Training your dog should start from the moment you get your puppy home. Now I’m not talking about a boot camp, but I am talking about building structure and consistency as soon as possible.
All breeds of dogs have different needs. Some breeds need stricter rules and boundaries then others. But there isn’t a single dog out there that wouldn’t benifit form obedience and training at home.
There seems to be this thought that your toy breeds don’t need training, it’s excusable when they bark and act irratically, cute when they growl or act possessive, and part of the day to day routine for them to be the boss of the household. It’s this mentality that is the result of more reported attacks by toy breeds then there is by the guardian breeds like mastiffs and pit bulls.
Reports like this shouldn’t happen. As a dog owner you should be taking responsibility to train and raise a well mannered and obedient dog, no matter what the breed.
From experinace working with the SPCA as a partnership home, it make a world of difference in the home when you have instilled a routine and obedience in your dogs. When we originally got the dogs they typically were problem pets, pets people didn’t take the time to train and as a result developed behavioural issues that made them impossible to live with. At this time their owners forfitted them to the SPCA to be rehomed. This is sad, so much of this issue could have been avoided by training from day one.
What are the basics that will make a difference?
- Yes and no
- Ok – as a release command
These are the most basic of the commands that will help you create a balanced and happy home for you and your dog. Dogs like obedience, it is not mean to put your dog in a down stay while you are having dinner and then releasing them with the command ‘ok’ when your done. In fact your dog is super excited that you gave them a job to do, and even happier to come to your for praise for a job well done when you have released them from their duties.
Before I get into some tips to help you introduce these training commands to your dog I want to bring up an important issue. Know your breed! All breeds have different needs and concerns. For example, my 5lb toy poodle is well versed in the commands I have listed above and that’s as far as the training has gone. For a toy poodle, that’s all she needs and all I need to have balance with her. On the other hand my 140lbs Cane Corso is trained in protection sports and has a very strict routine to keep him in check for him to understand I’m Alfa and he’s not. Its a lot of work, and it’s a daily job, but very necessary. The ulternitive if I chose not to put that level of obedience on him could be dangerous.
Tools you will need;
- Collar for tension ( prongs are not necessary )
- Treats for food rewards
Your training language should be simple and consistent. By doing this you will make your training routine simple for you and your puppy. Sit is one of the foundation commands, typically you want your dog to sit and stay while you prepare their means and then tell them ‘ok’ when they can go eat. While on your walks you want them to sit at a heel everytime you stop. And another great time to ask them to sit is before they are receiving toys, chews, rewards, anything they are to wait for. Nothing is free for your dog, if they want anything from you they have to work for it.
To initiate the sit you will want to start with a callar that can be used to create tension, similar pull like a chain choker, but I use a nylon version. The collar should fit so that it is up at the base of the head, keep in mind a developing puppy will change sizes a few times before they are fully matured. Once the collar is in place put on the leash. Oh and make sure you have treats on hand, food reward along with positive reinforcement is the best remedy for a good training session.
Next, training sessions with a puppy shouldn’t be more the 15-20 min at a time when your first starting, reason being, the puppy will have limited attention span for training. You also want training to be fun and exciting at first. This will create the foundation for soild positive reinforcement training.
All dogs need to get used to their handlers handleing them. When teaching position based commands you will have to use your hands with leash pressure to guide them to the position you want them to be in. Once compete, mark it with a ‘yes’ and either food or praise reward.
For a sit you will want the dog at the heel position. Typically that is to the left side of you. With leash in the right hand you will want to put slight leash pressure in a upward motion while using your left hand, sliding it gently down their back pushing their bottom down the the ground. Very important, you don’t want to choke the dog so don’t pull on the leash so tight as to do that, you also don’t want to force the dogs bum down to the ground and damage bones or hips.
While you are doing the motions of the sit, tell your pup ‘sit’. As soon as your dog completes the task say ‘yes’ to mark the command complete and then reward.
Repeat this a few times with your dog, and then release them from the training position with the word ‘ok’ to go and play and or give them lots of love for the training session.
The first few times you may not get your pup to sit perfect everytime, that’s why I mentioned patience. Stay consistent and it will come. Once your dogs starts to learn sit, then you will be able to use the corrective word ‘no’ before you make it happen with leash pressure and your hand placement when they choose not to listen to you. Trust me, that will happen more then once.
The repeat of command, ‘yes’ and ‘ok’ before reward will start to condition your dog to very specific responses. The words yes, no, and ok will be used for every training command you give.
