When teaching a new command, you may be prone to provide verbal encouragement to your dog. Although that may appear to be productive, it actually does the opposite. Instead, ensure the dog is able to consistently do a particular behavior before attempting to put a name on it, which is to speak a verbal cue related to that command. It really doesn’t matter what command, word or phrase you use, as long as it does not sound like another command. For example, if you use “no” and “slow,” both have different meanings but may sound similar to your dog. This can result in your dog acting confused or continuing to make mistakes in the training. If you observe such confusion, that is the time to assess what you are doing as a handler, owner or trainer. Typically, the issue is us, not the dog. After all, the dog is the one that is willing to do what we ask with an open mind and heart, the least we should do is approach the situation in the same manner.
A good rule of thumb is if you are willing to bet $100 that your dog will do a particular command, then you can put a name on it. You can use a number, foreign language or any other creative verbal cue for a particular behavior. Just remember that the simpler you keep it, the easier it will be to resort to in times of stress or when your timing must be spot on. To be certain your dog knows a particular command, make sure you can see the canine offer that behavior in various environments.
Before getting into the ways in which we will teach obedience cues, I need you to first understand the variables. The three main factors to be aware of when it comes to your dog maintaining a command is time, distance and distractions. Essentially, if the dog cannot hold a stay command for 10 seconds, you wouldn’t demand it to hold it for 20. It is important to consider the success or level in which you are at as a team. As a dog trainer, I recommend starting with your outcome in mind, but first it has to be a reasonable and attainable outcome. For example, let’s say you observe that your dog will hold a sit/stay for 8 seconds, reward the dog as soon as you are impressed. Simply put, I’m happy with any progress so sit/stay for 9 seconds would get a click/treat for sure. Overcoming barriers like getting your dog to hold a stay may appear challenging, but look at it as a game. See how great your timing can be; remember that ideally you are clicking the same instant you see the desired result.
Be mindful of your body language as well. The canine may be breaking the stay command simply because they are interpreting that you are about to release him. To overcome this misinterpretation, myself Ryan Matthews dog training tips provider use an exercise called “proofing,” which is where we expose the dog to everything possible. In regards to me clicking for a good sit/stay, to do a “proofing,” one time I would walk away and click, another time put my hand up and click, sit in a chair and click, walk towards the dog and click, talk with someone and click. You get the idea, have fun; be creative. This explanation may be difficult to understand with written text, but clearly demonstrated in World Of Dog Training eCourse “Successful: Sit, Come, Down & Stay.”
Come: Use either a long leash, food, or toy to motivate the dog to come towards you. Bending down and walking backwards will lure the dog to come to you. Once the dog is close, stand up and praise her for coming. If you are working with a dog that is a bit older or one that already knows the “come” command, but does it only when it feels like it, start with a six foot or longer leash, clicker, treats and a willingness to be patient. Wait until the dog is looking at you, then with an inviting voice say, “come.” If the dog does not respond, give a slight tug on the leash and reiterate the command. If the dog does not respond the second time, make yourself more welcoming by bending down or walking backwards, while patting your leg. Remember to reward when impressed. As your dog consistently comes when called, increase either the distance apart from each other or the distractions. Keep in mind that the goal is for the dog to succeed, so if you haven’t had much luck, lessen the variables (time, distance, distractions.) It is of upmost importance to end with 3-5 successful repetitions in a row. You can use food and clickers to praise or just physically/verbally praise. Once the dog’s head is facing you and you can tell it is committed to “coming” when you call, click and give a treat once it is to you.
Sit: Use food in one hand and raise it above the canine’s head, which is utilizing the luring method of teaching behaviors. If your dog doesn’t sit, then continue to move the treat further towards its tail. Once the dog sits, be sure to praise instantly, which can be done verbally, physically, or with click and food. If the dog is ball-driven, you could toss a ball. When rewarding with a ball, toss it over the head towards the tail to reinforce the “sit.” Basically, use whatever motivates your dog.
Sit: The hand with the treat is within six inches of the dog’s muzzle, treat is gradually going over the dog’s head promoting him to rock into a “sit.”
