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Puppy obedience training is the routine that all puppies should undergo. The aim of training a dog is best described…by its name, Obedience! It’s all about obedience. An obedient puppy grows into an exemplary dog, a true sidekick that shares the same habits and behavior that all owners have. Obedience is not just a jailer-inmate relationship – it is quite opposite. You both learn to trust each other and build an image of what you are likely to expect from your soon-to-be-adult puppy and vice versa – the puppy learns to know you better and find the best ways to please you in terms of own behavior. Physical workout plus mental drills make the obedience training a complex one but, not an impossible thing to do. It’s great to know what to start with and have an example of strategy that is destined to help you. Luckily for you, we have prepared an exceedingly great article on this matter in which we are going to envisage the question from several sides.
How To: Teaching Commands
There are five basic commands that help developing other more complexes. If you choose not to advance your training, these five commands can be enough: sit, down, stay, come and walking on leash (more about Puppy training). To ensure the best results possible, experts recommend following these hints:
- Be consistent. Use the same line when teaching. It means naming the same word/words without changing them. If you say one week “come” and the next it changes into “come here”, your puppy will think that the latter version is completely another thing that you are asking it to do and you’ll have to teach it from the scratch.
- Be simple. Go step-by-step and do not make giant leaps. Cognitive abilities of puppies are low but, practicing improves their learning and thus, differentiates between commands. Once your puppy responds to the command consistently, you may add three D’s – distraction, duration and distance. For instance, you begin training “come here” in your house. After , you may move to the backyard or add some distraction and distance while being inside: favorite toys, more distance between you and the dog when you train the dog. Don’t forget to change the training technique gradually.
- Do not repeat the same command several times in a row. Say it once and see what the puppy does. When teaching the dog, all sounds matter; if there is too much verbal distraction, you both will go nowhere in your training.
- Treats ensure progress. They can be used as reward and lures. A dog cookie can be used to draw puppy’s attention and immediately hidden; a treat can be used, hidden in the hand to make the puppy follow you. Reward your puppy with a treat every time it shows good response to your commands.
- Timing the praise and the reward. Verbal praises and rewards are two milestones of the successful obedience training. Also, you should know that they must be used on time – right after the moment your puppy does something right.
- Make rewards random. Dogs are more motivated by rewards that are given non-systematically. What does it mean? Your puppy will learn quickly about your demands and will come up with a simple pattern like “I do this way – I get a treat”. But, once you dish out treats for best responses (best sit or quickest down), vary their type and the frequency, as your puppy will be more attentive while training, in general. It’s helpful to give it a treat every time in the very beginning, but once the puppy shows good progress, constant rewarding becomes a predisposition towards cliché and obesity. After first big success, reduce the frequency and substitute the part of its successful attempts with verbal praise and caressing.
- Training must be a fun. Keep training sessions short and funny at the same time. Do not play a sergeant in a rookie camp – your puppy will get bored before the training is over. Five-ten minutes in beginning is more than enough. Begin with one short session during first week; add another short session the same day during the other week. The key to success here is the consistency and understanding the length of your puppy’s attention span.
- Keep it cool. No yelling, no hitting, no jerking by the leash! All your puppy may learn in such case is that you are scary and unpredictable and it’s better to avoid your society for own sake. If you feel that you have no more patience, just stop the training. Resume it when you are calm.
- Nothing is free. Another great approach, better state stages that your puppy should learn. Every time you are about to give it a toy, a meal or offer a game or walk, ask the puppy to obey a command. If ithe refuses, put down whatever ithe is hoping for and try offering again in a minute. Thus you will support your pack leader role.
Teaching to Stay
Holding still is sometimes the biggest challenge that dog faces in their training career.
Begin with almost brusque success like making a highly energetic puppy to remain calm for a second. Increase the duration gradually, by adding a second every week. This is how you should teach the puppy to stay:
- Start training in familiar environment inside the house with no toys or other distractions nearby.
- Draw your puppy’s attention with the help of a treat.
- Ask the puppy to sit or lie down and praise it after it holds this position for at least a second.
- Once the puppy learns what it’s asked about, add the verbal anchor: once the dog assumes the demanded position, say “Stay” while holding your hand with the palm towards the puppy’s face as if making a “Stop” sign like police officers do.
- Repeat the process and try to make the duration of stay a bit longer.
Advanced version of training involves distance and turning your back when the puppy is staying still. Ask the puppy to stay when there is another dog or person in the distance or there’s kibble scattered around it or you are bouncing its favorite ball.
Teaching to Come
Otherwise known as the recall, this command is one of the most important obedience skills as it helps keep your dog safe while it is off-leash.
- Start training indoors or in the backyard. If the puppy sticks around you all the time, ask your friend to keep it while you make a few steps away.
- Once the puppy is commanded to sit and remain still or you asked your friend to keep it at a distance, wave a treat in your hand, squat down and open both arms as if welcoming to hug and say “come”.
- AS your puppy moves towards you, praise it verbally and should it stop coming to you cease praising. Resume once it continues coming to you.
- Once the puppy makes it to you, offer it the treat, praise and pet it. After that you may command your dog to go play or throw a ball to distract the puppy. Now repeat the sequence.
- Master the command obedience and offer the treat only after the fastest recall.
