Anyone Can Train Their Dog – January 2012

Anyone Can Train Their Dog

By Art Hess

Five Steps To A Great Dog


dogtrainerMy wife often tells me “not everyone wants to be a dog trainer” and for the most part I have to agree but I still feel that if people would commit just a little more regular effort they would avoid a lot of problems and enjoy their dog a whole lot more. One step for the handler and four for your dog is all it takes.

Step 1—BE A LEADER. Don’t worry about ‘pack leader’ or ‘alpha dog’ or whatever the flavor of the week happens to be. Simply learn to be a leader. Whenever and wherever we get two or more dogs, people, or whatever, together one has to be a leader. That’s a simple law of nature. If the herd is “playing lemming” and heading over the cliff, either figuratively or literally, someone has to come to the fore and take control and lead. It’s the same with our relationship with our dogs. We either lead or they do. Just as when you are a parent, it’s your responsibility to establish rules, regulations, and limitations, and to lead and offer guidance. Additionally, this job must be performed consistently and with persistence. You can’t be a dog leader and guide one day and ignore the job or worse yet become a baby talking kissy face the next day.

Step 2—TEACH THE DOG HIS NAME. This sounds so obvious but most people think that using the dog’s name a lot will teach him his name. This results in a dog that knows and acknowledges his name when he wants to but not always. If you say “There’s my Buddy, come over here and stay down and be a good dog.” Yes, you have used the dog’s name but you used thirteen other words. Which word did you expect him to learn? And you also used three other words which are specific commands leading to a task, i.e. come, stay, and down. Use imprint and reward motivation to teach your dog his name. If your dog will always respond to his name and look at you for the next direction you will be better able to avoid unwanted situations.

Step 3—TEACH THE DOG TO SIT.  Sit and come are the two most important tasks for your dog to master. If your dog has his butt on the floor he can’t jump up on people, he can’t lunge at cars, bikes, skateboards, kids, bouncing balls, other dogs, or whatever. If he has a proper Sit, you don’t even have to teach him to Stay because if he is in a sit he stays in that position until he is released or directed to do something else. Use “lure and reward” to teach a proper sit and practice regularly in varying environments with different distractions.

Step 4—TEACH THE DOG TO COME. Come is a “never compromise” task. Failure to come when called can lead to lots of problems. I don’t have to tell any of you about the adverse effects of the dog that ignores the come command because if you’re reading this you have already had first-hand experience with a dog that runs off and doesn’t respond when called. Use the lure and reward method and start small and always be generous with the reward until the dog responds ten out of ten times at ever increasing distances. Don’t attempt longer distances or environments where you are setting the dog up for failure until you have mastered the basics.  Remember, the job you do now just might save your dog’s life in the future.

Step 5—TEACH THE DOG TO WALK ON A LOOSE LEASH. If a dog is in front of the handler and pulling on the leash he is announcing to the world that at this time and in this situation he doesn’t respect the other end of the leash because the handler is not being a leader and the dog is assuming that role. Recognize that a dog that is in front and pulling is not in your control. He is a risk to others and a danger to you. Learn how to teach your dog to walk beside you on a loose leash in the proper heel position whenever he is on a walk.

So there you have it. Five easy steps to a great dog and a companion that is a pleasure to have around.


Ojo Del Lago
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