In order to enforce all of the behavior corrections you’ve been learning about, you’ll need the help of some obedience training and commands. While behavior correction uses many different factors to alter your dog’s behavior, obedience relies mostly on vocal and visual cues. In this module, you’ll learn how to train your dog to respond to a bunch of helpful commands, and correct common forms of disobedience. Clicker training is the method that most experts and vets recommend, and it’s what we recommend you use to enhance your training. By the end of this module, you’ll be able to start your very own training sessions, and teach your dog everything you’ve learned!
This module will cover the following topics:
5.1 General Training Tips
5.2 Clicker Training
5.3 Basic and Advanced Commands
5.4 Teaching Recall
5.5Walking on a Lead – No Pulling Allowed!
5.6 Crate Training
5.1 General Training Tips
Training is a lot about attitude, tone of voice, and body language. For example two people can say the word “Sit” in completely different ways: One person has the dog sitting with a wagging tail, the other has the dog tail tucked, head bowed, hoping he did enough to avoid punishment.
We want dog training to be an entirely paws-itive experience, so keep the following in mind:
- Little and often: Don’t overtire your pupil, especially if they’re a puppy. At least two to three sessions a day of around 5 -20 minutes each, is a great starting point.
- Keep it fun:Make learning a game by using favorite toys to train, and rewarding the dogs with walks and play.
- Be firm but fair: Use a tone of voice that denotes you expect to be obeyed but love the dog’s company.
- Praise the positive: Be lavish with praise when the dog does what you want.
- Correct gently: It’s perfectly fine to make a brief “Uh oh” noise (or whatever sound appeals to you!) when the dog makes a bad decision (such as standing up before being released from “Down”.) This helps him understand when and where he went wrong.
- End on a positive note: If the dog starts making mistakes, stop! Do one final command that you know the dog has mastered, “Sit!”, so as to end on a high
When Your Dog Doesn’t Obey
When a dog makes a mistake or behaves badly, it’s tempting to punish them. However, from a training perspective this is likely to backfire. This is because dogs are more likely to link the punishment to you, than the action. The dog then becomes fearful or anxious around you, and some behaviors will continue when you are not around (such as house soiling).
It is, however, appropriate to give guidance when a dog makes a bad or wrong decision during training. A classic example is the dog that gets up before being released from his “Stay”. How is he supposed to know he did wrong, unless he gets some guidance?
The answer is a short but sweet noise of disapproval. Choose your own sound, such as “Uh oh” (this is good because it’s not a word the dog hears in everyday speech, and is therefore more likely to pay attention). You can use a short sharp “No!”, but there’s a chance it may not be so effective because the dog hears it in conversation and it has meaning outside of training which dilutes its effectiveness.
Once you’ve given the guiding comment, lighten up. And if continued correction is appropriate, withdraw your attention by turning your back or going into another room for two minutes. Then return, and try again.
5.2 Clicker Training
Clicker training helps your dog understand what it was he did that was so great, so that he can repeat it. Clicker training is popular because the dog knows the click-clack means he earned a reward, and tells him exactly what for. [You may also find Holly and Hugo’s clicker training guide helpful.]
You don’t have to use a clicker to train a dog, but it helps!
Clicker training introduction
Clicker training hinges on dog’s only linking action to immediate rewards. Thus, if you want the dog to repeat an action (for example “Sit”) give the reward the split second his butt hits the ground.
To be effective a dog must receive the reward within 2 seconds of the action.
So if the dog sits and you give a treat 10 seconds later, the dog won’t make a connection (but thanks anyway for the tasty snack.) With a clicker the action is labelled to the split second, as a down payment on a treat.
If this sounds confusing think of a clicker as a camera, with the click-clack sound being the shutter opening to take a photograph. In other words, the clicker captures the exact moment of the desired behavior and marks it out for a reward.
First teach the dog to link click-clack to good things.
Clickers and Rewards
It’s easy to teach your dog to associate clicks with rewards. All you need are a pocketful of treats, a clicker, and a dog!
- Using small treats, scatter 4 or 5 on the floor.
- At the exact second the dog hoovers up each treat, press the clicker.
- Scatter another 4 or 5.
- Click once as he eats each one.
- Now, hold a treat in your hand and draw his attention to it.
- As he moves in, press the clicker and let him have the treat.
