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Before you start training your dog

The ability to train a dog is not some mythical thing that only a few people possess. It is relatively straightforward and immensely rewarding. Don't get me wrong , watching an experienced dog handler is a joy and they are certainly skilled, but the methods used can be applied by anyone with a bit of common sense.

There are some things you need to consider before you start training your new family member though.

The most important thing is:-

Consistency, consistency, consistency. Decide what you want your dog to do and not to do and stick to it. Don't let him or her jump up at you one day (when you're wearing jeans and a t-shirt) and then shout at him when he does it another time (when your wearing your best suit or dress). It's not fair.

The list is endless, but these tips should help:-

Form a bond. Being the pack leader is important. If you aren't pack leader, your dog will be happy to fill the role, then you become his or her bitch (it's a dog thing). You have a definite advantage over your dog, you're bigger, cleverer and more adaptable. You provide the food, water, access to all fun things (toys, garden etc) and a bond should develop between you, when it does it's a wonderful thing.

Get the whole family involved. This ties in with consistency. Other family members can destroy a weeks good training. From the child who feeds the dog under the table to the husband or wife who lets the dog pull him on walks.

Know your dog. You have to adapt any training techniques to the temperament of your dog. It's no good shouting at a dog that is nervous (in fact you shouldn't shout at all, a sharpness of tone should be enough, but we're not all saints). Even if you've had a dog before, what worked before may not work for a different dog.

Find the motivation. Before you start training finding out what motivates your dog is a good idea, is it praise, a favourite toy, or a treat? Find out what rocks his or her boat and you're half way there. Praise and reward are the key to effective training.

Find the right tone . What tone of voice does your dog respond to best. Women are generally better at praising a dog (higher pitched voice) and men are better at saying "No!" (lower pitched voice). Practise getting your dog's attention, what tone of voice does he respond to best? What gets his tail wagging and what makes him stop doing what he's doing?

Be flexible. There are loads of different training methods out there. If one method doesn't work, don't give up, just find another one. If there is one near you try enrolling at a training school, there you can teach your dog basic commands like "Heel!", "Sit!", "Stay", and "Come!". But please do the actual training yourself. If you send your dog away to a trainer you will end up with a dog whose obedient to the trainer. Dogs aren't stupid.

Keep it short and simple. Unless your dog suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder he or she will get bored doing the same thing over and over. Variety is the spice of life.

There's a time and place for everything. This is NLP for dogs. Reduce the number of distractions around when you're training. Pick a place and set aside a specific time each day.

Timing is all. Training time should be timed to coincide with when your dog is alert and not too lively but not too tired either. Half way through a walk or after a nap in the day.

Final reward. After a good training session release the reins a bit and play with your dog. No commands, just a game of chase or fetch. Just for the fun of it.