Dog Training For Dummies book cover

Dog Training For Dummies

By: Wendy Volhard and Mary Ann Rombold-Zeigenfuse Published: 04-07-2020

Make your buddy a top dog for life, be your Best Friend’s “Friend,” by training together. 

Obedience training is one of the most important aspects of raising a dog. In fact, a well-trained dog is a FREE dog! Why? Because a trained dog requires fewer restrictions. The more reliable the dog, the more freedom he is given. 

Dog Training for Dummies shows dog owners how to select the right training method for their puppy, adult, or senior dog. Whether you want to teach Buddy to sit or master retrieving, this hands-on guide provides training to ensure a mutually respectful relationship with your four-legged family members.

  • Eliminate unwanted behavior
  • Find step-by-step instruction on basic commands
  • Strengthen your bond with your dog
  • Build communication, understanding, and mutual respect

Based on positive reinforcement, trust, and obedience, the tips and tricks inside will help you bring out the very best in your beloved pet.

Articles From Dog Training For Dummies

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Reviewing the Dos and Don’ts of Dog Training

Article / Updated 04-14-2022

Yes, dog training is based on common sense. However, you do need to keep in mind a few specific guidelines — the dos 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. Dos 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 her, reinforce the command. Do use your dog’s name to get her attention, and then tell her what you want her 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 her 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 she 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. She’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 her out because you haven’t trained her 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 her. Don’t give up when the going gets tough; keep trying. Don’t blame the dog; you are her teacher.

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Dog Training For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-12-2021

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.

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10 Sporting Activities for Dogs

