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behavior and training

8 experts share their best dog training tips

Here’s how certified dog trainers and AKC professionals train basic commands and handle undesirable behaviors like humping, biting, and peeing on your couch.

Updated September 30, 2020

Created By

Andy Bowen, Editor in Chief

All dogs are different, and that makes training your furry friend a healthy challenge. Whether you have experience training dogs or you’re just tired of chewed-up slippers, we spoke with 8 experts who shared their favorite tips for basic commands and behavioral issues that can help you get the best out of your pet.

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Barking | Eating too fast | Jumping on peoplePotty trainingChewing and biting | Basic commands | HumpingEating poopGetting along with a catBiting the leash

Dog barking

CAN'T STOP WON'T STOP 📸 by Aine

Barking

TIP #1 – BARKING

The easiest way to stop a dog from barking is to reward them for not barking. Using positive reinforcement you’ll want to have a clicker handy. It’s a small handheld device that makes a consistent noise when pressed.

If your dog has doesn’t have a background in clicker training, you’ll need to get them to associate the sound of the clicker with treats. To do this, click the clicker and give your dog a small treat immediately. Do this a few times until your dog looks at you attentively as soon as the click noise is made.

To curb barking, you’ll have to construct a scenario. If your dog barks whenever someone knocks at the door, you’ll want to click and give your dog a treat before they start barking. when they are barking, you’re not going to give any treats. Simply be neutral and wait for your dog to pay attention to you again and aren’t barking. Once they do, click then treat. You’re giving your dog attention and treats when they’re doing what is right and being neutral when they’re doing the undesired behavior.

Barking is a challenging behavior to curb so some dogs respond better to having a job or something to do instead of barking. You could train your dog to go to their bed whenever they hear a door knock if someone at the door is what sets off their barking.

Do do this, you’d have to train a go to bed cue and then have them go to their bed whenever you make a knocking sound on the door yourself. It will take a lot of consistent training and practice but is worth it.

– Stephanie Mantilla

Positive Animal Trainer & Enrichment Specialist at Curiosity Trained

TIP #2 – BARKING

Demand barking is when your dog barks at you or someone else when they want something. If your dog has trained you to respond to his barking demands it may be time that you train him there are nicer – and quieter – ways to ask for things that he wants.

The easiest way to get rid of demand barking is to not acknowledge it. This may mean that you have to put up with a little, sometimes a lot, of barking before the behavior goes away. Don’t look at or talk to your dog when they are barking, you can even get up and leave the room when your dog starts to bark at you. If your dog thinks that barking gets him the things that he wants it is time to teach him the exact opposite – barking gets you nothing, or barking makes me leave. As soon as your dog is quiet you can give him the attention that he wants but if he starts barking again go right back to ignoring him. Avoid yelling at your dog when he is barking since your dog will most likely think “Hey, now you are barking too! We are barking together!” and he will keep barking. You can instead use a positive interrupter to stop the barking momentarily to allow you to praise your dog or give him the things that he wants when he is quiet.

Some dogs may bark more due to their breed type. If you live with a dog that is has a strong disposition for barking, keeping him quiet may be more difficult. Some hounds such as beagles, bloodhounds, coonhounds, and foxhounds have been bred to bark as an announcement when they find a scent. Herding breeds are another group of dogs that were bred to use their bark to keep livestock in line. Small breed dogs often bark more since it is their duty to alert their warm laps to passing noises and intruders. Dogs that spend large amounts of time outside may also learn to bark more excessively at things that pass their yard since they may become frustrated at not being able to gain access to smell it and interact with it. Dogs recently rescued from shelters may bark more for a little while since they have been exposed to barking at sights and sounds during their time staying in a shelter.

For each dog it is important to understand the motivation behind the bossy barking. If your dog barks for your attention or his dinner then simply withholding until he is quiet will teach him that he gets things faster the faster he stops barking. If you are living with a breed that is more likely to use barking as a way of communication, the path to monk like silence may be more difficult for him. The easiest ways to keep your dog from barking as often is to make sure that they keep their mouths busy with lots of toys and chews or by getting him plenty of exercise so he spends more time at home sleeping.

