Training a Shelter Dog
Expert advice on teaching a rescue dog your rules.
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Training works best when blended into the context of daily life. When your dog asks for something — food, play, whatever — ask it to do something first, then reward by granting its request.
Treat rewards should be tasty but small, so you can reward many times without overfeeding your dog. High-quality dry dog food makes good training treats because it's wholesome and the right size. Supercharge dry kibble by keeping some in a jar overnight with more highly flavored treats. The resulting trail mix will generate more interest than plain kibble.
Teach your dog to pay attention when you ask. Other training won't work if your dog hasn't mastered this command, so teach it first.
- Show a treat, then say an attention cue word that you will use consistently (the dog's name or a word like "look" or "watch") and raise the treat to the outer corner of your eye.
- Click and treat when your dog's eyes follow the motion of the treat to your eyes.
- Repeat this step about 10 times.
- Palm a treat so the dog can't see it.
- Say the attention word and point to the corner of your eye with your finger.
- Your dog's gaze should follow the motion; click and treat when it does.
- If your dog doesn't follow the motion, lure with treats several times, then try again.
- Repeat until the dog follows the motion of your finger quickly, then go to Step 3.
- Hide both hands behind your back.
- Say the attention word once and wait for the dog to glance up. (Don't repeat cue, just wait and watch.)
- Give your dog a moment to puzzle out this new element. Most will look for your hands and then, not seeing them, glance questioningly at your face. Click and treat.
- From then on, use only the verbal cue.
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