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There are several schools of thought on how to train dogs, ranging from what are often termed "Traditional" methods, based largely on avoidance or escape, to "Positive-Only" methods, such as Clicker Training. All of these methods when properly applied can be used to train most dogs to be tractable companions.
This project is aimed at novice and intermediately experienced dog owners. This book is about the basic training all dogs will need to have, for example to pass a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) or other similar certification. The training methods recommended in this book should be safe enough that a novice dog owner won't be in danger of harming a dog by following the instructions (or vice versa).
Additional topics in dog training include
Please, if you can contribute to this book, do so. I'm also not sure what the best way to organize the chapters is yet. Please feel free to rearrange the sections if it makes more sense to you.
- 1 Choosing Commands
- 2 What is dog training?
- 3 Set your dog up to succeed... or to fail?
- 4 Food Lures
- 5 Discouraging Bad Behavior
- 6 Walking on a Leash
- 7 House Training
- 8 Crating
- 9 Basic Commands
- 10 Less Common Commands
- 11 Games
- 12 Problem Behavior
- 13 External Links
What is dog training?
The key to successful dog training is communication. Dogs don't speak our language so we have to use a language they do understand.
Set your dog up to succeed... or to fail?
There are three stages to dog training. Motivational, correction and distraction (or 'proofing'). In the motivational stage, you will set your dog up to succeed, giving it short training sessions and big rewards in a quiet environment and with plenty of encouragement. For example, Sit. You will lure your dog, click, treat, big smile, excitement and if your dog slips, you shrug it off and do it all over again.
Come the correction stage. Positive Reinforcement trainers view not getting the reward as a correction. They also teach a "no reward marker", a word or sound such as "oops" or "uh uh" to signal the dog that no reward is coming and pick a new behavior. You're sure your dog knows Sit already. It does it even before the lure comes and you're very pleased. Now you try a 2 second stay without a lure. Your dog does it. You're pretty excited and the dog can feel it too as you dump a big reward on it. Next is a 5 second stay. Your dog slips. You give your no reward marker and help the dog figure out what is expected. Your dog learns to choose, correctly = reward, wrongly = correction, or no reward. The dog might get another correction but then it learns, a lightbulb goes up in its head, it has chosen the right path and gets the reward it has been waiting for all along. Using common sense, it is better if you are told what's wrong rather th an be given little hints that aren't straight-forward.
Training should be done in increments. The biggest mistake novice trainers make is to move too fast. The dog has the mental capacity of the average 2 year old human child. They are sponges, but can only absorb so much at a sitting. Distractions should also be increased slowly. At first, you teach your dog a command, such as "Sit", in its own house. As the dog masters this, you start moving the dog to places with more distractions, the back yard, the front yard, the sidewalk in front of the house, etc.
There are certain common sense rules: when teaching stays, "with time comes distance". Teach your dog to stay while you are close to your dog and can keep him/her in the stay position, before you disappear around the corner. Once your dog learns to stay with you there for 5 minutes, putting that leash down and walking away is a piece of cake.
Also, never call your dog to you and punish him/her. If your dog escapes, after you have panicked, chased him around, screamed yourself senseless, etc. When your dog is finally back to you, YOU CANNOT PUNISH HER. She is incapable of understanding she is being punished for running away. She only knows when she got back to you, bad things happened to her and next time, she won't come back at all.
This indicates a huge problem with your relationship with your dog, and says your dog is not interested in being with you. Perhaps the dog hasn't been trained, or has fear issues, but you need to go back to square one and train your dog.
Luring with food is a very natural way to show the dog what you'd like it to do. Dogs generally will follow your hand with food. This can be used to teach many commands such as "sit" or "down". If you've ever wanted to create a cool treat for your doggie, with style AND flavor then try "Doggie Popsicles"
- 2 boullion cubes (beef, chicken, any flavor works0
- 2 cups of water
- an ice cube tray
- a pot
- Start by boiling the water in the pot.
- After the water is boiling, put the boullion cubes into the water.
- Let them cook until they dissolve, gently stirring them occasionally.