The “come” command must be followed with something positive, other than with a reprimand or with something that would be more associated with compulsion like, leaving the park for home or going to bath – anything that is not favorite with your puppy. And one more thing – never move towards the puppy when calling it.
As for the leash training, we recommend reading our big article dedicated solely to the leash training in which you will find a bunch of helpful and working strategies as well as comprehensive hints to troubleshooting.
Teaching to Sit
One of the simplest commands that can prevent many troubles from happening is sitting. This command requires using a treat for both luring of the puppy into the demanded position as well as rewarding.
- Move the treat from your puppy’s nose up and over the muzzle. As the puppy’s head tilt up while following the treat, it will eventually sit.
- As puppy sits down, praise it and give it the treat. Repeat the sequence several times.
- Once the puppy learns what you want it to do, introduce the cue – say “sit” before moving the treat.
- Once the puppy learns to sit down every time you ask it, offer a reward sporadically – for the quickest sit, for instance.
There is alternate method of teaching the puppy to sit. Every time you notice it getting ready to sit, say “sit!” at the very moment its rear hits the floor. Praise it verbally or with an ear scratch after that. Soonit’ll be associating the word with the action.
Teaching to Down
After your puppy has learned to sit, it’s time to teach it to “down”.
The luring method:
- While holding a treat in your hand, ask the puppy to sit.
- Wave the treat in front of puppy’s nose and lower it down.
- The puppy will follow the treat and will lower the body on the ground completely.
- As soon as puppy lands on the ground completely, offer the reward and praise.
- Repeat the exercise and add the verbal cue: just before moving the treat down to the floor say “down”.
- Repeat the sequence and begin offering treats sporadically – for best attempts only.
The under-leg method:
- Sit on the floor with one knee drawn up to create a tunnel that your dog may go through when crawling.
- Hold a treat in the hand opposite to the side that your dog is on. Put the hand with the treat under the drawn-up leg to show the treat. Then drag the treat along the floor away from the puppy through the tunnel that you created with the knee drawn up.
- The puppy will have to crawl through the tunnel to get the treat. As soon as it hits the floor with its belly, praise it and offer the treat.
Once the puppy learns to down, you may complicate the task by commanding from distance or with your back turned to the puppy.
Special Training Classes
Training can be done at home or with a private trainer in an obedience class. Comparing two approaches – training done at home and the one done in classes is pointless as both of them are effective. If you choose to train puppy in a class the training will be done by the trainer only, but before signing your puppy, you have to do some research about the classes and the trainer (more about Puppy training classes).
Most owners don’t know how to train their puppy and having much of information on the Internet about the trainings still fail.
Let’s say every owner has own reasons for hiring an instructor and if you are one of them, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Let us help you with the choice of the instructor:
- Decide whether you need private lessons or a group class.
- Ask your veterinarian/breeder/animal shelter staff for referrals.
- Before making a choice, visit several instructors in order to see how they train and to understand which one is the best for you.
- Before making the firm decision, ask the instructor several questions.
Questions to Ask an Instructor
Here is the list of questions that will help you to clarify whether you should stick to this instructor or not:
- What is instructor’s teaching credentials? True instructors are certified by the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors or attended National K-9 Dog Training School of Columbus. Even, a sonorous diploma/certificate is an evidence of professionalism by default, in reality it may have much in common with poor practical experience or frankly saying with intolerable behavior at classes. No matter what the truth is, you have better chances with accredited specialist.
- How does the instructor teach the dog to perform a certain command? The answer should be any technique that makes the puppy/adult dog does what it is commanded without any force.
- What training equipment does the instructor have during classes? Collars, treats, furniture, harnesses, toys – classes for puppies are the same as activities for kids in kindergartens. It means that the class must be equipped with something that all puppies are familiar with and this “something” must be actively used for staging different real life situations.
- Does the instructor provide a Canine Good Citizen test? It is an evaluation of puppy to be a well-mannered pet, developed by the American Kennel Club. If the instructor tells you that they have such test and encourages your puppy to pass it – he is a decent pro that you should choose.
- What is his opinion on the breed and those dogs that are deemed to be aggressive or hard to train? A specialist with big experience has always much to tell you about almost any breed. A reliable instructor will never refuse to work with the breed, but will recommend another specialist. Feel the difference? He doesn’t say “no”, he says that he has another instructor who shows more success with particular breeds.
Observing a Class
- Whether the instructor likes dogs. You can evaluate his decisiveness to give more attention to shy dogs and timid owners, for instance.
- Clear training and instructions. Classes should have a visible strategy as well as informing dog owners about typical problems that one faces while training his dog.
- Proper training approach. As you already know, yelling, slapping and collar jerking doesn’t work at all and should the instructor do something like that you have all right to question his professionalism.
- The speed of class. It means how long it takes an instructor to teach the puppy a certain command. If the instructor moves too fast or wants to have immediate results from your puppy, he is likely to make mistakes that will prolong the training in general.
- Instructor’s approach to different breeds and dog personalities. You can notice that the instructor prefers certain type of dogs and thus, has more influence on them. It doesn’t mean that he is a bad expert – he is just above “great” in his performance when speaking about certain group of dogs – too shy or aggressive and barking, for instance.
One thing to remind you of: you are paying the money and have all right to be totally satisfied.
If you feel that this particular instructor or even the whole school is not the one and only, you should try other. Believe us, there are hundreds of schools with good instructors that are worth, not just checking out, but signing to.