We all want a great friend in our dog. But the key to being a satisfied pet owner is having a well-trained dog.
This does not mean your dog has to do fancy tricks like rollover or speak. However, it is important for a dog to know the basic commands that will keep him safe and create an enjoyable environment for everyone. Dogs that listen to and follow your commands are less likely to get themselves into trouble, jump on your guests or move into the territory of oncoming dogs.
The most successful approach to training is simple, methodical and step-by step.
Time your training sessions for when you have your dog’s attention and he is not too tired to focus. Minimize outside distractions; once he begins to master the basic commands, you can begin to introduce other stimuli.
Each training session should last approximately 20-30 minutes. Beyond this, many dogs lose interest and focus.
When you start your training, be consistent with both verbal commands and hand gestures. Changing the words or hand commands will only confuse your dog and cause both of you to become frustrated. Consistency is the key ingredient for success.
Do not introduce multiple commands until your dog consistently understands and obeys the current command being taught. If after introducing a new command the dog begins to regress, go back and start over with the prior command.
Patience with your dog training is very critical. Do not lose your temper or show you are displeased by using a loud tone or screaming your verbal commands. Always stay calm while training your dog.
Make sure part of the training includes treats that your dog loves and does not ordinarily get. Treat rewards will get and keep your dog’s attention and work well as a reward when your dog is listening and responding to your requests. Also praise your dog with exuberance when he listens and gets the command correct. Do not repeat the command if he doesn’t get it right the first time. Repeating a command may confuse him and he will think responding on the second or third command is acceptable.
The following techniques can be used to help you train your dog in the basic commands.
With your dog’s favorite treat in your hand between your index finger and thumb, place treat close to your dog’s nose while you move your hand slightly up and back. This should encourage your dog to follow the treat and place his rump on the floor. When he accomplishes this, give him the treat and plenty of verbal praise with a “good sit” acknowledgement.
If your dog moves forward, jumps up, or does something other than what you were expecting, give the dog a gentle “wrong” correction and try the command again.
Repeat the above training technique for approximately 10 minutes. Try this multiple times during the day so that you begin to reinforce the basic command you want your dog to follow. If during the course of the day the dog voluntarily sits down, excitedly praise him with a “good sit”. You can also reinforce the sit command during your normal routine during the day.
To help reinforce the sit command and provide you with some control over his general behavior, you might ask your dog to sit when you are putting his leash on before a walk, or as you are preparing to place his food bowl on the floor. Each time he complies, praise him with a “good sit” command.
You can use the “okay” command to release your dog from the sitting position.Be consistent with the release command.
Once your dog has mastered the sit command and is capable of doing it in different situations and with or without outside stimuli, you can move on to a stay command. This is one of the most useful commands so that your dog does not go anywhere until you provide his release (okay) and let him know what the next move is and your expectations.
Place your dog in the sit position next to you facing in the same direction. While holding your dog gently in place by holding his collar, place your other hand in front (without touching) of his face and give him a “stay” command. Hold this position for approximately 5-10 seconds. If he stays without moving reward him with a treat and praise him with a “good stay”. If he moves before the 10 seconds, gently tell him “wrong” and proceed by starting the entire process from the beginning with “stay”.
Once your dog has mastered staying in place for 10 seconds, the next step is for you to take half a step in front of your dog while giving him the “stay” command. If he does this without moving, give him a treat and praise him with the “good stay” command. If he gets up, give him a gentle “wrong” command and put him back in his place and start over.
Reinforce this behavior by practicing with your dog a few times each day.
You can use the “okay” command to release your dog from his stay position
Now that your dog has mastered the sit and stay commands, it is time to move on to the ”down” command.
Start by placing your dog in his already learned “sit” position. Place a treat that will really get your dog’s attention in a closed hand just in front of his nose so he can get a good scent of the treat that is waiting for him. This is a tough command for your dog to learn since it puts him into a submissive position. It may take more time and patience from you.
Once your dog gets the scent, move your hand slowly down toward the floor. As your dog follows your hand down, drag the hand on the floor moving slowly away from him so his head and body follow your hand. When his body is on the floor, open your hand give him the treat and praise him with a “good down” command. If he does not follow your hand along the floor and continues to stand up or move in another direction, start over by placing him in his sit position.
Do not force the dog to the ground with your hand. Do practice this command multiple times during the day.
You can use the “okay” command to release your dog from his down position.
Using an extension leash approximately 15-20 feet long, attach it to your dog’s collar. Allow your dog to walk freely around and sniff with the loosely held leash.
When you’re ready, gently pull the leash to get his attention and pull him toward you and simultaneously give him the “come” command. When you do this, use his name before saying “come”. When he responds and comes to you, reward him with a treat and a lot of praise saying “good come”.
As with any verbal command, do not repeat it over and over. Practice the come command multiple times during the day.
Under no circumstance should you lose your patience or raise your voice to the dog if he does not come. This behavior will cause your dog to associate coming to you with an angry and negative outcome. Similar to a small child, your dog relates this to a reprimand and he will be reluctant to come to you when called.
This command asks your dog to walk by your side so that he is not pulling, jumping, walking from side to side or sniffing. It also displays a confidence for your dog that you are in control and that he does not have to fear or pay attention to his surroundings. When walking in a heel position, his attention should be on you.
Walking with a dog that is trained in the heel command makes for a pleasurable walking experience and also serves as a great exercise program.
Whichever side you walk with the dog on, be consistent each and every time. This is one of the hardest commands to teach your dog and it takes a lot of patience and the desire to work with your dog.
Starting with the dog in the sitting position by your side, begin to walk with him stepping forward. If he begins to pull, stand still and give him a gentle tug on his leash and encourage him back to your side by tapping your leg and give him the “heel” command. When he returns to you, give him a treat and praise him. Always be consistent with your hand and verbal commands.
Every few steps he takes by your side, verbally praise him for doing a good job. If he wanders again or pulls, repeat the steps above and stand still, encouraging him back to your side followed by a treat and praise.
If training seems to be getting out of control, start over with the sit command. You can also take a mini break and start the training over again after the break.
Refrain from tightening the leash unless you are giving your dog a gentle correction.
Always remain calm and patient.
Be consistent with all verbal and hand commands.
Do not over train. Limit training sessions to 15-20 minutes.
Provide your dog’s favorite treats as rewards during training.
Always go back to his learned sit position if you need to get his attention and when starting a new command.