- Repeat, holding a treat in your hand.
- Click each time he takes a treat.
- Then try a sneak ‘early’ click when there’s no treat. See if he looks to your hand.
- If he does, reward him as he linked the click to a treat. (If not, don’t worry, keep going with the earlier steps.)
- Keep reinforcing what he’s learnt by repeating the above.
Marking the Moment
The next step is simple; it’s to mark the moment (or action) you want pup to repeat.For example, you’re teaching sit.
- You move the treat over pup’s head.
- The moment his butt hits the ground, click.
Putting it All Together
Your dog now sits when you click. Great but…the clicker is only one sound…so how can you teach multiple commands? How do you teach him the difference between “Sit” and “Down” for example? Easy!
You label actions with a cue word e.g. “Sit”. The cue word names the action you expect from pup, while the click tells him he did well.
Each time you click, say “Sit”.
Also, once he’s doing this nicely, stop rewarding every click so that he doesn’t take the treats for granted. By not rewarding every click his thinking goes something like:
I sat, but she didn’t give me a treat. Perhaps it wasn’t a good sit or she didn’t see it. I better try harder next time.
Once a dog learns a command, start phasing out the clicker. Do this by rewarding less frequently, say every 4 to 5 clicks, and then, only occasionally. Thus, even dogs taught using a clicker are eventually weaned off being clicked all the time.
5.3. Basic and Advanced Commands
Teaching Your Dog to Sit
Teaching a rock solid “Sit” could save your dog’s life. Imagine him running toward a road…commanding him to sit could avert disaster. It’s also a great way of calming an over-excitable dog because asking him to sit at regular intervals helps him to cool off. It’s even a useful command for aggressive dogs, as regular training and expecting him to obey sends a powerful message about being in control.
- You need a dog and several small treats.
- Hold a treat slightly above the dog’s nose.
- Once you have his attention, arc the treat up and over his head.
- As he follows the treat with his nose, his back end automatically drops down.
- At the same time say “Sit.”
- As his butt hits the ground, click the action.
- Let him have the treat.
- Once you notice his backend starting to drop at the mere mention of “Sit” you know he’s got it.
Teaching “Down” or “Drop”
This is another useful basic command, where the dog lies on his belly waiting for your next command.
This is easily taught in a similar way to “Sit” using a treat as a lure.
- Have the dog “Sit.”
- Move the treat forward and down, such that to follow it the dog’s forelimbs shuffle down.
- Say “Down” (or your preferred cue, such as “Drop”).
- As soon as the dog’s belly in on the ground with the dog in a lying position, click and reward.
Here are some advanced commands, and examples if situations where they are useful.
|“Bark” and “Quiet”||If your dog’s barking is driving you mad, then teach him to bark (this is the super easy part!) and then you can teach him to be quiet.|
|“Come Away”||This is a great command to teach a fearful dog. If your dog gets anxious at the sight of a certain dog, then “Come away” could be the answer to preventing events from escalating into fisticuffs. In response to this command the dog turns away and follows you, thus leaving the fear-inducing dog behind without you needing to tug on the lead.|
|“Leave It”||Does your dog scavenge or pick up things he shouldn’t? “Leave it” is a great command for doing just that, having him ignore that jackpot week-old burger he found in the gutter.|
|“Give”||This is a step further along than “Leave it” because the dog has already got his ill-gotten gains in his mouth. Teach your dog to “Give” early on, and you can get him to drop your diamond engagement ring right out of his mouth with no hassle at all.|
|“Look” and targeting||This is a useful command for so many reasons. By teaching the dog to “Look” at you, or a targeting object, you can control his behavior. It’s a great aid to getting him to concentrate, and also a sneaky way of moving the dog from A to B by having follow the targeted object (More explanation in Module 5.6]|
|“No” and preventing attention-seeking behavior||Some dogs like to pester you for attention, and the “No” command helps them understand pet-pester-power gets them nowhere.|
“Bark” and “Quiet”
For a dog that naturally delights in the sound of his own voice, it is easy enough to teach him to bark on request!
- First, work out something that triggers your dog to bark and that is convenient to reproduce at home – such as knocking. The second he barks, use your clicker and toss him a treat. For each bark, give a click, and throw a reward. Don’t be surprised if your dog looks visibly puzzled; after all, for years you’ve been telling him to stop barking, so how come it’s suddenly a good thing to do? Persist, with the knocking and clicking when he barks. Now start to add in the command word, which in this case is obviously “Bark”.
