Sharing your life with a dog is a fascinating, exciting and privileged experience. However, before you can get the most from partnership with a dog, it is necessary to understand how a dog sees the world it lives in. After all, we spend so much time trying to understand us, it is only fair we spend some time understanding them. They need our guidance and gentle training for them to understand what we want from them, so we can live a full, controlled and problem free life together. Teaching dogs requires patience and consistency with kind and motivational techniques. The following universal techniques can be used to teach either your new puppy or adult dog some basic good manners and obedience responses, so you can enjoy your time with each other.
When you begin teaching your dog you will find it useful to have the correct training tools. Below are a list of recommended tools needed before teaching your dog. (link list to products)
- Training Book
- Indoor Kennel
- Training Treats
- Extending Lead
- Collar and Lead
- Gentle Leader / Halti
Teaching your dog to 'sit'
The 'sit' response is probably the easiest position to begin teaching your dog and the most widely used obedience response. Many dogs are motivated by food and treats which can become a valuable training tool when teaching a new response. By lifting the treat held between the fingers, in front of your dog's nose and then above and behind the dogs, eye line, you will find that, as the head lifts, the dog will lower its hind quarters. The command 'sit' can be given clearly as the position is reached and the dog can be promptly rewarded with the treat and praised.
This response should be repeated regularly during training sessions which should be kept short, sweet and successful. This will keep your dog interested in learning and training. As the dog begins to demonstrate an understanding of the word 'sit' you can gradually withdraw the use of food and allow the dog to follow your hand signal accompanied by the word sit. Occasional rewards will strengthen the response, especially if you teach your dog in a variety of situations in and out of the home.
Teaching your dog 'down'
This exercise should follow the sit response. As with the previous exercise, a tit-bit held close to the dog's nose will help lure the dog into the 'down' position. Imagine an invisible line between the nose to a point on the floor between the dog's feet and then slowly along the floor towards your. As the dog follows the food and lies on the floor, give the command 'down' and release the reward.
Once again, as your dog begins to understand the response, gradually withdraw the treat from the hand and allow the dog to follow the hand signal accompanied by the command 'down'. Teach this exercise regularly and in different positions around the home to allow your dog to generalise his learning. Be careful how you use these new commands and keep an eye on what your dog understands by them. For example do not use the words 'sit-down' as these are two different commands and will only serve to hinder your training.
Teaching your dog to come when called
One of the many pleasures of dog ownership is being able to let your dog run free, enjoying the sight of him enjoying the freedom of exercise and playing with the family or other dogs. There are a number of ways to teach and improve your dog's recall and using a whistle by pairing it to food at meal times can be a very effective training tool. At every feed time introduce the dog to the whistle by giving three short blasts on the whistle as the dog begins feeding. This process is known as conditioning, which is the pairing of food to a stimulus. After a few weeks of using the whistle the dog learns that this new sound means food and can therefore be gradually introduced when wanting to recall the dog. Take your dog into the garden and then blow the whistle followed by encouraging use of his name and command 'come'. When the dog comes towards you, adopt a crouched position which is more encouraging and welcoming to your dog. Reward the dog with a treat, toy or praise when they come to you.
When the training is progressed outside the safety of the garden, a retractable extending lead is a useful tool to allow your dog to have safe restricted freedom whilst teaching the recall response. Body positioning is very important with recall. Adopting a welcoming, inviting position when calling your dog will improve his response. Never tell your dog off for a slow response as this will teach him an unpleasant association with returning to his owner. Whilst on a walk, recall your dog regularly and attach your lead each time so your dog doesn't begin to predict going home. The use of a friend or training assistant can help with recall whilst on walks. Have them restrain your dog whilst you move a few yards away and then call your dog encouragingly from a crouched position. Offer your dog a tit- bit whilst you attach the lead and repeat the process a few times.
Loose Lead Walking
Have your dog attached to a suitable strong leather, webbing or rope lead, which is also comfortable for you to hold. Position your dog by your side, attract his attention with a favourable toy or treat, keeping your lead as relaxed as possible. As you move forward, continue to focus his attention upon you by using his name, encouraging words and command 'heel'. As the lead tightens and your dog gets too far ahead, suddenly stand still and use the original word 'no'. As the lead tightens, encourage your dog back to the original position and begin the training process again. Repetition and a consistent approach is key to success with this training method which requires patience, but will pay dividends long term. Changing the speed at which you walk from slow to fast and in between, and incorporating turns, keeps the exercise interesting and your dog's attention on the training.
A dog which has been taught to walk on a loose lead is a pleasure to take for walks. For older or stronger dogs a half check collar or head-collar such as a Halti or Gentle Leader may help control dogs with a history of pulling.
This behaviour is usually learnt as a small puppy but the consequences aren't usually appreciated until the dog has grown into an adult dog, therefore prevention at a young age is sensible. Dogs jump up in excitement to greet us, seeking attention from both physical contact and reassuring eye contact. This occurs more commonly with a homecoming, after the dog has been left alone for a while. Therefore the training begins when people enter the home. It is important not to reward the dog for jumping by touching and therefore when the dog jumps up immediately turn around and ignore his advances. Looking upwards and folding your arms gives him very clear signals you are not interested. Crouching to your dog's level to greet him reduces the likelihood of jumping and prevents him learning a bad habit.
