Old dogs can learn new tricks. Although training is most effective during their puppy years, you can train dogs at any age. And while you can and should teach the basic dog commands yourself, professional help can make things easier. Ask your veterinarian, breeder or pet-store manager to recommend an obedience school. Just remember: A well-disciplined dog begins with a well-disciplined owner. If you're inconsistent in your training, your dog will be inconsistent in their behavior.
Dogs Respond Best to Positive Reinforcement
Food and a loving voice are excellent positive reinforcements and make training much more effective than negative actions or punishments. When food is used, it can be either dry kibble or treats. Remember to monitor how much food or treats you feed your dog during training and to reduce the amount fed at mealtime accordingly. Treats should not exceed more than 10% of the total calorie intake for the day.
Train Your Dog to Sit
Say "sit" while you push down on your dog's back near their tail, and hold a treat just above eye level. As they stretch their neck for the treat, the pressure on their back will cause them to sit down. Use the sit command to keep your dog from leaping on visitors.
Teach Your Dog to Stay
Once your dog has mastered the "sit" command, reinforce it to teach them how to stay. Simply practice the sit command from farther and farther distances, commanding your dog to "sit" and then "stay." When you're ready, call out, "Come," and they'll come running (earning both the admiration and gratitude of your visitors). And make sure you give your good doggy a treat!
Train Your Dog to Lie Down
To get your dog to lie down, first train them to sit. Then, gently pull out their forepaws as you command, "Down." When they're settled on the floor, hold them down gently with one hand while giving them a treat (at floor level) with the other.
Teach Your Dog to Heel
First, your dog must have a firm grasp of what "sit" means. Then, fit them with a lead and training collar (which you should remove whenever you're not using it for training). With your dog sitting at your left, say, "Heel" and begin walking. They'll probably shoot ahead, but pull back gently on the lead until you're even with them and repeat the command. Walk at a deliberate, even pace, and gently but firmly pull your dog next to you, at which point you repeat the "heel" command. Eventually, your dog will move from one place to another in response to your pointed finger and will sit at the sound of a finger snap. Sometimes it helps to hold a treat at the heel location, and they'll follow it while you say, "Heel."