If you’re a dog owner, you should. Experts say that a lack of communication is one of the biggest reasons dogs end up at shelters. So, here are five ways to bridge the language gap between you and your canine companion, from Jody Wright, author of 50 Secrets Humans Should Know:

  • #1 on the dog-training list: Be consistent. Experts say the biggest mistake owners make is disciplining a dog for something one time, and letting them get away with it the next. Because the dog gets confused, and doesn’t know what’s okay and what’s not. A lot of owners also let puppies or small dogs get away with bad behavior because they think it’s cute. Once a 10-pound pup grows into an 80-pound dog, it’s not so cute and the dog doesn’t understand why it’s not okay anymore. So, if you don’t want Peanut begging from the table, correct him and put him on his bed, every time.
  • Have a clear vocabulary. That way, your dog knows what’s expected. For example, consistently using a “No” command is much better than random “Stops,” “Don’ts,” and “Quit its!”
  • Know your place. A lot of dog owners make the mistake of trying to treat a dog as their equal, but dogs are pack animals. They want direction from a leader, and if you don’t take that role, they will.
  • Make your dog-training sessionsquality time.” Experts say you should avoid training sessions if you’re tired, cranky, or have been drinking. Why? Because dogs are like people. They tend to remember the bad things that happen to them, more than the good things. So, losing your composure with them can disrupt their training for months.
  • “Affection Training” works better than punishment. In other words, if the dog makes a mistake, just ignore it and repeat the command. With positive reinforcement, your dog will soon learn that they get praise and treats for doing what’s right.