– Karen Reese

CPDT-KA, ACDBC, Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer, Fear Free Shelter Graduate, APDT Premium Professional Member #88674, Animal Behavior Manager at Operation Kindness

TIP #3 – BARKING

Some dogs are more vocal than others, but you can work with dogs on reducing barking by undergoing counter-conditioning practices in the areas they need the most help. For example, dogs who have doorbell anxiety and bark when a doorbell rings will benefit from counter conditioning that involves a repeatedly ringing doorbell quickly followed by treats. (This is a very brief description of what this all entails, so I would encourage dog owners to look further into this)

– Jen Jones

Founder of Your Dog Advisor, professional dog trainer

TIP #4 – BARKING

There are multiple ways to train your pup not to bark. The first would be if they are barking at something specific such as someone at the door you could give them a different job to do and begin to reward that new command, such as going to a mat each time someone comes to the door. If they are barking out of fear over a person or object I would focus on helping them with their fear issue rather than training them not to express their fear.

It’s always safer in my opinion to have your pet let you know when he/she isn’t comfortable with something or someone before they react. Lastly, you can teach a quiet command. So when your dog is barking you can give them the new ‘quiet command’ and reward that behavior.

– Nicole Ellis

Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), American Kennel Club CGC evaluator, and APDT trainer (Association of Professional Dog Trainers)

dog sad needs more food

more hungry must feed 📸 laurawashere95

Eating too fast

TIP #1 – EATING TOO FAST

One of the most successful and easiest ways to prevent your dog from eating too fast is to purchase a slow feeder bowl. This forces them to slow down and eat slower. You can also invest in a food puzzle toy, which is my favorite! Not only will these slow down their eating habits, but they stimulate their mind. If you’re trying to train them without products like this that force them to slow down, it will be very difficult and even impossible for some dogs.

– Lauren

Certified Dog Trainer and Founder of PuppyWiki

TIP #2 – EATING TOO FAST

  1. Use a muffin or cupcake tin to divide your dog’s dry food into each
    of the cupcakes
  2. Place small toys (tennis balls work well) and place them on top of
    the food in the tin
  3. Set the cupcake tin on the floor
  4. Watch your dog or puppy have fun moving the toys and eating their
    food

– Julie Burgess

Dog Trainer & Certified Veterinary Technician, Pet Writer at CritterCopy

dog jumping on leg

that's like, what, a 30inch vert?? 🛫

Jumping on people

TIP #1 – JUMPING ON PEOPLE

One of the best ways to do this is to start training an action they do every time they greet someone new (this is typically the basic sit). Make sure to have guests and any other people that greet your dog help with this training – it won’t be as effective if you’re the only one giving your pup treats.

– Lauren

Certified Dog Trainer and Founder of PuppyWiki

TIP #2 – JUMPING ON PEOPLE 

Jumping is a natural greeting and play behavior for dogs. Since most people don’t enjoy being jumped on by dogs, especially larger dogs, it is important to teach dogs that jump on people how to greet more appropriately. If your dog has a problem of jumping on people it is important that you start by setting the example of what is a polite greeting with yourself. If you allow your dog to jump up on you then your dog may become confused if he is not allowed to jump on other people. Here are some tips on teaching your dog to not jump on people.

  1. Make greetings mellow. When you arrive home your dog will likely be excited to see you and will be most likely to jump up to greet you during this time. If this is true for your dog, completely ignore your dog until they calm down. Don’t talk to, touch, or look at your dog until they have settled down. Once your dog has settled down, you can greet your dog by getting down to their level and saying hello. Everyone that comes into your house should greet your dog in the same way.
  2. Reward your dog when he isn’t jumping. Many times we forget to acknowledge our dogs when they are doing the right thing and we only seem to recognize the things that they do wrong. If this is the case with your dog, when he isn’t jumping, give him lots of attention, praise, treats, and toys. If he jumps up during that time, turn your side and walk away. When done consistently, your dog will learn that all the great things happen when he has all of his feet on the floor and your attention is withdrawn when his feet come off the floor.
  3. Set your dog up for success. One of the hardest things about training dogs that jump on people is training the people to not reward your dog when he jumps on them! This can be really hard for your dog to understand that he shouldn’t jump on people if when he jumps he gets attention from other people. If you know ahead of time that your dog might jump on someone you should either have your dog on a leash during those times so you can walk your dog away if they jump up or you can put your dog in another room or outside for a bit to prevent him from practicing jumping on people. After he has had a moment to settle down, ask your guests to come down to his level to greet him, for large dogs this may mean sitting down so they don’t get knocked over.

Since affectionate face greetings are a deeply ingrained behavior from puppyhood, it is up to you to teach your dog how to greet appropriately in human interactions.

– Karen Reese

CPDT-KA, ACDBC, Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer, Fear Free Shelter Graduate, APDT Premium Professional Member #88674, Animal Behavior Manager at Operation Kindness

TIP #3 – JUMPING ON PEOPLE

Train your dog to sit calmly when people enter and instruct your company not to pet or interact with your dog until he has calmed down. This can take several days and even months to get right, as dogs love attention. However, once your dog learns that sitting quietly is what gets him the attention, he’ll do it every time. If your dog is very excitable or energetic, you can redirect this energy by teaching him to get a toy when company comes. This will give him something to do and focus on.