Article / Updated 03-27-2020

In addition to obedience competition, you and your dog can participate in numerous other performance events. Many are conducted under the auspices of the American Kennel Club (AKC), and some, such as Schutzhund trials, aren’t. The AKC awards more than 50 different performance titles in eight different categories. And other organizations have an almost equal number of titles. In this article we discuss the AKC competitions and more, including Flyball competitions and Schutzhund trials. We also include a discussion of service dogs who work for a living. Agility Events Agility is an exciting and exhilarating sport for both owner and dog. The popularity of agility competitions has experienced phenomenal growth since 1994 when it became a titling sport in the AKC, and with good reason: Dogs love it, human participants love it, and it has enormous spectator appeal. AKC agility events began in England and were then introduced in the United States. You may have seen agility competitions on television on one of the channels that specialize in televising dog events and on primetime channels as well. This figure shows a dog competing in an agility trial. In agility competition, the dogs, under the direction of their owners, negotiate a complex obstacle course that includes walking over a teeter, a 5-foot high A-frame, and a 4-foot high plank with ramps; weaving in and out between a series of poles; jumping over and through objects; and going through tunnels. To compensate for the size differences among dogs and to make the competition fair, seven height divisions exist. As with obedience, the level of difficulty increases with each higher class as does the number of obstacles. Other than the exercises themselves, some significant differences exist between agility trials and obedience trials. We outline the differences in the following table. Differences between Agility and Obedience Trials Agility Obedience Your dog must be able to work on both your right and left side. Your dog works on your left side. You have minimum time limits during which you and your dog have to complete the course. There is no time limit (within reason). The obstacles and the order in which the obstacles are to be negotiated vary. The exercises and the order of the exercises are always the same. Continuous communication with your dog is encouraged. During your dog’s performance of an exercise, you can’t talk to your dog and can give only one command. No doubt, part of the appeal of agility competition is its seeming simplicity. Almost any dog in reasonably good physical condition quickly learns the rudiments of the various obstacles. And, almost any owner who’s also in reasonably good physical condition can compete in agility. But few things are ever as simple as they appear. Beginning agility is deceptively simple, but it’s not as easy as it looks. Because the courses you and your dog have to negotiate are never the same, your ability to communicate with your dog is important. Any lapses in communication invariably result in Buddy’s failure to complete the course correctly. You’re also competing against the clock and have to make split-second decisions. In addition, you need to memorize the course before you and your dog compete. Agility is wonderful for dogs with both high prey drive and pack drive and teaches your dog to work with you as a team, turning it into a pack drive game (Chapter 2 describes pack drive in more detail). Dogs that belong to the Herding, Working, Sporting, Toy, and Nonsporting groups all do well in agility. One of the fastest dogs is the Border Collie. You can see what makes agility so exciting. The two of you really need to work as a team and to keep your wits about you. We highly recommend that you try it. You’ll be amazed how your dog will take to it. We aren’t suggesting that you try to set up an agility course in your backyard — few people have the wherewithal to do that. Find out from your local dog organizations where agility trials are being held and then take a look. Most communities have a group or an individual who holds classes that meet on a regular basis where you and Buddy can get started. Even if you aren’t interested in competing, agility courses are good mental stimulation for Buddy as well as good exercise for both of you. Tracking titles The dog’s incredible ability to use his nose and follow a scent is the basis for tracking events. Any dog can participate, and if you enjoy tromping through the great outdoors in solitude with your dog, tracking is for you. Tracking also is potentially the most useful activity you can teach your dog. Many a tracking dog has found a lost person or lost article. Dogs that like to use their noses do well in this sport such as Beagles, Bloodhounds, and German Shepherds, though almost all dogs can be taught to track. Your dog’s sense of smell is almost infallible. Local law enforcement often uses dogs to sniff out bombs, drugs, and other contraband. Researchers are even using them to detect cancer in a person. Buddy can earn three tracking titles: Tracking Dog (TD): The track has to be at least 440 yards, but not more than 500 yards in length. A person lays the track 30 minutes to 2 hours before the event, and it has three to five turns. It doesn’t have any cross tracks or obstacles. Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX): The track has to be at least 800 yards, but not more than 1,000 yards in length. The track has to be not less than three hours and not more than five hours old. It has to have five to seven turns. It must have two cross tracks and two obstacles, such as a different surface or a stream. Variable Surface Tracking (VST): The track has to be at least 600 yards, but not more than 800 yards in length. Age of track is the same as for the TDX. It has to have four to eight turns. It has to have a minimum of three different surfaces, such as concrete, asphalt, gravel or sand, and vegetation. The principal differences between the classes are the age of the track and the surface. Your dog has to complete only one track successfully to earn its title, unlike obedience or agility titles, for which three qualifying performances are required. The basic idea of successful tracking is the dog’s ability to follow the track layer’s footsteps from beginning to end. A dog that veers too far away from the track and has obviously lost the scent is whistled off and doesn’t qualify on that particular occasion. Barn Hunt AKC Barn Hunt grew out of the dog’s natural instinct for hunting rats and mice in barns and in the country. This sport requires teamwork between you and your dog. The dog must indicate when he has located a rat inside of mountains of hay bales. Rats are contained in safe cages so they don’t come into direct contact with the dogs hunting them. Therefore, no rats are harmed. High prey drive dogs are best suited for this category, but any dog that can get into a tunnel of straw that is 18 inches wide and the height of a bale of straw can give it a try. The Barn Hunt association claims that a “Barn Hunt tests the nose, speed, agility, and surefootedness of dogs that have a history of above-ground vermin hunting.” An instinct test for beginners at most Barn Hunt competitions is pass or fail. Several levels and titles are available, and with each level the number of hidden rats increases with other distractions and diversions. Lure coursing Another event that relies on your dog’s desire to chase moving objects is Lure Coursing. Instead of running behind a living prey such as a rabbit, the lure is a mechanized white plastic bag on a laid-out string that is motorized and zigzags around the course. A remote controls this machine so that the plastic bag stays just out of the dog’s reach, and yet the dog can catch it at the end for the dog to pretend kill, catch, and shake in order to keep up the dog’s motivation. Lure Coursing can be so fun for dogs with plenty of prey drive. It keeps Buddy happy and fit while you provide an outlet for his extra energy. A group, club, or even an individual can purchase the Lure Coursing machines that move the mechanical bag. Lure Coursing is a great way to burn off that prey drive energy and to meet people and their dogs, too. Schutzhund training The word Schutzhund means “protection dog.” Schutzhund training, which is one of the oldest organized competition, originated in Germany in the 1900s and is the precursor to obedience exercises, tracking, and agility. In fact, many of its exercises have been incorporated into today’s performance events. Schutzhund training all began when the German Shepherd came to be used as a police dog. German Shepherds were thought of as being the only true multipurpose dog and were expected to guard and protect, herd, track, be a guide dog for the blind, and, of course, be good with children. As a police dog, a dog’s main responsibility is to protect his handler. He also has to be able to pursue, capture, or track down suspects. Searches require great agility, perhaps jumping into windows and negotiating stairs and even ladders. Naturally, he has to know all the obedience exercises. It wasn’t long before competitions began among police units to see who had the most talented and best-trained dog. Dog owners became interested and the sport of Schutzhund was born. Schutzhund training consists of three parts: protection, obedience, and tracking. To qualify for a title, the dog must pass all three parts. When obedience and tracking were introduced in this country, they were patterned after the Schutzhund dog. Agility competitions derived in part from the Schutzhund obedience exercises, which include walking over the A-frame as well as different jumps. Schutzhund training, which is rigorous and highly athletic and one of the most time consuming of all dog sports, isn’t limited to German Shepherds. Other dogs of the guarding, working, and herding breeds, which have the aptitude such as Rottweilers and Belgian Malinois, can participate. Even some of the nonguarding breeds can do it, although you won’t see them at the upper levels of competition. Flyball competitions Flyball is a relay race consisting of two teams with four dogs on a team. The course consists of two sets of four hurdles, set up side by side and spaced 10 feet apart. At the end of each set of hurdles sits a box that holds a tennis ball. At the same time, each team sends the first dog to retrieve the ball. The dogs jump the hurdles, retrieve the ball, and return over the hurdles. When the first dog crosses the finish line, the next dog starts and retrieves the ball until all four dogs on each team have completed the course. The team with the fastest time wins, provided no errors were made, such as a dog going around one or more of the hurdles, either coming or going. For information, visit the North American Flyball Association’s website. Dogs high in prey drive do well in Flyball. Freestyle performances Canine Freestyle is a choreographed musical program performed by a dog/owner team, sort of like figure skating for pairs. The object is to display the team in a creative, innovative, and original dance. In Freestyle, the performance of