Sit, Down, Stay! (Training Tips & Techniques)
Basic obedience training is a very important part of being a responsible pet owner. Every year, many pets end up in shelters because their owners didn’t take the time to teach them basic obedience and house manners. By spending a few minutes a day, you can turn your dog into a well-behaved companion. This article will give some simple tips on teaching your pet the most important obedience commands and basic house manners.
First, I’d like to clear up a misconception many people have about crate training. Contrary to what some people believe, training a dog to use a crate is not cruel. Dogs are den animals, and by creating a space for them where they feel safe and secure, you are actually helping them to become more confident. NEVER put your dog in a crate as a form of punishment, this really is cruel. Their crate should be their “safe spot”. Most dogs will be curious about and willingly enter any dark confined space. So, when first getting your dog used to the crate, make exploring the crate, entering and exiting it as much fun as you can for the dog. Crate training is also a great instrument in house breaking and curbing destructive behaviors such as chewing up the couch.
House breaking is often one of the most difficult challenges when bringing home a new puppy. Start this training immediately. When you first bring a new dog home, give them a chance to “go potty” before bringing them in the house. If they do their business praise them, then take them in the house. It is important to get them on a regular schedule right away. They should go outside first thing when they wake up, right after meals, and before going to bed for the night. Puppies will need to go outside every couple of hours. Again, a crate is a wonderful tool to use when house breaking. If your dog doesn’t go to the bathroom when you take them outside, bring them in and put them in their crate. Wait about 20 minutes and take them outside again. Don’t allow them to play or run loose in the house until they have done their business outside. Always show them lots of praise when they do their business outside. NEVER yell at or hit your dog for having an accident in the house.
The “sit” command is one of the easiest commands to teach. Start by holding a treat over your dog’s head and telling them, “sit”. Often, a dog’s rump will go down as their head goes up, naturally. If they don’t sit immediately, gently press down on their hind end until they are in the sitting position, then immediately praise them and give the treat. Most dogs catch on quickly and sit willingly after just a few practice repetitions.
Once your dog will sit on command, teach him the “down” command. With your dog in the sit position, hold a treat on the floor out in front of them and tell them “down”. The natural inclination for the dog will be to get the treat. Hold the treat in your hand until the dog is “down”. Do not release the treat until the dog’s stomach is on the floor. You may have to put them in the down position by taking their front paws and gently easing them into a down position. When they are completely down on their stomach, praise and treat them. The “down” command is a little more difficult to teach than “sit”, especially for non-submissive dogs. Be patient, they will get it eventually.
Teaching your dog to “stay” when they are in the sit or down position is important. With them in either position, put your hand in front of them with your palm facing them and say, “stay”. If they don’t move for a few seconds, praise and treat them. If they move, correct them by putting them back into position, and give them the “stay” command again. Repeat this, steadily increasing the length of time you want them to stay. Once they understand the concept of “stay”, start backing away from them a few steps while making them stay. Eventually, you will be able to leave the room and have them stay until you return. It can be fun seeing how long you can get your dog to stay, but don’t abuse the command. This is a good command to use when having company and you don’t want your dog bothering your guests. You can put them in a spot away from your guests and give them the “stay” command.
The “come” command is absolutely the most important command you can teach your dog. Your dog should learn to come to you regardless of any distractions. When working on the “come” command, use a treat that your dog can’t resist such as chicken, hot dogs or cheese, whatever your dog loves. Start with your dog on a leash, hold the dog at arm’s length on the end of the leash and say your dog’s name followed by “come”. As soon as they come up to you, grab their collar, praise and treat them. You want them to get used to being grabbed by the collar, so it is important to remember this step. Keep repeating this until they come to you consistently while on a leash.
If you have someone to work with you, take your dog into a hallway or other narrow corridor. Stand at opposite ends of the hallway and take turns calling to the dog. This is a fun game for both the pet and the owners. It is important to do this training in places where there are distractions. Take your dog for a walk where there are cars and people around and practice the “come” command while walking them on a leash. Never let your dog off leash in an unsecured area until they consistently come when called. It is also important to remember not to yell at or punish your dog if they don’t come to you right away. They should be happy to come to you and they are not going to want to “come” if they think they are going to be punished.
There are several other obedience commands that we can teach our dogs, but the ones covered here are the most important. Obedience training should be a fun experience for you and your dog. It’s a great way to bond with your pet and create a better relationship. For more information on training your dog, visit the ASPCA (www.aspca.org).
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