- The time to say “Bark” is between the knock and before the woof, and then click on the bark. Keep practicing this. Most barkers take to this part with gusto, because barking is their number one favorite hobby (only this time it’s under your control).
- Start rewarding the quiet between the barks. Ask him to bark, click and reward as before. Only now you take advantage of the fact that it’s an impossibility to bark while chewing, and use this to label the silence to tell him what you want. Say “Quiet” while he’s eating the treat or in the quiet spell before the next raft of barking. Be sure to click the silence, (so he knows the reward is for the absence of barking) then give a treat.
- It’s important the dog grasps that the reward is for silence, rather than any other activity, hence the importance of the barking. With the action of barking fresh in his mind, he eventually understands that “Quiet” means an absence of barking, and starts to obey. If you try to teach “Quiet” without barking immediately beforehand, there’s a risk he’ll make a wrong connection and think he’s being rewarded for standing still, or whatever else it was he happened to be doing at the time.
Teaching “Come Away”
To teach this command is to have your dog on a lead and plentiful supply of ultra-tasty treats in a treat pouch on your waist. Start in a place with few distractions, such as the backyard.
You’re going to use the dog’s natural tendency to want to follow a leader. In this case have the dog on a leash, get his attention with excited noises, and then you run backwards away from him. The dog’s curiosity will make him run after you. As soon as he turns in your direction, click (because you want him to know coming toward you is good).
You can make this into a game, where you keep changing direction and backing away from the dog while encouraging him to run after you. This is the behavior you want, and as you now know, click that action to mark it and give him treats. You can even encourage him toward you by dropping the treat at your feet.
Once you find he is responding readily and is getting the hang of what you want, start adding in a command word. “Come away” is good, and even better when said in a happy, cheery voice which backs up that good things happen when he obeys.
To summarize, your actions are now to back away from the dog and say “Come away”, then click and reward as soon as he turns to you.
Teaching ‘Leave It”
This is an important safety command. By teaching a strong “Leave it” you can prevent your dog eating a shard of glass or gobbling down rotting roadkill. When teaching “Leave it” take it in steps, and only advance onto the next stage once he’s learned the previous lesson well.
Refresh Your Clicker Training
- Refresh the link in the dog’s mind between a click promising a reward. To do this, simply put a treat on the ground, and click the dog when he eats the treat. Pretty soon he’ll have a rock solid recollection of how much he loves clicker training.
Teaching “Leave” Command
- You’ve got the dog’s interest and he’s eager for more tasty treats. But this time offer the treat on the palm of your hand, rather than the floor. Click and reward for taking the treat. Now we start to teach him to leave.
- Close your hand in a fist around the treat. Let the dog sniff and nuzzle trying to get the treat, but don’t let him have it. Sit passively, and watch carefully for that split second where the dog momentarily takes his nose away to consider the problem from a different angle. This is the moment you want to capture with the clicker, because the dog left the treat – if only for a moment. It’s now OK to let the dog have the treat.
- Repeat this, holding the treat in your fist, clicking when the dog backs off and then letting him have it.
- Once you notice the dog is backing off as a tactic to get the treat, along with clicking, say your cue words “Leave it.”
- Say this in a fun way, rather than a heavy, foreboding tone of voice, because you want the dog to understand that backing off brings good things.
- You should start to notice the dog responding to the command, “Leave it” by ignoring your fist and waiting for the treat.
If your dog picks up your favorite Jimmy Choo then “Give” is a great way to get the shoe back without a game of chase. The key to teaching this command is training with objects the dog likes, but having other things he prefers more. You are going to enter into a game of ‘swapsies’ where you exchange that object for something far more interesting. This provides him with positive motivation to let go of the object he’s holding, because he’d rather swap what’s he got for that tasty treat or favorite toy.
First, put your dog on the leash and anchor the leash beneath your knee and the floor. (The idea is to stop the dog running off when you give him the toy.) Now give him the interesting-but-not-terribly-exciting toy. Let him mouth it a bit and then show him an ultra-tasty treat (Freeze dried liver is good for this.) As soon as he let’s go of the toy to get the treat say “Give”. Simple as that.
