Treat your shelter dog the same way you would a new puppy coming into your house. Assume he has never had any training. Even if he has had obedience training in the past, he may need a refresher after all he's been through. Your best bet is to expect that he knows nothing. This way you'll be pleasantly surprised if the dog already knows some basic commands or is already housebroken, but you won't be setting him up for failure with expectations that are too high. Be sure to train your new dog using positive reinforcement. Keep training sessions upbeat and low-stress.
Likewise, if you have a special place you’d like the dog to stay when she needs to be out of the way of household activities, take her there. This is where you can finally let her off-leash. That place can be where her bed is, or a spot in the corner of the living room where you want her to lie, or her crate. By letting her off the leash here, you are telling her, “This is yours.” Don’t be surprised if she immediately decides to settle down and ignore the family for a while. This doesn’t mean she hates her new home. It means that she has found her place in it.
It’s also a good idea to assume your dog wasn’t socialized by previous owners. At a minimum she isn’t socialized to all the stimuli in her new life with you. It will be your responsibility to expose her to all the sights, sounds, smells, and other living creatures in her new environment. Take care not to overwhelm her, though. Let her set the pace and use gentle encouragement if she’s especially timid or shy.

Animal Learning. Classical and operant conditioning, positive and negative reinforcement, positive and negative punishment, conditioned reinforcers, discrimination, generalization, habituation, sensitization and desensitization, blocking and overshadowing, motivation, establishing operations, conditioned emotional responses. Comparisons of dog learning to human learning.
At the Louisiana SPCA, our Training and Behavior team utilizes methods that are rooted in the sciences of animal learning and dog behavior to help you reach your behavior goals. From basic manners and advanced skills to fear and aggression, our trainers will help you build a positive, lasting relationship with your dog.  Email training@la-spca.org with any questions.  Check out our Training FAQ Page for more information on our training programs.
Some dogs are fearful and when they are exposed to frightening situations, they need to have your reassurance that everything is going to be okay. Gradual exposure to new situations is the best approach. If your dog is afraid of loud noises, start with moderate situations, staying right beside your pet, and increase the exposure giving lots of affection and reassurance, but don’t stress your dog unnecessarily. Overexposure to fearful situations can lead to phobias. Dogs become phobic when they are left alone, victimized by abusive humans or other animals, or neglected by their owners. Giving them reassurance and the best possible care with lots of love and attention increases the odds of having a well adjusted dog.
Many owners wonder if they should enlist the help of a professional dog trainer. Enrolling in a training class with your dog is often a great way to begin the training process, but it’s important not to rely on the trainer to teach your dog. A trainer’s job is primarily to teach the owner how to train the animal. By learning how to train your dog yourself, you can take the training home with you and better connect with your pet.

Once your puppy can turn around to face you, begin adding movement and making the game more fun! Toss a treat on the ground and take a few quick steps away while calling your puppy’s name. They should run after you because chase is fun! When they catch you, give them a lot of praise, treats or play with a tug toy. Coming to you should be fun! Continue building on these games with longer distances and in other locations. When training outside (always in a safe, enclosed area), it may be helpful to keep your puppy on a long leash at first.
“Leave it” is one of the basic dog commands that can transform your pet into a reliable pet that has a tremendous amount of will power. It will give you more control over preventing your pet from picking something up with his mouth that he is considering. Start training by placing something that your dog wants to have within reach and telling him “leave it.” He may grab it anyway for the first few times, but be patient and continue to work with him. As he approaches the item, keep saying “leave it.” If he gets too close, pull him back repeating the phrase. Don’t let him have it, but when he obeys, give him a reward in the form of a treat and praise. Repeat the process until he fully understands and becomes compliant.

The idea of using treats to train is often equated with bribery. Truthfully, dogs do what works. If using treats gets them to do what you want, then why not? You can also use the world around you as a reinforcement. Every interaction you have with your dog is a learning opportunity, so when you think about it, you probably don’t use food very often except during active training sessions. So why does your dog continue to hang out? Because you reinforce him with praise, touch, games and walks. Just remember, the behavior should produce the treat; the treat should not produce the behavior.
It’s a good idea to give him some small treats as rewards for training. You can use soft commercial food treats sized for puppies, pieces of string cheese, or small pieces of cut-up hot dog that he can swallow right away. Avoid hard, crunchy treats because they take a while to chew. Give treats to your puppy immediately—within half a second of him completing the desired behavior. The faster you confirm the behavior you want, the easier it is for your puppy to understand what you’re trying to teach him. When you give the reward, follow it up by saying “Good boy!”
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