Training & Behavior

Discover how to teach training basics.

By Liz Palika |

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Start by having your dog sit, then show it the treat in your right hand. As you say, Fido, down! take the treat from its nose down to the floor right before its front paws. Use the treat as a lure to lead your dogs nose to the floor. As its head follows the treat, rest your left hand lightly on its shoulders. If your dog tries to pop back up before you give the release command, the left hand on its shoulders will keep your dog down. Once your dog is down, praise enthusiastically and pop the treat in its mouth.

When you are ready for your dog to get up, pat it on the shoulder and say, Fido, release! This command works the same from the down as it does from the sit, and it tells your dog that the exercise is completed.

Stay: Stay means hold still. Your dog will do this exercise in both the sit and the down. In either position, your dog should hold the position until you give it permission to move by giving the release command.

Start by having your dog sit. Praise and treat your dog for sitting, then make sure you have all remaining treats in your pocket so your hands are empty. With an open palm toward your dogs nose, say, Fido, stay! At the same time, put a little pressure backward (toward your dogs tail) with the leash so it won't be as apt to follow you when you take a step away. When your dog seems to be holding still, release the pressure of the leash. After a few seconds, go back to your dog, give some enthusiastic praise and pop a treat in its mouth.

As your dog learns the stay command (in both the sit and down positions), gradually increase the time and distance in which you step away. For example, for the first few days, take one step away and have your dog hold the stay for 10 seconds. Later that week, have your dog hold the stay while you take three steps away and increase the time to 20 seconds. Increase it gradually, though; if your dog makes a few mistakes, then you are moving too fast.

Heel: A dog that pulls so hard your shoulder hurts is no fun to take for a walk. That's torture not fun! However, when your dog learns to walk nicely, without pulling, and pays attention to you when you talk, walks are fun.

Hook the leash up to your dogs collar and hold the leash in one hand. Have some good dog treats in your other hand. Show your dog the treats and then back away so that it appears you are leading your dog by the nose. Back away 10 steps or so and when your dog follows you, praise enthusiastically and pop a treat in its mouth. After you have practiced this a few times (10 steps at a time), and when your dog is following you nicely, turn and walk forward so that your dog ends up on your left side and you are both walking forward together. After another 10 steps, stop, praise your dog and give it a treat.

Practice this often and keep the walking distances very short, with lots of sits, praise and treats. If while you're walking, your dog gets distracted, simply back away and start all over. However, if your dog ignores some distractions and continues working and paying attention to you, give it a bonus reward. Stop training for the moment, release your dog from any commands, praise enthusiastically and pop a handful of treats into its mouth. Pet your dogpat, rub and massage itmake sure your dog understands how happy you are.

Come: It is very important that your dog understands that come means to come directly to you on the first call, every time you call. Your dog isn't to come just when it suits its interests or when nothing else is interesting. Instead, it is to come all the time, every time.

Have your dog on the leash and hold the leash in one hand. In the other hand, hold a box of dog treats. Shake the dog treats (making the sound obvious) and as you back away from your dog (so it can chase you), call your dog to come, Fido, come! Let it catch up to you, and after a few steps, have it sit. Praise enthusiastically, Good boy to come! and give your dog a treat.

The box of dog treats is a sound stimulus that makes your verbal command much more exciting. Because the come command is so important, use the sound stimulus (the box of treats) often during your training.

When your dog is responding well on the leash, make up a long leash (20 to 30 feet in length) and repeat the training with the long leash. Continue using the box of treats. If your dog responds well, give it a bonus rewardpraise your dog enthusiastically, rub its tummy and tell your dog how wonderful it is.

Don't be in a hurry to take the leash off your dog. Most dogs aren't mentally mature and ready for off-leash training until they are at least 2 years old. Some aren't ready for off-leash training even then. Your training on leash must be very, very good with few mistakes before you should ever try it off leash, doing so only in a fenced-in, secure area.

An OnGoing Process
Training your dog can be a lot of work. You must pay attention to your dog, respond to it and emphasize the behaviors you want your dog to continue doing. This means you need to help your dog be good, as well as praise and reward its good behavior. A well-trained dog is worth the effort. Not only is a well-trained dog a joy to live with, but it is fun to take places and play with. A well-trained dog can travel with you, go on picnics and to family reunions. It can participate in advanced training and dog sports. Best of all, a well-trained dog is your very best friend.

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