The benefits of dog training

By Kristia Goodnight

The benefits of training your dog are nearly endless for both your dog and you. Dog training is an essential aspect of pet ownership that can be an enjoyable way to bond with your dog while cultivating a safer, happier dog.

What are the benefits of training your dog?

One of the top dog training benefits is creating a way of communication, allowing your pet to understand what you want from them.

Training provides mental stimulation enrichment, reducing unwanted destructive behaviors. What people often consider bad behavior (chewing shoes, digging in the garden) is actually just natural dog behavior. Dogs have no concept of right or wrong, and what's considered 'bad' behavior is very subjective. By training your dog to redirect behaviors (chew on toys and not shoes), you set them up for success.

Training builds your dog’s confidence, creating a calmer and more self-assured pet. Most importantly, training is a great way to bond with your dog. It is something your dog will look forward to doing with you and strengthen your connection.

Why is dog training important?

A dog that has been trained to tolerate being handled, can be more thoroughly checked in veterinary exams, leading to more efficient care.

Training your dog creates safety for your dog in the different situations you may come across. If your dog picks up something possibly dangerous on a walk, you can use the ‘drop it’ cue to prevent them from eating it. Saving them from a trip to the emergency vet.

How to train your dog, dog training tips

Dog obedience training used to be the norm. Trainers would use force and domination to control the dog’s behavior. With the advancements in understanding how dogs learn, force-based obedience training is now considered an outdated approach that often causes more harm than good.

Today positive reinforcement training is considered the most effective dog training method. Using positive reinforcement to train your dog is as simple as it is effective. You reward the behaviors you want and ignore the undesirable behaviors. You can use praise, games, playtime, or treats to reward targeted behaviors.

Use the reward that your dog responds most to. Some dogs will value a game of fetch or a good belly rub over treats. While others will do whatever it takes for half of a chicken cookie. Using high-value rewards will motivate your dog to focus on the behaviors you want to see.

The Humane Society advises owners to be aware of unknowingly rewarding unwanted behaviors. For example, you’re training your dog not to beg but eventually give them a bite of food when they whine. You're giving a reward (access to food) for the behavior you want to discourage (begging) and reinforcing the behavior.

Does dog training really work?

The simple answer is that positive reinforcement-based dog training is shown to be incredibly effective. Reward-based training naturally shapes your dog’s behavior, but it also teaches your dog that training is fun. Your dog takes on an active role in learning.

Punishment or force-based training methods are less effective. Dogs associate the adverse ‘corrections’ with their human, breaking down the trust and bond. This makes the dog not want to try new things for fear of further punishment.

With reward-based training, your dog is free from the fear of doing the wrong thing. Your dog will actively seek out ways to earn rewards. Plus, they will pick up on what ideal behaviors look like in different situations, rather than guessing what not to do.

Being aware of breed-specific strengths and challenges in training can help you know how to work with your specific dog's instincts.

For example, herding dogs have been selectively bred for generations to be hard workers. They are task-focused and need mental challenges to stay motivated. While hound dogs are made to hunt. Their instincts tell them to always be on alert for tracking down interesting smells. They may need more practice in focusing on the tasks at hand and ignoring distractions.

Dog training options

Just like humans, different dogs will learn best in different ways. Fortunately, several training options are available for teaching your dog new skills and habits.

DIY Dog training at home

If you plan to train your dog at home, take some time to research modern training methods rather than going with the ‘way things have always been done’.

Until recently, most animal training involved punishment and force. Most of the reasoning for traditional training comes from dominance theory and wolf pack theory, both of which have been debunked.

Dominance and force-based training have been shown to be ineffective and even distressing to your dog. By learning about modern science-based training techniques like positive reinforcement, you can more efficiently train your dog. While also strengthening your bond.

Online dog training workshops

Online dog training classes are great for those with busy schedules, car-shy or reactive dogs, and those with a DIY attitude.

A One-year subscription to Petcademy is included in the Lifetime Protection Membership Plus. Petcademy offers unlimited access to over 70 video lessons, a customized training plan based on your pet’s age, history, and unique needs, unlimited one-on-one messaging with trainers and behaviorists who can help with any questions, downloadable guides, and more.

Group dog training classes

Group dog training classes are a common option and usually focus on training basics or specific skills. Group training classes are typically held weekly at a set time and location. Most classes are six to eight weekly meetings but condensed four-week classes are becoming popular.

Class sizes vary but there are always several dogs training the same skills at once. Group classes offer great opportunities for socialization and distraction tolerance while being the most affordable option.

Puppies learning socialization and more simple cues thrive in group classes. While older dogs may become bored or distracted and can benefit from more individualized training. Reactive dogs will likely have a difficult time in group classes. They struggle to focus or learn when in a reactive mindset.

Private dog training classes with a local professional 1-on-1

Personalized training sessions can take place at your home, the trainer’s facility, or even at a dog park. One-on-one training is ideal for dogs who struggle to focus in groups and reactive dogs.

They can address the same behaviors as group classes while adapting to your dogs’ unique behaviors with individualized guidance.

Board and train / dog boot camp

This is a more intensive training option where your dog is sent away to a trainer’s home or kennel facility for intensive training. Board and train facilities work well for some dogs but are not a good option for others.

You know your dog best and it’s up to you to decide if this training style is in your dog’s best interest.

How to train your dog: dog training basic cues

When training your dog, focus on the basics first.

Being handled: train your dog to tolerate their ears, eyes, and mouth being touched and inspected. Familiarize them with the general handling of their paws and tails and overall handling. This will make grooming sessions and veterinary exams less stressful for your dog.

Sit: an easy command that can build confidence and connection with your dog.

Come/recall: one of the most important cues to teach, having a strong recall can prevent runaway dogs and accidents. Even if your dog has a solid recall, an up-to-date ID tag and microchip are your first defense against a lost or missing dog.

The Lifetime Protection Membership Plan gives you 24/7 access to specialists who can quickly launch the process of finding your pet and DirectConnect, connecting you with your pet’s finder directly to arrange a quick, safe reunion.

Drop it: this cue can be lifesaving when your dog gets into something suspicious.

Stay: useful in many situations, from waiting while the front door is open to staying controlled when a squirrel is running through traffic. This cue is challenging for most dogs.

Heel: Being able to walk calmly on a leash without pulling allows your pet the opportunity to accompany your family on more outings enriching both your lives.

The benefits of a trained dog

The benefits of a well-trained dog are extensive:

The benefits of a trained dog are well worth the effort of training. You will have less stress and better management of your dog. Your dog will feel calm and comfortable knowing they can achieve what is asked of them.

Whether you chose an in-person training option or opt into online classes like Petcademy (included in the Lifetime Protection Membership Plus), training your dog creates more opportunities for a more vast and interesting life together.