Of course with any command there’s often a sneaky part, and “Give” is no exception. What you do now is start increasing the length of time between him dropping the toy and getting the reward. Do this gradually, so a few seconds and then stretch it out a few seconds more, just so that you slow him up and things stay under your control.
Pretty soon you’ll have him giving up objects on demand, in anticipation of a reward. But remember, this is about your dog making a positive decision to let go, so do say “Give” in an upbeat cheerful voice, the sort of voice which promises good things around the corner. Just as with “Leave it”, you aren’t punishing him, but encouraging him to make a different decision, so influence his thinking by making the alternative something good, rather than bad.
“Look” is a multipurpose command that gets a dog to focus on you (thus ignoring that distracting black dog he’s so frightened of) and concentrate on you (so he’s better prepared to learn a new command).
Let’s start with “Look”
- Hold a treat between your finger and thumb so the dog can see it. Move the treat forward and say “Look”, as the dog’s gaze travels upward, click and reward. Give the reward from your other hand, because you want the dog’s focus to stay trained on the hand near your face.
- Once the dog is reliably looking upwards, then stop holding a treat in the hand near your face. The knowledge that the expected behavior is to look at your face, coupled with the confidence that the treat comes from the other hand, is enough to let him concentrate where you want him to.
Move on to Targeting
- The idea behind targeting is to teach the dog to follow an object with his nose. You already know how to target because “Look” is a form of targeting, only this time you ask him to touch with his nose an object such as your fist.
- To do this, hold a treat in your fist. As he moves toward the goodies, click and give a cue word, such as “Follow”. As he gets the hang of this, stop rewarding when he moves toward the first and only click when he touches it. Then click and let him have the treat. Now you’ve got him interested in your fist, stop holding treats (these will now be delivered by your free hand).
- Show him your (empty) fist and as he touches it, click and reward. You want him to understand the action you are rewarding is touching your fist. This means you stop rewarding a mere show of interest and only click when he touches the fist. Hold your fist out and be prepared to be patient, he may fool around and then only touch by accident as he sniffs to double check there’s no treat inside, but that’s enough for you to click and reward.
Teaching “No” and Preventing Attention-Seeking Behavior
And finally, some dogs can be pushy and pester you for attention. This can get out of hand and when you don’t give in they develop disruptive habits to try and win your attention. To prevent this it’s a good idea to teach the dog a signal which means, “Yes, I know you’re there, but no, I’m not going to play right now.” This tells them that it’s not worth the effort of acting up, because Mom just isn’t playing ball right now.
This is about instructing the dog with a “No” that the game is over.
To teach this simply sit on the floor with some treats and a clicker.
Ask the dog to sit. Once he is calm, give him a treat and click. Repeat this 5 – 10 times, then say “No” with calm authority (no shouting necessary) and turn your back on the dog. It helps to then have a friend call the dog over. They do exactly the same thing, giving 5 – 10 treats then saying “No” and turning their back. At which point you call the dog over, give 5- 10 treats then say “No” … and so on.
What you’re teaching the dog is that saying “No” means “No fun to be had here,” which saves the dog the trouble of pestering you to find out if you’ll play.
This is a great tool to use against attention-seeking behavior because it makes your intentions clear.
5.4 Teaching Recall
When a very young puppy feels uncertain of something, they have a strong instinct to run back to their mother and safety. You can use this instinct, by stepping away from the puppy and slapping your legs in a playful manner, while saying “Here” or “Come”.
If the puppy is a pro and runs to you straight away, then click and praise. You can also make this more likely to happen by dropping a super-tasty treat on the floor at your feet. When pup comes to pick it up, show them another treat, and call “Come” while running away a short distance. The puppy should bound after you, eager for the treat.
Remember to give your recall command word, as soon as the pup sets off in hot pursuit, and give them lots of praise when they get to you. In other words, make it huge fun to run to mom.
In the older dog, avoid the scenario of constantly shouting a command, which they completely ignore. Practice the exercises above, but only call once and if they don’t come then turn your back and ignore them (obviously only do this in a safe place such as a back yard.) Let them see they only get your attention when they listen.
When out and about keep the dog on a long line for these exercises. If they come great, if not reel them in but don’t reward or acknowledge (the dog was neither good nor bad, so he doesn’t get a reward or punishment).