- After they are completely dissolved, take them off the stove. Let them cool for 5-10 minutes.
- Pour the broth into the ice cube tray. Put it in the freezer.
- Once frozen, give to your doggie. Watch him play with and eat his new treat!!
Cook time: approx. 15 min. Freeze time: approx. 2 hrs.
Discouraging Bad Behavior
There are many things dogs do that humans find unacceptable: Jumping up, mouthing, running away, urinating in the house, chewing, etc. The human has the big brain and should be able to manage the dog's environment so the dog doesn't get a chance to practice objectionable behavior. Don't leave shoes where the puppy can find them, teach the dog to "sit" when greeting people, yell "OUCH!!!" loudly when the puppy puts his teeth on you, go out with the puppy to be sure he potties outside and reward him instantly when he potties appropriately.
Teach your dog to do something that make the objectionable behavior impossible: teaching your dog to touch the palm of your hand with its nose, makes it impossible for the dog to mouth your hand at the same time. So instead of constantly correcting bad behavior, or just yelling "NO!" to your dog, you will learn to be proactive and not give it a chance to misbehave. Everyone is happier that way.
Redirect your dog when the behavior is inappropriate. If your dog is loose at the dog park, for example, and is starting to be rude to other dogs, call your dog and start walking briskly away. Your dog should want to be with you and will come.
Ignoring Bad Behavior
Sometimes it is best to ignore the bad behavior. Many times people inadvertently reinforce the bad behavior by giving the dog attention. For example, letting a dog inside while it is outside barking teaches the dog to bark to get inside. You are better off to wait until the dog has stopped barking for several minutes before letting it inside.
Distracting the dog can be a useful tool to reduce the frequency of an undesirable behavior. A small rattle made from a plastic soda bottle, or a can with pennies placed inside can be shaken to distract the dog from repeating the behavior. Most dogs however only require your voice. A well timed 'Hey, quit it!' is very effective. Then ask the dog to do something that is incompatible with the undesired behavior. Instead of jumping up to Counter surf, call the dog to you and play some tug.
Be very careful using sound distractions, many dogs are sound sensitive and the shaking of the penny can may make your dog skittish. If your dog is sound sensitive, you can create a situation when your dog will learn to mistrust you.
Using Equipment to get control of your dog while you are training.
If you have a dog that pulls or lunges at other dogs barking, it is imperative that you not give your dog the opportunity to practice that behavior.
If your dog just pulls, using something like the Sense-ation or other No pull harness. In this style of harness, the leash is connected in front of the dog's chest, so when the dog pulls, it inhibits should action and stops the pulling.
If your dog pulls and bark/lunges at other dogs, you need a head halter. There are several types of head halters available and all fit a bit differently from each other. Some of the most popular brands are the Gentle Leader, the Halti, the Comfort Trainer, the Snoot Loop. The basic idea is like the halters used on horses. A person can control a beast weighing over a ton by controlling the head. The same is true for dogs. The strap over the nose is the control. It hits a pressure point that both controls and helps calm the dog.
Another piece of equipment that can help with control is a prong, or pinch collar. Contrary to some myths, this is not designed to dig into the dog's neck or puncture the dog. If there is blood, the human is not only using the equipment wrong, but is guilty of abusing the dog. The prong should only be used as a last resort, after other alternatives have been exhausted. It can be an effective tool for dedicated pullers, but it is not recommended for dogs that lunge/bark. The tightening of the prongs on the dog's neck as it is looking at the dog it is lungeing at, can increase aggression.
Boobie-traps are items that will surprise a dog by making a loud noise when tripped or knocked over. They have a big advantage in that you don't have to be right there in order to correct the dog. This prevents the dog from associating you with the correction and allow for consistent correction even when you are out of the dogs sight. The effectiveness of these traps depends on the dog; some dogs are very calm and won't care that something fell, while others will learn on the first try and never trip the trap again. As always, use good judgment when formulating a trap. Do not cause harm to the dog, or cause an overconfident dog to get too scared.