Heel is one of those commands that will make walking your dog way more enjoyable. There is nothing worse then walking a dog that is pulling you all over the place. On your walks you want your dog at your side, only leaving it when you get them to the spot where you want them to ‘get busy’ as I call it, otherwise knows as going to the bathroom.
The process for training this command is very similar to the sit. You will need their leash and collar and some treats for rewards. When ready to give the heel command you will want your leash in you right hand and with your left hand guide the puppies bum toward your left leg putting them in the desired position. Once complete mark it with a ‘yes’ and the give food reward ‘ok’.
Little trick, you want eye contact when training, it creates focus between dog and handler. To train this, everytime you give a command and mark it with a yes, before you give food, bring the treat to your mouth and then say ‘ok’ as you bring the reward down to the dog and give it to them. This will also create a conditioned response for the dog to look up at you for your next command anticipating the ok and the food reward. Focus focus focus…
The beginning stages of the heel command is just to teach your dog that heel means to be at your side, and when your stoped they are to sit. So the next stage of the heel is to tell your dog to sit after they are in the position of the heel. Eventually through repetition when you are at a stand still and you say ‘heel’ your dog will know to come to your left side and sit. Repeat the heel at your side and sit command until you feel your dog is really grasping the concept before you add motion to it.
Adding motion to your heel. Motion is harder to control then a sit or a down stay. So training the heel while walking can be challenging, distractions such as other dogs and noises can easily pull your dogs attention away from you and into a curios pull or excited behaviour. This can also be call drive. Drive is good, drive is useful when training, but you want the drive to be focused to you.
While training the heel in motion I like to use treats held with my right hand in the spot I want my dog to be looking at encouraging the pup to be at my side looking up at me. When I get good focus they get the treat. When I don’t I correct with ‘no’ and then regive the command of ‘heel’ as soon as the dog is back in focus and at a heel I mark with a yes and food reward.
I like to build drive while training. So after a few seconds of a really focused heel I will give the ‘ok’ command letting the dog know it’s released from the command and then get excited with the pup and do a bit of play.
Down is another great foundation command to teach your pup. A down stay in their ped while you have company over or are eating dinner can make a big difference in some of the chaos that can happen in the home. For my Corso, if I’m eating super he’s at a down stay on his bed till we are cleaning up, if people are over and I don’t want him stressing out traveling from person to person trying to figure things out I send him to his bed and put him in a down stay. He is more then happy to stay there as long as I tell him to be because he knows at the end he will get treats and cuddles for being a good boy. Down stay is his bed is also great when your having family watching a movie on the couch. Nothing worse then trying to fit a few people and 140lb dog on one couch. Now he is on the couch with me sometimes, not to say he is always sent away, but everything is on my terms and not his. This is one of those know your breeds situations, a golden retriever won’t challenge you for Alfa in the home because you let him up on the couch or sleep on the bed, most guardian breeds like a mastiff are very strong minded and need a strong leader, if you don’t take control, they most certainly will.
Down is a command that is usually pretty simple to teach as you can use treats or food as liuer to the ground. Again to start this command I would get my pup into a heel, get them into a sit and praise focus, then I would give the command of ‘down’ then take the treat and liuer the puppy the the ground, only when the pup has his bottom completely down do you give the treat. Don’t offer it if he has his front down but his butt up in the air, they like to do that at first. If your pup doesn’t go down, slide the treat across the ground a bit forcing the dog to crawl forward a bit, therefore tricking them into a down, as soon as they are down mark it with ‘yes’ then ‘ok’, gove the food reward.
After a few times of using the liuer technique try giving the command of ‘down’ from a standing position with your pup at a heel. If they don’t follow through with the command, follow up with a ‘no’ and then regive you’re command of ‘down’.if you’re dog doesn’t respond at that point use leash tension to put them in a down. Stand back up and as long as your dog stays on a down you can offer the food reward. If they continue to get up everytime you get up, then using your foot, put the leash under it, guide the dog into a down and hen out the leash tight underbelly your foot. If the dog tries to get up, he will end up correcting himself with the leash tension forcing him back into a down. When the dog stays at the down and gives your focus then mark it ‘yes’ and give food reward ‘ok’.
This command is best taught after you have started to get some headway on the training. Stay is a command that can take a bit of time for them to catch on too especially since your pup just wants to follow you around everywhere.
When starting to train stay keep your dog within leash length. You don’t want to be walking away from your dog off leash and then they decide to take off somewhere. At this time your dog may or may not know the command come, and is certainly too curious about the world to care that your calling him.
