantly or can’t control their bladder on your new carpet. Fireworks, vacuum cleaners, sirens and thunder are some common fear-inducing triggers that are all-too common in everyday life. To help your dog cope, provide plenty of exercise every day and soothe her with a gentle touch or a quiet place to retreat. You can also gradually expose your dog to noises by using a recording when the real trigger isn’t available. While playing the noise at a low volume, reward her with treats and play to alleviate fears. But whatever you do, don’t force your dog to confront her fears too soon; this will only exacerbate the situation.

Tip #7: Get help when you need it.

Don’t beat yourself up if your dog holds onto a bad behavior. Sometimes you just need a professional with the right experience. A qualified trainer knows tried and true tricks and techniques that take years to master. Ask other pet owners for recommendations or search online for a trainer near you.

Just remember: Have patience, set ground rules, and reward for good behavior. Happy doggy training!