Again, this can cause a lot of sound sensitivity. Management is the first defense. Pick up the shoes, keep food of off the counters, put the trash under the sink, etc.
Boobie-traps for use while training dogs can be made from various items:
Some traps can easily be produced from items found around the house. An object balanced on the edge of a counter may fall and frighten the dog when the dog sniffs at it. This is useful to deter a dog from patrolling the counter for food.
- A 12 oz. soda can with several coins inside will make a lot of noise when it falls.
- A small tuna can with water will splash the dog when it is tipped. (Of course, this is only useful if getting some water on the floor is acceptable.)
Some alarm systems to deter a dog from unwanted behavior can be purchased at your local pet store.
- Motion alarms
- trash can lid alarms
Walking on a Leash
Walking a dog gives it exercise to help it remain healthy. It is also an easy way for the person walking the dog to get a little exercise. A dog will enjoy being walked because it will be able to explore and see new things. A dog being walked can often be distracted by things like cars, strange noises, objects, plants, other people, or other dogs, so the person walking the dog will want to keep a good hold on the leash. Walking on a leash requires a collar and a leash, which may be purchased at a pet store.
It is important to teach a dog "loose leash walking". This involves teaching the dog not to pull and to walk with you regardless of distractions. Treats/clicker can be helpful in this task.
On of the most effective techniques is 'be a tree'. Dogs pull because they want to go somewhere. If you hold the leash tightly against your body, plant your feet and refuse to move forward when the dog pulls, the dog isn't getting what it wants. At some point, the dog will turn to look at you. When the dog looks back, the leash will get slack, you immediately reward the dog by moving in the direction the dog originally wanted to go. If the dog pulls again, stop moving until the dog looks at you.
This is effective because the dog learns that by not pulling, he gets what he wants. The dog is also learning to pay attention to where you are in relation to the end of the leash. This can build your bond and relationship. Let's work together instead of away from each other.
Another technique is reversing direction immediately when the dog begins to pull. This technique is not effective on a determined dog and will often result in the owner being rather dizzy. It works best on young pups as it is virtually painless.
People often use 'Prong collars' or other devices such as 'Haltis' to discourage and teach the dog how to walk nicely. Never ever use a traditional halter as it only encourages the dog to pull more (think sled dog). However, the Sense-ation, Sense-ible and Easy Walk harnesses are designed to lessen pulling and work very well.
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Crating is the practice of keeping a puppy or dog in a kennel when you are not at home and at night. This provides a safe place for the dog and keeps them from being destructive when unsupervised. The dog will pee in the crate and since it does not want to sleep in its pee it will stop peeing in the crate, and soon it will stop peeing everywhere. This is an excellent way to housebreak a new dog.
Here are a few commands that almost every dog should respond to:
- Come: This command, also referred to as the recall, is crucial. If the dog won't come when called, it is not an obedient dog. One method for training begins by allowing the dog to wander out on a long leash or line, then calling it by name and the command Come. This method might require a quick, light tug on the leash to get the dog moving when first teaching this command. Like all commands, it is successful only if the dog is rewarded when it completes the command and only if the practice is repeated—under different circumstances and distances and gradually removing the controls; until the dog performs flawlessly.
Another good way to train them without reinforcement is to praise them while afar. They will hear this and come to you. Then, grant them more "good dog!" and such.
- Sit: This command is also crucial. Sitting dogs are under the handler's direct control. It is common to precede other commands, such as the Stay command, with a sit command. One method for training uses a treat held in front of the dog's nose and passed back over its head, forcing the dog to sit. Sit and Stay are used in conjunction with many other commands.
- Stay: This command gives peace of mind. An owner can park her dog while doing something else. One method of training involves placing the dog in a sit or a down position, then telling it to stay while stepping away from the dog. If the dog stays, the handler rewards it while it is still in the position. Indoors, use this command to park your dog under a favorite table or bench.
- Lie down or down: this command allows even greater control than sitting. One training method uses a treat drawn forward and down across the dog's face, forcing it to lie down to get at it. Since even people without dogs are familiar with this command and use it when dogs are bothering them, the better the dog is at it, the better it can get along with strangers and visitors. But don't get discouraged if the dog refuses or is reluctant to drop into position. The Down is a submissive position and often a dominant dog will refuse to give in.
