Enhancing Communication with your Dog through Training
Having a dog for a companion is a wonderful experience, but this experience can be a negative one if the dog is not properly trained to live among humans. We cannot expect our dogs to instantly understand what we want, we must teach them with love and compassion. By teaching a dog the following basics, we have begun to journey down a road that will enhance the human-animal bond. Click on a command to learn more about how to teach your furry friend to perform the desired task. If you want more assistance, you may want to join an obedience class. at Fluvanna County Parks and Recreation..
- Hold a treat in your right hand. Stand in front of your dog. Place your right and in front of the dog's nose.
- Move your hand in a flowing motion up towards your waist. This will cause the dog to look up and fall into the sit position. Don't leave your hand dangling above the dog's nose too long as this will cause it to jump up to your hand.
- Say "sit" once only, as soon as the dog starts to go into the sit position.
- Reinforce the dog with food from your hand the moment its bottom touches the floor and praise it with the phrase "Good sit."
- Repeat the steps until the dog begins to understand what is expected of it. Eventually, you should be able to give the command from an upright position.
- Use the sit command whenever you feed your dog, put a leash on it, or at the vet's office. Sit is also useful when introducing your dog to someone new.
- Sit your dog by your left leg.
- Quickly bring your right hand, with food in it, to a point right in front of your dog's nose.
- Take a short step forward with your left leg and at the same time move your hand slowly down towards the ground.
- Turn the palm of your hand down so that the food is between your hand and the ground.
- Say "down" as soon as your dog starts to extend its legs forward into the down position.
- Feed the dog immediately as it lies down and praise with the words "Good down."
- Move your hand quickly out of sight keeping it low to the ground until you can bring it up beside the right side of your body without the dog seeing it. Stand upright at the same time.
- Repeat several times.
Note: Some dogs have difficulty with the down, especially long-legged breeds. At first, it may be necessary to encourage your dog to lie down by praising and rewarding any movement that is in the right direction of a down, such as lowering its head, putting one leg forward, etc. Never push or force your dog into the down position as this will only make training more difficult. Get down on the ground and try encouraging your dog to go under your leg or a low table using the food to lure it into position. Once in the down position, praise and give the treat. Repeat this way a few times and then go back to the above steps.
- When you first teach the stay command, eliminate any distractions, especially moving objects.
- Place your dog in the sit position at your left side.
- Say the word "stay " putting your hand in front of the dog's nose.
- Put your hand back at waist height and then take one step forward with your right leg keeping the left leg still.
- Before your dog moves, step back to the original position and give it a treat and praise with "Good stay."
- Repeat these steps a few times.
- Begin to increase the distance you move away from your dog to two, three, and four steps. Do not increase distance until the dog is staying at the shorter distances.
- When you can move about four steps away, turn and face your dog, and then return to it immediately. Give it food and praise again.
- Be sure to use the stay command only when you want your dog to stay in one
position. When you leave the house to go somewhere you do not want to
confuse your dog by saying "stay." Use another word such as "wait" or "good-bye."
Note: If your dog is struggling with the concept of staying in one place, ask a friend or family member to help you. Have them stand with a second leash in their hand attached to the dog. You give the stay command and follow the steps above. The person is only to hold the dog in one place with the leash. If the dog gets up, you go back to the dog and place it back in a sitting position and repeat the command. The person holding the leash should not speak to the dog. They are only there to help the dog understand that stay means keeping put in one place. Once your dog gets the idea, you will no longer need the second leash and person.
- Wait until your dog is looking at you from a short distance away.
- Move away from your dog to encourage it to come towards you, and drop your hand low to the ground. At this stage your hand should have food in it.
- Say "come" once only when your dog is actually moving towards you.
- Reinforce your dog with a piece of food as soon as it reaches you and say "Good come."
- Remove your hand quickly away up to your waist and stand straight. This should encourage your dog to sit as it looks up at you. If necessary, give the sit command. Remember to give lots of praise.
- Repeat steps until the dog begins to come on command.
- Use the come command to control your dog off leash and to keep it out of dangerous situations.
NOTE: It's important to remember that no matter how well-trained a dog may be, no dog is completely reliable off-leash. Be careful not to put your dog in a dangerous situation where you may not have control. Your dog should be competent with the come on a long leash before teaching it off leash. Be sure to attempt off leash training in a safe and secure area.
This is one of the most difficult behaviors to teach a dog, so don't get discouraged. This takes time, practice, and patience.
- Place dog on your left side
- Have someone hold a treat or favorite toy some distance in front of you. If you are by yourself, place it on the floor in clear view of your dog
- Say a cheery "Let's go" and start walking towards the treat.
- If the dog rushes past you, which he most likely will, start walking backwards to the place you began. Do not turn around as the dog may just shoot by you again. The message is that the dog will not make any headway as long as he pulls. Do not give any verbal corrections or leash pops. Just steadily walk backwards gently pulling the dog with you.
- Try moving forward again, praise and treat any loose leash walking even if the dog is not directly at your side. This is not a heeling exercise, but a relaxed walk.
- One the dog makes it to the tempting treat, praise and give the dog the treat.
- This exercise takes a lot of patience and repetition, but if applied consistently and without emotion, it can be successful. Keep practicing.
