top of page

From Basic to Pro Dog Training: 10 Must-Know Tips Before Starting

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Basic to Pro Dog Training

A with any transformative journey, the road to a well-behaved companion begins with a solid foundation. That's why I've compiled a list of ten essential tips to keep in mind before you start training your dog. These guidelines will not only help you get the most out of your training sessions, but also lay the groundwork for a deep and meaningful bond between you and your pup.

But it doesn't end there. As a bonus, I've included some additional information at the end of the article to take your training to the next level. By following these tips, you'll unlock the full potential of your canine companion and set yourself on the path to a happy and fulfilling relationship. So what are you waiting for? It's time to start training your dog like a pro!

One: As we embark on this journey with our dogs, it is imperative to set goals and take the time to consider the specific tasks and behaviors we hope to see from our pups in order to accomplish those goals. Let's say for instance, your goal is to have a well-behaved dog in all situations. It may seem like a daunting task, but with a plan in place, it is definitely achievable.

When crafting your plan, you want to identify the tasks and commands that your dog must master to meet your desired outcomes. For example, if you can communicate these commands with your dog at any time: 'Come', 'Sit', 'Down', 'Heel', 'Place', 'Off', 'Drop it', 'Leave it', 'Quiet', and 'Stay', with reliability, you’ll have a well-trained dog. By focusing on these key tasks, you can achieve the level of obedience you desire and create the well-trained dog of your dreams.

Also, remember, effective dog training starts with outlining your goals and tasks in writing, and following a detailed plan. This approach will increase your chances of success. It's all about the little details, the discipline and the consistent work that gets you the end goal. Just like in life, the most successful people are the ones who set clear objectives, and execute them with precision and perseverance. So take your time, be patient and stay the course, the results will be worth it.

Two: When it comes to training your canine companion, consistency reigns supreme. A well-structured daily routine can make all the difference in your dog's overall well-being and happiness. They thrive on predictability and knowing what to expect in terms of responsibilities, meal times, training sessions, and playtime. This is why having a written schedule that is planned out and shared with everyone in the household is essential. Not only will this routine help your dog feel more secure and balanced, but it will also make it easier for you to plan and stick to a training schedule that works for both you and your dog. Remember, a well-structured routine leads to greater success and a more well-adjusted dog.

Three: When it comes to equipping yourself for training, there are a few key items you'll want to have on hand. A 4-foot leash, martingale collar, treats, a climb bed, tripod, camera or phone, and a training pouch or vest are all essential. You may think it's odd to record your training sessions, but trust me, reviewing footage will help you pinpoint areas for improvement. Additionally, a long line, harness, crate, and toys are all important tools that will aid in your training journey. And if you're so inclined, a clicker can also be a valuable asset. Having all of these things at the ready will set you up for success from the start.

Four: Creating a distraction-free environment is crucial for successful training, especially in the beginning stages. This can be challenging, as your dog's attention may be pulled in various directions. However, by minimizing distractions as much as possible, you will be able to capture and maintain your dog's focus during early training, making it more effective and efficient. This means removing potential sources of distractions from the training area. This way, you will be the only factor worth paying attention to. As your dog becomes more proficient in obedience, controlled distractions can be gradually introduced to further challenge and improve their skills.

Five: As a dog owner or trainer, it's important to understand the significance of mastering training techniques before working with your dog. While it may seem unnecessary to practice on your own, without your dog present, this step is vital for building muscle memory and truly understanding the training process.

Before beginning any new training with your dog, take some time to practice techniques such as markers, delivery, food handling, and luring. Start by learning the proper way to use markers, such as a clicker or a verbal cue, to clearly communicate with your dog. Next, focus on mastering the art of delivery, which is the way you deliver rewards to your dog for a job well done. This includes things like timing, consistency, and the type of reward you're using.

By taking the time to perfect these techniques on your own, you'll be able to more effectively communicate with and train your dog. Remember, if we want our dogs to excel in new skills, it's essential that we master them first! So, take the time to practice and perfect these techniques, and you'll be amazed at the results you and your dog will achieve.

Six: Prior to starting any training session, it is vital to ensure that both you and your canine companion are in the appropriate frame of mind. This includes being fully engaged and focused, free of any distractions or stress. Additionally, your dog should be at ease, relaxed, and eager for treats. If your dog is still adjusting to their environment or displaying signs of caution or fear, it's best to hold off on training until they are more comfortable. Keep in mind that training should be a fun and positive experience for both of you. Therefore, take a moment to check in and ensure that you and your pup are in the right mindset before proceeding. Starting training when your dog is not fully adjusted and comfortable can lead to negative associations and make the training process more challenging and less enjoyable for both of you. It's better to wait and begin with a positive attitude than to rush and risk potential failure.

Seven: Training your dog effectively requires a deep understanding of their motivation. Everything your pet does is driven by a desire to obtain something they want, avoid something they don't want, or engage in an activity that is inherently enjoyable. By identifying and utilizing these motivators, you can guide your dog towards the behaviors you desire.

