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Dog Training Tips from Australia's Experts

It’s easy to understand why dogs are one of the most popular pets in Australia. With their friendly and loyal nature, along with an ability to learn tricks, they make a great addition to your family.  

However, many people are unfamiliar with the concept of properly training their dogs, which can sometimes lead to undesirable behaviour and unhappy pets.

To help your dog be the happiest pooch on the block, we’ve talked to five of Australia's top dog trainers to share some of their tried and trusted dog training tips with you. Start your puppy off on the right paw and you’ll be set for lifelong fun with your four-legged pal.

Toilet Training

One of the biggest problems new dog owners have is toilet training. It is not just about training the dog to do their business in the proper place, but also to be able to control their bladder until an appropriate time.

There are a variety of useful training methods out there, some which work fast but require a lot of effort, and others that require minimal effort but take a lot longer. Mutts with Manners founder, Maria Cunningham shares a method aimed at finding a happy middle ground in between the two.

Training tip: When toilet training a dog, many people resort to using wee pads. However, to a dog, wee pads can feel very similar to carpet. Instead of using a wee pad by itself, Cunningham recommends placing fake turf over the wee pad. This way, you can simulate the feel and look of grass without the risk of the wee soaking through to your floor.

Remember that when you take your pup for a walk, you should praise them for doing their business on the grass. They'll be toilet trained in no time!

Meet the trainer: Sydney-based Mutts with Manners offers both puppy and fully grown dog behavioural training. Cunningham has been in the business for over 20 years, focusing on teaching people how to properly interact with their dogs to ensure a healthy, loving relationship that lasts a life time.

Rather than punishing dogs when they do something they shouldn't do, she teaches dog owners to reward their dogs for proper behaviour; that way they learn what is appropriate in the society they live in.

Sitting on Cue

How many times have you passed a dog owner firmly telling their pup to sit while said pup smiles adoringly at its master, tail wagging in disobedience?

Teaching your dog to sit on cue is one of the most basic behaviours that you should train your dog to perform, say Four Paws K9 Training.

It can help protect your dog in situations where you don’t want them running around, like near a busy road. Dogs young and old alike can learn this behaviour and it is surprisingly easy to teach.

Training tip: Start by concealing a treat inside your hand, but make sure your dog knows that it is there. Move your hand over your dog's head, back towards their rear end. As they look up and back for the treat, their instinctual behaviour should be to lower their bottom to the ground.

As soon as this happens, say ‘sit’ and give them the treat immediately. Just a few repetitions should have your dog sitting like a pro every time.

Meet the trainer: Each of the 25 trainers at Melbourne-based Four Paws K9 Training has their own unique specialties, ranging from puppy training to combating aggressive behaviours to teaching tricks.

All trainers employed by Four Paws are certified with Certificate III or higher in Dog Training & Behaviour. Many of the trainers participate in training new dog trainers as well.

Must Like Children

Dogs are a big part of our community and, as such, need to learn respect and patience for the children they will inevitably encounter. Understandably, one of the most common concerns dog owners have is training their dog to behave properly around children.

Conversely, children must also be taught to behave properly around dogs as well. As the trainers at Goodog say, ‘Dogs and children have to be actively supervised at all times and both need to be taught to respect each other’s space.’

Training tip: First off, make sure that your children, if they are older, understand that your dog is an animal, not a toy. They should be taught that it is inappropriate to pull the dog's tail or try to climb on top of its back. Discourage your children from trying to wrestle or engage in rough play with your dog.

When training your dog, make sure that it understands a signal to ‘drop it’ or ‘leave it’. It’s not going to end well if your dog and child end up in a tug-of-war over a favourite toy.

You can train your dog to allow humans to approach the food bowl by portioning out the food and adding it to the bowl bit by bit. Your dog will accept you approaching the bowl because they get something out of it.

Meet the trainer: Goodog focuses on positive dog training for happy dogs and happy owners. All of Goodog's trainers hold a Certificate IV or higher in Companion Animal Services.

Their trainers offer education for a variety of scenarios, including young puppies, rescue dogs and dogs with behavioural issues. If you live on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, check out their free educational seminars.

Go Fetch!

Playing fetch with a stick or ball is not only a lot of fun, but also a great way to give your furry friend the extra exercise they need. However, contrary to popular belief the behaviour of retrieving an item is not inherent for all breeds of dogs.

As K9 Trainer Liarne Henry says, you might find your dog simply sits and stares ‘wondering why you just threw a perfectly good toy away’. Train them how to play once and they’ll never look back!

Training tip: To start, you need to get your dog to focus on a toy. Wave it back and forth in front of their face a few times before throwing it. As soon as they have chased and picked up the toy, clap your hands and run the other way, which will signal your dog to chase you.

Once they have caught up to you, present them with a treat. This will lead them to drop the toy in order to take the treat. Then you are free to start the process over again.

Some dogs, particularly those with short attention spans, may only wish to chase the toy a few times. Don't get discouraged. Just try again later. Eventually, your dog will learn to enjoy the game as much as you do.

Meet the trainer: Founder of K9 Trainer, Liarne Henry, got her start training German Shepherds for the police force. She soon learned that punishment, as part of training, is ineffective; instead, she found that rewarding positive behaviours was much more effective.

Now, she utilises those same training methods, specialising in dogs with behavioural issues. She has experience working with animals across three continents and is highly sought-after for her seminars and lectures.

Sleeping the Night Through

Teaching a dog to go to bed is probably the most commonly required behaviour. It can be used when you are going to bed yourself or when you are expecting company and want your dog to stay away while you greet your guests.

Jericho Dog Training also offers dog boarding, so they know all too well the importance of getting your dog to accept when it’s time for them to rest.

Training tip: This behaviour is often easiest to teach while your dog is on a leash. Use the leash to guide them to bed. Once they have reached it, say ‘bed’ and praise and reward them with soothing tones, say the Jericho Dog Trainers.

Try not to sound overly excited, as this will likely result in them jumping up from their bed. If they do try to leave their bed, guide them back to the correct place, again saying ‘bed’. Start by having them stay on the bed for just a few minutes, then gradually build it up over time.

Meet the trainer: Jericho Dog Training utilises reward-based methods for dog training, but also focuses on training in environments filled with distractions. Many dogs can learn to perform tricks and other desired behaviours in the quiet and comfort of your own home, but then quickly ‘forget’ these behaviours when out and about.

To ensure your dog is fully trained Jericho offers one-on-one training sessions with their very own demonstration dog.

Use these training tips from some of Australia’s leading dog trainers and you’ll be on the way to fostering a relationship built on trust and respect between you and the newest addition to your family.

Whether you’ve just welcomed a new born pup into your family or rescued an adult dog, training them properly on the basic behaviours will help them live the happy lives they deserve.

Training your pet is the first step on the road to a happy life. Find out how the right pet insurance can help protect their future even further.