– Jen Jones

Founder of Your Dog Advisor, professional dog trainer

TIP #4 – JUMPING ON PEOPLE

You should follow these 6 suggestions in order. You will not effectively change the jumping behavior without first identifying the triggers first.

Triggers. Find the triggers that make the dog jump. Is it you or someone in the household or certain guests? Work on the following behavior modification and management tips once you can isolate the triggers.

Extinction. Stop reinforcing the jumping when guests arrive or when the triggers are present. This means you and your guests will have to ignore her when entering and only give attention and affection when she stops jumping and is calm.

Redirect. Have her do sit and watch you just before her excitement level gets too high if you are having a guest over for a visit. Use the watch-me command with treats.

Blocking. Use body blocking to diffuse the energy between the dog and the trigger. Stand between your dog and guest, facing the dog, and get her focused on you using the redirect technique above. * Mental Stimulation – Give her a bone or Kong toy filled with her tastiest treats to occupy her mind and not be as interested in the guests.

Leash. Tether her to leash and collar, put her in a sit-stay and watch-me to calm down so she can’t move. Having dogs be still will slow down their mind.

Crate. If all else fails, put her in the crate for a time out.

– Dale Buchanan

CDTK & CDTB, Owner of Top Gun Dog Training

dog peed on carpet

whoopsie 📸 by Bev Sykes

Potty training

TIP #1 – POTTY TRAINING

Consistency is key! When potty training a dog, create a predictable and consistent schedule so that your dog will learn how long they have to hold it until their next potty break. Here is a recommended schedule:

  1. First thing in the morning, as soon as the dog wakes up.
  2. 10 minutes after they eat their morning meal.
  3. A midday break is recommended, especially for young puppies.
  4. In the afternoon, at the end of the work or school day.
  5. 10 minutes after they eat dinner.
  6. Right before going to sleep for the night.

Give your dog a few minutes to relieve themselves. If they don’t, take them back inside and place them in an area where you can watch them for any indication that they are preparing to relieve themselves (sniffing the ground, circling, squatting, stopping play to sniff, and running out of sight are some examples of your dog indicating that they need to go potty.) If your dog indicates that they are about to potty, take them back outside and give them another few minutes to try.

When you are potty training your dog you should accompany them anytime they are taken outside to go potty and take treats with you. When your dog relieves themselves in the appropriate area immediately feed them a high-value treat. Your treats should be something extra special that they don’t get at any other time, bits of chicken or turkey can be extra motivating. Give the treat to them while they are still in the area where they went potty. If you wait to give the treat when you get back inside the dog will not understand that the treat is for going potty outside.

If your dog has an accident in an inappropriate place, such as inside the house, clean the area thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner made for pet stain removal. Don’t scold or punish your dog for accidents. This will most likely lead to the dog hiding from you when they need to eliminate, and it will reduce the likelihood that the dog will eliminate in front of you even when they are in an appropriate potty place.

– Karen Reese

CPDT-KA, ACDBC, Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer, Fear Free Shelter Graduate, APDT Premium Professional Member #88674, Animal Behavior Manager at Operation Kindness

TIP #2 – POTTY TRAINING

All dogs respond best to positive reinforcement methods like treats and praise. It is counterproductive to scold your dog after a potty accident, as he does not associate this potty accident with something he did. Instead, positively reward your dog for going potty or poo in the proper spot and ignore the accidents unless you catch your dog in the act. Take him outside routinely and use lots of praise and treats when he does a good job. It is also best to use the same cue such as “yes” or “good dog!” each time he does the thing you want him to do.

– Jen Jones

Founder of Your Dog Advisor, professional dog trainer

TIP #3 – POTTY TRAINING

  1. Make sure that your pup should always be supervised or confined. Supervise your pup closely or have him in the crate.
  2. Take your pup to the right place as often as he needs to go. Learn your pup’s patterns and set up your routine accordingly. Watch for sniffing, whining, circling, panting, or suddenly wandering away from you. These are signs that he needs to “go potty”.
  3. Give your pup a treat and praise immediately after he goes potty in the right place. The right place is going to be outside. Choose a high-value food treat that you will only use for going potty in the right place. In addition, you praise your pup a lot for going potty outside, basically throwing a small party for him so he knows he did something great.
  4. If you catch your puppy going in the wrong place, interrupt him with eh! eh! or one sharp clap, then: a) If you think he will relieve himself further, immediately take him outside. Then, when he finishes in the right place, praise him and give him that special food treat. Or … b) If you think he has already relieved himself enough that he is not going to finish potty outside, do not yell harshly – you only need to interrupt the unwanted behavior – you never want to frighten your pup to the point where he thinks he should hide from you.