One effective training method is to use markers to communicate with your dog which behaviors are desirable. By rewarding your dog for natural, desired behaviors throughout the day, you can encourage them to actively seek out actions that have previously earned them rewards. This approach creates a proactive, operant dog that understands the consequences of their actions and can be trained even when treats are not present.

It's important to remember that when you bring a dog into your home, they don't come with predetermined roles or responsibilities. It's up to us to shape their behavior and ensure it aligns with our preferences. By understanding our dog's motivations, we can use them to our advantage during training.

Eight: Managing your dog's diet is a crucial aspect of successful training. By maintaining proper portion control and avoiding overfeeding, you can set your dog up for success. One effective way to do this is by pre-planning and preparing your dog's meals and treats for the day and setting it off to the side. This is particularly beneficial in households with multiple family members, as it helps to prevent overfeeding. By keeping all of the food in one designated location, you can easily keep track of how much your dog is consuming each day. This allows you to make adjustments to the portion size as needed, ensuring that your dog is receiving the appropriate amount of food for their size and activity level. Additionally, by having all of the food in one spot, you eliminate any confusion or second guessing about whether or not your dog has had enough to eat for the day. This helps you to maintain control over your dog's diet and supports their overall well-being.

Nine: The key to successful training is consistency. To maintain consistency in your commands, it's important to use a combination of formal and informal commands. Formal commands are those that always require action - for example, if you're still working on a specific behavior and need to give a physical cue, you should always follow through with that cue and reward the behavior when your dog performs it correctly. Informal commands, on the other hand, are more relaxed and don't require follow-through. For example, if you're using the "Come" command, you might use a formal command like "Come" in a specific situation where you need your dog to respond promptly, and the informal version like "Come here boy, let's go" in a casual situation. By using a balance of formal and informal commands, you'll keep your training consistent and prevent any confusion or damage to important commands due to a lack of follow-through.

Ten: Another thing to bear in mind when training your dog is the importance of setting boundaries for different activities and the locations in which they should take place. Our dogs have a natural tendency to associate certain activities with specific locations, and it is up to us to decide how we want them to behave in different surroundings. For example, if you want your dog to be relaxed and calm in the living room, it's crucial to avoid allowing playtime in that area. By creating these boundaries, you'll be helping your dog understand the expected conduct and behavior in each environment. This will make it easier for them to understand when and where certain activities are appropriate and when they are not. This will help you to have a well-behaved, calm and happy dog in any environment.

Bonus: As a dog owner, there are certain principles to abide by in order to establish a positive relationship with your furry companion. One crucial rule is to teach specific behaviors in controlled environments. For instance, if you want your dog to remain calm when someone rings the doorbell, it's essential to train them in a safe and controlled setting.

Another essential principle is to avoid taking things away from your dog, as it can lead to trust and resource guarding issues. Instead, teach your dog an "out" or "drop it" command using value transfer, which means trading something of high value for the item in question. This way, your dog won't be afraid of losing their things, and you'll be able to avoid any resource guarding problems.

It's also important to refrain from yelling at your dog, as it can harm the trust and relationship between you and your dog, and can lead to fear issues.

It's also important to avoid scaring your dog, as it can have long-lasting negative effects, particularly during the puppy stages. Instead of creating a submissive dog, we want to cultivate confidence by showing them that they are a valued member of the team, and that their well-being is always top priority.

Lastly, play as much as possible with your dog. Play is one of the best ways to build and develop a strong bond with your dog. It also has the potential to transfer over as a reward during obedience training. Play is so powerful that it should be the activity you do most with your dog.

By following these guidelines, you will be well on your way to achieving a happy, well-trained dog.

1,284 views4 comments






I will begin this letter with my honest and sincere thanks to all of you in equal, if different measures.

I am a first-time dog owner: I grew up in urban and rural environments, with a lot of exposition to animals, including dogs. However, these were not trained dogs. At all.

Around a year ago, my work environment changed, which allowed me to seriously think about getting a dog. I always liked shepherds. Especially European shepherds. I always thought about getting a very smart dog… and I suppose you already know where this goes:

I got a Belgian Malinois.

And not just "any" Mali. Mine was the product of a backyard breeder,…


Great article!! Your perspective is to all of the training are spot on. Very helpful, thank you so much for sharing all your expertise. There are other trainers out there that don’t share as well as you do! Sophie is doing great with all of your pointers. Thanks again.


Nate, you have put together a comprehensive and extremely helpful checklist. This helps in understanding what I am doing right and where I need to up my game. Writing down a plan is a great idea. I hadn't been that formal and, sometimes, come to our training sessions a bit vague in my lesson plan.

It was reassuring to hear "routine" is a good thing. Sometimes I have wondered if I am being too rigid in how/when we do what we do. Wondering if the pups would become "bored". They have displayed behaviors that suggested they were anticipating what comes next and not appearing to be adverse to it. An example being when they get up, they immediately go ou…


Nice work! Great advice shared in a well-written piece. 👍🏼

bottom of page