All About Dog Training: The Best Way to Train Your Dog

Tips and resources on how to train your dog, from the best training treats and books on dog training to how to train a fearful dog.

Training two Australian Shepherds. All about dog training & how to train your dog.
Photo: Christian Mueller/Shutterstock

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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What do you need to know if you want to train your dog? It turns out there's a lot to learn, from the methods you should use (reward-based training all the way!) to the commands you should teach your dog. And unfortunately, there's a lot of bad advice on TV and the internet. So here's the information you need to know.

If you want to know more, check out my book Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy, which is about dog training and how to care for your dog to give them the best life possible. If you want to know how to order Wag in bulk (e.g. for puppy classes, private behaviour clients) get in touch.

How to train your dog

Top tips on puppy raising from the experts. A guide to socializing and caring for your puppy with answers to common questions from top dog trainers. 

13 common dog training mistakes and how to avoid them. The most common mistakes that dog owners - and even some dog trainers - make, and what you should do instead to train your dog. 

Eight reasons to train your dog just for fun. Training isn't just about behaviours like 'sit' and 'come'--it's also about building a good relationship with your dog. 

The ultimate dog training tip.  The best way to train dogs is by using food as a reward. Here's why that is so effective and modern dog training uses food.

Seven reasons to use reward-based training methods. Reward-based dog training means giving rewards for behaviours that you want to see more of, and removing the rewards for behaviours you don't like. Here's why it's so important to use this approach. (If you want to geek out on the science behind this, see my dog training science resources page).

What are reward-based training methods for dogs (and cats)?  Learn the definition of this important term and see examples of aversive and reward-based training methods.

The best dog training treats. If you're using food to train your dog, you need to make sure you pick something that will motivate your dog and that is right for the training you are doing. These are my favourite treats.

Don''t punish your dog for peeing in the house. How to house-train your dog or puppy, why you might need to take your dog to a vet, and how punishing your dog for peeing in the house is the opposite of house training.

How to prioritize training for your new rescue dog. Bringing home a new shelter or rescue dog can sometimes feel overwhelming. Here's what to do to prepare, and the training to focus on in those first days and weeks. 

Reactive dogs: Compassion and the power of animal learning are at the heart of training. Here's what to do if your dog is reactive to other dogs or other people on walks.

How to choose a dog trainer. My guide on how to find a great dog trainer including the qualifications and certifications to look for.

How to choose a puppy class. The sensitive period for socialization, between 3 and 12-14 weeks, is a crucial time for puppies. Here's how to choose a puppy class that will help you make the most of that socialization window.

Can dog training books be trusted? This post looks at some research on the quality of information in popular dog training books, and my recommendations for the best dog training books.

Ten tips to integrate dog training into everyday life. Dog training isn't just for classes. You get the best results when you integrate it into your daily life, because dogs are learning from us all the time. Here are ten tips to help you do that. (At my Psych Today blog, Fellow Creatures).

You aren't a dog, and other surprises of dog ownership. (At my Psych Today blog).

The best things you can do for your puppy. Why you need to get your puppy from a good source, socialize them, and take them to puppy class to set them up for success. (At my Psych Today blog).

Never train a dog to come when called using a shock collar by Nickala Squire. This post includes tips on what you should do instead.

How to train your dog to wear a coat or sweater. Tips on choosing the right coat or sweater to get started with and how to introduce it so your dog actually likes to wear it. 

Operant conditioning and training methods

What is positive reinforcement in dog training? Everything you want to know about using this technique to train dogs.

What is negative reinforcement in dog training? For those who want to know what this means, this post explains why reward-based trainers avoid it and what you can do instead.

What is positive punishment in dog training? Understand why it is best not to use positive punishment, what you can do instead, and why you need to ask 'what do I want the dog to do?' instead of just punishing behaviours you don't like.

Reward-based training isn't just for sunny days. It's for all dogs, even (especially) dogs with behaviour issues. Here's why.

In dog training, balance is off. Why it's not a good idea to used so-called balanced training methods.

Dominance training deprives dogs of positive experiences. There are many reasons not to use dominance to train your dog, and this article explains.

A Black woman trains a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. All about dog training & how to train your dog
Photo: Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock

Training a fearful dog

What is desensitization and counter-conditioning? Learn the ins and outs of this powerful technique that helps dogs learn to like the thing they used to be afraid of. Desensitization and counter-conditioning is often used with fear of fireworks but has lots of other uses too, from being afraid of people and other dogs to fear of going to the vet.

If your dog is afraid, avoid these two common mistakes. Many people who want to help their fearful dog make these two very common mistakes. Here's what to avoid, and what to do to get it right.

Eight tips to help a fearful dog feel safe. When living with or training a fearful dog, it is essential to help the dog feel safe. Here are some tips to help with that. And if you want some practice at checking out dog body language, see how can I tell if my dog is afraid?

Staying safe: management for fearful dogs. The importance of using management to protect the training you're doing with your fearful dog, and how training and management work together.

Three ways that management can help you if you have a pet with behaviour issues. Management can help your pet cope with difficult situations, and help you to better understand their needs.

Dog welfare

The Five Domains model aims to help animals thrive. Learn all about this new approach to animal welfare.

What are the Five Freedoms (and what do they mean to you?) Learn all about these guidelines and how they can  help pet owners provide what their animals need.

Why dogs' happiness, not obedience, is what counts. When we focus on dogs' happiness and welfare, it's better for them and for us. (At my Psych Today blog).

I have a separate page all about dogs. You may also like to browse the archives or use the search function to find posts on what science tells us about dog training and how to deal with different behaviour issues. 

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband and two cats.

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