every team is different, although the various performances often share basic obedience maneuvers and are put to music. Started in the early 1990s as a way to bring some levity to obedience training, Freestyle has caught on like a house afire. Chances are you have seen it on one of the TV shows featuring dog activities. Freestyle is fun to watch and fun to train. Any dog high in pack drive will do well. In competition you see almost all breeds competing. For more information, visit The World Canine Freestyle Organization’s website. Dock diving dogs If Buddy is a retrieving fanatic and loves to swim and jump into water, then Dock Diving Dogs is for him (see the following figure). Here are the basic rules: You throw your dog’s favorite toy off a dock. On your command, Buddy runs and jumps into the water and retrieves his toy. The goal is to match your throw and Buddy’s jump so his launch is as long as possible before he lands in the water. Dogs can also compete for height and distance. Detection dogs or scent work After man discovered the dog’s incredible scenting ability, the detection dog was born. Humans have approximately 10 million olfactory cells compared to dog’s 200 million olfactory cells. Because of their keen senses, dogs are now routinely used to detect drugs and explosives and search for victims buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings and avalanches. The dog has even replaced the pig to hunt for truffles, probably because he isn’t as inclined as the pig to eat the truffles he finds. AKC Scent Work is a titling sport where detection dogs locate a specific scent and then indicate that he has found the scent. This new sport has become quite popular because nearly any dog can do it. With practice you discover how to read your dog as he locates the hidden scent in a room or outside in a searchable area. Your dog is judged by how he lets you know precisely where the scent is located. AKC Scent Work uses anise, birch, clove, and cypress. You can easily find all as essential oils and they’re easy to use. The oil typically is used on a hide, which is a cotton swab hidden for your dog to find. Buddy must indicate to you that he has found the scent by sitting, pawing, barking, or showing a similar type response. As the levels get more difficult, Buddy has to find more hides. The scent can be buried or placed high above his head. Working as a service dog The term “service dog” was first used to describe police dogs and dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Training for this job started in Germany with the German Shepherd. Over the years, the tasks of service dogs have multiplied to an astonishing degree. You now can find seizure-detection dogs, cancer-detection dogs, and blood sugar-level-monitoring dogs, as well as assistance dogs such as emotional support dogs. The following section describe two of the most common service dogs and their duties. Assistance dogs Assistance dogs are used to help individuals in need. (See the following figure for a look at a working assistance dog.) The following list includes the main types of assistance dogs: Guide dogs for the blind: The use of dogs to assist blind individuals dates back to 1930, when the first training centers were started in England. Guide dog organizations tend to have their own breeding programs in order to cement the physical and behavioral traits necessary to become a reliable guide dog. Guide dogs undergo the most extensive training of any of the assistance dogs. Dogs for the deaf and hearing impaired: These dogs are trained to react to certain noises and to alert their masters. For example, a dog may jump on the bed when the alarm clock goes off, tug at his owner’s leg when someone is at the door, or take his owner’s hand to alert him to the presence of an unexpected guest. Dogs to assist the physically handicapped: A good assistance dog for the handicapped can respond to about 50 different commands, such as retrieving objects that are out of reach or have been dropped, opening and closing doors, pulling wheelchairs, or turning light switches on and off. Excellent retrieving skills are a must for assistance dogs for the handicapped. Therapy dogs: The main purpose of the therapy dog and his handler is to provide comfort and companionship to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions. The training is based on the Canine Good Citizen program with some added requirements. Any well-trained dog with good social behavior skills can become a therapy dog. In addition to their specialized skills, all assistance dogs play an important therapeutic role for their owners, especially children who have impairments that can cause them to become physically or emotionally withdrawn from society. Each type of assistance dog has trusted organizations that provide training and/or dogs to help people — children, adults, therapy, blind, deaf, and so on. Search online for more specifics to suit your needs that an assistance dog can aid. Companions Every year a new sport or competition trends for you and your dog to try. You’ll always need the basics in obedience to enjoy a wonderful relationship between you and your dog. From reading assistance dogs at the local library where kids read to dogs to competitions that title your dog to great heights, a trained dog is capable of almost anything. A favorite motto to adopt is “A trained dog is a free dog.” So keep training! More than likely, you have a dog that serves as a pet and companion, a living being that’s devoted to you. Your dog is always happy to see you and doesn’t argue or complain.