To start the command get your pup at a heel and then make sure they are at a sit. Mark it with ‘yes’ and then say ‘stay’. Take a step forward and stand in front of your pup, still holding the leash, Tell them they are a good boy or girl, then return to your dog. Once again at a heal mark it with ‘yes’ and then food reward. You will then repeat the process. That’s a perfect world that it will work like that right away. If your dog gets up during anytime in the process you will mark that with ‘no’ pit your dog back in position and start again. Never finish a training session without finishing a command. If you are working on stay, don’t just stop because the pup doesn’t get it, you will set yourself back. Complete the heel and sit, even if you give the stay command and just take two steps in any direction away from the pup and they don’t move, that can be considered success.
As you work with your pup you will increase the distance and the length of time they are at a stay, you may also introduce distractions with other dogs and noises. Adding more challenge can be fun for you and your dog… and remember all training is an amazing bonding experiance for you and your dog.
You have been working on the sit, your dog is getting better with a heel, and his stay for the most part is consistent… we can start the ‘come’ command. Again until you are more confident with your dogs level of obedience you will want to keep your dog on a leash for this training. A great tool that I have used is a long lone for outdoor training. Just keep in mind, if you have a larger more powerful dog, if your far enough away and they decide to bolt, they may be able to take you off your feet with the momentum they can get from a longer leed. It’s a true story, I know from experiance…
To start this command get your pup is a proper heel, at your side in a sit. You can do a come from a down stay or from a sit. Once your dog is in the position you want them to be, give them the command ‘stay’, then holding the leash walk the leash length away, and face your dog, leave the dog at the stay for a moment, when you have focus give the command ‘come’. I usually use the dogs name first before the command, it’s a good habit to get into especially with the come command, just incase your in a situation where there are multiple dogs and somone yells come to their dog, you don’t want yours running off. You may have to entice the pup by showing him the treats you will give him when he comes, and as he comes to you encourage it positively by saying things like good boy, good boy. As soon as the dog is in front of you mark it with ‘yes’, ‘ok’ and then food reward.
You want your dog straight in front of you when you are calling them to a come, when the come is complete you will also want them to sit in front of you with focus.
Sending your dog to bed is such an amazing thing. It’s my favourite command at home. I have mentioned a few reason already why and how I use the command.
For the bed command, you will take the dog to the bed, once on the bed give the command ‘bed’ and take a step back, mark it with ‘yes’ and then praise them when they stay on the bed. Do this a few times so that your pup starts to acociate the action with the command. After this you can try the command with the dog at a heel and sending them to the bed, marking it with ‘yes’ when they do it and ‘ok’ before they can leave the bed and they get praised and given treats.
At this point you have put alot of time and energy into training, you will start to notice your dog will catch onto things quicker and they will get more eager to learn and work for you. You may also notice your dogs behaviour is more level and that you have less issues at home. A dog with a job is a happy dog, a happy dog at home can make life a lot easier.
The basic commands are part of your responsibility as a dog parent. Now there are exceptions to every circumstance, just as people have different personalities, so do dogs. You could have one dog that was super easy to train and a great companion, and then the next dog you get gives you a run for your money. If you are struggling with any training or behaviour issues don’t leave it, don’t convince yourself it’s just a puppy thing and they will grow out of it. Some things they will yes, but a bad behaviour not corrected is like telling the dog that behaviour is ok…
if you find yourself having issues or a lot more questions as you start your training you can always leave me a comment I’m more then happy to offer any assistance I can. There are some things that will require extra assistance, and for those things I am a big supporter of taking your dog to a training camp.
When choosing a training camp make sure you are sourcing out one that understand the needs of dog you have. For example, my Cane Corso trains for his competitions at a facility that trains police dogs. The trainers there have tons of experiance with guardian and working breeds and understand the level of obedience I need for bourbon to have him ready to compete.
A toy breed or a dog with less training obstacles could gi to a more basic training camp like something you find at pets mart, your accomplishments there are simply to socialize and get to the basics.
There is nothing wrong with finding yourself in a spot with training and your willing to reach out to someone for help if things aren’t going the way as planned. Your vet can be another great resource for information, they can usually suggest good places that they have gotten feedback about from other dog owners who have needed help. You can also talk to your breeder, many breeders show their dogs and have them in competitions to elevate their breeding lines. They should have some great tips for you and have some contact info of some training facilities that you can reach out too as well.
Good luck with all your training. I really hope you are able to enjoy the process. It really strengthens the bond between you and your dog.