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Teaching your Dog Tricks Through Sign Language
Doggy Sign Language?
I have been a dog trainer for years now and I wanted to share some tricks of the trade for anyone wanting to learn to train their own dog. Training your dog can be fun and will help you build a stronger bond with your dog as you watch him grow and learn. Dogs are very smart. However, your dog doesn't speak human. Just like a child learning to speak you need to teach your dog what you're saying. Your dog it not a person no matter how much love and affection you want to give them. You need to remember this when you are training them. You don't want to spoil your dog because by spoiling them you won't be happy and neither will they. Dogs like to make their owners happy and they are willing to do this but because they don't speak our language you have to teach them. I believe in positive reinforcement training. This means that I don't use any harsh or cruel instruments to train my dog such as shock collars. I teach my dogs what to do will reenforcing the behavior that I want with treats and praise. This helps you build a stronger relationship with your dog. To reenforce this training I use hand signals along with the word to speed up my dog's learning process. In some situation just using the hand signals will come in handy. For example if you're speaking with a friend and you want your dog to sit or lie down all you have to do is show your dog the hand signal and they will obey you without you having to say a word to them. I have some examples of how this works and how you can have success training your dog too!
The first thing that I would strongly recommend for you to get to help you train your dog is a clicker. Clicker training is a very effective way to train your dog. The only time I would not use a clicker is if your dog is scared of the noise. When you use the clicker it's another way to automatically tell your dog that they are doing the correct thing. This helps them understand right away, "Yes! I did it. Ok now I get that what you're saying!" Follow these steps to use your clicker.
Before you start clicking away, you need to "warm up" the clicker. You do this by just clicking and treating. Have your treat ready in your hand. Click the clicker once and then quickly feed the treat to your dog and say good boy/ girl. Do this again and again and again. Make sure you wait until your dog has stopped eating before you click and treat again. Using soft treats when you're first training your dog is best. I like to use pieces of a hot dog or cheese. Click and treat 8-10 times in a row. This teaches your dog when they hear the sound of the clicker that they did a good thing and they will now get a treat.
Put your clicker to use:
Now that you've warmed up your click it's time to put it to good use! Now your dog knows what it means when they hear that sound and you can now use the clicker while you train your dog. Start with something simple like a sit and build from there. When your dog does what you want QUICKLY click and treat right away. Don't wait! This way they don't stop doing the thing that you want and they know right way that what they just did is what you wanted them to do. For example, if you're teaching your dog sit as soon as their bum hits the ground click and treat that dog right away. You want to have that treat in your hand ready to go for this. After a time, as your dog learns, you don't have to be right on the ball with the treat. Now that my dog is well trained I will sometimes click and ding that treat out and give it to her but for the time being you want to have that treat ready to go.
When you're first training your dog, especially puppies, you'll want to keep your clicker and treats on you at all times. A lot of clickers have an elastic band or cord so that you can keep it around your wrist or neck. Also, great to have is a treat bag that you can attach to your belt loop and keep with you. I recommend getting one with a zipper so your treats don't fall out when you move.
Keep in mind that you should only use the clicker when your dog does what you want them to do. Never use it at any other time. For example, if your dog runs off after another dog (This will happen, don't worry) don't use the clicker because you know they will come back to you to get a treat. This just tells them that what they did was ok. And they will keep running after whatever they want. Also don't yell, "Treat, Treat!" This again just tells them the same thing. "I get a treat when I run after people/dogs." Instead teach your dog the stay command or come command and click when they do it, right away.
Now that you know the basics of how to use your clicker. We can teach you some commands!