- Go to bed or get in: Directs the dog to go to its bed or its crate and to remain there until released. The dog has freedom of movement in that location to stand up, turn around, or lie down, unlike when placed in a Stay. Useful to keep a dog out from underfoot and safe in a busy or complicated situation. Not a necessary command as the dog is taught to 'stay' already while in Down or Sit. Useful for Stand stays though.
- Drop or drop it: Dogs pick up all sorts of things, some of which they shouldn't have. A dog that drops anything on command, no matter how attractive (which to a dog can be rotten and smelly), is a dog under control that the owner can prevent from eating dangerous items or from destroying valued personal property.
- Leave it: An adjunct to Drop, directing the dog to not touch an item. Also useful before the dog has picked anything up. One method of training involves leaving a treat on the ground and walking the dog past it without allowing the dog to pick it up. Leave it is also used in conjunction with Take it.
- Take it: The dog leaves a desired object, such as a toy or treat, untouched until given this command. This can protect an owner's, visitor's, or child's fingers.
- Heel, Close, By me: The dog walks with its head directly next to the handler's leg and does not deviate until released. One method of training accompanies the command with a slap to the thigh indicating where the handler wants the dog's head.
- Okay, Free, Break, or Release: Releases the dog from Stay, Heel, Sit, and so forth. Also a general release to play. A clicker acts as a release.
The specific command word is not important, although the preceding list covers some of the more common words. Short, clear words that are easily understood by other humans are generally recommended; that way, people will understand what a handler is telling his dog to do and other handlers have a good chance of controlling someone else's dog if necessary. In fact, dogs can learn commands in any language or other communications medium, including whistles, mouth sounds, hand gestures, and so forth.
Less Common Commands
While dogs can be trained far beyond these rudiments, a dog that obeys these commands will be a pleasure to keep and take out. Off-leash obedience is the hallmark of a well-trained dog.
There are a few commands that many domestic dogs learn, but that are not part of the basic repertoire.
- Stop – a dog that will simply stop whatever it is doing and lie down on command no matter how far it is from its keeper is a dog that can be taken anywhere. Some handlers use the German word Platz (related to "place", i.e. stay in position) for this action. (Useful if your dog is in danger, or headed for some trouble. I.e., your dog is about to get run over by a car. He/she hears "Stop!" and drops and you can be sure it will not be hit. Much faster response than a "Come" command.)
- Back up – keepers of large dogs or dogs with a reputation for aggressiveness can make strangers more comfortable by teaching the dog to back up on command. (Also useful if you are carrying a large box or something and the dog's in your way.)
- Growl – the inverse of backing up. Some owners teach non-aggressive dogs to growl on a subtle command – not the word growl, usually a small hand gesture – as a way of letting strangers know that you and your dog value being left alone.
- Steady – keep near by. The dog can walk free, but not dash off. Train to this command with a long leash, calling out Steady when the leash is taut. Continue off leash.
- Stand – dog stands still. Train from lying-down position by lifting under belly while repeating command. Useful for grooming. Many dogs are groomed frequently and need to stand quietly during the process.
- Speak – for amusement or showing off, a dog may be trained to bark on command.
- Chase Recall –
- Paw, or Give Paw – Pretty much for showing off, a dog may be trained to give you a "handshake". (Though it's also very useful if the dog needs to get their nails clipped or they have an injury.)
- Shake – Very useful after baths, or walks in snow or rain.
- Roll Over –
- Jump –
- Calm – tells the dog to stop growling and/or playing roughly. Similar to Back Up.
Games can be fun for both the dog and the owner.
Here are some games that can be played with a dog:
- Fetch – This is a game where the owner throws out an object and the dog retrieves it and gives it back to the owner. It can be played with a small ball like a tennis ball, a frisbee, a stick, or any small light object that is easy to throw and easy for the dog to pick up and carry. Large balls can also be used.