Part of understanding your pet and becoming a solid trainer is knowing why a dog is not responding to a command that they have already been taught. In the example of a dog who refuses to sit, even though it usually obeys that command, you want to consider the environment; maybe the dog is not comfortable facing you and sitting because it doesn’t want to turn it’s back towards something that may be stressing it. When you see uneasiness, pay attention to what may be triggering it. I do not allow a dog to avoid doing what I am asking, but instead, we regroup. To regroup, simply take a step or two in a different direction, allowing the dog to face the way it wants, but still expecting that it must sit. I have developed a way to read if a dog is going to break its sit command. While the pet is in the “sit” cue, keep your eye on the dog’s head, specifically the muzzle. First, the head will help identify where her focus is. Second, the dog’s muzzle will dip towards the ground right before she breaks the “sit” position. This head dip is not offered 100% of the time a dog breaks the sit, however, it is displayed well over 60% of the time. You may need to slightly assist the pet into the “sit” position. To do so, use the least amount of effort possible, with gentle pressure pushing the back end towards the ground. If it acts like it doesn’t want to move the back end, gradually wiggle and rock it’s hips from side to side while pushing the back end down. The pressure should be constant until you can see it is committed to going into a “sit.”
Down: Teaching your dog to lie down is done the same way as sit, however, rather than moving the treat up, move it down towards the ground directly under the dog’s muzzle, with your palm facing down toward the ground. To get the legs all the way on the floor, lure the treat away from the dog in a straight line, slowly. Once it lies down, turn your hand upwards facing the dog and give the treat while saying “good down.” If you prefer to use free shaping, wait until the dog lays down when it chooses to, once you observe the front elbows resting on the ground, click and reward the dog in the down position. The placement of the reward is crucial. You do not want to present the treat with the dog out of the “down” position. The reward should be given between the two paws.
Later, as the dog knows the command without a problem, continue to add more distance, time and distractions. To add distance, put the dog on the “place” command and tell it to “stay,” ensure there are no distractions, take a few steps back and observe. Essentially, you want to find a distance that is reasonably challenging. At the point in which you are impressed, click and reward. Repeat that process a few times. The area where I see people fail the most is that they expect their dogs to hold down/stay for too long of a time. Commands must be taught in the order of simple to complex, which means short distance, not for too long, with minimal distractions. As the dog shows progress, you work on one of the three variables: time, distance, distractions. As with the sit command, through observing countless dogs I have come to find a way to predict when a canine will break a “down,” right before they actually do. In order to keep the dog in the “down” position and catch them just before they break, watch the two front elbows coming up off the ground. You will have 1-2 seconds to catch it before it is too late. As you notice it breaking, step towards the dog and reiterate what you want, in this instance “down.”
Down: In the right hand between the thumb and index finger is a treat to lure into a “down,” notice I am also using the leash. This dog would often freeze and not offer any new behavior. To aid in the dog’s progression I used a leash to help him find the answer.
For the best results, I recommend to do this type of foundation work with a leash on. The reason is, if your pet goes too far from the training space, you can bring it back in easily. Additionally, you can assist it into positions. For example, for the “down” command, use the leash by gradually stepping on top of the leash towards the ground by the buckle clip. Or you can use your hand and palm downward to provide gentle pressure towards the ground, then wait until the pet gives into the pressure and goes into a down position. Again, you will need to repeat this process until it begins to feel almost effortless. You will find that with more repetitions it will get easier for the dog to follow your cue.
Remember dogs are like children; they can get mentally worn out quickly. The use of toys makes the training process fun and enjoyable. Food is often a good motivator as well, but this, along with most any other tool, should be phased out eventually. Most importantly, it is essential to end on a positive note, as with any other training exercise. Additionally, similar to our other commands, stop with 3-5 successful repetitions in a row.
Stay: Stay is arguably one of the most difficult behaviors to train. A dog may stay perfectly in your home, but fails when it is distracted outside the home environment. In order to read or know if your dog is going to break a stay, in the example of the “sit” command, watch for the dog’s head to dip or look down. Sixty percent of the time, if the dog is in a sit, they will drop their head before they go to take a step. Paired with the head dip, you will also often see the closing of the mouth. If you are within ten feet, step towards the dog and reiterate the command to “stay.” If it has broken the “sit,” then you would say “sit” followed by “stay.” This command is one where time, distance and distraction are most crucial and I have demonstrated the application of these factors in World Of Dog Training eCourse “Place Command.” The command “place,” which will be taught next, is also a good way to ensure that your dog stays. Assuming your dog knows the “stay” command in one environment isn’t good enough. The more effort you put into teaching your dog to stay in different environments, the more proficient it will be in that command. Another way to reinforce the “stay” is to tether the dog to something. Tethering is when the leash is tied to an object, restricting the dog from being able to roam freely. With the pet tethered, work on “sit”, “down” and “stays.”
This is just the beginning to get your started and I understand it may be hard to grasp these techniques via the written text. Therefore, you can always find everything I write about in the many
eCourse Training Videos I have created, so you can train your dog yourself! Remember that your dog will be as good as you insist!