We've conducted some research on some of the most common dog training questions dog owners are seeking answers to.
It seems dog owners are keen to understand the answers to dog behaviour queries such as:
- Dominance (is it a real thing?)
- Barking and separation anxiety (how to fix it)
- Is it ok for dogs to sleep on the bed?
- How important is it to play with dogs?
- & more!
If we've missed any dog training questions you'd like us to cover, feel free to comment at the end of this article.
Most common dog training questions
How do I teach my dog not to continuously bark and destroy my furnishings when I leave him at home alone?
Ross McCarthy, a top choice London based dog trainer: "The barking or destruction is a sign of distress and you will need to work to address the cause – not mask the symptom."
He added, “The outward signs of separation-related anxiety can be barking, howling, urinating or defecating, destruction via chewing, scratching or trying to escape, excessively boisterous behaviour on the owners return and in extreme cases even self-mutilation and biting the owners prior to their leaving the house. A dog may display one or more of these symptoms.” (Reference)
Read more about coping with separation anxiety »
Does my dog want to dominate me if he walks in front of me or pulls on his leash on me?
Victoria Stilwell of Positively: “The simple answer is no. This is clearly a misapplication of outdated claims and seemingly countless myths and misunderstandings about how our dogs think, learn and relate to those around them. (Reference)
Should I allow my dog to sleep on my bed or should I have her sleep elsewhere?
Gemma Johnstone of The Spruce Pets: “There is nothing wrong with choosing to have your dog sleep elsewhere. Just be consistent, make sure they have a comfortable space and reward them for going there. Separate sleeping areas can be especially beneficial under certain circumstances.” (Reference)
If I train with food will I always have to use food?
Jessica Char, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, a Certified Fear Free Trainer and a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer: “Treats are a fast and easy way to reward your dog, but they aren’t your only option. Just like food, anything your dog wants or enjoys can be a reward."
"Once your dog understands the basics of new behaviour, you can use many aspects of their daily life to practice and reinforce that behaviour. Throwing a ball, putting down the food bowl, opening the door for a walk, taking the leash off at the dog park and giving attention and cuddles can all be wonderful rewards for good behaviour."
"While your dog doesn’t need to work 100% of the time, they can learn to love training and listening to you because it leads to so many of the fun things in life.” (Reference)
How long does it take to housebreak a dog?
Expert animal trainer Brandon McMillan: “The housebreaking process, sometimes called housebreaking or potty training, can take between three to five months for some dogs. However, all dogs are different in their specific experience, ages and temperaments, so the duration of the process may vary depending on the dog or puppy."
"In the case of rescue dogs and dogs with potential trauma, the housetraining process can take up to a year.” (Reference)
How do I prepare for my dog's training sessions?
David Levin, the Owner of Citizen Hound, who has over 9 years of professional dog walking and training experience: “When you are working with your dog, be calm and neutral. Any form of agitation and excitement on your part will negatively affect the outcome of training."
"You should be mindful of the fact that the goal of training is to be able to reinforce good dog behaviour and to ignore or not reinforce bad ones. It may sound strict but producing a well-trained dog requires the determination and conviction to see it through.” (Reference)
What are the basic commands that I can teach my dog?
Mikkel Becker, a certified trainer, dog behaviour counsellor and the lead animal trainer for Fear Free: “Although there are many behaviours that promote, there are three basic commands that are especially critical: "down-stay," "drop it" and "come."
"Not only should every dog be familiar with these behaviours, but dogs should be trained to perform them anywhere, anytime.” (Reference)
Is it good to teach my dog to protect me?
Animal Behavior College: “Many pet owners feel their dogs are protecting them from threats. It’s a comforting feeling for humans, but dogs feel frustrated. When dogs growl at people approaching, while sitting in their pet owner’s lap, this is called resource guarding."
"Yes, your growling dog is protecting his resource, which is you, but protective dog behaviour is dangerous that will get worse, if not addressed quickly.” (Reference)
What training methods should we use?
Jackie Murphy, a canine behaviourist and trainer: “Make sure they use reward-based methods only. No one should use negative or punishment when training a dog.”
She added, “Working with a trainer also means they should be able to answer any of your questions or concerns. They should be able to break down the training exercises, progress your training and help to proof your work with your dog so that you have a well-mannered and trained dog. (Reference)
Do we need to regularly play?
Qualified CAPBT Companion Animal Practitioner David Brice: “Exercise and mental stimulation are mandatory not just an occasional bonus. Make sure you are capable of meeting the dog’s physical needs but also their personality needs.”
