COLUMN: Turn training your dog into a game

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When you own a dog, there is one word you can’t ignore — training.

Training is an important part of a dog’s life. Teaching commands like sit, lie down, wait and come gives your dog the freedom to do what he wants and you the confidence that he is under control. It also stimulates their brain, therefore increasing their happiness and relieving boredom.

One of my favourite things about being a dog-owner is seeing Harry, my West Highland terrier, using his intelligence. When I train him I can see his little brain working and it is obvious that he loves it.

Because for your dog, training should be a game — and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that dogs love to play.

Not only that, but it will strengthen the bond between you both and good training enhances your dog’s quality of life and is excellent for his welfare.

Training a dog needs patience, but it is so rewarding for you and your dog. For your dog, he is doing what many love the most — spending time with you. Not only that, but it keeps his mind active, and that is very important, especially as dogs get older.

But where do you start? If you don’t know how to train your dog, then it can be a very frustrating process for both of you.

Here’s the important bit — dogs are happiest when taught using rewards such as food, toys and praise rather than methods which frighten them or cause pain - so bear that in mind. Reward them when they have done something right rather than punishing them when they have done it wrong.

For example, if you shout at a dog who is barking excessively, he may stop because he is frightened of you but he hasn’t learnt what you want him to do which is to be quiet. If you ignore him when he barks but give lots of praise when he is quiet he will quickly learn what it is that you want.

A great way to use a positive reward system is clicker training. The clicker is a small box with a lever which when depressed makes a click sound. This is very distinctive, short-lasting and makes a unique sound.

You can purchase these for a couple of pounds from pet shops and for something so simple, they are genius. Basically, the idea is that you teach your dog to associate the click with something rewarding such as food or toys and this can then be used to train your dog a variety of different behaviours.

Don’t see training as a chore - it should be fun for both of you, so treat it that way and you’ll see how happy your dog will be every time he sees the clicker!

If you would like to find out more about clicker training and to find a trainer visit www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/dogs/training.