Puppies are so alluring and adorable; they steal our hearts in a moment, bouncing and rolling their way around, jumping and tugging at us, full of excitement and love and energy. It’s no wonder that when most puppies go home, obedience training is a distant thought. After all, housebreaking is a new puppy owner’s primary goal. But obedience training doesn’t have to be the stressful, rigid, disciplinary job you may think it is. The following commands to teach your dog are ones that will help serve him, you and your family well, in the years to come. Let’s face it, a 5 lb puppy may be silly and cute jumping up on your dinner guests, but a 50 lb dog jumping up, isn’t.
The Basic Sit
Using tasty treats improves the attitude of most dogs during training. They are anticipating a reward for doing something correctly. The food you use should be tastier than the treats or food your dog normally gets.
To teach your dog to sit, use a treat (raisin size) to lure him into the sit position. The position of your hand in relation to your dog’s nose is very important. Hold the treat an inch or less above your dog’s nose. Slowly make an arc with your treat hand from your dog’s nose toward the tail. Remember, do this slowly. Your dog should follow the treat with his nose. If he isn’t following the treat, you are holding it too high. Lower the treat and try again. As he starts to sit, give the command, “sit.” When his rear hits the ground, immediately feed and praise. Later, when he knows the command fairly well, his treat can be replaced with praise. Don’t talk too much. Stating clearly the command “sit” is enough.
Teach your dog to lay down from his sitting position. Take your treat and place it close to his nose. Move your hand from his nose down to his chest. Push the treat in toward his chest (firmly, but gently), so he has to slump down to get the treat. State clearly “down,” as he folds into the down position.
Heeling means your dog is walking next to you either at your left or right heel (whichever you prefer). The command that you give is to state clearly your dog’s name (e.g. “Fido”) and then the word “heel.” You then step off with your foot (the one that is closest to your dog). This works as a visual aid.
“Fido, heel!” If your dog understands and walks beside you, then praise and encourage him “Good boy!”. Your dog most likely won’t understand what “heel” means to begin with. Don’t hold the leash tight. If he drags behind, leash correction, then voice correction “heel.” is necessary. Repeat your command. When you stop, ask him to sit.
If your dog does not know how to walk on a leash, do some basic leash training before you begin heeling. Attach a leash to your dog’s collar. Let him drag it around the house or in a fenced backyard under supervision. Lean down and encourage him to come over to you. Use lots of treats. Don’t drag your dog. Be patient. Practice several times a day with short practice sessions. Within a few days, your dog should be able to begin heeling.
This can be complicated, but it is very important. The importance of timing when working with a dog can be compared to a traffic jam. To prevent one, everything must move together. The following is an example:
When you give the command, “Fido, heel,” don’t step off as soon as the word “Fido” spills from your lips. If you do, he won’t know what the next word is going to be, and you will end up jerking his neck for no apparent reason. This can cause him to lack confidence, because he thinks he is constantly being corrected, which results in lagging. The proper sequence would be to give the command “Lady heel,” wait a beat, then step off smartly. This allows time for your dog to hear the command, process the information and react.
This command can be used in a number of situations. Use a favourite treat, show it to your dog and place it on the floor with your hand covering it. As your dog comes forward to take the treat, say “off” and open your fingers to show the dog the treat with your hand remaining on the floor (make a tent). As your dog attempts to take the treat, again say “off,” and continue to do this until your dog backs off entirely or looks away and then say “take it” and remove your hand. You will know that your dog has understood the “off” command when you can lay a treat on the floor, say “off” and your dog does not attempt to take the treat. This command can be used when your dog is jumping on someone, is about to pick up garbage, wants to chase a cat, etc.
Body Language and Facial Expression
Pets learn facial and body language from their moms, and inherit knowledge of this from their ancestors by instinct. We have to learn this language and adapt it as part of our training method. Just as we use the “pack” theory to maintain dominance and respect, so we may also incorporate our own body language as a teaching aid.
A smile is easy for a dog to read. When asking your dog to come, do you not unconsciously smile to make him feel welcome? Towering or leaning over your dog can be a threatening posture. While never uttering a word or raising a hand, it is possible to threaten. Remember, a relaxed and pleasant attitude will help when training your dog.
Overcoming Shyness in Dogs
If you own a shy or timid dog, it is necessary to understand the following. If you do not behave with self assurance, your dog’s shy and timid behaviour will be reinforced. You must behave with self-assurance. Your actions and attitude will show your dog there is nothing to fear. The shy and timid dog imagines threats are everywhere. You must be a strong, confident, kind and fair leader.
How many times have you seen a dog shaking or cowering and the owner “reassuring” him with petting and cooing? This may appear to be perfectly logical behaviour, but unfortunately it is actually giving the dog all the wrong signals and rewarding the dog for being timid. The dog’s shyness is reinforced.
Instead, the shy dog should be exposed to as many different situations as possible. Take your dog with you to the park, to ball games, on errands, on walks, etc. Your dog should be told simply to “heel” or “come along,” and then led into the chosen location on his lead. Once there, he should remain quietly at your side. You, as his owner, must remain confident. Don’t make a fuss over your dog at these times. You can say “good dog” if he is remaining quiet and behaving well. If he is behaving in a timid manner do NOT cuddle your dog, or hug him and tell him there is nothing to fear. Dogs do not understand most of the words we say – they understand our actions. If your dog gets a hug, he assumes he has done the correct thing. Whining and timidity are not attributes you want to encourage.
Consistent treatment in this manner will begin to deliver the message to your dog that there is nothing to fear.
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