Basics on Obedience Training
It's completely understandable that when someone sees a new puppy, and has to have that adorable bundle of joy, they're not quite thinking about obedience training. Usually the first thought on people's minds, the biggest responsibility that is thought of is making sure that the puppy doesn't go to the bathroom in the house, right? When the puppy gets bigger though, obedience becomes more of a necessity, and you'll wish that you got started as soon as you could! It's more difficult to train a forty-pound dog than it is a tiny puppy. Before we begin, though, a few tips:
Facial Expressions, Body Language
Animals learn body language and facial expressions from their mothers, and instinct guides the rest. While teaching, it's important to incorporate some of that thinking into your training. Being threatening, or imposing, over your dog, etc., won't help your dog learn. Dogs understand smiles, and a happy and relaxed demeanor will encourage your dog to better learn what you're teaching him.
While you train your dog, you learn that timing is very important, and a very easy line to wobble on. Don't start what you want too early, or your dog will get confused at the command. For example, if you say, "Spot, Heel", and start walking right as you say "Spot", your dog won't know you're about to walk, as the command hadn't come yet, as of that point. Instead, make sure that you give the command ("Spot, Heel"), give your dog a second to process that command, and then begin walking. Your dog will be able to react correctly, and a lot of miscommunication is prevented by keeping that in mind.
The use of treats is an effective and proven method of helping you train your dog through the promise of a tasty snack. It will have to be a tasty snack, though. You can't just use dog food, or it's less appealing, and they will care less. While teaching your dog this command, take a small treat and move it so that you are getting him into a sitting position. If you're wondering how, remember that the treat in your hand has to be very very close to your puppy's nose. Move your hand with the treat from your dog's nose toward his tail very slowly. Your dog will follow the smell in your hand because of the treat, and as he starts to sit, you will say the word, "Sit!" to help associate the action with the word. Once he does actually sit, immediately praise him, and give him the treat. If you find that your dog isn't following the treat with his nose, chances are, you're not holding holding your hand low enough. When you try again, just make sure your hand is a bit closer to his nose. When you have trained your dog enough times with this, and he understands "Sit!" well enough, you can replace the treat with praise itself. If you find that he gets confused by the command, make sure that you aren't confusing him by talking too much during the exercise. Just the command of "Sit!" should be all that's happening during the active sitting action.
When you tell your dog to Heel, that means that he should walk in time with you, by your foot's heel - whichever one your dog is closest to a the time. You will need to state your dogs name clearly, and then say, "heel". Start with whatever foot is closer to your dog, which helps your dog interpret the command. Keep in mind that your dog won't understand what the word means, so companying it with your dog's name will help, as well as praise! Don't pull your dog close by the leash, but don't let the leash go slack either. If your dog isn't keeping up with you and staying behind, make sure that you continue to work with your dog, tell him to sit, and restart all over again. It isn't recommended that you start Heeling with a dog that has trouble on a leash. If you find that your dog is rambunctious or struggles on a lead, try using a fenced in area, or just in your house, with your leash attached to his collar, while you kneel and call him to you. Treats and praise are very effective, but remember that dragging your dog doesn't help. Patience is very important, especially as you will need to practice it many times a day for at least a few days in short bursts. But, all of that is worth it! Dogs can be fast learners, and with continued care and persistence, your dog should be heeling in less than a week!
With your dog in his sitting position, you can then teach him to lay down. Once again, place the treat close to your dog's nose, and slowly slowly move it downward. You will need to press the treat slightly toward the middle of his chest, just below his jaw, so that your dog has to go down to the ground in order to get it. As he slowly sinks down, make sure you say the word "Down", and when he is laying down onto the ground, make sure to praise him, and give him the treat!
This is a good command to teach and to have your dog learn well as it is useful in many, many circumstances. Get your dog's best treat and put it on the ground, covering it with your palm. When your dog investigates, tell him, "off". Once you've done this, let him see the treat a little so that your dog can see that his nose was not fooling him, and there is indeed a treat there! (The best way is to make a small "tent" with your hand). When your dog tries to snatch away or eat the treat, again say "off". Just keep saying "off" over and over - once your dog completely stops attempting to take it, or looks away, lift your hand and say "Okay, take it". You will know when your dog has internalized this order if you take a treat and place it on the ground without your hand there covering it, while saying "off". When your dog doesn't attempt to take the treat, he has learned! This is a very useful command when it comes to keeping your dog from jumping on people, trying to chase an animal, get into something you don't want them into, and so on.
Your dog reacts to how you're reacting. If your dog is shy, do not coo at it. It may seem logical to react that way, but it is only telling your dog that there is something to be afraid of. Instead, react with confidence (not anger or irritation), showing your dog he doesn't have to be afraid, but that you are also kind and that your dog also does not need to be afraid of you. Bring your dog to public places, while being mindful of how scared your dog will be. Remain self-assured, and tell your dog that they are a "good boy/girl" if they are doing a good job and cooperating in public. If they are scared, don't coddle your dog, but continue being confident in your actions. Dogs don't understand words, but they do understand body language and emotion. If you consistently treat your dog this way, your dog should overcome its shyness!