Settle is an exercise used to calm down an excited dog or when you need your dog to lie quietly.
- Use a mat or blanket as a place for your dog to learn to settle.
- Sit in a chair next to the mat.
- Point to the mat.
- When the dog touches the mat in any way, praise and treat.
- Once your dog puts one foot on the mat, increase your criteria to two feet before you praise and treat.
- Most dogs will get the idea quickly and stand or sit on the mat-then it's time to up the stakes again.
- If your dog remains on the mat for longer than 5 seconds-praise and treat.
- If he moves and then comes back-praise and treat again.
- The dog will learn that the mat is a wonderful place to be.
- Don't make your dog stay on the mat too long without praising and treatin
- If your dog lies down on the mat, praise and give lots of treats as a bonus.
- Eventually the verbal cue "Settle" can be added when you point to the mat.
- Practice this while watching T.V. or eating dinner. Make sure you do not get so distracted you forget to praise and treat your dog for any advancement towards your final goal of having your dog lie quietly at your side.
Many people make the mistake of punishing their dog when she puts something in her mouth she shouldn't. This is only likely to make the dog run from you instead of coming and giving you the item. It is better to have the dog realize that giving you something you ask for will result in something better for the dog.
This exercise should be practiced when your dog has something in her mouth. If your dog likes to play fetch, this is a good time to teach give, otherwise, use it whenever your dog picks up something you would like to have.
- If your dog is not willing to approach you, show him you have a treat and run the other way.
- When the dog catches up to you, spin around quickly, put the food in front of the dog's nose and hold your other hand under the item in his mouth.
- Say "Give" as the dog drops the item and eats the food. Give more treats and lots of praise.
- Make sure that the food you are trading for the item is of higher value to the dog.
- Soon your dog will eagerly come to you and drop articles in your hand in order to receive a treat. Remember to begin to intermittently treat once the dog learns "Give" reliably.
This is helpful when your dog comes up to something that may be dangerous. It is taught with food but can be used with anything you want your dog to leave alone after the behavior is learned.
- Place an empty dish on the ground.
- Holding treat in your right hand, walk your dog up to the dish. When you reach the dish tell the dog to "Leave it." Praise and treat immediately.
- If your dog looks down at the dish, put the food in your hand in front of its nose and guide its face away from the dish. Praise and treat.
- Walk your dog away from the dish and praise and treat again.
- Repeat this a few times, then add a few pieces of boring food to the dish (carrots or dry food).
- Repeat the same steps again. Always praise and treat any ignoring of the food.
- Once the dog is ignoring the boring food reliably, put something really interesting in the bowl. Walk the dog up to the dish, but remain far enough away that the dog cannot fail by getting the food. Praise and reward as soon as you get near the dish guiding your dog's face away with the treat in your hand should he begin to look at the food.
- Continue to walk up and away from the dish, praising and rewarding the dog when it ignores the food.
- Once the dog is ignoring food reliably every time you say "Leave it," put your dog in a sit and have another person approach with the dish and place it in front of your dog. Say "Leave it" and praise and treat the dog for not touching the food.
- Try with other items as you walk your dog around. You can put various things on the floor prior to entering with your dog and say "Leave it" as you walk your dog past the items. Praise and treat as he walks by without touching the items.
- Use a soft toy such as a rope or an old sock to get your dog's attention.
- Wave the item around and encourage your dog to “Take it” in its mouth. Do not play tug of war with your dog. As soon as the dog touches the toy with its mouth, praise the dog and say “Good Take it” as you give the dog a treat.
- NOTE: If your dog takes the item and refuses to give it back, please teach the “Give” command at the same time (see GIVE handout).
- Repeat step two until the dog is constantly taking the item.
- Next start by just holding the item in front of the dog and say “Take it.” Praise your dog for taking the item. If the dog does not, go back to step two but don't wave the item as much as in the past.
- Repeat step four until the dog is consistently taking the item from your hand. Then put the item on the floor with your hand still holding it. Say “Take it” and praise the dog for taking it.
- Once the dog is doing step six reliably, put the item on the floor in front of the dog and say “Take it.” Always praise your dog when they do as you ask and give them a treat.
- Now it's time to place the item away from the dog and ask the dog to “Take it” while pointing at the item. You may need to increase the distance slowly. Always praise and treat when the dog goes to the item. If the dog just sits and stares at you, run to the item with the dog, say “Take it,” praise, treat, and repeat.
- Teach the dog to come (be sure your dog knows come. See “Come” handout) back to you with the item. If the dog drops the item and then returns to you, have the dog take the item from your hand and then call the dog to you as you take a few steps backwards. This will encourage the dog to bring the item to you. Slowly increase the distance.
- Once your dog is taking the item at a distance, try putting the item in a short box, a dryer, in the next room. Make each step a little more challenging, remembering to be patient and help your dog if its confused at each new step.
- When all this is happening on a regular basis, start introducing new objects and put names to them, i.e., Take the shoe. Take the sock. Take the phone. Take the pen.
The final outcome of this command is to teach a dog to take a variety of items. Each item can have a name as the dog learns to distinguish different things.
With love, patience, and practice your dog will be able to help you pick up dropped items, take things out of the dryer, and even carry light baskets and bags for you. Never forget to show your dog how much you appreciate its help. Have fun!