With persistent jumpers, setting up situations with frequent visitors so your dog has a regular opportunity to learn provides a sensible solution. Have your dog on a lead before the visitor enters, and prepare your visitor with a food reward for the dog. As the visitor enters, hold the dog on a relaxed lead and have the visitor command your dog to sit, followed by the treat reward. Repeat this process until you can eventually remove the lead and the dog has learnt the new response.
Puppies need to relieve themselves at regular intervals and certainly after feeding, play and rest. Newspaper is not recommended to house train puppies, as it only prolongs the process and effectively teaches pups to relieve indoors, it is very important to initially establish a regular feeding, sleeping and play routine. Puppies are sure to need to relieve after all of the above and therefore their routine can become predictable and if you can predict when they need to relieve then the house training becomes much more effective and efficient. You must keep a careful eye on your puppy and take it into the garden, giving a command such as 'be quick' and then lots of praise and encouragement as it performs. Without supervision you will not be able to let the dog know they are doing the right thing, therefore even if the puppy needs to go outside in the worst of weather, then you must be with them to praise them. After all it is far better to encourage the dog in the first place, rather than step into a wet, warm puddle in the morning. Reward the dog for his actions each time and your training process should be consistent and regular.
Should the puppy have an accident in front of you, do not tell him off. Therefore a clap of the hands is usually sufficient to interrupt him, from what he is doing and carry him to the garden and continue to supervise and add the 'Be Quick' command.
Using indoor crates over night, confines the puppy to an area they are programmed not to relieve in, their bed. By having this crate near to your bedroom at night you will be able to hear any attempt to get out top relive and therefore allow your puppy to relieve in the correct place, rather than wander around the home to find a suitable discreet spot. This inconvenience at night should only be short lived and by the time the puppy is three months old, they should be well on the way to being fully house trained.
A Pee Post is a great tool for assisting puppy training as it encourages them to eliminate in an area of the garden that you choose. For best results, show them the area where you have placed the post and always take them there first thing in the morning, last thing at night and immediately after meals. If they go there, wait until they've finished and then give an immediate reward.
Puppy Pads also help take the stress out of house training. The scent in the pad will attract puppies to wherever it is placed, thus encouraging them to relieve themselves on the pad instead of the floor. Reward your puppy for its actions each time and your house training process will soon develop.
All conscientious dog owners should never be without a poop scoop. It is irresponsible for owners to allow their dogs to foul paths, public parks and areas. In many public areas litterbins are available to dispose of dog foul and should always be used. You will also find that your poop scoop will come in handy for removing your dogs deposits from the back garden!
Puppies will experiment with their mouths as they grow and play biting is how puppies learn to use their mouths correctly. Their needle sharp teeth can be very painful and preventing the onset of excessive play biting at an early age is far better then trying to cure it later. The more opportunities the dog has to interact with people and dogs, the more chance your puppy has to learn how to use its mouth carefully. Reprimands are not usually necessary, but imitating another puppies 'Yelp!' or a loud 'Ouch!' when the biting is too hard is usually sufficient to deter most puppies and teach them to be more careful next time. This should be followed immediately by a period of ignoring the puppy, or separating the puppy from the family for a short while.
This needs to be consistent and understood by all members of the family for the puppy to learn.
Using Toys for Training
Toys can be either interactive, which need somebody or another animal to play with, or pacification, which reward the animal for their own actions. Pullies and tugging toys are interactive and not much fun for dogs to play with on their own, but great with the family and other pets for playing tug of war. Whilst food-filled toys or edible dog treats are rewarding enough on their own, boredom is a contributing factor to many pet behaviour problems. Providing stimulating and interesting toys for your dog will provide psychological relief and achieve a sense of satisfaction.
Clicker Training is a new, exciting and very effective technique for teaching and training dogs. Whether you have a new puppy, a behaviour problem to resolve or would just like to teach an old dog new tricks, Clicker Training is what you need. The clicker is able to tell the dog at a precise moment that a particular behaviour is good. It's also a much faster way of teaching and can be learnt by owners of all ages. To accustom the dog to the clicker, it is as simple as click and treat.
Training is fun and enjoyable for both you and your dog and having a well behaved and controlled dog is very rewarding. Sometimes you may find that your training may not always be going to plan and you need a little help. There are many training aids available to help you achieve first class results and here are a few guidelines.
Barking when left
Halti - Gentle Leader - WalkEasy
Kong - Buster Cube - Roll - a - Treat Balls
Extending Lead - Whistle - Treats
Head collar - Clicker
Kong - Food filled toys
Muzzle - Headcollar
Indoor wire kennel - food filled toys
How to find a suitable training class
Puppies can begin training after they have received their full course of vaccinations by attending a puppy socialisation class, which should allow time for controlled interaction with other puppies of a similar age both on and off the lead. For older dogs, classes should be well supervised, have appropriate numbers of dogs and owners to instructor ratio, with dogs of a similar stage of training to your own. Before you begin training, make an appointment to attend a class without your dog to assess the suitability for your own dog's particular needs. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers encourages the use of Kind, Fair and Effective training and they have approved dog trainers holding classes in your area.
Advice with Individual Problems
Association of Pet Dog Trainers, www.apdt.co.uk, Peacocks Farm, Northchapel, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 9JB 01428 707 234
The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, UK PO Box 17, Kempsford, GL7 4WZ 01285 810811