Kanine Obedience Training 101
For many dog owners, one of the greatest benefits of having a canine companion is bringing him along wherever they go, and dogs undoubtedly enjoy being in the company of their people as often as possible.
But, others who aren't as familiar with -- or as fond of -- dogs as you are may be a bit intimidated at the sight of your furry friend accompanying you to their homes or businesses. One way to alleviate their concern is to make absolutely sure you're the owner of a well-behaved, well-trained dog.
Obedience training is important even if your dog rarely leaves your yard because though he may not be going on visits or errands with you, other people will be entering his territory sooner or later.
Even if your dog's most frequent visitor is a postal carrier, it's imperative that your pet learns about good behavior.
There are several schools of thought when it comes to obedience training; some trainers use treats, while others use clickers or other tools and techniques. Some even rely on the combination of a few techniques, such as reinforcing clicker training by giving the dog a treat.
No matter which method they use, trainers usually begin by teaching their dogs and puppies to follow the same basic commands: Sit, stay and come.
The "sit" command is probably the most basic of anything you'll teach your dog. It is the easiest command to teach and the simplest command for your dog to learn, making it a popular choice for a dog's first lesson in obedience. That, in addition to the plethora of ways in which this small word can be useful, is why many trainers consider it the building block for all other commands.
"Sit" can come in handy when your dog is attempting to jump on someone, especially if he has not yet mastered the "down" command. It can also be useful during a walk when his boundless energy has him pulling at his leash and attempting to chase every scampering squirrel and neighborhood cat in sight. It's also a good command to have up your sleeve when your excited dog just can't sit still as you unlock your front door.
There are a few ways in which you can get your dog to begin sitting on demand. Some trainers advocate using the word "sit" when your dog sits on his own, following the command, of course, with praise. This may help the dog identify the word and the desired related behavior.
You can also begin by showing your dog a treat, letting him sniff it, and then slowly moving it above your dog's head. He will have to go into a sitting position if he wants to keep an eye on that tasty morsel! As your dog begins to assume the sitting position, repeat the word "sit", gently but firmly.
After he sits, give him the treat, along with plenty of praise and affection. If your dog is resistant to this method, you can also hold the treat in front of and slightly over him and repeat "sit" while placing your free hand on the dog's back, just in front of his tail, and applying gentle pressure.
Once your dog knows how to sit, you'll probably want to teach him to stay in that position for a desired amount of time. To do so, it's helpful to have a release command, such as a simple "okay" that will signal to the dog that he is allowed to move. To begin teaching the stay command, first have him sit, and then place your hand, palm open, in front of his nose and command him to "stay."
Back up slightly and praise your dog for remaining in place. You'll need to start off slowly, as your dog will probably stay for only a second or two at first. As his "stay" times get longer, move increasingly farther away. Always remember to praise your every few seconds until he breaks position upon hearing the release command.
Teaching a dog to come seems like a simple thing, but it can be very difficult to tear his attention away from all those fascinating sticks, bugs and other intriguing items to be found in your yard. Still, with time and patience, your dog will learn to return to your side no matter what has caught his attention. First, make sure your dog is on a leash when teaching this command; second, be sure to use the SAME command each time. Don't use "come" and "come here" interchangeably. Dogs will hear the two phrases differently and will not respond. Consistency is key.
Once you've got your dog attached to a leash, preferably a long one, let him walk around the yard for a few minutes. Then, call his name and tell him to "come." Gently tug on the leash. This should get his attention and prompt him to take a couple of steps toward you. When he takes those steps toward you, praise him profusely in a pleasant voice. Continue praising him until he has made his way to you.
If your dog doesn't respond to that first tug, try calling him again, once more tugging the leash. He'll eventually get the idea, so remember not to use a sharp or raised voice. You'll only scare your dog and betray your anger, defeating the purpose of the exercise. Let's face it -- if you were him, would YOU want to come toward an angry owner?
After you've taught your dog these basic commands, you'll probably advance to more complex ones. But, there are a couple of things to keep in mind, whatever you may be teaching him.
* Be consistent -- Always praise and reward your dog after a successfully completed command. Once the dog has fully mastered the task, you can begin weaning him off treats, but never forget to show affection and appreciation for his good behavior.
* Be patient -- Dogs live to please their owners; your dog wants to make you happy by doing what you want. He may have a little trouble with the concept at first, but losing your temper will only delay training even more. With consistency and kindness, he'll get the idea eventually.
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