NEVER scold your pup if you find a mess AFTER he has had an accident in the wrong place. He will not learn anything from this after-the-fact correction, and it will make him nervous and frightened.

Also, always clean up accidents immediately with an odor-neutralizing product. The scent of urine or feces indoors as this will encourage future accidents.

– Dale Buchanan

CDTK & CDTB, Owner of Top Gun Dog Training

dog chewing couch

it's not what it looks like 📸 AJU_photography

Chewing and biting

TIP #1 – CHEWING AND BITING

Destructive chewing can not only be annoying, it can be costly and dangerous. Dogs naturally use their mouth to explore the world around them but it is important to teach them the things that they should and shouldn’t chew on. Be sure to provide your dog with plenty of appropriate toys to chew on.

Some toys are made for interactive play such as balls and rope toys. Although some dogs are the exception, many dogs won’t play with these toys unless someone is interacting with them. Dogs that like to chew will often settle down with a toy and use their feet as well as their mouth to chew. For dogs that like to rip up fabric or de-stuff couch cushions they may stand and use their feet to help them dissect the item, they may also toss the toy side to side or in the air.

It is important to consider how your dog interacts with the items that he is chewing on since this will tell you which types of toys he might enjoy most.

Types of toys for heavy chewers Kong makes several types of toys that are made specifically for heavy chewers. The Kong Classic toy is a food-dispensing toy that can also be used to play fetch or the dog to just chew on.

Nylabone makes hard plastic toys that are relatively safe for dogs. The plastic is made so that it is soft enough that it won’t break teeth. Nylabones come in a variety of sizes, shapes, textures, and even flavors. These toys should be thrown away when they become too worn and chewed up.

Antlers are a great option for some dogs but they are usually very hard which can cause damage to your dog’s teeth but many dogs just don’t enjoy them. If your dog enjoys antlers, there are many different types of them available.

There are no soft or fabric toys that are indestructible. If your heavy chewer likes to chew on or tear up toys made of fabric be sure to provide them plenty of options so they don’t have to turn that need to something inappropriate in your home. If your dog really likes softer toys they shouldn’t be denied access to them but instead monitored while they have them and be prepared to remove the leftover bits after they had their fun.

Food dispensing toys are great for dogs that are really motivated by the game of getting the food out. Kong Classics are always a good first option for these dogs. Kong even has a section of their website dedicated to stuffing recipes, https://www.kongcompany.com/recipes. If your dog really loves this type of toy, there are many other types of interactive toys available.

– Karen Reese

CPDT-KA, ACDBC, Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer, Fear Free Shelter Graduate, APDT Premium Professional Member #88674, Animal Behavior Manager at Operation Kindness

TIP #2 – CHEWING AND BITING

Dogs are hardwired to chew. They process a lot of information about the world around them with their mouths. It’s normal and natural for a dog to want to chew things up, and giving them a safe outlet with chew toys or naturally-shed antlers is important. But when your dog starts chewing household items, like clothing, it can turn into a problem pretty quickly.

Bored dogs need a job to do while you’re away. Leaving your best friend with stuffed puzzle toys, DIY enrichment objects (i.e., holes punched in a plastic bottle filled with kibble or treats), or goodies are hidden for an old-fashioned treasure hunt (i.e., treats, puzzle toys or chewies tied in rags “hidden” throughout the home) can go a long way towards alleviating boredom. It’s also important to make sure that your dog is receiving enough physical and mental stimulation when you are present: walks, toy play, dog-dog socialization, and training games are all ways to use up some of their energy before you leave the house.

Finally, supervision, until you can trust your dog, is key. When you’re home, keep your dog within sight, so they can’t get into trouble. While you’re away, keep them in a dog-proof space and make sure to provide them with toys. Crate training can also be a fool-proof way to ensure your dog won’t chew while you’re out of the house. Management is key and making sure the reduce the access to items the dog wants to chew.

– Nicole Ellis

Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), American Kennel Club CGC evaluator, and APDT trainer (Association of Professional Dog Trainers)

TIP #3 – CHEWING AND BITING

Positive reinforcement is the key to stopping their bad behavior. When you notice them chewing, replace the furniture in question with a tasty bone or a toy and praise them for chewing that. If they keep going for the furniture, repeat the process until they associate the toy with positive attention and the furniture with being ignored.

