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The Truth About Training Puppies
Experience says it all!
Where will the journey start for you?
Are you thinking about getting a new dog but are worried about its obedience? Perhaps you already have a dog and are having difficulty getting it to do what you like. You will first learn how a dog thinks, and with this knowledge, you will be able to influence the dog of your choosing. Once you have a basic understanding of dog behavior, you will learn how to make a dog sit and stay. At the point of conclusion, you and your dog will be left feeling satisfied with your work and will both be on your way to having a bottomless bag of tricks.
When it is time for you to apply this information, several things will make the process much easier. This type of training is referred to as positive reinforcement, and as such, you will need a bag of delicious treats to help inspire your four legged student. Warning: Get the dog his or her own special treats from a pet store. Your version of special treat could be fatal to your pet, especially if it is something like chocolate! You will also need a training clicker. This is a piece of plastic approximately the size of a thumb and can be difficult to find in some stores. If you are pressed for time, just ask a sales associate. These items should be found in any commercial or local pet stores. Later, you will learn how to properly use this. No clicking until class is in session!
To keep your training time efficient, it is recommended that you remove any distractions from the room you will be training in. Training will be easier if conducted inside without the sounds and smells of nearby animals and people. Having a television or radio playing softly in the background will not be a problem. Other pets, especially other dogs, can be particularly distracting. Young children can also slow progress by moving around a lot and making noise. These things are okay if you have no other options, but will lengthen the time needed for the animal to comprehend you. Training sessions should last from ten to thirty minutes depending on the dog’s ability to concentrate. Your student will let you know when training time is up! Expect the dog to lose interest and start ignoring your commands with attempts to play or even sleep instead. This might be accompanied by him or her talking back at you with barks and howls. With these tools in hand, you are almost ready to teach your student how to do just about anything you can imagine. However, just as in everything else, a strong foundation and understanding is needed before you can proceed with great success.
The first step to success in training any animal is to have a basic understanding of how it thinks. In this case, dogs, which are pack animals, love to please the pack leader. In nature, a pack of dogs works as a team to hunt and protect each other. In the wild, a canine pack leader essentially decides which dogs can stay in the pack. Poor behavior leads to punishment, and at times, dismissal from the pack itself. A wild dog has much lower chances of survival on its own. Membership in a society means having a safety net and food. Those societal instincts are still functional in domestic canines, though, not as primal. The human advantage is that we are able to use our language and reasoning to influence the behavior of these animals without having to abandon them. This is when the positive reinforcement comes into play with your training regimen. For the purpose of this training exercise, let the person holding the training clicker assume command of your pack.
As the leader of your pack, the dog knows its place is to please you. Some breeds are more inclined to this loyal behavior than others. Most breeds that fall under the gun dog and working dog categories are the most inspired when it comes to this. Toy dog breeds can be among the most difficult to train. Keep in mind, positive reinforcement means not only does the dog get rewards, but you must also stay positive. Try not to get discouraged if a session does not go as smoothly as you would like. Your dog will sense the negativity and could become discouraged which could ultimately put a halt to the session. If this does happen, do not fret. With persistence this will work for your animal regardless of the breed.
In the process of this training, if your student does something wrong, there is no need for harsh punishment. As a part of the positive reinforcement regimen, a solution to negative behavior is simply the removal of the positive entity in the situation. If you are in the process of a command and the dog jumps on you, the best response is a firm “no” and gentle knee to their chest to bump off. Then, turn your back to the dog. He or she will understand by your turning away that you are displeased. Canines communicate with physical presentations slightly more than audible ones. Your sign of disinterest will be clear. You only need to turn your back away for a few seconds. This can be used in most situations. At times, it may be necessary to remove the dog instead of just removing an item. There is no need for harsh punishment because this technique engages the canine’s mind instead of instilling fear. This reaction to negative behavior is far more stimulating for your dog. Over punishment can lead to fear and cowering which are very stressful for animals.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how to interact with your dog and get fast results, the rest is easy. To begin the process, the dog needs to know that the clicker is a good thing. This is called the loading stage. Begin by teaching the dog that one click means one treat. Be sure not to click when your student is doing something you disapprove of. Do this sporadically until the dog understands the meaning of the noise. You will know because he or she will come to you from across the room at the sound of a click. This clicker is used because it is loud enough to cut through background noise and is not commonly heard. This process only needs to be done once and should take no more than five minutes.
The clicking process will be vital to your dog’s understanding of nearly any trick you want to teach. Press the training clicker immediately when a behavior is performed that is a part of a trick. When training for more complex tricks, you begin like this, and then use a step-by-step method to progress. Once one step is completed, you should begin clicking when the next is achieved. By delaying the noise to a further point in the trick, you will force the dog to think about what your intentions are and he or she will attempt further actions to get the click and treat. This process can be used in tricks like roll over, sit-pretty, and variations of peek-a-boo. Do not try this yet; but for your understanding, an example of a more advanced trick that requires the step-by-step method is roll over. The steps can be broken down in this manner: sit, down, play dead, and roll over. Some encouragement might be needed such as a nudge in the right direction when doing tricks like this for the first time.
One of the most basic commands is sit. With your dog directly in front of you, say the preparatory command to get the dog’s attention. The preparatory command, in this case, is the dog’s name. He or she will become alert to you and ready for the command. Command the dog to sit and give a corresponding hand signal. (Warning: say the command sparingly. If you say a command ten times before the action is performed, the dog might learn that the command includes you having to repeat yourself that many times.) For the hand signal, use the dog’s curiosity to its benefit. Place your fingertips together as if you are holding a treat and hold your hand above its nose. Slowly move your hand towards the tail until the dog’s head is in the air trying to sniff and follow your hand. The dog should sit before you get past its ears. If it does not, a friendly pat on the rear will encourage him or her to sit. Some dogs with strong back legs might resist and take a little more pushing. As soon as the dog’s rear end touches the floor, click, treat, and give a lot of praise. Treat this event as if it were the best thing the dog has ever done. All of the positive energy from these rewards will help the animal to learn faster. Do this trick five to ten times or as needed for reinforcement, and soon you will be ready to move on.
The next trick every dog should know is stay. This trick can be used to keep a dog out of the way when guests arrive, during dinner, when getting the paper, or for any other instance when you would need your dog to wait. In order to make a dog stay, flatten one hand and put all fingers together as if to make your hand one big knife. Hold it out with the palm facing the dog’s face, approximately six inches from its nose. As before, use the dog’s name as a preparatory command followed by stay. Wait a few seconds and then follow the click, treat, and praise procedure. Build on this by adding to the amount of time the dog stays. Once you reach ten seconds without the dog fidgeting, you may begin taking steps away from the dog. Eventually, you will be able to walk as far as across your yard while having the dog stay in place. By working your way from directly in front of the dog to across a room or further, you will be following the most basic ways of executing the step-by-step training mentioned earlier.
With persistence, you will have a well-mannered dog that is willing to do whatever you ask. Using these techniques, you will be able to build off of what your dog understands so far and work your way up to advanced tricks. Before you know it, you and your companion will be performing for your family, friends, or even a late night show audience!