You’ve probably had more time than ever before around your pooch lately, and you’re wondering how you can maximize your time together by incorporating a little training.
Not sure where to begin?
We’ve got some tips and expert advice to help you along the way.
We spoke with Jamie Popper over at Blue-9 Pet Products, a company that creates dog training accessories for dogs and their pet parents. Popper’s areas of expertise include advanced trick dog training, therapy and service dog training, and conditioning skills.
How many tricks should I focus on per day or week?
When teaching dogs a new skill or trick, I tend to focus on one trick per training session. These sessions should be short, around 5-10 minutes, but you can do multiple sessions each day.
When working on a new trick, you can weave in other skills your dog is already learning (or mastered) to break up the session. Too many drills and repetitions of one cue can become monotonous for both the owner and the dog.
Do I always need to use treats for training?
When training your dog, you want to reinforce their good behaviors.
This means delivering something your dog finds pleasant after they’ve performed on cue. Delivering a treat is most commonly used as you can get multiple repetitions of behavior in a session.
If your dog also enjoys petting, playing tug o’ war, or chasing after a ball, those reinforcers can be used, as well.
Pro Tip: A low-calorie treat like our delicious Redbarn Protein Puffs are a great way to reward your dog during training, without adding more calories to their diet. Redbarn is an official treat sponsor of Dogs4Diabetics, who use our Protein Puffs to train dogs to detect and alert insulin-dependent pet parents of drops in blood sugar levels.
Do you have any favorite training treats and do you look for, nutrition-wise, in a training treat?
When selecting a training treat, we look for something that is small, soft, and highly palatable. Blue-9’s Inspire Dog Training Treats check all the boxes.
Redbarn’s Rolled Food also make excellent treats — simply cut the roll into bite-sized pieces to reward your dog.
Pro tip: You can even use Redbarn’s Rolled Food as a full feed, kibble topper and pill concealer. They’re packed with over 50% fresh protein and can easily be stored without refrigeration until opened.
Do you have any general training tips and common mistakes to avoid?
Definitely remember short sessions once or twice a day is all it takes to get the well-behaved dog of your dreams.
Also, consistency matters. Doing things “sometimes” versus all the time is a hard concept for dogs to understand. If you “sometimes” allow the dog to get on the couch, but other times, you really wish your dog wouldn’t get up there, you’ll have some training struggles. Be consistent with your expectations.
Reinforced behavior is easy to continue. If you reward your dog for a particular behavior, they are more likely to do that behavior again in the future. You can never be too generous with reinforcement.
Are there any quick tips you’d suggest for training a new puppy?
Be sure to take advantage of your young dog's small socialization window. For puppies, this is between 8 and 16 weeks of age.
During this critical window, it is important for us to expose our puppies and help them form positive associations with all of the things our puppies will interact with for their lives.
This means introducing them to walking on various surfaces, hearing various sounds, visiting safe friends and family, and interacting with safe puppies and adult dogs.
There are some fabulous puppy socialization checklists available online.
Training Tips Recap
As you are working with your eager pooch to teach them new commands or even try cute tricks, don’t forget these key takeaways:
- Keep training sessions short: 5-10 minutes per session
- Repetitions make perfect so go for multiple rounds
- Reinforce good behavior with a treat or play time
- Stay consistent; avoid inconsistent expectations
- During 8-16 weeks of age is the perfect time to practice with your pup
- Socialize your puppy to become familiar with people, surfaces, and sounds
And as always, ask your vet if you are unsure about any training practices or specific needs for your dog’s breed.