If you’re one of the thousands of Americans who couldn’t wait to see Marley & Me, you already know – Labrador Retrievers, like all dogs, need to be trained with love. The popular movie illustrates just how difficult life can be with an untrained dog. And training’s not always easy. In fact, shooting the movie took 22 different labs just to get it right and to show Marley through the ages. That’s why the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), the world’s largest educational and professional association for dog trainers, highlights the movie to promote the positive impact of training. Whether your dog’s a pup or an old friend, you can always brush up on reward-based training.

Here are a few of the APDT’s top tips.

Don’t Hate the Crate. It’s not mean to put a puppy in a crate. In fact, your puppy will love his cozy crate almost as much as you’ll love keeping him safe and happy (no slipper chewing involved).

Keep the Calm. Trainer Taym Hodge teaches dogs to keep the peace and quiet by serving up treats only when the dog sits or lies down. Sitting at doorways, for meals, for petting, for grooming – mellow behavior gets rewarded every time.

Gear Up for Walking. Large, unruly dogs can learn to walk on a leash with help from new products like head halters and front clip harnesses. Give them a try to prevent choking or doggie discomfort while keeping the pulling in check.

Play On. Trainer and APDT President Kellyann Conway strongly encourages play in addition to exercise to help build and maintain a great relationship with your dog. Not only will he stay more physically and mentally fit, but you’ll enjoy your time together too.

Take Note of Problems. Fear and anxiety can bring out the worst in your dog. Recognize unwanted behaviors in your pup and be proactive in seeking out modification programs with the guidance of a trained dog professional.


Teach a New Trick. Since destructive behaviors often result from your dog not having a “role” to perform, look for new outlets to engage your dog mentally and physically. Depending on the breed, try dog sports such as agility and flyball or interactive toys that make your dog work for his treats.

Train Everyday. It’s not just for puppies anymore. Trainer and author Nicole Wilde recommends practicing down-stays while watching TV, greeting visitors, or anytime the opportunity presents itself. Just remember to keep treats on hand for training moments whenever you’re with your dog.


The Scoop:

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) is a professional organization of individual dog trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through education.

The APDT’s Trainer Search can help you find a trainer in your area.

Read more tips from trainers in the APDT


Thank you to Catherine and the Haze for the photo.