- Hide and Seek – You hide and your dog seeks. It is more difficult but worth attempting to make your dog hide while you seek.
- Tug-of-War – It should first be noted, that some (perhaps most) experts state that this game can teach or instil aggressive behavior in your dog. However, most dogs love playing 'Tug-of-War,' and if vigorously participated in by the owner, will allow the dog, especially a younger dog, to use a lot of its extra energy. One rule of the thumb is that you decide when the game ends and you always win. Never let your dog win even if it means pinching your dog's lips against it's teeth to get it to let go. A 'drop it' command is very useful for this.
One of the causes of destructive chewing behavior in younger dogs, as with children, is 'teething.' A good suggestion, that will allow your dog to relieve it's discomfort, without destroying your home, uses only a used, but clean hand, dish, or other small towel.
Soak the towel in clean drinking water. Wring out the excess, until the towel no longer drips. Tie the towel in a knot, and place in the freezer (you may want to place the towel in a freezer bag to protect other items). Once frozen it can be given to the dog as a chew toy.
A more expensive but better way is to purchase toys for your dog. The most popular amongst chewers is the Kong toy. Stuffable and challenging to even the most seasoned of veterans. Squeaky toys are noisy but fun to the dog as it mimics an animal that the dog has attacked. Dogs are often observed 'pouncing' on these.
First you have to decide if you want to allow your dog to jump up on people or not. Then you need to be consistent in enforcing the rules. Being consistent is the important thing to help your dog learn what is acceptable behavior.
Even if you decide it's okay, you may encounter other people who don't like it at all. NOT jumping on people is generally considered good doggie manners. Once you've made the decision that it will not be allowed you have to train your dog to understand what the rules are.
To teach a dog not to jump up on you, simply turn your back on the dog when he jumps up. The dog wants your attention. When you turn away from him, you give him the message that jumping up on you will not earn your attention. After a short time (a few seconds) of having you back to the dog, turn back to him and give him another chance to keep his feet on the ground. If he does stay down, praise or reward him for it. He may well try to jump up again then, because he hasn't yet learned what is getting him the praise and what is making you go away. But the dog will figure it out. Most dogs catch on quickly, after just a few times of ignoring him. But remember, it will take a while for your dog to really learn what is expected. So, don't be surprised if the next time he greets you he jumps up. Just be consistent in letting him know it's not acceptable. Keep the emotion out of it. You don't need to scold the dog or correct him. The fact that he is not getting the desired result from jumping on you will be self correcting to him.
You should also ask your visitors not to encourage jumping up on people. You can explain to them that they should turn their back on your dog if he attempts to jump up on them. A good alternative to permitting a dog to jump up on people is to teach him to sit when greeting people. Only praise and reward your dog when he is sitting. Turn away if he jumps up, as described above. He will learn to offer sitting to get the attention he seeks.
Scratching on doors
Don't reward your dog for begging. Dogs learn to beg quickly if you drop food even just a few times and even if you dropped the food on accident. Teach it to lay down out of the way while you are eating or cooking. Crating or a stuffed Kong is also recommended. If you can't prevent the dog from getting the food (this is usually the case when small children have the food) it is best to remove the dog from the room while eating. A well timed correction is also another way to deter Begging forever.
Chasing Other Small Animals
Everyone has heard stories about the dog who ate the gerbil, hamster, or even human baby. Try not to let this happen. Correct the dog (via training collar or voice) for attempting to even sniff the animal. It will soon learn to ignore it.
Once the dog learns it can steal food, it's hard to break it out of the habit. A good way is also corrections, teaching the Leave It and anticipating the dog's action and reacting (verbal correction, taking the food away and turning the dog away, etc.).
Getting in the Trash
There are two situations to consider
1) dog gets into trash when you are present (supervising)
It will be helpful to teach your dog a "Leave It" command. But start by teaching the command in a more controlled situation with a single piece of food.
2) dog gets into trash when you are NOT there to supervise
Dogs are dogs, they get into trash if it's left out for them when they are unsupervised. Put the trash somewhere where your dog cannot get to it. Or get a trash can that your dog cannot get open.