- 1 I – Dog training commands
- 2 II – Dog Training and Treats: Rewarding Good Behavior
I – Dog training commands
The “Watch Me” Command
Getting and maintaining your dog’s attention is the first step in successful training. To get your dog’s attention, say his name, point to your eyes, say “Watch me,” and hold his gaze for ten seconds. You can do this on or off leash. Then release him, saying “Good dog!” Repeat this in several places.
If he walks away, follow him, bring him back to where you were, and try again. Once your dog has learned the “watch me” command, he’s ready to learn hand signals. Dogs can learn to sit, stay and come as long as the hand signals are clearly distinguishable.
The “Sit” Command
While maintaining eye contact, gently place your dog into the “sit” position, repeat the command and reward him. You can also take a food treat and place it just above his nose, so he has to sit to reach it.
The “Stay” Command
This is a more difficult command. The key to success is to start slowly. Initially, praise your dog if he stays for 5 seconds. Then gradually increase the time. After he can sit still for a few seconds, begin moving away. If he breaks his stay, you may have moved too far or waited too long. Just place him in the sit position again, and decrease the distance and the time until he knows to stay until you call his name.
The ” Heel” Command
Begin this training indoors. With your dog on a leash, have him sit to your left side. Hold the leash as if you were going to pull, and, using your dog’s name, say “Rex, heel!” That tells your dog to move. If he decides to run ahead of you, when he reaches the end of the leash, execute a quick U-turn. He will be surprised and forced to move with you. When he catches up to you, praise him. Repeat this several times.
Now it’s time to teach Rex to walk next to you. Seat him to your left, say “Rex, heel!” and start to move. If (and when) he moves ahead of your left thigh, pull the leash in a corrective jerk motion (not too hard!), and U-turn again. Repeat this exercise over the days that follow, and your dog should learn the command quickly.
Give your dog constant feedback during training. A firm “No!” expresses your displeasure when he’s not behaving. Reward appropriate behavior with treats and praise, and your dog will know exactly what to do to please you—a dog’s ultimate goal!
II – Dog Training and Treats: Rewarding Good Behavior
When training a dog or rewarding good behavior, treats and praise are your best tools. You may discover that your dog has a preference for one over the other, but generally the two should go hand-in-hand. Here are specifics on how both work.
Food Treats for Good Behavior
Many dog owners express concern about rewarding their dog with treats, worrying that he will perform only for food, or that he may get fat. However, dog trainers assure owners that food is a wonderful treat—as long as the owner is in control of it.
When you’re teaching your dog a new command, feel free to reward him with treats every time he gets it right. Once he’s mastered “lie down” or “come here,” though, it’s time to use treats unpredictably. This is called random reinforcement. The principle behind random reinforcement is that your dog will perform, never knowing when a treat is forthcoming, but not risking missing out on a possible treat.
The best training treats are those that are scored or perforated and thus easily divided. They should be easy to eat without lots of chewing. The concept is a quick taste, not a meal. Bits of hot dog, chicken, or beef jerky work well, as does commercially-prepared freeze-dried liver.
Praising Your Dog
Praise can be just as effective a teaching tool as food. Tummy rubs or stroking behind the ears or on the chest are almost universally accepted as terrific rewards.
Using a highly enthusiastic tone while saying “Good dog! Good girl!” will make your dog feel special. Having your dog react predictably to your tone of voice is a convenient communication and reward system.
Dealing With Disobedience
At times it seems your beloved dog is deliberately disobeying you. This happens mostly because the dog didn’t fully understand your command, or he didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong. Never take your frustrations out on the dog by striking him. A firm “No!” will suffice.
Redirect his behavior and give him a chance to redeem himself. For example, let’s suppose your dog sees a squirrel run by for the first time and takes off after it while he’s supposed to be sitting by your feet or pooping at your neighbor’s yard. You should first catch him and say “No!” while he’s still attending to the squirrel, bring him back, have him sit again, and praise him for sitting. Remaining consistent with praise and discipline increases your dog’s ability to understand your commands and mood.
Ever Thought of Obedience School?
If your dog’s not picking up commands or disobeys you even after patient training sessions you may consider obedience school. Enrolling your dog in obedience school will help him learn commands as well as socialize him, and it will teach you how to be an effective, consistent trainer. Classes generally meet once a week for six to nine weeks and cost between $40 and $80 per program. You can find the names of recommended obedience schools at your veterinarian’s office, local pet supply store or animal shelter.