I recently went through a Canine Training and Behavior certification program that completely changed the way I looked at dog training. We started the entire three-month course with some book-learning about canine psychology and a book titled "How Dogs Learn." At the time it all seemed a bit over complicated, and as we got more into the program there was good reason for us as trainers to understand the underlying fundementals of the concepts of dog training, but I'd like to share simple concept that has proven to be an extremely valueable method of training, "REWARD YOUR DOG."
We went through all of the scientists who studied behavior, psychology, operant conditioning, and classical conditioning. We talked about the differences between positive and negative reinforcement and what punishment is, and we can discuss a little here, but primarly, just "Reward the Behaviors you want."
To give you an example of simple application in actual dog training, the first hands on training during the certification program was a game called, "The Attention Game." Now, I don't think I'm necessarily giving away any big secrets here because just telling you to reward your dog for the behaviors you want is pretty much the basis for all dog training. But, lets start at the beginning.
The Attention Game is a simple way to start building a working relationship between you and the dog you are training. During this game, you have the dog on a leash, primarly to maintain safety and some minimal control of the dog (prevent the dog from getting loose or escaping and running off), especially if you don't have any relationship history with the dog at this point. The objective of the game is to encourage the dog to look at you, and then rewarding the dog everytime you are successful. Quite simply, if the dog looks at you, they get a reward.
So, if everytime you looked at me, I gave you a dollar, I bet you'd start looking at me a whole lot more often, right? This is pretty much how dog training works, in the beginning. Granted, its important to understand how to get our dogs to perform regardless of the presence of treats or toys as rewards, but that is a bit more advanced lesson. But, for now, if your dog is doing something you like, even if they are just being calm and quiet, give them a reward, its that simple to start.