Important Rule of Dog Training: One Thing at a Time

AKC GoodDog! Helpline trainer Hilarie Erb explains why it is important to teach your dog each skill separately and to not package them together. In dog training, a good phrase to remember is “one thing at a time.” This means that every behavior you teach should be practiced by itself, not following or preceding any other behavior.

When practicing down, do it from a stand – do not let it follow a sit. Your dog will quickly learn that sits are always followed with something, probably a down, and he will see no reason to hold the sit. The same goes for the stand. Mix it up! Ask your dog to stand from a sit, the next time from a down. Practice sits and downs from the stand as well, randomly. This is how to ensure that your dog truly understands the actual word and is not simply giving one behavior followed by another because you’ve asked him to do it that way dozens of times.

When practicing stay, do not call her to you when it’s over! Go to your dog; calmly take yourself to where she is staying so nicely and reward her generously and then release. If you release and then reward, you actually reinforced the dog getting up – not staying.

Stay and come-when-called are two completely separate things. Save the come-when-called for another time. If you call your dog from the stay, she will quickly learn to anticipate your call each time you ask for a stay. Why shouldn’t she cut to the chase and forget that stay thing and just come on over right now?

After your dog successfully performs the behavior he’s been asked for, be quick about marking it and rewarding it. This lets him know he’s done the right thing and he’ll be able to put the action with the word.

A great thing about teaching dogs this way is that you can pack a lot of training into your day. If you practice each behavior just a few times randomly through the day, you will find that it’s much easier than you thought to have a well-trained dog!

To get your dog training questions answered quickly, call the AKC GoodDog! Helpline trainers. They are available seven days a week via this handy telephone service. To learn how to enroll, go to: www.akcgooddoghelpline.org