Remember: Always make it fun to run to mum!
When Recall Goes Wrong
Your dog is enjoying a game in the park. It’s time to go. You call him. He carries on playing. You call…and call…and call. Eventually, half an hour later, after stomping around the park in a game of cat and mouse, you’re fuming and he eventually decides he’s tired and comes to you. By now you’re late for work. You snap on the leash, give him a smack on the rump, and head off home.
Can you spot why you’ve just taught the dog NOT to come to recall? OK, let’s list them.
- Even though the dog took an age, he eventually came to you. At which point you smacked him. This has the effect of punishing the recall, not rewarding it.
- You put the leash on and go straight home. In the dog’s mind, the leash signals end-of-fun, which makes him reluctant to have his freedom curtailed. Again, he’s been punished for coming.
So what should you do?
- When he eventually comes to recall, grit your teeth (no matter how angry you are) and make a huge fuss of him. Remember the more you reward him for coming now, the quicker he’ll do it in future.
- Rather than let him play right up until you have to leave the park, deliberately end the game 5 – 10 minutes early. Pop him on the leash, then play a game of tug or take him for a walk, telling him what a good boy he is as you go. The idea is to teach him the fun doesn’t stop when the leash is on.
Get the picture? Stay positive, no matter how aggravating his behavior, and always reward good behavior.
5.5 Walking on Lead – No Pulling Allowed!
This is an all too common problem. It’s time for a much anticipated walk to the park. You put the leash on the dog, they charge out of the door ahead of you and proceed to drag you down the road on the end of a tight leash. If your dog is small, this is an inconvenience and looks bad, but if you have a large dog then you could end up flat on your face. In fact, many small dogs are much worse at walking precisely because you can just about stay upright, whereas a big dog forces the issue because of the risk of falling over.
To sort this problem it helps to understand that pulling on the lead is its own reward; that is dogs associate the pulling sensation with getting where they want to go. In their mind, pulling gets them to a fun destination more quickly. Therefore, the answer is to turn things around so they link NOT pulling with getting where they want to go. To do this takes patience. Start training when you aren’t in a hurry and it doesn’t matter if you don’t get where you want to go (you have be prepared not to move far).
Solutions to Pulling
This method involves stopping every time the dog pulls and walking in the opposite direction. The dog pulls again, you stop, turn around, and walk until the dog pulls again. Basically, you go nowhere. The dog will eventually realize that when he pulls, you stop and get further away, rather than achieving what he wants. As he starts to walk on a slack lead, praise him, and keep walking. Help him understand that less is more in terms of getting to the park.
This method requires training in the back yard. With the dog on the leash, set a totally tasty treat on the ground a few feet away, let the dog see it and walk towards it. If the dog pulls, then make a disapproving noise and return to the start. Repeat. Set off, and as soon as he pulls give a signal that he did wrong and then return to base. This helps him understand that he only gets to the treat when he walks without pulling.
Once he gets the message, then practice in other locations so that he learns to walk on a loose lead in different places, not just the back yard.
5.6 Crate Training
A crate is your dog’s den, where he feels safe and secure. Crates are a great aid for housebreaking as pups are less likely to soil their den. A tired dog retreats to their crate to get away from children or rest. The most important thing is that a crate is never, ever used as a prison or a means of punishing the dog. It should only ever be associated with safety and happiness.
|Crate size: Big enough for the dog to stand up without banging his head and lie down with legs extended but NO bigger (this encourages toileting in the crate).|
|Make if comfy: Soft blankets and a T-shirt smelling of you.|
|Make it snuggly: Cover one end with a blanket to make it more cave like.|
|Lace it with treats: Leave the door open and puts treats or a favorite toy inside for the dog to discover.|
|Feed him in the crate with the door open.|
|Once he’s happy to pop in to check out the treats, close the door for a few seconds while he’s eating a meal.|
|Increase the amount of time the door is closed. Praise his calm behavior. Only open the door when he’s calm. (Letting him out when he’s crying rewards crying, which makes him more likely to do it again.)|
|Shut the crate and leave the room briefly. Return and reward him.|
|Increase the amount of time you’re away while he’s in the crate and, bingo, before you know it he’s crate trained.|
|But remember, the crate is a place of safety and comfort. Never shut a dog in the crate as a punishment.|