General Training Guidelines

Teaching your dog

Positive reinforcement/rewards based training is the best way to teach your dog.  This method of training helps your dog learn faster and motivates your dog to behave as you want him to. 

When your dog learns a new behavior, they do not generalize.  Therefore, they have to re-learn the same behavior in different locations with different distractions.  It is important to understand how your dog learns and to have the proper expectations as you are training your dog.

The following is a hierarchy of difficulty for any new behavior:

  • Inside with nothing much going on
  • Outside in yard with nothing much going on
  • Inside with low level distractions
  • Outside with low level distractions
  • Inside with medium level distractions
  • Outside with medium level distractions
  • Inside with high level distractions
  • Outside with high level distractions
  • In a pet store when busy or crowded
  • When you have guests over

The basic principals of training are as follows:

  • You have control of everything your dog likes/wants
  • You can use that power to train your dog
  • Training equals controlling the consequences of your dog’s actions
  • Rewards, timing and consistency are the keys to learning
  • Dogs must be allowed to succeed, ie,  getting the reward
  • This requires patience and increasing difficulty in very small increments

Consistency in language is so important in communicating with our dogs.   Can you imagine the confusion we would have if each member of our families spoke a different language?  When there is no common language, communication is chaotic and confusing!  It’s the same for our dogs.  If one person says ‘sit’ and another says ‘sit down’.  To prevent this, everyone involved with training and all family members need to be consistent in vocabulary used with your dog.

This is a sample list of things to teach.  You can use different commands as long as you’re consistent.

WATCH or LOOK or ATTENTION – Dog makes eye contact with you.  The first step in all training.  You can’t teach anything to a dog who is not paying attention to you.

CHECKING IN – Your dog should always look at you when you say his name, no matter what he’s doing – this does not necessarily mean he has to come to you, but you should be able to get him to ‘disengage’ from what he is doing to look at you when asked.

SIT – Dog is in a seated position

DOWN – Dog is in a comfortable lying position with front and rear down.

STAND – Dog’s legs are standing and dog holds position. Used for grooming, vet, etc

COME – Used to get your dog immediately coming directly to you.  Say dog’s name first to get attention.  Praise as dog is coming to you and take collar before rewarding.

LOOSE LEASH WALKING – Informal heel, meaning walk on a loose leash on your left side.  It’s very important to NOT let your dog practice and be rewarded for pulling on leash.

STAY – Used to keep dog in position until you return to them and release them.  You must then use a consistent release word (OK).  We never call the dog to COME from a Stay – always return to the dog to release.

WAIT– Temporary control of a command such as ‘sit’.  Used at doorways, before feeding, in the car, to wait for leash to be put on.  Use release word to end Wait.

LEAVE IT – Used to tell dog to back off of something.  This can be garbage on the street, another dog, person or object.  Use as dog is still ‘thinking about’ object.

DROP IT or GIVE – Used when dog has something in its mouth that you would like for them to release.  It is bad canine etiquette to grab something from a dog’s mouth, so we teach ‘drop it’ to avoid conflict.

LEADERSHIP – You should ask your dog to ‘sit for everything’ he wants or needs.  Sit and wait for meals, sit and wait for walks, sit and wait before getting out of the car.  Sit before you initiate play, petting, affection, etc.  Your dog will be much happier and secure knowing he can depend on you to be his benevolent leader.

  • Remember that these are just words that have no meaning to your dog until you teach them.
  • Your tone of voice when giving commands should be confident and happy.
  • Reward the behavior you want repeated, ignore the behavior you don’t want

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