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Dog Training: Teach Your Dog to Hide in a Box

Article / Updated 03-22-2020

With this trick, you teach your dog to get in a big box and eventually hide in it by laying down. The tricks you teach your dog can be simple or complex, depending on your dog’s drives and your interest. You can teach some tricks in an afternoon whereas you’ll need more time for others. With your help, each trick can be a showstopper with your dog’s personality shining through. Needed: A cardboard box and treats Make sure the box is big enough for your dog to get into and lay down. Save one from a delivery or visit a store that lets you take one. Close in the flaps to add stability and so the box doesn’t have a top or flaps to deter your dog. Make sure the box isn’t too high that your dog can’t leap into it later. Use treats easy to toss, such as cheese-flavored corn puffs, popcorn, or something special and fun. Be careful about overdoing the snacks. If you feed a kibble, you can use your dog’s kibble too at meal times. Command: Get In Command: Down Sequence 1: Introducing the box on its side The steps in this sequence help your dog get acquainted with the box: Set up your box and lay it on its side, so the opening isn’t on top but rather an easy walk in. Toss a treat into the box and say “Get it” and then release with “Okay” as Buddy eats the treat. Repeat over and over until Buddy willingly goes in the box for the treat. Turn the box if it isn’t a square box, so he’ll go into the box to get the treat on any side. You can move the box around the room too, so the box changing location isn’t a concern for Buddy. Step behind Buddy as he goes in the box, so he doesn’t just back out. You want him to wait until you say “Okay.” Sequence 2: Standing the box correctly with opening on top This sequence may take a bit of help, especially if Buddy isn’t a leaper. We find helping him into the box and having him leap out helpful. Just follow these steps: Without fear or frustration, gently put Buddy into the box, lifting him up and placing him inside. Immediately give him a treat and then say “Okay” to release him and give him another treat for leaping out. The leaping out will only get a treat when you put him in the box by lifting him in. After he gets in the box himself, you’ll only treat him while he’s inside the box, not after he comes out. You want him to go in the box, so only reward him for going in, not for coming out. Drop a treat or two into the box and say “Get in your box.” If he doesn’t try, lift him in so he can eat the treats inside of the box. Then say “Okay” to release him and play with him outside the box. Dogs know when you’re pleased if you let him know you’re pleased. We often hear people say their dogs always repeat a behavior if they laughed at their dog for doing something because your dog reads your laughter as being pleased. Laughter is praise to a dog. Have fun with trick training. Keep practicing until Buddy gets into the box on his own. Toss treats inside and encourage him to leap inside as in the following figure. If you’re tossing treats and he won’t go and you’ve lifted him in a few times and he still won’t do it, tilt the box over with the treats inside and have him go in for them. This shows him that the treats are there waiting for him. Get In Your Box is the command. Add it as your dog leaps inside. “Okay” is the release for your Get Out Of The Box command. Sequence 3: Adding the Hide command You can wait for another day to work on this sequence. Make sure your dog is willingly getting in and out of the box on your commands before moving on to this sequence: Review your Down command outside of the box. When he goes down, he’ll look like he’s hiding in the box. Say “Get in your box” and toss a treat inside. Say “Down, Hide” and raise your arm as your signal. Praise and give another treat for laying down. Say “Okay” to release him from the box. Praise, praise, praise. Repeat the Down, Hide combined command until Buddy starts responding to just the Hide command alone. Sequence 4: Putting it all together Now that you have a dog who will get in, wait for you to release him with “Okay” to come out, and will lay down in the box when asked, it’s time to make it a performance: Have Buddy get in the box and raise your arm as you say “Hide.” After he hides, say “Okay” to release him to get out. You can use your imagination to make this into a bit of a celebration and show by leaving your box out and playing this trick anytime you want. Trick training and training in general makes for a dog who is always listening and watching you.

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Dog Training: Find the Pea under the Right Cup

