If you’re a dog owner, you already know your fluffy friend requires a lot of work regardless of how cute his puppy eyes were when they first peered at you.

Training your dog to be well behaved is important, especially if you live in a neighborhood full of other people, children, and animals. Like babies, dogs don’t come into the world understanding which behaviors are acceptable. In fact, their instincts are often to do the opposite of what humans want them to. You have to teach them to have the right moves!

So you got a pandemic puppy, did you?

It’s a good idea for puppies to begin socialization early—at eight to 10 weeks. Puppies, like children, have malleable minds and a curiosity about life. They are open to, and also sometimes afraid of, new experiences. It is important to create an environment that allows puppies to feel safe around other dogs, people, and children so they have a positive association with those things. The best way to do that is to safely expose them to it all.

Puppy training classes are a great place to start. Puppies can learn basic socialization with other young dogs while a trainer looks on to make sure everyone is behaving. They will also learn foundational commands such as “sit,” “down,” and “leave it,” all of which are needed for a well-behaved house pet. Once your little Einstein has graduated from puppy school, he can move on to more difficult classes to learn how to walk on a leash without pulling, how to greet people politely at the door, and more. 

What about older dogs?

If you have an untrained adult dog, you have your work cut out for you. But it’s far from impossible to train an older dog, even if he or she comes with baggage from the past. If your dog needs basic obedience training, research available classes in your area. But if you are unsure of how your dog will react around other dogs or people, it’s best to start by working one-on-one with an experienced trainer.

It’s also good to remember the 3-3-3 Rule: Adopted dogs take 3 weeks to decompress, 3 weeks to start to know your routine, and 3 months to start to feel at home. Give them a chance.

Dog training is work, but it’s also fun!

No matter how old your dog is, here are some top training tips to get you started.

  1. Decide on house rules for your pet, such as where they are and are not allowed to go.
  2. Dog-proof your home. 
  3. Set up a safe space for your dog, such as a crate or gated-off area.
  4. Reward good behavior with pets or treats.
  5. Discourage jumping, biting, and nipping.
  6. Listen to your dog by understanding his or her body language.
  7. Get professional help if you notice aggression.
  8. Be patient.

Perhaps the best tip is to be consistent. Consistency is a huge piece of the dog-training puzzle, and you must be willing to turn every moment into a training session when you are working to get rid of unwanted behaviors. Some of the most common behaviors in dogs that drive owners crazy include constant barking, separation anxiety, chewing, jumping, begging, and digging. It will take time and effort, but turning these behaviors around will result in a beautiful, trusting relationship between you and your pet.