If you haven't read step one in this series of training posts, you can see it here:
NEW DOG TRAINING: STEP ONE
This is step two of my new puppy's training. The first few training sessions consisted mostly of leash acclimation and environmental confidence. While he took to much of this very quickly, he did have some apprehension around strangers. It wasn't typical fear of strangers, however. Up close with anyone, he was very happy and friendly. When he saw someone at a distance, or through a car window, he was fearful of them. This can be linked to a few causes. One of these causes is nearsightedness, which we will be checking for with a veterinary ophthalmologist. Another cause could be psychological. He is very 'clingy' and sets up his 'home base' very quickly. This can lead to him protect his area from perceived threats, when most dogs won't. I am treating this behavior problem as if it is the latter of the possible causes. We have made good progress so far but haven't completely eradicated the behavior.
We have also been working on basic commands. These are very important for a dog to learn. They are necessary for the dogs safety and are the basis for all other obedience training. For most trainers, these basic commands consist of sit, stay, down, and come. I like to add 'drop it' to this list because it could literally save your dogs life if he picks up something dangerous.
It has become popular recently for trainers to solely promote using positive reinforcement as their mechanism of training. I believe a more well rounded training regiment produces a more well rounded dog. However, I do not recommend that someone who is not a dog trainer use other types of training without first seeking the advice of a professional trainer. You must learn when and where other types of training are acceptable, otherwise a dog can become fearful and shut down. This all but ruins a dog for any future obedience training.
For the basic commands, positive reinforcement is all that is necessary, and all that should be used. The techniques used to train these commands are fairly simple. First, find out what motivates your dog. For the vast majority, this will be food. However, if food doesn't work for your dog try toys, praise, or play.
Come When Called
Come is the most important thing you can teach your dog is to come when called. This can keep him out of trouble and away from danger. Your dog needs to know and trust you in order for this to work. It's important to give your dog time to bond with you and become comfortable with his new living conditions before commencing training.
When you and your dog are ready to begin, this is how you teach him the all important 'come'.
Start with your dog on a long loose lead. Get his attention, back away a few feet, kneel down and give your command in a high pitched and excited voice. Lots of praise and treats should be awarded when he comes to you, followed by a short play session with the two of you. Gradually increase the distance that you back away. Eventually you can remove the lead for this training when inside or in a fenced yard. Don't let your dog run free until you are absolutely certain he will come back when you call him.
Your command doesn't have to be the word 'come'. It can be 'here boy', 'come here, *name*', or practically anything you want it to be. The important thing is to be consistent. Whatever command you choose should be the one you always use.
The sit command is one of the easiest behaviors to teach your new dog and should be one of the first ones he learns. Assuming your dog is food motivated, the behavior is taught like this.
Hold a small treat in your hand. Get your dogs attention. Hold the treat in your hand in front of your dogs nose. Slowly move the treat back over the dogs head. This will cause him to sit as he follows the treat with his nose. As soon as his butt hits the floor, say 'sit', give him the treat, and praise him in a very excited and high pitched voice. Keep doing this several times a day until you can simply give the command and get the action.
Always praise him for doing the behavior. Do not say 'sit' repetitively. It can desensitize your dog to the word.
After your dog has mastered the 'sit' command, it is time to learn 'stay'. This is the next most important command and is a natural progression from 'sit'. This command is also fairly simple to teach.
Have your dog sit. When he does, rather than immediately giving him the treat, place your hand close in front of his face like your telling someone to stop. Give the command to stay and slowly back your hand, then your body away from the dog. Keep your hand up the whole time. Your first goal is for your dog to let you get just 1-2 feet away. If he moves before you achieve this distance, simply guide him back to the same spot, and repeat the process. Sit, stay, back away.
When you can get a foot or two away, praise him and give him the treat. Gradually get further and further away before you reward him. Patience is key here. Don't get frustrated with your dog. He will learn what you want him to do.
This command is also a natural progression from 'sit' and is usually easy to teach.
Have your dog sit the way you did when first teaching him to, with the treat in hand directly in front of his nose. When he sits, move your hand down between his front legs. As his nose follows the treat, he should naturally lay down. As soon as his elbows touch the ground, say 'down' and give him the treat and the praise.
If you move the treat too far from his body on the way down he will stand back up to get to it. Make sure you keep it close to his body all the way down.
After the come command, this is the most important command you can teach your dog. Like I stated earlier, this command could save your dogs life if he picks up something dangerous. Most trainers leave this out of their beginner training classes because it isn't as strait forward and easy to teach. Still, though, I always add it to the list of basic commands. It is simply that important.
This command can be taught over time and has to be done with patience. It is very likely your dog will pick up something you don't want him to have. Be ready for these occasions. Keep treats by the couch so can spring into action. When you catch your dog with that slipper in his mouth, don't just yell and jump up. Get up calmly, walk over to him, and tell him to sit. Gently take the item from his mouth while saying 'drop it' in a more stern voice than you usually use. As soon as he lets go, give him the treat and praise. It is important not to reward him if he brings an undesired object to you. Only do this when you catch him in the act.
Another way to teach this command is during play time. If your dogs likes toys you can teach him this way. Toss his favorite toy to him. Let him play with it. If he brings it over to you, good. If not, that's fine. Either way, after a few seconds of play, when the toy is in his mouth, have him sit. Say drop it while taking the toy from his mouth. As soon as he lets go give him a treat, praise, and return the toy. This can be done repetitively until you can simply give the 'drop it' command and receive the action.
You can also use these two techniques in conjunction with each other.
Patience is very important in teaching these commands. Don't try to teach too much too fast. Give time to master one command before moving to another.
Use high pitched and excited tones for commands and praise. Don't be too cool to get excited. Your dog will thrive on your energy levels.
The words you use for your commands don't have to be the typical 'sit, stay, come'. You can use any word or phrase you want for any of the commands. The important thing is to be consistent. When you choose your command, that is what you should use for the rest of your dogs life.
During your early training, don't repeat commands over and over. "Sit, sit, sit, sit." Will not get him to sit. It will simply desensitize him from the word and make training much harder.
Don't be afraid to take a step back in your training. Moving slowly is much better than moving too fast.
Think of a hand gesture for each behavior. One that comes naturally to the command you are giving. Use this hand gesture in conjunction with your command during training. This will allow you to give your dog nonverbal commands later in your training. Being able to tell your dog what to do without saying anything can be very handy in some situations (over long distances or with a sleeping baby in the room).
Curling your fist up to your chest usually works well for sit. Holding your hand out with your palm towards the floor is good for down. The typical stop sign hand is great for stay. Snap ad point down works for drop it. And waving your arm and hand back towards you is good for come.
These are the ones I use but you can pick anything you want. Again, consistency is what matters.
Miles will have his next learning adventure very soon and I will give a detailed account on how and why that training is performed. Remember that the first few steps have to be taken slowly, with plenty of patience, love, and understanding. Get these sessions right, and everything to come will be exponentially easier.
If you have any questions about basic training, specific behavior problems, or if you want to sign up for a class, email me at CanicrossUS@gmail.com
Never Run Alone