Article / Updated 03-22-2020

Every well-trained dog knows a trick or two that can impress friends and family alike. With this trick, your dog finds the right cup with the treat pea under it out of three cups. This trick is fun for both you and your dog. Needed: Three cups: You can use plastic or paper cups from your picnic basket or small disposable flower pots that new plants come in to repot later. Kids’ handbells, instead of cups, work wonders too; Just cut out the clangor because you don’t need the noise from the bell. With the bells, the handles help your dog to tip the bells over during the trick. Treats: Dry treats that scoot along the floor without leaving crumbs or residue behind, such as Os cereal or oyster crackers–type treats work best. The treat is called the pea in the final step. Command: Leave It Command: Stay Sequence 1: Establish a pattern for the game These steps in the first sequence help Buddy understand the pattern: Kneel in front of your dog on a Stay command with an ample supply of treats and your cups handy. Put a treat on the floor and say “Leave it” and then release Buddy to the treat with “Okay.” If he goes before the release, simply cover the treat with your hand before he gets to the treat. This is a practice review for the “Leave It” command Repeat the whole sequence. By repeating several times you’re teaching Buddy this is a game he’ll want to play; he needs to get focused to play several times. Sequence 2: Introduce the covered treat The next steps focus on making the introduction. Buddy, meet the treat. Kneel in front of your dog on a Stay command, show him the cup, and put a treat on the edge of the upside-down cup half under the cup and half showing. Pause and then say “Leave it.” Release him to the cup and treat and praise again and again while you pet and party with him for finding the hidden treat. Repeat until Buddy knocks over or pushes aside the cup with ease to get at the half-exposed treat. Now completely cover the treat so Buddy can’t see it. Remember to enforce the Stay and Leave It commands. Release to the cup with “Okay.” Sequence 3: Add a second cup with no treat You can now introduce an empty cup next to the loaded cup. Simply have two cups upside down in front of the dog on a stay as in the following figure. Lift one at a time, and then make a big deal about putting a treat under one of them. Pause and then release and let your dog find the treat. If he goes right for the correct one, or even if he doesn’t, make a huge fuss of praise when he finds the treat. Sequence 4: Move the cups and changing their position To keep building on this trick, follow these steps: Repeat Sequence 3, but after you’ve loaded one of the cups, slowly switch the cups’ location by sliding them around on the floor, not lifting the cup to expose the treat. Usually the dog is fascinated by this while on the Stay. Pause before releasing Buddy to the cups. Repeat this step, but slide the cups back and forth a few extra times. Try to determine if your dog is simply crashing the cups over or using his nose or eyes to go to the right cup. Help him if needed by tipping over the cup. If your cups aren’t tipping over, do this on a bit of carpet to allow for some traction. The handbells help with this because they knock over more easily because of the handles. Sequence 5: Finish the trick During this sequence you add the third cup, which is when this trick really gets fun: With Buddy on a Sit-Stay, place the three cups in front of him. Load one with a treat and allow him to watch you. Slide the cups around in front of him and talk up the mystery of which one has the treat. Sit back on your heels, say “Okay,” and watch Buddy sniff out the correct cup. One cup only has the treat. Your dog may tip them all over, but eventually most dogs get it right, going directly to the correct cup. If you want to make this trick a show piece, add some drama to your voice and act as if you have a crowd in front of you. Announce and show off the Famous Buddy of the World —Buddy who can follow the cup to find the “pea” every time. “As if magic, Buddy will watch and concentrate and find the famous pea under the cups as they switch and move before his eyes. It’s your show, so play it up.

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Dog Training: Teach a Dog to Shake and High Five

Article / Updated 03-22-2020

Teach your dog how to shake hands and high five. The trick to teaching successful tricks is sequencing. Sequencing means breaking down what you want to teach your dog into components small enough for the dog to master, which leads up to the final product. For example, if you want to teach your dog to shake hands, start by first taking Buddy’s paw in your hand with the command you want to use and then praise and reward him. The next sequence is offering your palm first instead of taking his paw, and so on to the next sequence. This trick shows you how to teach Buddy to Shake and then add a High Five for extra flair. This exercise has four sequences. Sequences 1 through 3 teach Shake and Sequence 4 adds the High Five. For the High Five, the object is to teach Buddy to raise one front paw as high as he can on command. Needed: Treats Command: Sit Command: Yes, to mark the moment of success and compliance from your dog Sequence 1: Introduce the concept of shaking hands Follow these steps to accustom your dog to shaking hands: Sit your dog in front of you. Reduce your body posture by kneeling or squatting in front of your dog so you’re not leaning or hovering over him. Offer him your palm at mid-chest level and say “Shake” or whatever command you want to use. Take the elbow of his dominant front leg and lift it off the ground about 2 inches. If you don’t know your dog’s dominant side, he’ll quickly show you. Slide your hand down to the paw and gently shake as in the figure. Say “Yes” and praise enthusiastically as you’re shaking his paw. Reward with a treat and say “Okay” to release him. Sequence 2: Lift his paw Keep following these steps for Buddy to lift his paw: Sit your dog in front of you and reduce your body posture. Offer your palm at mid-chest level and say “Shake.” Pause. You’re looking for some sort of response. If nothing happens, touch his elbow and offer your palm again. Give him the chance to lift his paw. After he lifts the paw on his own, take the paw, enthusiastically praise, reward, and release. If nothing happens after offering your palm and saying “Shake,” take hold of his collar on the opposite side from the hand you want him to lift and tilt him slightly away from that side by pulling gently on the collar sideways. Doing so takes the weight off the leg you want to come up, and it will come off of the ground. Say “Yes,” take his paw, praise, reward, and release. Stay with Sequence 2 until your dog is lifting his paw off the ground on command so you can shake it. Move on to Sequence 3 when your dog is ready. Sequence 3: Put his paw on your palm When you’re ready for Buddy to put his paw in your palm, keep following these steps: Sit your dog in front of you and reduce your body posture. Offer your palm at mid-chest level and say “Shake.” At this point, he should put his paw on your palm. When he does, say “Yes,” praise enthusiastically, reward, and release. If nothing happens, go back to Sequence 2. Stay with Sequence 3 until your dog readily and without hesitation puts his paw on your palm. Then, if you want to teach your dog to add an impressive high five to his shake, you can move on to the last sequence. Sequence 4: Add the High Five With this trick you want your dog to raise his paw as high as he can and touch your hand rather than you shaking his paw. These steps can help: Sit your dog in front of you. Offer your palm at his chin level and say “Shake.” By now your dog should readily and without hesitation put his paw on your palm with the command “Shake.” When he does, say “Yes,” praise, and rotate your palm to be fingers up as in a high five. Reward and release. If not, go back to Sequence 3. Raise your palm, in 2-inch increments, until you have reached your dog’s limit. At this point you can change the trick command to “High Five” and say “High Five” after you’ve said, “Shake,” and gotten Buddy to lift his paw. Your hand is less like a shake-hand position and more of a high-five position with your fingers pointing up. Say “Yes” as your dog touches your palm with his paw. Praise and reward with your release. After several repetitions, your dog will stretch his paw as high as he can. Praise, reward, and release.

