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Dog Training Basics: Tips from Petco Trainers

We love our dogs so much that it can be easy to forget that their instincts are not always aligned with what we need for a harmonious household. With proper training, we have a chance to set everyone up to be successful by showing our pups what we would like them to do in order to fit into our lifestyles. The best way to help keep you and your dog—and everyone your dog comes into contact with—safe and happy is to properly train your pup. Of course, there’s more to dog training than just “sit” and “stay”. Here’s everything you need to know to prepare for your successful training journey.

Why dog training classes are important

Proper training is essential for a long, happy and safe relationship with your dog as it sets the foundation for physical fitness, mental alertness, social engagement and emotional stability. Dogs thrive when they are shown what we prefer them to do to fit into their family's routine. When they’re left without an understanding of what’s preferred they may create their own habits and routines. A dog who’s properly trained is also better company, which makes social outings and home visits much less stressful.

As a pet parent, it’s important to remember that training happens every time you interact with your dog and occurs throughout your dog’s life. Patience is one of the keys to successful training. Training that’s done improperly—or inconsistently—is less effective. The best way to ensure that your dog is properly trained and that their training sticks, is to enroll them in professional training classes with a certified dog trainer.

petco training book

How dog training works

If you’ve never been through dog training, it’s helpful to know how it works before you sign up. You’ll learn what to expect with each class and be able to continue following the proper training principles at home. 

The Petco-certified Positive Dog Trainers at Petco abide by a science-based, positive reinforcement dog-training philosophy. This means that training classes follow rewards-based, fun and effective methods to instill positive behaviors and that appeal to your dog. Training focuses on rewarding dogs for doing things correctly, making them more likely to repeat those behaviors, while dissuading negative behaviors through management and refocusing tactics. Positive reinforcement training has been proven effective in not only training any type learner but also in building a strong bond between pet parents and their dogs.

Dog training class schedule

Petco offers dog training classes for every level of learner in an environment that sets both dog and pet parent up to succeed long after classes have ended. Here’s what’s offered:

  • Puppy Level 1: This is a 6-week introductory group class for 2- to 4-month-old puppies. It covers the basics that every puppy needs, including socialization, potty training, preventing/redirecting chewing, digging and more.
  • Puppy Level 2: This 6-week group class for 4- to 6-month-old puppies expands upon the basics learned in Level 1, plus introduces the concept of establishing behaviors as routine and teaches fun games to keep puppies mentally stimulated and engaged.
  • Adult Dog Level 1: This 6-week course is designed for dogs over 6 months old to establish better communication with pet parents. Cues like “leave it” and “wait” will be covered, along with loose-leash walking and mitigating undesirable behaviors like jumping, barking and digging.
  • Adult Dog Level 2: This 6-week course designed for dogs who have graduated from Adult Dog Level 1 covers more advanced and complex training environments to ensure you and your dog are ready for more distracting situations. Additional fun games for physical and mental stimulation are also covered.
  • Private Training Lessons: More customized training solutions and one-on-one instruction built for the training goals you have for your dog are offered. These lessons can be conducted at a Petco location or in your home (where available).

Petco dog training classes are offered in a variety of packages to ensure the needs of every dog are met. Learn more about the classes here.

Dog training basic behaviors

When you bring your dog to a professional Petco dog training class, you can expect them to learn foundational behaviors, and then some. Foundational behaviors include:

  • Come: Getting your dog to come to you whenever called is one of the most vital behaviors to have in your repertoire.
  • Down: A position that may be more comfortable for your dog to “wait” or “stay” in, especially when they need to stay for an extended period of time.. 
    Go to your bed: A good place to send them but still have them nearby when you have company or are eating meals.   ·     
  • Leave it: When cued, your dog will leave an object/thing/person alone and refocus their attention on you.
  • Loose-leash walking: Most pet parents expect their dog to walk nicely on a leash without pulling. Positive training methods and proper equipment will help you teach this.
  • Sit: Useful when you’re attaching your dog’s leash, greeting people, giving medication, brushing them, etc
  • Stay: Teaches them to not move from a specific position such as "sit."
  • Wait: Don't cross this boundary (a doorway, for example). Your dog doesn't have to sit or lie down, just not move forward.
petco training book

Dog training tips

Although the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to properly training your pup is understanding, patience and consistency, it’s useful to also remember:

  • Puppies can learn, too: You’d be surprised at how early a puppy can begin picking up on training cues. Start at home with short sessions to see how much your puppy can learn.
  • Keep sessions short: Puppies have especially short attention spans, so dedicate no more than a few minutes to each behavior to start.
  • Get the right products: Depending on your goals for your dog, there might be a product on the market that can help you with your training. For example, if your dog pulls the leash while walking, a no-pull harness or head halter designed to curb this behavior might help. Providing your puppy with appropriate chew toys can also help abate chewing issues while promoting oral health and reducing boredom. A Petco trainer can help point you in the right direction based on the behavior you are looking for.
  • Reward on time: Dogs connect verbal praise to what they did very close in time to when the praise occurred. Appropriate and preferred behaviors should be rewarded immediately.
  • Pick the right rewards: When focusing on positive reinforcement, having the proper rewards, or reinforcers, to convey  “well done, more of that please,” is essential. Keep treats small, soft and delicious, and make sure your dog likes what you’re providing. Other reward options are verbal praise, pets/scratches, toys, play—whatever your dog enjoys and reacts well to.
  • Remember—crates can be great: Rather than considering crates restrictive, think of them as an easy way to keep your dog safe while you’re not home and help eliminate potential unwanted behaviors that can arise from boredom or loneliness. Make the crate experience fun by introducing it in a positive and rewarding way, hiding tasty treats or putting a food-stuffed toy inside.
  • Be consistent: As you work with your dog, they will learn to repeat the behaviors that you reinforce. It is important that every family member has agreed on which behaviors are acceptable and preferred, how to consistently reinforce these behaviors and what to do when a less favored behavior is observed.
  • Do your part: Proper dog training is a partnership between you and your dog. That means listening during class and following up at home. For example, when it comes to house training, show your dog where elimination should take place, and stick to the routine. By staying patient and consistent, you’ll be more likely to succeed.

A properly trained dog is not only safer but a pleasure to be around. Petco has all the expert advice you need and classes to fit any training level. So, what are you waiting for—a better-behaved dog could be just a few short weeks away!

Download our dog training care sheet for reference