If you’ve ever welcomed a new furry friend into your home, you’ll know dog obedience training is integral to living in harmony with your new best friend. Laying down the laws of the land to a dog is not easy and requires hours of hard work, and even more patience — trust me, I live with a German Shepherd and a Toy Poodle…
With all Australians being encouraged to stay home for the foreseeable future, many of us have never had more free time. This has led to a spike in dog adoptions. Both RSPCA and the AWL in South East Queensland emptied out their shelters to loving new owners and foster homes with in weeks.
Unfortunately, new social distancing measures has also seen the closure of many puppy training schools and dog obedience classes. Leaving new owners to their own devices. So, we’ve put together this simple guide on dog training basics, to help you get started.
Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash
3 Basic Commands to Teach your Dog
Teaching your dog to sit is a great first step in training. This command is simple to teach, with most dogs picking it up relatively quickly. Sitting also forms the basis of many other tricks you may wish to teach your dog in the future, such as stay and down.
To begin any training, you’ll require both a normal and ‘high-value’ reward for your pup. This is different for every dog as some dogs are motivated by food and others by toys. There is a simple test you can perform to find out.
Hold your dog still and place a treat and a toy at equal distance from them. Release them and whichever motivator your dog shows most interest in is their ‘high-value’ reward, the latter becomes the normal reward.
How to teach your dog to sit:
- Wait for your dog to naturally sit. When they do this, reinforce the behaviour with treats and an enthusiastic “good dog!” Integrate this habit into your daily life for a few days.
- Slowly start introducing the word ‘sit’ to your pup’s vocabulary. Similarly to the previous step, when they sit naturally, say, “Sit,” then reinforce the good behaviour. This technique will create a relationship between the command and the action in your dog’s mind.
- The next step is to undertake specific training for the command. Find a quiet place in your home. Say “Sit.”’ Some dogs will make the immediate connection and perform the command, others may need a little more coaching.
- For those needing more coaching, take a normal treat and hold it just above their nose. Begin to move your hand up towards their back. Naturally your dog will sit while attempting to follow the treat. As soon as their bottom hits the ground say, “Sit,” and reward them with the treats.
- Repeat this a few times a day, ending each training session with the final reward being their ‘high-value’ reward. This creates a positive reinforcement to training methods for your pup.
Come is one command every dog owner requires. This command helps keep your dog out of trouble, especially if he or she gets out of your yard or off their leash. The good news is, it’s easy to teach — just don’t get too confident too quickly. Remember, dogs are less likely to respond in highly stimulating environments such as beaches and dog parks. Therefore, where possible, train your dog in a variety of environments before taking him off leash outside your home.
To teach your dog ‘come’, you’ll require a long lead, treats and patience. Ideally, your lead should be at least 3 metres long; extendable ones are great for this exercise. However if you’re unable to get your hands on a long lead, a lightweight rope with a clip to connect to your dog’s collar will work a treat too.
How to teach your dog to come:
- Put a leash and collar on your dog. Try and find a large space with limited distractions. Allow them to roam freely on the leash, ensuring you don’t drop your end.
- When your pup is a fair distance from you, kneel down to their level and say their name followed by the word ‘come.’ All the while giving the lead little tugs to guide your dog towards you.
- Once they have reached you, be sure to reward them with tasty treats and lots of positive reinforcements.
3. Leave it.
‘Leave it’ is an important command to teach your dog. Your dog knowing this command could possibly save their life.
If you live in warmer climates, like Queensland, this is a great tool to use when your dog approaches a Cane Toad. Or simply the piece of chocolate you drop from the couch.
The psychology behind this command is to teach your pup when they leave the object they should not have, they will be rewarded with something better. It’s important to note this trick will take a lot of hard work from both you and your dog.
To start training your dog to ‘leave it’, you’ll require both his high-value reward and normal treats.
How to teach your dog to ‘leave it’:
- Find a quiet place in your home where your dog can learn without distractions, if possible.
- Begin by placing a treat in your hand and making it into a fist. Show your dog and say, “Leave it.” Allow them to continue sniffing and licking your hand, ignore the behaviour.
- Once your dog has stopped licking your hand and seems uninterested, give them the higher-value reward along with lots of praise.
- Continue these steps until your dog immediately moves away upon the ‘leave it’ command.
- After these steps have been mastered, don’t worry if it takes your dog a while — this is not something that can be perfected over night. Begin placing the ‘leave it’ treat on the floor. Cover the treat with your hands and uncover slowly. Once your dog begins to show interest in the treat say, “Leave it.”
- As soon as your dog backs away and makes eye-contact with you, reward them with his high value treat.