I know I usually try to keep my articles pretty light and newsy but this month I am going to talk about some basic handling.
The first and most important thing to establish is that training your dog is mostly a mindset. You have to decide that you are going to make time to work with him and then be committed to following through!! It does not matter what you are training him to do!!
The second thing we want to talk about is HOW to do this work. If you are going to be teaching your dog to STOP doing something you will have to employ tools and methods that interfere with his current behavior.
If you are going to teach your dog to DO something you can use an enticement.
So that sounds very easy right? But dogs are like people and everyone needs a unique approach and I will try to attempt to give a broad sweep of information without generalizing…
Tools I like to start with are:
- A nylon slip collar
- A light, long line
- A good leather leash with a small snap
Of course these tools may vary slightly but they are the major pieces of equipment in my arsenal.
It is important that your dog look to you for information so you will want him to respond to his NAME. and you can do this very simply by saying it and then rewarding him with a treat until every time you say his name, he looks at you.
Then you are ready to ask him to DO something and that thing is follow you…so, using your long line, you will move AWAY from him and when you need him to come in your direction, you will give a light tug on your line, without stopping and ask him to “lets go!!” Change direction and do this for 5 minutes before releasing him to his own devices. You will quickly get him moving with you instead of away from you once he realizes what you want.
Once you have achieved some success at this “following” exercise, you are ready to get him to move AWAY from you.
You will now start to shorten your line or use your leash. In order to get him to make room for you (and respect your personal space), you will have to start moving INTO his personal space. You do not have to be fierce when you do this, dogs are amazingly sensitive to body language and will, for the most part, move back from you when you move in too close. Try turning towards your dog when he is on your LEFT hand side… (FWI, trainers train on the left because you will need your right hand to handle other things) and if he does not move away, gently nudge him with your leg so that he does and walk forward. Repeat this exercise until, when you move towards him, he shifts his body.
So now you have
- Following the leader (you)
- Respect for your personal space
And you are ready to start teaching him some more advanced commands such as SIT
YES, “sit” is something that we can teach correctly and NO, it is not the most important you will teach him, contrary to urban mythology. Personally, I don’t care if my dog is sitting as long as he is paying attention to me, following my leadership and not tripping me up!!
So this is a great start to your training program and all it takes is 5 or 10 minutes in the morning and again in the evening. Of course, it would be great if you could take your dog for a walk too. Use your long line so that he can work off some energy, and then concentrate on your excercises. You will be amazed at how quickly you will form a bond with each other when you are both on the same team.
Remember you are your dog’s coach NOT his Mom and any work that you do will help your communication with each other!
Let’s talk about that tricky “SIT” command next month, when your dog is looking at you, following you and getting out of your way!!! And remember also, that this article does not address specific or problem behaviors. Thanks as always for the feedback and sign up for obedience classes whenever you can!