Dog Training

Training Lead

Training to some degree has to be a part of owning any dog. Luckily, any dog breed can be trained, and puppies especially have an amazing capacity to learn. As they leave the nest they naturally search for a pack leader and for a set of rules to be laid out by that leader. If a leader isn't apparent, a puppy will quickly assume this role itself, a problem that can be compounded by negligent or inexperienced owners. In a small dog this can be a nuisance, but in larger dogs it can be dangerous. The key to successful dog training lies in the relationship between the dog and owner. The dog must know its place and that it is not a child, no matter how much it is loved and adored.

Toilet Training

A puppy under 12 weeks old will not be able to contain itself for very long due to having a very small and weak bladder. It will generally need to relieve itself every few hours or so, expect at night. One popular method used for toilet training dogs is the newspaper method. Place a newspaper on the floor by the back door, and whenever your dog looks like needing a pee, encourage it to do so on the paper. Accidents will happen of course, but a stern "No!" and a steering to the newspaper will soon teach it to do its business on the paper. After a few weeks the paper can then be moved outside the back door and onto a path. It should't take too long before your dog learns that outside is the toilet and inside is a definite no-no. After this, it is simply a matter of letting it out first thing on a morning, last thing on a night, and then a few times throughout the day, especially if it indicates that it needs to go.

Basic Commands

No! This is the most important command to teach your puppy and should be taught as early as possible. To make sure a puppy understands it, never say it unless you mean to enforce it. It can be reinforced with a hand motion if required, such as a raised finger.

Come! Getting your puppy to come on command is important, and to facilitate this it must learn its name as soon as possible. The key here is repetition, using its name whenever you talk to it, and not associating its name with fear in any way. Don't use its name to scold it, and don't call it if you don't think it will respond. One trick is to use it when the puppy is already coming to you, reinforcing the motion by clapping and appearing happy.

Lead Training

Before beginning training a puppy on the lead, let it get used to wearing a dog collar indoors first. Then attach a lead to the collar and let it grow accustomed to that, but don't try to lead it just yet. Once it seems comfortable, get it to follow you, using treats if required and plenty of praise. Making the first few lessons brief and fun is important. Once the puppy is comfortable, progress the lessons to outside, where you will teach it to heel.

Sit! All training should be done on a leash, and a puppy will learn this quickly enough. Give a firm "Sit!" command, then reach down and press on the puppy's rear, forcing it to sit and praising it when it does so. A treat isn't a bad idea either. Keep holding the rear down and repeat the command several times. If it tries to get back up, just repeat the command again and keep the pressure on. Start with short lessons and then make the puppy stay in this position for longer periods each time. If it tries to lie down, pick it up and repeat the lesson, saying "Sit!" again. Allow it to get up only when you decide.

Stay! Once the sit command has been mastered, the stay command is next. With the puppy on a leash and facing you, get it to sit and then take a step or two back yourself. If it attempts to follow, immediately and firmly say "Sit!" and then "Stay!". Holding out a palm can reinforce this motion. Once it starts to understand, simply increase the distance. Dogs can be taught to stay even if you leave the room. When this is mastered, don't end a lesson by calling the dog to you. Walk back to it and say something like "Ok". This tells it the command is over. Only after this is mastered should you end lessons by calling them.

Down! It is important not to confuse your dog. If you want it to lie down, use "Down!" or "Lie down!". If you want it to get off you sofa, say "Get off!". The easiest way to teach this is to hold a treat under the puppy's nose and lower your hand to the ground. As it lowers to reach it, say "Lie down!" and press lightly on the shoulders. If it resists, stop pushing and slide the feet forward until it is lying down. Once it reaches the desired position, give the treat and praise.

Heel! This is all about getting your dog to walk by your side with a slack lead, ideally on the left, and not pulling ahead or lagging behind. The key here is consistency. Walk with the lead in the right hand and draped across the body to the left, with your left hand ready to pull and make corrections. Corrections should be short and jerky, not steadily applied pressure, and every correction should be reinforced with the command "Heel!". Also, the lead should be kept loose when the puppy is maintaining the correct position. If your dog tries to lead you and pull away, especially when distracted by people or other dogs, pull sharply on the lead and give a stern "Heel". Another technique is to change direction abruptly, dissallowing the dog to pursue its goal.