– Jeff Carbridge

Dog Trainer & Expert at DogOwner

dog sitting

now wut? 📸 by born1945

Basic commands

TIP #1 – BASIC COMMANDS

The sit command
Teaching a sit command is one of the first behaviors I start working on with new puppies and new dogs – along with socialization, stay, and their name. It’s never too late to teach your dog a new behavior. To begin teaching a sit behavior, get on your dog’s level, hold a treat close to his or her nose, and slowly make an arch shape with your hand. As his head follows the treat his or her butt will lower to the ground. As soon as his or her butt hits the ground reward your pup with the treat.

The come command
A ‘come’ command is one of the most useful commands, from calling your dog for dinner time to calling them out of a potentially dangerous situation this command can save your pup’s life. When teaching this command I always use some of the smelliest and tastiest treats, in many situations you are calling them away from something that seems really interesting to them – so we want to make sure coming to you can be just as rewarding.

To teach a come command put your pup on a leash. With one hand hold the leash, on the
other hand, hold a treat, take a few steps back and with a very excited voice, open arms, call ‘come’. As soon as your pup reaches your reward with the treat and some belly rubs. Slowly over time add more distance, eventually, you may want to get a long leash (10+ feet) and go to your local park and practice on a longer leash. Keep it fun and exciting, as you go into new environments outside of your home.

This is also a fun game to play with various family members, give each person a nice stack of treats and disperse throughout the house. One at a time call the pup and reward, your pup will have as much fun finding you as you will watching him run around and learn his new behavior.

– Nicole Ellis

Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), American Kennel Club CGC evaluator, and APDT trainer (Association of Professional Dog Trainers)

TIP #2 – BASIC COMMANDS

How to sit and stay
Use the dog’s favorite treats and a clicker. When you cue the dog to sit, mark the behavior with a click, and immediately give the food reward. Stand still for 5 seconds and then click and reward again when the dog stays in a sit. Slowly increase the stay by 5 more seconds until you get to around 30 seconds of stay. If the dog moves from the sit, he gets no reward (clicker marker and food). Practice 2-3 times a day for about 5 minutes each session. In about a week of practice, the sit and stay should be solid.

– Dale Buchanan

CDTK & CDTB, Owner of Top Gun Dog Training

dog humping

yeah, same 📸 by Amanda Shigehiro

Excessive humping

TIP #1 – HUMPING

Humping is a natural part of dog behavior and often relieves stress and anxiety, and is usually a sign of pent up energy. You can help alleviate humping behavior by ensuring your dog is properly exercised. If your dog humps you or other people or items, you can gently push him away and turn from him. Giving your dog attention can exacerbate the issue. If the humping persists, tell him firmly No and put him in a quiet space for one to two minutes.

– Jen Jones

Founder of Your Dog Advisor, professional dog trainer

dog eating poop

No! please stop! no! 📸 by Tony Alter

Eating poop

TIP #1 – EATING POOP

Stopping your dog from eating poop (coprophagia) is a two-fold situation. First, you’ll have to monitor and manage your dog on walks and outings, as well as ensure his yard and play areas are kept clean and waste-free. On walks, bring training treats and train him to look at you with a certain cue word when you near poop or other things along the way you don’t want him to eat.

– Jen Jones

Founder of Your Dog Advisor, professional dog trainer

dog being mean to cat

ugh please be nice 📸 by Mike Bubone

Getting along with a cat

TIP #1 – CAT FRIENDSHIP

The introduction is key when helping a cat and dog get along. If at all possible, I recommend raising a dog and cat together as a kitten and a puppy. If not, it is wise to keep their things separate and provide them with their own separate space in the house. Make sure your dog especially is properly exercised each day and has plenty to do so he or she won’t go around bothering the cat, who is likely skittish and aloof by nature. Train your dog with a good recall word and offer your cat escapes or places he can go to get away including mounted cat shelves.

– Jen Jones

Founder of Your Dog Advisor, professional dog trainer

dog biting leash

they love to do it 📸 by Quinn Dombrowski

Biting the leash

TIP #1 – BITING THE LEASH

  1. Soak your cotton leash in white vinegar or spray it with Bitter
    Apple prior to the walk
  2. Avoid pulling the leash out of your pup’s mouth, instead “trade”
    with a novel treat such as Cheerios, Rice Chex, or cornflakes
  3. Bring a favorite toy or two to encourage your dog or puppy to carry
    the toy
  4. Toss a breadcrumb trail of treats on the ground in front of your
    pup to persuade your pup to pick up the treats and keep walking

– Julie Burgess

Dog Trainer & Certified Veterinary Technician, Pet Writer at CritterCopy