Basic Training

What training do I need to give my dog?

All of the advice below has been kindly provided to us by Carol Clark of Down Dog

Sit

There are two ways to teach this.

  • Wait for the dog to sit (you can try calling his name in a happy voice or just look at him expectantly) then praise when he does it. Add the cue when he is doing a sit naturally and happily.
  • To lure, bring your treat hand back and between the dog’s ears and upwards so he looks up, and give the “sit” cue at the same time. Wait for a sit, and then treat. Give the cue once and wait.

A “hands off” approach is best. The aim is for the dog to stay in the sit until you ask him to do something else or say “OK” or “that’ll do” or whatever to tell him he can move.

Down

Again, watch and wait for him to offer the behaviour then give the cue, praise and treat. To lure from the sit, you can take a treat past the nose in a smooth curve down to the floor between the front feet then move forwards as the feet slide into the down position. Give the “down” cue as he lies down. You can also encourage a down

The aim is for the dog to stay in the down until you ask him to do something else or say “OK” or “that’ll do” or whatever to tell him he can move.

Stand

Catch the dog in a stand, praise and then add the cue as before when he is doing it naturally and easily. Lure by asking the dog to sit then taking a treat forward just under the dog’s nose level until he stands, praise and treat.

Staying still in the stand is a hard exercise so needs a lot of practice!

Gradually teach the dog to stay for longer periods of time in whichever position you have chosen. Use the garden as your dog becomes steadier, and then bring these exercises into other areas such as parks and fields with greater distractions. A long line on your dog in these areas may assist with control if necessary. Practice in lots of places and situations. Ask for a position before going out of a door, or in the middle of playing a game (advanced work this!),

Walking Nicely

Start walking with your dog on lead and off lead in little circles both ways on either side of your legs in the garden using little treats as a reward when your dog is moving nicely beside you. Build this up by doing figure of eights, and left and right circles.

Ask your dog to sit (or stop and wait for a sit) from time to time to treat and praise.

When out and about with the dog, stop to do some sits, downs and stands, or little recalls or whatever: sometimes walk slowly or run for a few paces - keep yourself interesting ad your dog will keep interested in you!

If the dog is about to pull, immediately stop and stand still. The aim is to stop just before the lead tightens, not after. He will (eventually!) turn and look at you (in puzzlement!). You should then immediately encourage him back to beside you (tap your leg if necessary), then continue walking forward whilst praising him well. It may take some time to move any distance but the method works well and quickly if used consistently!

An alternative method is to immediately turn and walk in the opposite direction, praise as he comes level with you then turn and walk in the original direction again. However, the timing of the praise can be difficult to get right with this method and it can take some time for the dog to understand what you mean. Warning - it can also make you quite dizzy – so be careful!

Recall

Call your dog to you frequently in the house throughout the day. Calling the dog to you should be done with a really bright voice, open arms and a low posture for encouragement. Use lots of praise and the occasional tasty treat. Do the same exercise in the garden. If you are going to do something unpleasant (leave him, brush him etc.) NEVER call him, but rather go and fetch him.

You might like to use a 30 foot long lead/line at first when out in public. This way your dog cannot run off and you can control him. Give plenty of recalls on each walk. Use cheese or chicken as tasty treats. If your dog should ignore your first call, move closer and then ask for the recall again with loads of enthusiasm.

When the dog comes, take him by the collar, then treat and give plenty of physical praise also. Play tug! Keep the dog with you for a short time, then say ‘Go play!’ or “Go sniff!” to release the dog again ready for the next recall when the time is right. (You can also put the normal lead on briefly in the middle of the walk then take it off again so the dog does not think the fun stops when the lead is put on!).

Leave/Self-control

Using some food on your hand, show it to your dog. If (when!) he tries to take it, close your fingers around the food. Do not move your hand! As soon as he looks at you or/and moves away, open your hand so the treats are in plain view. Then pick up a piece of food and give it to him, praising him well.

Once he leaves food reliably in your palm, try it on your knee and then on the floor. Practice in lots of different places. You can now add a “leave” cue if you want. Do it with different foods, toys, and any other items the dog tends to steal but obviously he gets a piece of his food rather than the item as the reward in these cases!