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Dog Obedience Training Class

Article / Updated 03-22-2020

If you find you need outside help, we recommend an obedience training class where you’re instructed how to train your dog. Having taught obedience training classes for more than 40 years, we’re naturally biased in favor of this choice. A basic class usually addresses your most immediate concerns, such as not pulling on the leash, teaching the Sit and Down-Stay commands, and mastering Come. You also can find classes devoted to puppy training and advanced training for performance events when you and Buddy are ready. When you go to an obedience training class, don’t expect the instructor to train your dog. That isn’t her job. The purpose of the class is to show you what to do, have you try it a few times to make sure you’ve got it right, and then send you home to practice. Be prepared to attend class at least once a week and practice at home at least five times a week. We think taking Buddy to school is perhaps one of the best things you can do for the both of you. Here’s why: Classes get you out of the house into an atmosphere where you can spend quality time together and strengthen the bond between you and your dog. Both of you have fun while learning useful things that make living together that much easier. Classes are excellent way for you to meet similar people and for Buddy to socialize with other dogs. Classes usually are economical and keep your training on track with weekly sessions. A knowledgeable individual tells you what you may be doing wrong and can help you succeed. Classes automatically provide a distracted environment for you to work on communicating with your dog while he’s distracted. Here are a few drawbacks to consider: Most classes are sequential in nature. So, if you miss a class, you’ll fall behind and may have a difficult time catching up. Falling behind is discouraging and may cause you to drop out. The schedule and location may be inconvenient. The instructor dictates how, what, and when. The training method may not be right for you or your dog. A group class is full of distractions, which can be frustrating at first. The following sections help you find the right training class for you and your dog. Good obedience training class criteria Obedience training classes are offered in almost every community. Until fairly recently, obedience and kennel clubs conducted the majority of classes. Today, however, schools or private individuals also teach classes. The difference has nothing to do with the quality of the training; it relates solely to profit motive. Clubs are nonprofit organizations, and the instructors — usually members who have trained and shown their own dogs — generally volunteer their services. Training schools and individuals who hang out their shingles are for-profit organizations. Some of the large pet chain stores also offer obedience training classes. To locate a class, ask people you know for referrals, such as your veterinary office, groomer, and friends who own well-mannered dogs. You also can use your favorite Internet browser to search for local dog obedience training classes. You’ll likely have several choices. Call one of the organizations listed to find out where and when the class meets. Ask whether you can observe a beginner class. Most organizations will allow you to observe a class, but if you aren’t allowed to observe a class, forget that organization. When you do go to observe, leave Buddy at home so he doesn’t interfere with the class and you aren’t distracted. When you’re at the session, ask yourself a few questions about the class you’re observing: What is your first impression of the class? You’re looking for a friendly, pleasant, quiet, and positive atmosphere. The training area should be clean. Do the dogs seem to have a good time? You can quickly tell whether the dogs are enjoying themselves or whether they’d rather not be there. How does the instructor deal with the class participants? You want the instructor to be encouraging and helpful, especially to anyone who seems to be struggling. How does the instructor deal with the dogs? You want the instructor to be nice to the dogs, not to yell at them or create anxiety or fear. Does the instructor appear knowledgeable? As a student, you aren’t likely to be able to tell whether the instructor actually is knowledgeable, but at least he needs to give the appearance of being so. What is the ratio of instructors to students? We always aim for a one-to-five ratio, with a limit of 15 students for one instructor with two assistants. Is the space adequate for the number of dogs? Insufficient space can cause aggression and frustration in a class situation. If you don’t like what you see and hear, find another organization. If you feel satisfied with what you’re seeing, it may be the right class for you and Buddy. But while you’re visiting, you need to find out a few more bits of information: The cost of the class and what is included: For example, our basic training courses — or Level 1, as we call it — consist of six hour-long sessions and include a training collar and leash and weekly homework sheets. What a particular organization includes in its fee varies. At the very least, you should get a homework sheet as a reminder of what was covered in class and what you need to work on during the upcoming week. The goal of the program: What can you expect from your dog after completing the class? What do they teach in the class? Does it match what you’re hoping to learn? Often the instructor teaches more in class than what you realized you needed, which can be a good thing. Your main goal after all should be to discover how to train your dog. Puppy classes Taking Buddy to a puppy obedience training class is the best investment you can make in his future. The benefit of taking a puppy to class is that he can socialize with other young dogs and have fun, yet learn manners and the proper way to interact with his own kind. Buddy’s brain at this point in his young life is like a sponge, and he’ll remember nearly everything you teach him now for the rest of his life. He’ll learn all those lessons that will make him an ideal pet. Look for an organization that offers puppy classes, preferably one that teaches basic control instead of just socialization and games. Nothing is wrong with socialization and games; both are necessary, but at the right time and in the right context. Look for a class where the people are having fun with their dogs and where the instructor is pleasant and professional to the students. Above all, you want to see happy dogs. You want Buddy to view meeting other dogs as a pleasant but controlled experience, not one of playing and being rowdy. As he grows older, playing and being rowdy is no longer cute and will make him difficult to manage around other dogs. The ideal puppy class allows the puppies to interact with each other for up to three minutes before the class starts for the first two classes only. After the second week, the puppies should be allowed to play for three minutes after class. By delaying playtime, Buddy learns that he must be obedient to you first and that the reward of playing comes after he has worked. This practice will help develop a lifetime habit that you want to instill while he’s young. Stay away from classes where you’re told that Buddy is too young to learn obedience exercises. This type of organization shows a lack of knowledge of dog behavior. You can expect your puppy to learn Sit, Down, Stand, Come, and Stay, all on command; he’ll also learn to walk on a loose leash. An excellent program, with well-trained instructors, also will train Buddy to do the same exercises off leash as well as on signal. For Buddy, these exercises are easy stuff. Advanced classes Most people who go on to advanced training start training their dogs in a beginner class. They then discover that the organization offers more advanced training as well as different activities. For example, you may find that in addition to obedience training the organization offers other types of training such as Rally or Agility (which we discuss more in Chapter 25). Or you may discover that some of the members have therapy dogs and so on. You may enjoy training and wish to broaden Buddy’s horizons. If you and Buddy enjoy what you’re doing, go for it. To train for participation in performance events, join an organization that offers training at that level. The organization’s instructors can coach you and your dog in the intricacies of the various requirements.

