So you have a new dog. Is there cause for joy or consternation? There are two sides to every new dog in the house. The little creature you love and opened your home and heart to – Then there’s the other crazy side that rips up anything he can get his mouth to.
He has already chewed up the the rag doll left carelessly on the floor and you think it’s eyeing your lovely red leather shoes next. Something has to be done about this little monster with a face of an angel.
Consider this. All of us are born obnoxious! As babies, we bawl and scream and demand to be fed and cleaned up. Left on our own we would probably drive each other crazy when we come face to face. We were not born well behaved and polite. We were taught our correct behavior, sometimes with a spanking, sometimes with a stern word or facial expression. In the absence of such training, people learn their social skills on their own – sometimes with less than desirable and even disastrous results.
In much the same way, dogs learn on their own and have their own naturally but completely different social structure. For example, in much the same way as 2 people shaking hands and exchanging greetings, dogs sniff each other behinds to find out more about each other. Dogs and humans learn to live together with a little training. We learn to understand each other as best we can. We teach them what is acceptable and reap the rewards that come with a well behaved and happy pooch.
The “Sit” command is the most basic obedience training, and the most handy. It is an useful command to teach where all others commands can spring forth. In the beginning, the word ‘sit’ is the magical word that solves many a canine problem. Many dog trainers find that treat training is an useful method of training. So how do you get your dog’s behind to rest on the cold hard floor? Well, here is the story of Patch : “Patch was very excitable for such a small dog, he used to bark at visitors and do the ‘doggie jumpy’ routine every time you did anything. It became a real problem when he darted after other cats, jumped all over complete strangers and ruined the neighbor’s flower beds. So I took him aside and waved a treat at him. I held it above his head until his bottom hit the floor and I immediately said ‘sit…. GOOD BOY!’ and gave him the treat. When he started to associate the command with the action, I slowly replaced treats with praise, giving him the odd treat to reinforce the good behaviour. He sits when told now (he never knows when a treat will be forthcoming either!) and guests are not terrified of sitting on the couch for fear of being dog-nipped
The “Lie down” command.
Having learnt the “sit!” command. Let’s proceed to the “lie down’ command. “Cookie” is your average big dog, a boisterous mixed breed with unknown parentage. The main problem with him was that he was big. We travel a lot and he bounced around the car excitedly, anything he saw out the window could potentially make him excited. He just loved the car but nothing in the car seem to be able to restrain him, He needed to calm down. He would sit on command but he was still very excitable from a sitting position. Then we realised the only time he is really calm is when he is lying down. We used the treat training method, getting him to sit then pulling the treat from him across the floor, forcing him to lie down, giving him the command and praise. Over time he got used to doing this in the car without treats. I can drive without fear of him causing a crash now. Now everyone, dog and car driver is calmer.
The “Stay!” command Once a dog is down, it’s getting him to stay that is the prize. Dizzie was a terrible abuser of his training! He figured out that I gave him a treat as soon as he followed my command, so he felt he need not bother ‘staying’. He would take his treat and his praise and then saunter off to do whatever pleases him. So I had to trick the trickster. I started giving him treats to ‘stay’ and I would give the command. If he complied, I would give him a treat and praise straight away. If he started to get up I would repeat this, we would keep this up for a few minutes each day, gradually increasing the times. Then I started to give praise without the treats. He seems to live in hope of these odd ‘reinforcement’ treats.” Many a dog can be coaxed with a treat; the key is to get them to link the command with the action. The treat is just a prize. Gradually you replace the treat with praise, giving the odd treat to reinforce this good behavior.
Training means consistency; don’t give in to puppy dog eyes or a persistent dog. They learn patience and persistence pays off. – Remember, nearly all ‘behaviour problems’ are perfectly normal canine behaviour. You need to redirect their natural behaviour to a suitable outlet. – A dog ages approximately 7 years for every 1 human year so their behaviour is ever changing, this is why dog training is life long. – Start training in an area with few visual and sound distractions, gradually introducing distractions to help pooch adjust. – Keep training to 15-20 minutes a day because dogs have short attention spans and/or incorporating it into your daily routine will help you both stay sane! ‘Sit’ while you cook, ‘heel’ while you talk on the phone. – We often let good behavior go un-rewarded and get angry when the dog misbehaves. Trainers generally agree, there is no point in reprimanding a dog unless you catch him in the act. Otherwise he will not be able to associate the punishment with his bad behavior
Sharon Stevens is a certified dog trainer who has trained hundreds of dogs.
For more information on easy dog training methods, visit; http://www.neusight.com/trainmydog.html