Top Five Tips for Successful Dog Training

Top Five Tips for Successful Dog Training! It’s scientifically sound advice to be nice to your dog. So says the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, in a consensus article, Good Trainers: How to identify one (2006). The authors, esteemed veterinarians and experts in behavior, recommend positive training methods and tools, and warn against the use of punitive methods and tools. Intimation and pain-based methods can actually worsenyour dog’s behavior.

Samantha learns Sit Pretty easily with the help of Positive Reinforcement methods. Photo Courtesy of Nicole Marlin.

Sadly, the unregulated field of dog training has no “Do No Harm” ethic. Anyone can call themselves an “expert dog trainer “. How’s a well-meaning pet parent supposed to figure out what is really best for their dog?

Here’re some tips:

  1. Train early and practice often. Early training (at 8 weeks) trumps genetics. Be proactive and you can prevent many problems.
  2. Socialize, socialize, socialize. Socialization is the most important thing your dog will ever learn. Socialization skills with humans, other dogs and tolerance of moving objects are the most difficult challenges.
  3. Listen to what your dog is telling you. Your dog is “talking” to you all the time, through her body language. Learn to “read” dog body language: ears, tail, posture, facial expressions etc., and hear what your dog is telling you. Let this be the guide to your next move.
  4. Speak to your dog in a language your dog can understand. A common language is available to you and your dog to help you communicate clearly. Use easy-to-learn hand signals. Reward behaviors that you want repeated. You will be able to brag about how smart your dog is!
  5. You never need to hurt your dog, physically or psychologically, in order to train your dog. Methods and collars that hurt can cause aggression. Get your information from reliable sources, not from TV shows that warn, “Do Not Try This At Home.” Redirect, don’t correct!

Remember, both you and your dog can both get what you want. Scientifically- endorsed Positive Reinforcement methods are the most effective, long lasting, and safest. Your pet is a member of your family, but will be "a two-year old for life." Be kind. Be patient. Play daily.

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: [email protected] for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at

Originally published in the U~T San Diego, Scratch n' Sniff. Chris Ross, Editor. 2012



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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


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