When you live with a dog, they need to be as well-behaved as you would expect your human child to be. Having an unruly dog is just as bad, and can sometimes be worse than having an unruly child. Teaching your dog basic commands, whether in an obedience class with other dogs or with a private trainer, is important. You never know when you may have to use them, but the commands you have trained your dog to obey may be useful in saving their life.
There are no time limits for training your dog and you should not rush them to learn if they are a bit slow. Every dog is different and will learn at their own pace; you just need to have patience. You may even want to keep a training journal, because if you have training issues and need help it can be easier for someone to assess your dog if they can see your progress written down.
In obedience training with my own dogs, I learned that the easiest way to train a dog to sit was to use a tiny bit of bait, like a Snap-Bits® treat. I would put it in my hand, so that my dog could not see it or steal it, but was able to smell it. Then facing my dog, I started with my hand several inches above their nose and ran my hand with the treat, in line with their backbone back towards their tail. The easiest way for them to follow the treat is to lift up their head and they sit.
While my dog is beginning to sit, I say “sit” so they will learn to associate the word with the action. After they sit, I repeat the word “sit” several times and praise my dog for being good. If your hand is too far above your dog’s head, they may try and jump for the treat. Lowering your hand so it is closer to their head should take care of this. Sometimes, Skye will try and back up to get the treat. When she does this, I back her up against a fence, so there is a barrier behind her and she can’t back up any more.
I learned to teach the command ‘down’ by first putting my dog in a sitting position in front of me. Then, using a treat they couldn’t see in my hand or take away but could smell, I put my hand a few inches in front of their nose and lower my hand to the floor. Our trainer also taught us to look at the floor first, because our dog’s eyes would follow ours down to the floor and make it theoretically easier to get our dog to understand what we wanted. After my dog would lie down on the floor, I would put the treat between their front feet and say “down” several times and make much of my dog’s accomplishment.
When training a new command, I usually only work for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, and about three times a day. If you are working with a puppy, even an older dog; you don’t want them to get bored. Keep it light and fun and they will have no problem with you wanting to train them, because they will think it is a new form of playing. After all is said and done, isn’t a well-behaved dog what we all want?
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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