Training your dog doesn't mean setting aside two hours a day to put your dog through military style drills. Instead, think about how you can communicate with your dog throughout the day to teach him and show him how you want to spend your time with one another. Here are a few simple habits that you can start getting into with your dog that will make a big difference in your best friend's behavior:
1) Feeding your dog is the perfect opportunity to reinforce desired behaviors. For example, ask your dog to "sit" and tell him to "leave it" as you slowly put his bowl of food on the ground. If your dog's bottom comes up off the ground, lift the bowl up. His bottom should swiftly return back to the ground. If not ask him to sit again. Then slowly put the bowl down. If his bottom goes up the bowl goes up. Your dog will quickly realize that sitting patiently for his food will allow him to eat it faster. It will also reinforce your "leave it" command. Once the bowl is on the ground release your dog by saying, "Ok, have it!". Your dog will happily gobble his food down. Once your dog learns to sit patiently for his food, you can also skip the bowl entirely and hide little piles of his food all over the kitchen and/or house. Return to your dog and tell him, "Ok, find it!" and watch him race around the house using his sniffer to look for his food. Your dog will be happy to turn his feeding time into game time.
2) Apply the similar feeding technique to going outside for a walk. Life rewards are very important in training your dog because you do not want your dog to become food reward dependent. Anything that your dog desires can be used as a reward. For instance, if your dog wants to go outside for a walk, he must sit nicely and calmly before his leash is put on. Putting on the leash is a reward. Then ask your dog to "sit" and "wait" at the door. Slowly open the door. If your dog's bottom comes up off the floor, simply close the door. Then ask your dog to "sit" and "wait" again. If your dog is especially excited and crazy to go for a walk, you can use treats at first to teach him this concept by rewarding your dog for sitting and waiting. If you are very consistent with closing the door when your dog's bottom leaves the floor, he will quickly learn that his 'reward' of going out the door will happen more quickly if he calmly waits for your cue. Once the door is all the way open you can release your dog by saying, "Ok, let's go!". Practicing the "sit" and "wait" at the door consistently will teach your dog to be calm and well behaved near the door, which can also be applied to greeting guests that visit your home.
3) Teach your dog "up" and "off" if you allow your dog on your furniture. It's ok to allow your furry cuddle bug on the furniture, as long as you are able to tell your dog when he is invited and when he must jump off. By consistently telling your dog when his allowed and when he's not, you can also control when and where he can jump up for a cuddle. This is also useful when you're at a friend's house who doesn't necessarily want your slobbery best friend on the furniture.
4) Consistently teaching your dog to sit at all curbs is a very smart and safe habit to get into with your dog. It may save your dog from a devastating accident and will teach your dog to stay out of the street even if he gets away from you off leash. The life reward for sitting at the curb is hearing your release command, "Ok let's go!" and being able to move forward in motion again. Always say the same release command and always make sure your dog sits at the curb so that it becomes a habit for both of you. Your dog should begin to sit at the curb automatically and wait for your cue. This daily habit may just save your dog's life one day.
5) Along with your daily walks and off leash runs, dedicate 15 minutes a day to training games with your dog. Mental stimulation is so important for your dog's brain and happiness. It will also strengthen your bond and your dog will think you're the best human in the world. Play a controlled game of Tug-o-War, a fun game of Hide-and-Go-Seek, or a nose engaging game of Find It. Make it a daily habit to have fun with your dog!
These few daily habits will communicate with your dog throughout the day and make him a calmer, more zen dog who is happy to follow your consistent, fair rules. Dogs live for life rewards and to be able to do fun things so use them to reinforce your desired behaviors. You want to
your dog how to live in our human world and you want to teach him boundaries and rules for his safety and happiness.