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Cheat Sheet

Dog Training For Dummies

From Dog Training For Dummies, 3rd Edition by Jack Volhard, Wendy Volhard

Providing your dog with at least some training is the best and most loving thing you can do for him. Training your dog ensures that he’s safe and welcome everywhere he goes and that he’s easy to live with. When beginning obedience training, you need to keep in mind a few do’s and don’ts, and you should start with a few basic exercises, including sitting and laying down on command. Training him to respond to the Come and Sit-Stay commands also is extremely helpful.

Reviewing the Do’s and Don’ts of Dog Training

Yes, dog training is based on common sense. However, you do need to keep in mind a few specific guidelines — the do’s and don’ts — to make sure that you’re successful and fostering a healthy relationship with your dog. The following sections are here to help get you started.

Do’s

  • Do be nice to your dog every time he comes to you (even if he’s just coming back from an unexpected romp around the neighborhood).

  • Do get into the habit of giving a command only once. If your dog doesn’t respond to a command you have taught him, reinforce the command.

  • Do use your dog’s name to get his attention, and then tell him what you want him to do.

  • Do eliminate the word “no” from your training vocabulary.

  • Do use a normal tone of voice when you give a command. Your dog’s hearing is quite acute.

  • Do be consistent in your actions and expectations.

  • Do provide an outlet for your dog’s energies.

  • Do keep your dog mentally stimulated by training him.

  • Do understand that your dog is a social animal. Train him so he can be a part of the family.

  • Do socialize your dog with people and other dogs.

  • Do become your dog’s teacher.

  • Do make learning fun for your dog.

  • Do consistently reward with praise the correct behaviors.

  • Do spend plenty of time with your dog and give him lots of exercise.

  • Do keep trying, and your dog will reward you by getting the message.

  • Do get outside help when you get stuck.

Don’ts

  • Don’t do anything your dog perceives as unpleasant when he comes to you.

  • Don’t nag your dog by repeating commands — nagging teaches him to ignore you.

  • Don’t use your dog’s name and then expect him to read your mind as to what you want.

  • Don’t expect your dog to know what the word “no” means.

  • Don’t yell at your dog. He’s not deaf. Raising your voice doesn’t improve understanding.

  • Don’t confuse your dog with unrealistic expectations.

  • Don’t try to suppress behaviors that need an outlet.

  • Don’t let your dog stagnate.

  • Don’t lock up your dog or put him out because you haven’t trained him to behave.

  • Don’t isolate your dog — he’s a social animal.

  • Don’t expect your dog to obey a command you haven’t taught him.

  • Don’t get too serious in your training.

  • Don’t reward undesired behaviors.

  • Don’t make your dog neurotic by neglecting him.

  • Don’t give up when the going gets tough; keep trying.

  • Don’t blame the dog; you are his teacher.

Controlling Your Dog with the Sit and Down Commands

When you think of dog training or obedience, the first two commands that probably pop into your head are the Sit and the Down commands. These commands are essential to making a well-behaved dog out of Buddy. Practice a 30-minute Down and a 10-minute Sit, on alternate days, for four weeks. See the following sections for details.

When giving commands to your dog during training, be sure to give them in a firm, yet upbeat tone of voice. Don’t pose them as questions; otherwise, Buddy won’t obey. And be sure to use only one command at a time and say it only once. If he doesn’t respond, show him exactly what you expect from him by reinforcing the command.

Sit on command

The following steps show you how to teach your dog to sit on command. You start off teaching him to do so using a treat, and then you add the command. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hold the treat slightly in front of your dog’s head, say “Sit,” and bring your hand slightly above his eyes.

    Give him the treat when he sits.

  2. For the next attempt, use a treat in one hand, and apply some upward pressure on the collar with the other as you say “Sit.”

    Give lots of praise when the dog sits.

  3. When he gets the hang of sitting, you can work on commanding him to sit. Without touching your dog or showing him a treat, say “Sit.”

    When he responds correctly, reward him with a treat. If he doesn’t respond correctly, review Step 2.

Down on command

When you’re ready to teach your dog the Down command, you first must teach him to lie down with a treat, and then you introduce pressure on his collar and the command. Here’s what to do:

  1. With your dog sitting at your left side, show him a treat, held in the right hand, and say “Down.” Lower the treat to the ground between his feet and slide it forward so he has to lie down to get it.

    When he’s in the Down position, give him the treat.

  2. For the next attempt, put the treat in your right hand, and then put your left hand through his collar under his chin and say “Down.” Lower the treat and apply slight downward pressure on the collar.

    Give your dog the treat and lots of praise when he lies down.

  3. When he’s familiar with the Down position, you’re ready to work on commanding him to lay down. Without touching your dog or showing him a treat, say “Down.”

    When he responds correctly, reward him with a treat. If he doesn’t respond correctly, review Step 2.

Using the Recall Game to Get Your Dog to Come When Called

If you’re interested in training your dog to come to you when he’s called, one way to teach him is to play the Recall Game. This training game is played with two people, one hungry dog, one 6-foot leash, and plenty of small treats. Practice the Recall Game on and off leash inside, on leash outside, off leash outside in a confined area, and then ultimately on and off leash with distractions when your dog is ready. Be sure you can touch your dog’s collar every time he comes to you, and before you give him a treat.

Here are the steps to follow when playing the Recall Game:

  1. Find a partner and sit on the floor 6 feet apart, facing each other. Have your partner gently restrain the dog while you hold the end of the leash.

  2. Call your dog by saying “Buddy, Come,” and use the leash to guide him to you.

  3. When Buddy comes to you, put your hand through his collar, give him a treat, and praise him enthusiastically.

  4. Hold onto Buddy’s collar and pass the leash to your partner, who says, “Buddy, Come,” guides the dog in, puts his hand through the collar, gives him a treat, and praises the dog.

Work through these steps until your dog responds on his own to being called and no longer needs to be guided to you with the leash. At that point, you can start increasing the distance between you and your partner (up to 12 feet). You also can begin playing the game from room to room in your house.

Training Your Dog with the Sit-Stay Command

The Sit-Stay command is one of the most useful commands you can train your dog to obey. You can use it to teach your dog not to jump on people and to wait before he can go in or out of a door, up or down stairs, or in and out of the car. In general, this command is essential for when you want your dog to remain quietly in one spot.

Here are the steps to follow when teaching your dog the Sit-Stay command on leash:

  1. Start with your dog sitting at your left side, both of you facing in the same direction.

  2. Put the ring of his collar on top of his neck and attach the leash to the collar.

  3. Put the loop of the leash over the thumb of your left hand and fold the leash accordion-style into your hand, with the part of the leash going toward the dog coming out at the bottom of your hand.

    Hold the leash as close to the dog’s collar as you comfortably can. The farther away from the dog’s collar you hold your hand, the less control you have. Apply a little upward tension on the collar — just enough to let him know the tension is there, but not enough to make him uncomfortable.

  4. Say “Stay” and step directly in front of your dog, turn to face him, keeping the tension on the collar.

  5. Count to ten, step back to his side, release tension, praise, and release your dog with “Okay” (or whatever word you choose) as you take several steps forward.

    Over the course of several sessions gradually increase the distance in front of the dog and the length of time he has to stay.

After your dog is comfortable with the Sit-Stay, increase the distance to 3 feet in front, while introducing distractions. Practice until your dog will stay on and off leash around distractions. Reinforce the Sit-Stay every time your dog greets you.

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