“Play is great, activity toys will stop the bolting of food and engage the brain; make feeding fun, but also slightly tiring. Tailor your play sessions to the dog’s abilities and breed; ball games, tracking games, chase games, tugging games, agility, fly ball are all mental stimulation as well as physical exercise.”, he added. (Reference)
When should I start socializing my puppy?
Debra Horwitz. a Veterinary Behavior Consultant: “Socialization should begin as soon as you get your puppy and often this means at 7 weeks of age. Puppies naturally accept new people, other species and introduction to new situations during the socialization period which occurs between 7 and 14 to 16 weeks of age."
"This period provides an opportunity for a myriad of introductions that will provide positive memories that last a lifetime. Puppies are eager, exploratory and uninhibited during this period and it is important to take advantage of this enthusiasm."
"Be sure to protect your puppy during this period and ensure that all experiences are positive, fun and not fear evoking.” (Reference)
How can I help my dog to relax after training?
Pedigree: “When your puppy gets home, give them a warm hot-water bottle and put a ticking clock near their sleeping area. This imitates the heat and heartbeat of littermates and will soothe your puppy in their new environment.”
“This tip maybe even more important for a new dog that previously lived in a busy, loud shelter, particularly if they’ve had a rough time early in life. Whatever you can do to help your new pet get comfortable in their forever home will be good for both of you.”, they added. (Reference)
Is punishing my dog doing any good?
DogsTrust: “Punishment should never be used in training. If you punish your dog, it will only teach him to be scared of you and may eventually teach him to be aggressive. He will mistrust you and your relationship may break down completely.
"Avoid punishment in training (and in everyday life). It’ll be far more effective and could improve your relationship with your dog.” (Reference)
Is it safe to just pick a dog trainer for my dog?
RSPCA: “Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, even if they don't have the appropriate knowledge and skills. It's important to find a good trainer as some training methods can be harmful or lead to behaviour problems.” (Reference)
Do I have to consider my dog’s breed when training?
Mike Clark, a former professional dog walker and pet sitter: “Pay attention to your dog’s breed and find out their natural tendencies. If you’re training a dog to go against its natural abilities, you may be putting too much stress and pressure on your pup by over-training when you don’t see the results you want. This can be psychologically damaging and cause severe anxiety.” (Reference)
When can I start training my puppy?
Veterinary Behavior Consultant Debra Horwitz: “You will be training your puppy from the moment you bring it home and start to house train. Puppies start learning from birth and good breeders begin handling and socialization right away. Some training can begin as soon as the puppy can open its eyes and walk."
"Young puppies have short attention spans but you can expect them to begin to learn simple obedience commands such as “sit,” “down,” and “stay,” as young as 7 to 8 weeks of age.” (Reference)
When going out of the door, can I let my dog lead?
Certified dog trainers at Animal Behavior College: “When bringing your dog out for a walk, grab yummy treats and leash your dog before opening the door. Then, crack open the door and peek outside for any close distractions that can scare your dog."
"If the coast is clear, open the door a bit wider and poke your head out for any distractions approaching or leaving the area. If it’s safe, open the door, so your dog can step out and toss a few treats on the ground."
"This gives your dog something fun to do while you scan the area for further distractions down the road.” (Reference)
Why is my dog seeming hyper?
Cesar Millan, a Mexican-American dog behaviourist: “If your dog seems hyper, or overly-excited, the problem likely stems from boredom and a lack of stimulation. So in order to address the problem, you have to assess the way you are interacting with your dog and the kind of activity your dog gets on a daily basis.” (Reference)
If my dog doesn't learn, is he stupid?
K9 Magazine: “Scientists at the University of Arizona have discovered that dogs with larger brains outperform smaller dogs in some cases, but not all. In particular, they discovered that larger dogs have better short-term memory and self-control than smaller dogs.”
They added, “A dog's ability to learn is best defined by the hedonic index, which factors in the subjective feeling of pleasure or suffering, or their "hedonic appeal", after a single reward or punishment for a particular behaviour. A dog's ability to learn depends in large part on the degree of experience gained from previous rewards.” (Reference)
As there are so many variables and ways to train and raise a dog, it is hard to put absolutes on every hows and whys. That being said, there is a joke among dog trainers that the answer to nearly every question asked about a dog is “It depends.”
If you have a dog training question you'd like us to cover, comment below: