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Essential Dog Training Tips for a Well-Mannered Dog at Home!

Updated: Jun 28

Our dogs are learning all day long, whether we are training them or not. They learn from our daily routine. They figure out how their behaviors can either get them the things they want, or prevent them from getting what they want.

Dedicated training sessions can be a beneficial part of any dog's daily life, but everything that happens in-between those session is just as important. Additionally, what happens between your training sessions can greatly influence how effective your training sessions could be.

Creating a Structured Routine with Clear Expectations

A structured routine is extremely beneficial to our dogs' overall mental and physical health. We can establish simple and clear expectations for our dogs for each part of their day to help them behave in a way that we appreciate!

The best way to help our dogs understand what we expect of them is to first understand all of the things in our dog's lives that they want and need. These are called "resources."

What are our Dogs' "Resources"

Resources are simply anything that our dogs want or need! Resources can include obvious things like food and water, but we will also discuss some of the less obvious resources such as space, play, and even safety or security.

Before we list all of the resources that are important to our dog, its important that you understand how we use these resources to help our dogs learn their simple and clear expectations.

Controlling access to Resources

We as our dogs' leaders are responsible for when and how our dogs can access everything they want and need, i.e. thse 'Resources' we keep talking about. We are responsible for providing our dog with nutritional food to meet their dietary needs, and regular access to clean drinking water.

Additionally, we can begin to establish expectations of our dogs to earn these resources. By doing this, we can begin to reinforce behaviors that we like with the resources that our dogs want and need throughout each day.

In the early phases of this training it can feel like a lot of work, but the more we expect of our dogs in the early stages of training, the longer our dogs will maintain their well-mannered behaviors.

Let's start talking about how exactly we can communicate to our dogs what our expectations are!

Food and Feeding

Everyone knows about using treats to teach our dogs new tricks and to reward them when they are being good, but did you know that your dog's regular mealtime food can be used in exactly the same way?

Think of your dog's stomach as their bank account. each morning when you fill up your dog's food bowl with their breakfast, its like you are filling up their bank account with them necessarily earning it.

If every morning you woke up with an abundantly full bank account, its unlikely that you'd have any reason to go to work and do your job, right? So why would we expect our dog to want to work throughout the day if their bank account is already full?

Hand Feeding Throughout the Day

One of the first things we tell our training clients to do before they even come in for their first dog training lesson is to start feeding their dog by hand. Also we recommend feeding your dog by hand in very small portions throughout the whole day. Having a treat pouch for this comes in pretty handy!

Essentially, you can begin to use your dog's daily meals as small rewards for every time they perform some behavior that you like, or if they refrain from doing an unwanted behavior.

For example, when its time to go outside for our walk, if your dog sits patiently at the door, you can give them a small handful of food. Your dog lays quietly at your feet while you are sitting at your computer, you can give them another handful of food.

Dedicated Training Sessions

If you are starting to teach your dog new skills like Sit, Down, and Come, you can use their kibble to teach new behaviors, and continue to improve on some of the behaviors they may already know!

Note: if you are preparing for your first lesson with your trainer, we recommend waiting to work on any formal commands until after your first lesson, at least!

While many owners and trainers like to use special treats for their training sessions, if you are training on a regular basis, sometimes this can add a LOT of extra calories to our dog's diet. By using their pre-portioned daily food allowance for training, we can help our dogs maintain a healthy weight and get the proper nutrition to keep them healthy and active!

Fun Ideas for Training Sessions

Sometimes sit, down, and recall can get a little boring, for us and for your dog! Some fun ideas for your training sessions would be to try teaching some new and fun tricks!

Let your imagination find a trick you like and start trying to teach your pup! Start with simple tricks like 'spin in a circle' or 'shake'. Keep in mind that any trick that you teach your dog will become something they may want to do when its less convenient. For example, you probably should not teach your dog to speak if you are already struggling with excessive barking.

Otherways for our Dogs to Earn Their Food

Maybe our dog isn't quite ready for dedicated training sessions, and we aren't getting enough of the good behaviors to give our dog the opportunity to get their daily allowance of food. That's okay!

We've go a few more fun ideas to teach our dog that earning their food can be fun and enjoyable!

Interactive toys are a great way to help our dog enjoy working for their food. Some interactive toys just require our dog to move them a little for some food to pour of them. While others may take a little more effort for the dog to get their food.

Choose a toy that meets your dog's skill level and give them the opportunity to figure it out. Even if they struggle a bit in the beginning, be patient and let them work through the problem and watch their trouble shooting skills go to work!

Snuffle mats are another way to ask our dogs to work just a little bit to access their food. Snuffle mats are simply mats that have small pockets that contain small bits of food. Imagine your dog foraging through the grass for a treat you dropped. That is essentially the same thing!

And actually, the FREE version of a snuffle mat is the grass in your yard! That's right, if your strapped for time and in a bit of a hurry, just take your dogs food and scatter it amongs the grass and let him go find it! Of course make sure to not do this in your dog's favorite potty area.

Creating a Mealtime Routine

Once you have graduated away from feeding your dog throughout the day and you can begin to return to 1-3 mealtimes each day, you should still maintain clear expectations and structure around food.

The benefit of maintaining longterm structure around meals is that it is a simple, quickly, and daily reminder to our dogs that rules and expectations still apply!

Predictable Feed Schedule

While you don't need to feed your dog's exactly at 7am each day, it is important to maintain a consistent food schedule relative your daily routine. If on the weekdays you wake up at 6, but on the weekends you don't get up until 8, that's totally okay! The imporant thing is to maintain a consistent routine from the time you wake up to the time that you feed your dog.

For example: Your morning routine starts when you wake up. You take your dog outside to go potty. Once you come inside, you prepare his breakfast, and then you feed him. (we'll go over feeding best practices in the next section).

By creating a predictable routine, our dog's do not need to be anxious or concerned about when they will be fed. This allows them to relax and be confident in knowing what comes next. The same concept can be applied to their evening meals as well.

Feedin Routine

Where, when, and how you feed your dog is just as important as what you feed your dog. We understand that each aspect of how your dog eats their meal can help reinforce good behaviors!

Where: we recommend feeding your dog in their kennel! This is especially important if you live in a multi-dog house, or if your dog struggles with the crate or kennel experience.

Think of your dog's crate as the dinner table. When we were young, our parents made us eat dinner at the table. Dinner was served exactly at 6pm. We ate whatever our parents prepared for us. If we didn't want to eat meatloaf for dinner, we could sit at that table all night and go to bed hungry. If we finished our meal, we couldn't leave the table until we were excused.

We want to have similar expectations of our dogs during dinner time. We can expect our dogs to be calm and quiet while we prepare their food. We expect them to eat the food that is provided to them. And we don't just let them out of their crate because they are done.

Limit Feeding Time

Limit your dog's feeding time to no more than 10 minutes. This is plenty of time for your dog to eat their food without being in a hurry. This will also teach your dog that even after you finish your food you aren't going anywhere for a little while, so he can relax and digest before the next activity. Additionally, if your dog decides he's not hungry or doesn't want to eat the food you've provided, this teaches him that this is the last opportunity to eat until the next mealtime.

Water is a Resource and Can Be Controlled

It is important that our dogs get plenty of water to drink throughout the day, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they need to have free access to water all day long. We can control when and how our dogs access water similarly to how we control their access to other resources.

Long term, it may be more challenging to control your dog's access to water, and it may not be entirely necessary unless your dog develops any problematic surrounding water such as excessive drinking, OCD behaviors, or resource guarding over water.

But, in the early phases of training, creating and maitaining a simple water schedule and routine add yet another way to continue to reinforce desired behaviors.

Simple water schedule: Allow your dog the opportunity to drink water each time they exit their crate and before they go back into their crate! Its that simple.

In the early phase of training, we will be using the crate quite a bit, and having our dog coming out fo the crate and going back in frequently, so using this as a good measure of when our dog can get some water works very effectively.

Require some type of controlled behavior like a sit or down before allowing your dog to access water. Ideally, you'll want to do this after your dog has learned one of these commands first!

You should also provide opportunities to drink water during exercise or play time!

Controlling Toys and Play as Resources

The overarching theme of developing desired behaviors when we want them is to controll our dog's access to resources. So....

Keep Your Dogs' Toys Put Away! - Your dog should not have unlimited access to toys throughout the day. That means that they shouldn't have toys in their kennel with them. And when they are out of their kennel, there should not be toys that they can readily access off the ground or even from a toy basket.

Not only will this help our dog see more value in their toys when it is time to play, it will also help prevent them from practicing problematic behaviors such as destroying their toys or possibly ingesting them. Additionally, some dogs may develop possessive types of agression over resources and this is particularly common with toys.

(Note: Never play with your dog directly after they have eaten. Wait 30-45 minutes!)

You decide when it is time to play with your dog! What that means is you should not play with your dog when they are being a nuissance, but instead you should play with your dog when they are being well behaved.

Play should be a reward for desired behaviors and should be a regular part of a daily routine. Play is something that is just as import for our dogs as mealtime! Play helps give our dogs the exercise and mental stimulation they need while also creating a more meaninful bond with their owner!

Play can also help your dog become more confident and help them learn to adapt to new places, environments, and situations! Play can be a way to make every new experience a great one!

You can also incorporate your dog's obedience skills into their play time! Occassinally asking for a behavior your dog knows before you throw the ball can make that behavior even more rewarding to your dog!

Creating Clear Expectations During Play

While playing with your dog can be fun and beneficial for your dog, it is important to establish appropriate expectations of behavior even during play. Playing with our dog can be fun for us, but if our dog is behaving inappropriately it can become frustrating very quickly.

End the Game For a Reason

Punish Bad Behavior: A simple way to establish clear expectations of behavior is to identify unexceptable behaviors that may occur during play like jumping or nipping. And at the first instance of any of the inappropriate behaviors, that is the end of play time and its time for your dog to back into their kennel.

Increase Desire to Play: If your dog has a very short attention span for playing, then cutting the play session short can actually make them want to play more in the future! Try ending the game when your seems to be having the most fun! Remember that your dog will go back into their kennel remembering the last thing they were doing!

Cool Down: Some dogs don't know when to stop and can actually cause themselves to become seriously injured or sick from over exerting themselves during play. Keep your play sesions short, approximately 10-15 minutes at most! End your play session any time you notice your dog exhibiting signs of heat injurty or exhaustion!

Teach Your Dog To Play

Some dogs don't naturally want to play with toys or play with you. That's normal for some dogs. But, you can teach your dog to play with you the same way you teach them any other behavior. Be patient with your dog and don't give up! Once your dog learns to enjoy playtime it can have a wealth of benefits!

If you are struggling with your dog not bringing the toy back to you or refusing to let go of the toy when they do come back to you here are a couple tips:

The Art of the Trade: When your dog gets their toy, encourage them to come back to you with either another toy or maybe a treat or some food. When they do come back give them the other toy or treat when they let go of the first toy!

Teach and Out or Drop It Command: During a dedicated training session, spending a little time teaching an out or drop it command will come in handy during play time. It might be a bit challenging to teach this in the midst of your dog's favorite game. Use the same technique as the Art of the Trade, and just put the behavior on Cue.

For more information on teaching the out or drop-it command, schedule a training session with one of our trainers!

Control Space, Thresholds, and Significant Locations

In this section we will start to get into some of the less obvious resources that are dogs value and some insight into what makes these so valuable!

The space that our dog is allowed to occupy is a very important resource. Often times the places that are in close proximity to other resources or areas that have significant meaning can hold very high value in our dog's minds. The ability for our dogs to occupy these valuable spaces when they want to occupy them is important to our dogs and therefore are a resource that we can leverage to continue to reinforce desireable behaviors.

We begin by simple physically controlling the spaces our dog can occupy throughout the day. The two easiest ways to do this is with the Kennel, and with the leash. A simple rule of thumb for the earliest phase of training is:

When your dog is not in the kennel, they are on the leash!

This includes potty breaks, this includes play time, and every time in-between! We will get into what you should be doing with your dog when they are outside of the kennel, and when you can begin to transition away from always having your dog on leash in later sections. But when we are first starting training your dog should with you on leash anytime they are not in the kennel.

This is very simple way to begin to communicate to your dog that you dictate the space that your dog may occupy. You dictate where your dog can go, where they can move to, and most importantly, when they can move.

This will be important to establishing clear expectations and preventing our dogs from practicing and rehearsing undesireable behaviors until we've taught them all of the expectations we have for them inside the home.


Doorways and thresholds are the gateways to something important. The door may lead to the backyard where we play together. Or the door leads to the front driveway where our walks begin. Or maybe the door leads to the bedroom where we normally cuddle up together in the evenings.

Whatever the motivate, our dogs love doorways, and can often develop problematic behaviors regarding thresholds. Some dogs may try to rush through the door any time it opens which can be dangerous is it leads to a busy street out front. Or They may try to squeeze past your legs through a door that leads down the stairs, potentially causing you to stumble and fall. In some cases, in home with multiple dogs, some dogs may try to prevent other dogs from passing through doorways, which could escalate into more dangerous situations.

Regardless of the motivation, dogs often view doorways as important benchmarks of the day, and they give us another opportunity to practice and reward good behaviors. Asking our dogs to politely sit, wait, and only pass through a doorway after us and calmly is a great wait to continue to build good home manners throughout the day.

Significant Locations

There are certain areas of the home that have special meaning. The dinner table may be where we sit each night and share a meal while we talk about our day. The kitch is where we cook all of the yummy food that we will eat. The living room couch may be where we cuddle up and bond after a long way of work. And the bed is where we curl up and rest up for the next day.

Our dogs may find value in these significant activities and times just as much as we do. Our dogs also value the ability to be included in these activities. This can mean that our dog views their spot on the couch as a highly valueable resource, as well as the place at your feet under the dinner table.

We all want our dogs to part of the family bonding activites, but keep in mind that we should always have clear expectations of appropriate behaviors even in these situations. Begging at the table can be quite a nuissance at dinner time, and begging at the stove while you are cooking can be dangerous. Some dogs may even develop aggressive resource guarding over furniture like the couch or the bed if these clear expectations have not been set.

Limit Access to Furniture: In the early phase of training, you should not let your dog on any furniture. In later phases we will talk about how we establish clear expectations of behavior if we want to allow our dog on the furniture with us. But, in the meantime, since your dog with will either be in the kennel or on leash with you participting in some type of activity at this stage, there won't be much time to snuggling up on the couch at this time.

Daily Routines, Structured Activities, and Predictability

In the first phase of the training program, your dog will wither be in the kennel or with you and on leash. The most important thing to remember is that when your dog is out of the kennel that you and your dog are participating in some type of engaging structure activity together.

Structured activities can be almost anything from training, to play, to going for a walk, or anything as long as there is some type of objective and clear expectations. The important thing to remember is that you choose the activity. If you decided on an activity, but when you got your dog out they wanted to do something else and refused to participate in the activity you chose, you can simply put your dog back into their kennel.

What's the reason?

Ideally, in the first phase of this training program, your dog may be spending more than their normally of time in the kennel. In many cases, they will likely be spending significantly more time in their kennel. For somedogs its not quite a big deal, while others may be looking forward to coming out of their kennel.

While we don't want our dogs to hate their kennels, at this phase of training we do want them looking forward to spending time outside of the kennel.

Like we said a few times already, any time our dog is outside of the kennel, they should be on leash and participating in an engaging and structured activities dictated by us!

It wont take long for our dog to realize that if they wants to spend time outside of the kennel, then they will be expected to meet our clear expectations and participate in the activities of our choosing. And over a short amount of time our dogs will begin to come of their kennel thinking "What activity are we going to do today?" Or "What can I do for you today to get what I want!"

Essentially we want to condition your dog to be ready and enthusiastic about engaging in activities with you and responding to cues and commands. This will create a foundation that will facilitate the training as it progresses through the next phases of training.

The 3 Phase Process

So we keep talking about the first Phase of training, but how many phases are there? And what's the difference between each phase.

There is often a misconception that if you train your dog then once your done your dog should be perfect forever... Which is definitely not the case!

We at Airborne K9 break down our training progression into three distinguishable phases that make it easy for you as the trainer at home to know when its time to move forward in your training.

Phase 1 - Boot Camp

As a military veteran, I love to make analogies to my time in the military when I discuss dog training, and incredibly there are tons of parallels and similarities.

The first thing you do when you join the military is you go to Basic Combat Training, otherwise known as "Boot Camp." The way boot camp prepares people for the military, the first phase of training prepares our dog for what's to come next!

Essentially, every decision is made for you throughout the entire day and night. In military boot camp, they wake you up, the tell you what to wear, how to walk, how to stand, what you are going to eat, when you are going to eat, and you can't leave the table just because you finished your meal. Each moment of every day is dictated by someone who is in charge of you.

This is exactly how we want to manage our dogs in the first phase of training. Like we talked about in the section about controlling spaces, our dog should be either in the kennel or with us, on leash, doing something that we dictate.

The reason we do this for our dogs, firstly, is to prevent our dogs from practicing or rehearsing any of the problem behaviors that we don't want to see. This also allows us to quickly punish unwanted behavior appropriately. If I take my dog outside to play, and my dog doesn't want to bring the toy back to me, I can quickly use my leash to collect my dog and put them back in the kennel.

In the first phase of training, we want to be able to micromanage our dogs behaviors and be able to apply timely positive or negative consequences for all of our dog's decisions. We want to be able to quickly reward our dog the moment they sit at the door, and quickly place our dog back in the kennel the moment they attempt to steal food from the counter.

During Phase 1 - Boot Camp is when you should establish your dog's obedience skills and commands. The 5 basic obedience commands that are most common and most useful are:

Heel - Walk politely at my side

Sit - Place your butt on the ground

Place - Go to your place and remain there

Down - Hocks and elbows on the ground

Recall -Come when Called

These obedience commands will likely be necessary to progress into the next phases on the training program.

Ideally, we want our dog to be a normal part of our daily routine and our daily lives. But it doesn't mean that the day that we have "completed" training we just let our dog be free. Therefore we use a transitional phase before allow our dog the freedom of being just part of the normal family routine.

Phase 2 - Transition

In phase 2 as we begin to transition away from the heavily managed control of our dog's every decision, and we begin to allow our dog to some make decisions for themselves.

The "Place" command is an excellent way we like to begin to transition into the later stages of training.

Ideally, we want to be able to cook dinner, eat a meal, work on the computer, or read a book without needing to always keep our dog in a kennel, or without needing to worry that our dog is getting into mischief. That is where the place bed comes in!

In the transitional phase, we begin to integrate our dog into some of our normal daily routines or activities. We use the place bed in place of the kennel while we work on our computer or maybe make a sandwich for lunch. The place bed requires our dog to choose to stay on the bed without any physical barriers preventing them from leaving.

In this phase you can use good consequences like treats or kibble when your dog successfully stays on the bed, and you can use negative consequences like putting your dog back into the kennel if they fail to remain on the bed.

In this phase, we are still somewhat managing our dog and paying attention that they are remaining on the place bed while we appear to be otherwise engaged. This way we can provide consequences in a very timely manner.

What this process will actually do, is create simple and clear expectations of behavior for our dogs when we are not actively engaging with them. In this stage, we simply expect our dog to remain on their place bed any time we are cooking, cleaning, working on the computer, watching TV, etc...

Don't worry, this is still only Phase 2, and we don't expect our dog to live on the place bed for the rest of their lives!

During this phase, if you can not actively supervise your dog on the place bed then they should still go back into the kennel. And they should be in their kennel at night and while you are away. You should still be making time to actively engage with your dog including training sessions, play time, and other activities as part of your regular schedule.

Throughout Phase 2, your dog will begin to pick up on patterns and start to anticipate if they are going to be expected to go to the place bed or if it is one of those times we are going outside to play. Your dog is keenly aware of subtle cues that let them know what activity is coming next.

Ideally, your dog will start to pick up on the routine that when you start cooking, that is the time to go to the place bed, and they may even put themselves there without you asking. This will likely start to occur also when you are eating dinner, or watching TV, or any of the other routines that you have practiced during this phase.

This is when we begin to move into Phase 3...

Phase 3 - Life Long Learning

Our dogs never stop learning, so once we've settled into what will be our normal daily routine with our dogs, this is the 3rd training phase. This phase continues for the life of the dog. Throughout your dog's life, they continue to make decisions that they feel are in their best interest. Ideally, as we worked through the first 2 phases of this training program, we've communicated effectively what behaviors we want our dogs to choose on a daily basis.

On occassion, our dogs may pick-up a new bad habit that we may need to addres, or possibly resort to a previous bad habit if we have not continued to reinforce our expectations. It happens to the best of us.

If your dog begins performing any unwanted behaviors, you can always spend a little time back in phase 2, or even phase 1 if the problem becomes severe.

But generally our dogs will fall nicely into our daily routines. Our dogs may not always go to their place beds, and may choose to lay quietly on the floor or the couch (if its allowed).

Introducing Privleges

Prior to Phase 3, our dogs were heavily restricted from any types of privleges. No furniture, no bed, no free roaming the house, no free access to toys, food, or water. In phase 3 it can be nice if our dogs can self-serve some of the things they want and need from time to time.

My personal preference is that my dogs have normally free access to water. This is mostly because once we get into phase three, my dogs are not going into and out of their kennels as frequently, therefore greatlly limiting the times I would normally schedule them water breaks.

I also like my dogs to join me on the couch or in the bed! That's right, I love cuddling up with my dogs on the furniture and in my bed at night. If you don't want your dogs on the funiture, that's great. If you like cuddling with your dogs, there is no harm in allowing your dogs on the furniture as long as they can behavior appropriately.

Introducing Furniture

Once of the best ways I like to initially introduce my dogs to my furniture to help set them up for succes in behaving appropriately, is I like to introduce it like I introduce the place bed.

I start by teaching my dog to get onto the couch, but they must stay on the couch until I tell them otherwise. The biggest difference between the couch and the place bed is that I use a command of "Off" that requires my dog to get off of the couch. With the place bed, when my dog is release, if he prefers to the stay on the bed, that is completely okay as long as I am not asking for another behavior like recall or kennel.

I like to do several sessions of training my dog to stay on the couch, and then practicing him getting of the couch on command. This training teaches our dog that we create the rules around the couch and if our dog wants the privlege of being on the couch, he must abide by the those rules. I use this same process for the bed as well.

The "Off" command comes in particularly helpful when you need to change the sheets on the bed, and your dog insists that it is now the most fun game they every played to jump on the bed while you are trying to make it.

How Long Does This Process Take?

This process may vary for different dogs depening on how severe their problem behaviors may have been prior to beginning training. The length of time can also be greatlly effected by your ability to follow this guide diligently.

While we completely understand that nobody is perfect and sometimes life gets in the way of maintaining consistency in our training regimen, the more consistently you adhere to this plan, the faster you'll be living your best life with your well-mannered dog!

Behavioral and temperament conditions like fear, anxiety, aggression, and reactivity can also greatly impact your dog's ability to meet your expectations in some fairly common daily activities. It may be much more challenging for a dog-aggressive or dog-reactive dog to behavior appropriately in the back yard if there is always that pesky neighbor dog just on the other side of the fence. So, it is important to keep this in mind and to understand that some dogs may just take a bit longer than others.

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