(A Listropolis Original)
I have a Jack Russell Terrier, and if you're familiar with this breed, you know I have my hands full. Jack Russells are extremely active, and often difficult to train. My dog's name is Dag (video to explain the name), which isn't really important, but I took him to a training class at 7 weeks old, and the tips I learned in the class were amazing - so amazing in fact, that I'm sharing them with you. These are all very simple, and I've used them to work with four other dogs, all with incredible results.
Tip 1: Socialize - If you have a puppy, it's important to socialize your dog. This doesn't mean take it to a dog park, and just let him run around. That couls actually hurt your training efforts because your dog will learn from the other dogs in the park. To properly socialize your dog, try making friends with other dog owners, and let the dogs play for 10-15 minutes a day, but keep a good eye on your dog to make sure it's not growling, or showing any other aggresive behavior.
Tip 2: The Number 12 - This also applies for puppies (younger than 1 year old). Bring your dog to 12 different places, and have it walk on 12 different surfaces. I was told a story about a dog that would walk up to the vet's door, and freeze. He loved the vet, but would not walk into the office. Turns out, the dog was afraid of the surface changing from concrete to tile. Introducing your dog to 12 places and 12 surfaces helps them overcome any fears of their surroundings. Very simple, but also very effective, and usually overlooked.
Tip 3: Uncommon Words - This was a biggie. Most people discipline their dogs by saying, "No." No is such a common word that your dog will lose any meaning given to it. Instead of using the word, "No," try finding another word that is not commonly used. My word of choice is "Wrong," and when I say wrong, Dag usually stops everything he's doing, and looks at me.
Tip 4: Discipline - Everyone disciplines their dog differently, but it's important to do it correctly. I've seen people call their dogs, and when the dog finally decides to come back to the owner, they are spanked and scolded. Wrong! This will make the dog think they will be hit everytime they come to you - meaning, they won't come to you. Our trainer used a spray bottle on mist. If any dog acted up, she'd spray it in the face, and use the word, "Wrong." This worked on most of the dogs, but not Dag. He happens to like water, and thinks the water bottle is a treat. I would spray him, and he'd run up and lick the bottle. I now use a rolled up newspaper, and hit it on a table. Usually, by the time he hears the paper being picked up, he's stopped what he was doing, and runs to me.
Tip 5: Shut Up - "Sit...sit.....sit.....sit.....sit.....sit...." Is that how you try to get your dog to sit? Big mistake. If you give a command, only give it ONCE. Wait for your dog to respond. If it does nothing, say your disciple word (wrong), and say the command again. Repeating commands to a dog will confuse them. If you say something one time, they'll be much more responsive. There are times I'll give a command to Dag, and it could take 15 seconds before he does it, but I never repeat it. I just stare at him and wait.
Tip 6: Scruffing - There are times when your dog just gets completely out of hand, and won't listen to you. This is when it's time to assert your dominance over your dog. They will periodically try to become the dominant figure in the house, but it's important you never let that happen. The best tip for establishing/reestablishing dominance is by "scruffing" your dog. Scruffing is merely holding your dog in your arms like a baby, with them on their back, and with a free hand, you hold the skin/fur on the back of the neck. Hold it tighly, but not to the point that the dog can't breath. You scruff them until they have completely settled down, which is usually seconds later. You should make it a habit to scruff your dog when they get out of hand (like growling), and make sure the dog knows you're the master of your domain....house, whatever.
Tip 7: Tug - Continuing on the topic of dominance, there are other ways you inadvertently empower your dog, and make them feel like the master. The one that is most overlooked is playing tug. You should only let your dog win at tug 5-10% of the time you play. If you give up the toy each time, your dog will assume it's got control over you.
Tip 8: Leash - Those retracting leashes are such the rage these days, but probably one of the worst training tools you could ever use. Scrap that expensive leash for a cheap 6-foot leash. The problem with the retractable leashes is that your dog will never really know where their boundaries are. Sometimes you'll stop it at 5 feet, sometimes 10 feet. A 6-foot leash lets the dog know their range at all times, and will give you much better control over them. This will greatly reduce the amount of tugging on the leash you experience, which is usually a result of the dog remembering they were able to go farther last time, so why not this time.
Tip 9: Common Tricks - This is the fun stuff. These are the simple first tricks you teach your dog. Sit is probably the most common trick, and the best method I've found, once the dog has the basics, is to make him sit before I open the door to go in or out of the house. Another simple trick to teach is come. Get a few of your friends together, and sit in a large circle. Have one person say, "Come" at a time, and reward the dog with a treat when it goes to that person. Keep doing this, and continue to expand the circle, and he'll have this trick knocked out in days. It's best to practice your new trick 25-50 times a day, and remember to only give the command once.
Hopefully these tips will be useful to you. I'm not an expert, but I took the training very serious, and have practiced what I was taught with great success. Spend some time practicing these tips (and teaching the other members of your household these tips), and you'll have a better dog in no time.
If you have other tips that have worked for you, please share them in the comments section.