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How to Select a Dog Training Model

Article / Updated 03-22-2020

You have many ways to train a dog, ranging from rather primitive to fairly sophisticated. Even technology has had its impact on dog training. For example, rather than fenced yards, people often now have invisible fences, which contain dogs within their confines by means of an electrical shock. Our approach to training is for people who like their dogs and have them first and foremost as pets and companions or for people who want to like their dogs. Someone pointed this out us when she arrived for class. At that point she didn’t like her dog but wanted to make her child happy by having a dog. Either way, we like your dog and want him to be the best possible dog and you to be the best possible trainer for him. The training involves three phases: The teaching phase: In the teaching phase, the dog is taught specific commands in an area free of distractions so he can focus on his owner and can be successful. The practicing phase: When the dog reliably responds to the commands he has learned, distractions are introduced. As the dog progresses in this practice phase, the distractions become increasingly more difficult in order to simulate real-life situations. The testing phase: In the testing phase, the dog is expected to demonstrate that he’s a well-mannered pet around other dogs and people. The ultimate object of any training is to have your dog respond reliably to your commands. Ideally, he responds to your first command. Telling your dog to do something only to have him ignore you is frustrating. Think of Buddy’s response in terms of choices. Do you want to teach Buddy to think he has a choice of responding to you? You want a dog that understands — after you have taught him — that he must do what you tell him, no matter what is happening around him. A truly trained dog listens for your voice above all distractions. Distractions do cause Buddy to struggle to hear your voice above other things as does the genetic influence of those things that Buddy was bred to do instinctively, that which is in harmony with his basic nature. Are all dogs the same to train or does the breed or mixture of breeds make a difference? Like people, dogs are individuals and have individual needs. Understanding breed characteristics and different teaching models helps to make the job of training that much easier. First things first: Consider your dog’s breed Before you embark on your training program, consider what you want your dog to master, and then compare your answer to the task for which his breed was originally bred to do. Many people typically select their dogs based on appearance and without regard to breed-specific functions and behaviors. Whatever trait is in harmony with the breed of your dog is easier to teach or harder to break. For example, a Beagle uses his nose everywhere he goes. Teaching a Beagle to track or follow a scent is much easier than teaching a Greyhound to track. Greyhounds are bred to visualize movement rather than to sniff out prey. Although most dogs can be trained to obey basic obedience commands, breed-specific traits determine the ease or difficulty with which they can be trained. You also need to consider other traits, such as energy levels and grooming needs. High-energy dogs must have outlets for all of that energy. Chapter 20 discusses problems that occur if your dog doesn’t get the exercise he needs. After all, a tired dog is a happy dog, and a tired dog has a happy owner. As for grooming, brushing, bathing, and clipping of hair coats is time consuming and expensive if you hire a professional. For a dog to be healthy, the coat and skin needs to be cared for regularly. An excellent resource for breed-specific behavior and traits is The Roger Caras Dog Book: A Complete Guide to Every AKC Breed, by Roger Caras and Alton Anderson (M. Evans & Company). For each breed, the book lists on a scale from 1 to 10 the three characteristics you should pay attention to: the amount of coat care required, the amount of exercise required, and the suitability for urban/apartment life. Training a dog: What are you really doing? When training a dog you’re either teaching him to do something (build a behavior) or not to do something (abstain from a behavior). For example, consider the Stay command. Are you teaching your dog to remain where he is or not to move from where he is? You can look at any command and ask this question. When training a dog, you’re usually building a behavior. Look at the following table to help understand. Training to Do Something vs. Training to Stop an Unwanted Behavior Action Abstention Build Behavior Eliminate Behavior + Positive Reinforcement (add good) Positive Punishment (add bad) – Negative Reinforcement (avoid bad) Negative Punishment (remove good In the table, the first column lists how to build a behavior. The second column lists how to abstain from a behavior. When talking about behavior in proper training terminology, positive means adding something, indicated with the plus sign (+), and negative means removing something, indicated with the minus sign (–). These two terms don’t mean good and bad which is so often associated with positive and negative. We need to define two other words in terms of behavior: Reinforcement is used the building of a behavior Punishment is used in the abstaining of a behavior. An easy way to remember this distinction is that reinforcement of something makes it stronger or builds it, and punishment tends to stop something or abstains from something. These two sections examine reinforcement and punishment in more detail. Reinforcement: Building a behavior When training a dog, you want the dog to do something new and different. To do that, you need to motivate him by either giving him something he wants for doing the new task or getting him to avoid something he doesn’t want for not doing it. Consider the following: Positive reinforcement (+) is adding something the dog wants in order to encourage him to do something he wouldn’t do on his own. For example, you want the dog to go upstairs, so you put a tiny treat on each step to induce the dog to go upstairs. Negative reinforcement (–) is eliciting a behavior the dog wouldn’t do on his own by making him avoid discomfort. The dog will do what is wanted because he wants to avoid the reinforcement from happening to him. For example, you want the dog to go upstairs, so someone gooses the dog’s behind to get him to go upstairs to avoid the discomfort of the pinch. At the top of the stairs, you praise him because he went upstairs. Which approach works best? It may depend on how hungry the dog is, how much he likes the treat being used, and something more interesting isn’t going on around the corner, such as a BBQ. In the negative reinforcement approach, it may depend on how hard of a pinch is and if he doesn’t mind the pinch versus the effort it takes to climb the stairs. Training comes with so many variables. The BBQ next door is a distraction, which is why it’s best to do early training when no distractions are around. The ability to climb the stairs or the difficulty of the task you’re teaching plays a big part on how willing your dog is. Buddy may suffer the consequences instead of climbing the stairs or jumping into a pool if water is too scary. Make sure you break the task you’re teaching into small parts to make it more easily understood and achievable. You later can add distractions to the training after Buddy has learned the command. Distractions make the task more difficult for Buddy. When working with distractions, your dog needs to choose doing the task over being distracted. The object of distraction training is to train until your dog does the task no matter what is going on around him simply because you asked him to do so. Punishment: Eliminating an unwanted behavior When training a dog to stop doing an unwanted behavior, there should be a consequence. The consequence can be either adding something the dog doesn’t want or removing something he does want. Consider the following: Positive punishment: Positive punishment adds an unwanted consequence (+) at the start of the bad behavior just as it begins. For example, as soon as a counter-surfing dog sniffs the edge of the counter, you can shake a bottle half-filled with pennies at the dog as an unpleasant consequence. (Oops: If the dog is already on the counter or eating off the counter, using the bottle with pennies is too late. The dog has been rewarded by getting the food off the counter. Because the Oops happened, the dog has learned to counter surf which is why it’s an Oops.) To eliminate the bad behavior, you must add something that the dog doesn’t want so he’ll avoid the penny shaker and not counter-surf. When the bad behavior stops, you don’t offer praise; you never want him to counter-surf, so don’t praise him for his wishing he could still get up on the counter to eat. Negative punishment: Negative punishment removes something (–) that the dog wanted because the dog behaved badly. For example, if a dog is jumping up on you when you come into the house, turn your back to the dog for a moment, removing your attention that he wants because he jumped up. Turn back toward him once more, and if he jumps again, spin around, removing your front, your facial expression, and your attention.

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