So, the year 2018 brings us the Chinese Year of the dog. The dog is an intelligent, loyal animal and across many countries, lives the life as one of human’s best friends. In the United Kingdom, the dog overtook the cat as the most popular pet kept in households in the year 2017. In society we keep dogs for many reasons including; as pets, companions, guard dogs, search and rescue, sight dogs, police assistance and much more.
Pet dogs can bring companionship and happiness to their owners, and it is important we train them correctly so life can be enjoyed together. Basic manners go a long way, and without this, life can be very difficult. Nobody truly enjoys a dog jumping all over them to greet them, or barking excessively to say “hello”, and sometimes to some people this can be quite intimidating. Dogs who pull excessively on the lead can not only be quite stressful to walk but could also pull a person over.
Teaching a dog basic manners can make life much easier and much more enjoyable. It is never too late to start teaching these commands whether the dog is young or old.
So, the five training commands which will help teach basic manners are:
It is important when training a dog to never use harsh techniques, or equipment which can cause pain. These can incidentally create fearful dogs which mistrust their owners, and can push towards aggressions and anxieties. So, how do we teach these commands?
The ‘sit’ command is probably one of the easiest to teach, and is usually one of the first commands taught. No physical contact between human and dog is necessary, and the use of a lure is the best method.
Only reinforce once the dog is sitting properly. Dogs can pick up very quickly if they receive praise for only half sitting!!
Again, this is another simple command to teach.
Remember, lure slowly, not quickly, as this would only confuse the dog.
This third basic command can take a lot of patience on the owner or trainers behalf. It works best in an open environment and initially with no distractions. An enclosed garden is most useful.
If the dog moves at any point, then do not praise and ask the dog to sit. Go back to the number of steps that your dog remained staying at, i.e. you do not always need to go back to just one step away. If your dog is doing well, then try getting him to stay whilst you walk a circle around him. Always return to your dog to reinforce the behaviour, i.e. praise/treat.
This command is very important especially if you hope to walk your dog off the lead. If you walk near roads, busy areas or farmland then it vital your dog is under control and listens to your recall command. You can initially work with your dog on a long leash, or in an enclosed area.
There are two different, although similar, methods to train this command and it will help to use both.
Using both methods will ensure your dog becomes highly successful at recall. It may take a lot of tries but always be positive and never punish for not returning.
There are so many methods to teach a dog to walk nicely on the lead and it will greatly depend on the dog itself as to which method works best. It is worth noting to never use choke chains as these can only cause damage to the trachea. To initially teach the ‘heel’ command:
Ensure you reinforce, i.e. treat, at the correct time and ensure the lead is kept slack. If the lead is tight then you will be reinforcing that it is OK for the lead to be tight. Also position the treat correctly to ensure the dog is not pulling forward for the treat or lagging behind. With young pups, praise and a positive voice can be enough rather as treat.
So, if your dog doesn’t know these five basic manner commands, then get teaching!!
Remember, patience is the key. Always keep training fun and positive for both you and your dog. Train for short periods of time, but keep training sessions frequent. Ensure timing of any reinforcement is correct. Once the dog has fully learned the command, then only reinforce with a treat every second or third time to eventually phase out the treats. Always praise for the desirable behaviour and ignore the undesirable behaviours.
If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to know more about dog training, then checkout our Dog Psychology and Training course; or our Dog Owners short course; or our Caring for Dogs eBook.