This page is under constant construction to add new information. It
- Basic Training Tips and Methods
- Explanation on how to teach various exercises
- FAQ for common training hurdles
Training Tips and Methods
Using praise, positive rewards, and motivation is the best way to train your puppy or adult dog.
Training the Exercise: There are 1-100 ways to teach your
dog most new exercises. It all comes down to being creative. The first thing you need to figure out for ANY exercise
is how you are going to get your dog to do the behavior you wish it to do. For example, let's say you are training your
puppy sit. You can get your puppy into a sit one of many different ways: Holding a toy above it's head, or holding a
treat above its head. Holding a toy or treat above it's head while gently tucking it's back legs under him into a sit
behind him. You could physically place him in a sit. Maybe your dog doesn't like the back of his legs tickled
and will sit down when you do that. And, usually our puppies (unless they have some strange physical problem) will sit
naturally all by themselves on many occasions. This is also an opportunity to teach them that what they are doing it
'sit' and that it is good. The point of all this is that although I will outline recommended ways of soliciting a behavior
from your dog, some ways work better or differently with different trainers and dogs and you should feel free to experiment
when you need to.
The Handler Attitude - Our dogs are very perceptive. As handlers
and dog trainers, we need to be sensitive to that fact. When you are training your dog, make sure you are in a good
mood. Training should be fun for both of you! Your dog will pick up if you're not in a good mood, and you're also
likely to get frustrated with him and not be as patient teaching, using a harsh tone of voice or not taking as much time to
teach him the new behavior.
Cues - The whole point of most training (aside from training where we are working to eliminate
a certain behavior) is to train a dog to perform task A when we do or say B. When you are teaching your dog to sit,
for example, you wish your dog to sit down when you say the word 'Sit'. If you are training with hand signals, you might
raise your right hand in front of the dog and expect the dog to 'Sit' when he sees you do this. Raising our hand, or
using a specific word to elicit a behavior are both examples of Cues. Cues are the key words or actions we use to tell
our dog what we want him to do. When you are training new behaviors and soliciting behavior with treats/toys, or any
other method be aware that the dog also sees these as cues. So when you say 'Sit Rover' and hold a treat over his head
to get him to sit, he is seeing two things that should occur prior to him sitting. One, you say 'Sit Rover' and two,
you hold a treat over his head. Sometimes if you stop the second cue (the treat) the dog will not perform. Do
not worry, the dog has simply not associated the first cue 'Sit' close enough to the exercise yet; he hasn't fully learned
the exercise yet. You may also unconsciously not realize cues you give off to the dog whether it be a tilt of your head,
rate of breathing, eye contact ... it could be anything you do without realizing it ... that the dog will then pick up on.
Do not be overly concerned with this, but if sometime you get into advanced training you may run into areas where these unconsciuos
cues cause you problems, so it is just a good thing to be aware of.
Proofing the Exercise - Just teaching Fido to sit in the kitchen isn't enough.
If you've taught Fido to sit in the kitchen - be aware he knows just that ... how to sit in the kitchen. He does NOT
necessarily know that he is supposed to sit when you say 'sit' outside, at the park, at the vets office, or when the
neighbor's cat runs by. Therefore, we need to TEACH Fido that Sit means Sit no matter where we say it, what he or you
is doing, or what is going on around the both of you. Teaching your dog how to perform an exercise he already understands
in different environments is called Proofing. How do you do it? Simply bring Fido to the park and say Sit, have
a friend (or yourself) roll a ball by Fido and tell him to Sit, tell Fido to Sit outside ... essentially teach Fido that sit
still means sit - no matter what the environment. You need to decide what is least and most distracting to Fido and
teach him accordingly. So, if Fido is a steak addict but loud noises do not bother him, proof him first by having him
Sit while someone bangs some pots and pans together and later after he has mastered that, have him sit while a juicy Porterhouse
sits next to him on the floor. But if Fido doesn't care that much about food but a Thunderstorm throws him in fits,
then start first with the food distraction and then move into the Thunderstorm. How long it takes to proof an exercise
is as variable as how long it takes to teach the dog the exercise in the first place. You will just need to watch and
pay close attention to your dog and how steady he is in the different situations as you proof him.
Enforcing the Exercise - When you are training your dog, do not train him ANYTHING you
cannot train without enforcing it. Enforcing does NOT mean correcting, it means gently but firmly making the dog do
what you told it to do. For example, when you teach "Come" do not tell your dog to "Come" unless you have it on a leash
and can pull him into you if he doesn't immediately come. This is very very important in all exercises!
Any time you give your dog ANY command and do not require them to follow-up with the expected behavior then you have just
taught your dog that it is OK to not follow the command, the command is meaningless (should the dog choose to ignore it),
and the dog is in charge here - not you. Now ... if you tell your dog sit once and it doesn't do it and you don't get
in there are you 'ruined'? No, you're not. Dogs are fairly forgiving. But if you tell your dog sit and one
out of ten times it doesn't do it and you don't make it .. you're growing yourself your own problem dog.
Correction - When I refer to correction, I mean using a pop on a choker or pinch collar
and/or using a very very stern and deep tone of voice with your dog in response to bad behavior. For the purposes of
training new behaviors, this type of correction is unnecessary and actually is destructive as it keeps you from building trust
and bonding with your dog. Your dog doesn't get warm fuzzy feelings when you yell at it or physically discipline it
for something that it doesn't already understand. This is basic common sense, and I'm sure you can understand that concept
just thinking how you would feel if a parent/spouse/boss yelled at you for doing something wrong (when you didn't even know
what you were supposed to be doing in the first place). This does not mean that correction is never used. Just
that it is never used when training dogs new behaviors. Correction is needed at times when a dog deliberately
does not perform a command for which it is has already been thoroughly trained and proofed. Correction, in some form,
is needed with some dogs to eliminate behaviors (such as jumping up on people). However, for the primary focus of beginning
training, it is not needed.
Frequency and Duration of Training - At a bare minimum, you need to work with the average
dog once a day, five times a week, for about five to fifteen minutes in order for them to learn. At a maximum, you could
train your dog five minutes out of every hour or two during the day and they would probably learn very very quickly.
At an ideal, what I highly recommend, is a two step approach. First, always be ready to train.
When you get up with your puppy in the morning and let them out to go to the bathroom, tell them to "Wait" at the door (and
make them wait while you go out or come in first), tell them to "Go Potty" when they go outside, when they are done doing
their business tell them to "Come" and make sure they do that, and then "Wait" at the door again (or maybe "Sit" and then
"Wait") when you bring them back in. Let your puppy drag a long leash around the house, keep treats in your pockets
and grab it when he/she isn't watching and say "Come" and entice him over to you with the treat. Tell your puppy to
"Sit" before you feed it or put its water bowls down. Secondly, it is beneficial to have a set aside time for just you
and your dog ... for 5 or 15 minutes once or twice a day to do training exercises exclusively.
If you are working with a young adult dog, as opposed to a puppy, then you can probably increase your training
time to closer to 30 minutes at a time, if the dog has a long enough attention span and you wish to do this.
The key to remember is that puppies have very short attention spans. If you spread your teaching throughout
the day and have a short (5-15 minute) additional training time, this is plenty. You always want the puppy to look forward
to his training, and to wish it wasn't going to end (key to him looking forward to the next round). If you spend too
much time, puppy gets tired and stressed out and just can't wait til its over -- not what you want for your pup ... we want
him to Love to learn and be Eager to please. Correct training intervals will help you establish both of these things!!
Teaching Common Exercises