To get started, let's have a way to tell the dog "you won!". It needs to be very clear and short. So real quick, let's create a special little marker for your dog so that he knows when he's getting trained.
Here's one kind of marker: "Yes!" Say it. Nice. That works. Now you're a dog trainer with a Marker. High-five!
Want to upgrade? Grab a retractable pen from your desk. Click the tip in and out. Now you're a dog trainer with a Clicker for a marker.
Or you can do like me and click your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Try it. Not everyone is blessed with a clickable tongue but if you are, it makes a very convenient marker.
Now let's train that dog. Stuff a baggie or can with some tiny pieces of food your dog likes pretty well but won't get hysterical over.
How to train your dog, 5 minutes a day
Goal this session: Dog will learn that your marker-sound means "food!". You'll know he gets it when his ears pop up happily when he hears your marker.
Go to a quiet, boring space with the dog. Maybe your bathroom, with the door shut. Sit down on-- um, wherever is comfortable.
Once your dog is fairly calm, say or click your marker and immediately toss a piece of food on the floor. DON'T TALK.
Now wait until your dog is doing something besides nosing you for food.
Then mark and toss another piece of food! Toss it away from you so that the dog has to go and come back.
Now wait for the dog to stop messing around...NO TALKING. Zip those lips. Wait him out and...
Mark and toss food.
See a pattern? So does your dog. Do the mark/treat activity about twenty times.
What am I doing Here?
After about twenty reps, your dog will notice that the mark always leads to food.
Guess what his new favorite sound is?
Also, if you've been careful to only make the marker-sound when he's being polite, he's probably messing around a lot less.
Once he is obviously clued into the mark/food connection, take a break. You're probably just starting to find this interesting but your dog's brain is the size of a walnut. Trust me, he needs time to process. He will be much smarter after he's had a nap.
Dog trainers use markers because it makes learning faster and easier (markers are becoming popular for training people, too! It's called TAGteach). To keep dogs wanting to be trained and try new things, it's important to fill your training sessions with good things and as little frustration as possible. Don't tell your dog "no" if he's doing it wrong during learning. Instead, cleverly fix the situation so that he has a greater chance of doing it right! Try to work stuff out beforehand with props or hints so that your dog does it your way from the very beginning. And let him think it's his idea! Preventing rather than punishing mistakes saves lots of time and frustration. Once your dog gets the picture, you'll have no trouble taking the "training wheels" away.