Teaching your puppy to behave is not as difficult as it may seem. Dogs truly do want to please you.
Our training program teaches approximately 35 signals/commands by the time the puppies are 6 months old, and 70 before they are 9 months of age.
Get to know your dog. Find out what treats really get your dogs attention. Alex loves bananas. He will work harder for a banana than any other treat. Discover their favorite place to be scratched. Use bits, cut your treats into small pieces, or use small treats. The smaller the dog, the smaller the treats. Reward, reward, reward for appropriate behaviors. Be careful not to reward bad behavior. No handouts. Your dog already loves you, make them work for their treats.
Teach them cues, short key words or phrases like "good dog", "wait", "be nice", or "leave it". I use a lot of hand signals, and a few sound effects. Kisses, hisses, whistles, and growls. Dogs have excellent hearing, there is no need to shout. We have cats, so our dogs learn early on that a hiss is a warning. I teach them that a hiss means you better stop whatever it is you are doing, and pay attention to me.
Consistency is the most important tool for training. Your dog will learn to read you. If you say what you mean and mean what you say, your dog will learn to obey. If you don't follow through when you ask them to do something, they will learn that too. Timing is also very important. If you are trying to teach your dog a specific behavior, you want to pay close attention to their movements and reward immediately the right behavior, even if it is accidental. That is where clicker training comes in. It can be a little difficult to hold onto a leash, treats, and a clicker. I like to start with simple behaviors that can be done off leash, or attach the leash to your belt loop.
The first step to clicker training is to let the dog know that the click is a promise of reward. Click the clicker, give them a treat. It won't take long before they hear the clicker and run to see what fun lessons you have planned for them. Now watch your pup, when they sit down, click and say "sit, good sit". When they lay down, click and say "down, good down". Expect that they will get up and come for their reward unless you are quick.
You can use your clicker to help with potty training as well. One word of caution. Wait until the pup is finished before clicking. Say, "go potty", just as they start to squat. Just as they finish, click, and say "good go potty outside". It won't take long, they will quickly learn to potty on command.
Once you understand the concepts, There are few limits to what you can teach your dog to do.
I recommend a group obedience class. There is no substitute for eyes on, and instant feedback. Most classes will take pups as young as 4 months of age. In the mean time here are a few things to get you started.
Sit - Stand in front of your dog, move your hand with a treat in it, just above the dogs nose, toward their tail. When the nose goes up the butt will go down. If they lift their feet off the ground, your hand is too high.
* Remember to reward immediately, as soon as the dog sits.
Down - Stand in front of your dog, move your hand with a treat in it, down to the ground. Wait until the dog is all the way down, reward.
Leave It - Put your dog in a down position, place a treat or toy down on the floor just out of reach. When the pup reaches for it, give the command, leave it. You will have to intercede at this point. Keep your hand on the treat or toy. Wait until your dog looks away, or at least settles back into a down position. Reward with a treat.
This is a good time to learn to (psst), quick hiss like a cat. The dogs natural response is to sit back.
Stay - With your dog in a down position, give the command "stay". Take a small step away. If your dog tries to stand up, put them back into a down position. If they stay, step back beside them, wait and reward. Slowly increase the distance, until you can walk around your pup or get completely out of site.
Come - Facing your dog, hold a treat out, take several steps backward. Say, "come", get excited, use your fun voice. Reward
OK, so your dog doesn't get it, they don't like treats, or they like them a bit too much and try to take your fingers in the process.
Get creative! Some puppies will follow a treat to move into position, others will need to be physically placed into the correct position. Give the command just as they are in position, praise and reward.
For overly food aggressive dogs your instant reward might be your voice, or a clicker. Praise instantly, but treat after the fact. They will quickly figure out the promise.
Some dogs are overly sensitive and you must not raise your voice, or be too assertive. Instead of having to correct the dog for biting your fingers trying to get to the food, again treat after the fact. A scared dog will not learn. Some dogs will get frustrated and just go take a break.
Just because your pup is a cry baby does not necessarily mean you are hurting them. One of my little dogs, fully grown still cries at the thought of you scruffing him. So rubbing his neck, or scratching his ears might set him off. What can I say, before we got him, he had a traumatic childhood. If they are still young, it is usually just a matter of building their confidence in their own abilities as well as that of their trainer. Make sure there is not an injury or a medical condition. if in doubt, ask your vet.
Now to the pushy, hard headed dogs. The goal is to train your dog to the point that they work off, or with a loose leash. You may be able to start training with a regular collar, some dogs will learn better in the beginning with a choke chain. Some dogs like chihuahua's have problems with their throat. I use a harness on them, and get down on their level to move them into position. That is where your group class is helpful. Your instructor can correctly show you how to use whatever equipment you need for your specific dog. Check around for a basic obedience class in your area. You may check with your vet or at the local humane society for a good trainer.
My philosophy is to be as gentle as
possible, but as firm as necessary.
I will use physical force if need be.
I do not use or support the use of
physical or emotional abuse.
As their owner, trainer, or family member you have to be the "Big Dog", in all situations. That means being loving and kind, but in control. A Service Dog must never be attack trained. You can not even allow them to growl or bark in public. They most certainly must never snap or bite anyone. That is not to say that if someone actually threatened you they would not instinctively come to your defense.
Take advantage of teachable moments as you go through your day with your puppy. A scrap of meat off a plate can be great incentive to go through all the tricks they know. It usually works better to keep your actual lessons short, and more frequent. Some more energetic pups may need a bit of exercise before they are ready to learn.
Last but not least, you can not teach a dog to not do something.
Give them a positive command, not the negative.
Go potty outside - not don't go potty in the house.
Settle down - not stop jumping around.
Put your head down and be quiet - not stop barking.
Pay attention to me - not stop sniffing everyone else.
Back up - not stop pulling on the leash.
Manners - not get your nose out from under that dog's tail.
Have fun and let us know how we can help.
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