The Trick Is In The Training
Everyone enjoys a well behaved dog but it takes time. You can go to classes - a bonus as they also get exposed to other dogs in a controlled and supervised environment and you learn all the tricks of the trade or you can teach them yourself. It's easier after you have taken classes - it just is.
We all know that to fool a dog into a 'sit', you take the treat in front of the dog and draw it back over their head forcing the dog to go into a sit. (see how nicely Abigail is sitting next to Nathan here.) The sweeping you do with your hand with the treat will also serve as your hand command. Then it's all in the timing. You should associate the word with the command by saying 'sit' and praise/treat immediately. You can use a clicker or not but by doing both hand signals and voice and testing later on you will cover all bases if your dog is across the park. Plus in later years, if their ears aren't all they should be in the hearing department, they will already have the hand signal in place. Bonus even if you don't have to use it. You may find yourself in a place where a loud voice is not appropriate and a hand signal is best used. So - teach both.
If your dog is a tad stubborn, you can take their rump and gently put it into position and say the 'sit' command and praise even though you had to place them in this position. Do it over and over again and when they do it on their own give them several treats at once - called a jackpot, to reinforce that the goal is to sit, not be placed into a sit.
Training should be a daily reinforcement on one command at first and then move on to adding another after the first is solid, then adding the solid command in at the end after teaching them a new command. This way you end on a solid note and your dog enjoys it, you enjoy it, everyone is happy.
Just the simple 'sit' command can be used in so many ways. If your dog barks at the door and you want him to cease the behavior after the announcement, a 'sit' command will refocus your dog and get them to settle. You can practice sits on walks at streets where you want them to wait for the signal to change. We do this when we cross Bayview or any busy street at each corner giving a 'sit' command and a 'stay'. They get rewarded and then we use a 'heel' command to cross the street. As you go along, you will find a number of ways to practice the commands in everyday life therefore a strict training session will not be necessary unless introducing a new command. Training sessions should only be 5 to 10 minute sessions. We do them in our kitchen with one dog at a time.
Over time we have taken so many classes that honestly we could teach it. But what we couldn't do is replace or substitute for the very important socialization that they receive each and every class. All our dogs have gone through classes with us and when we decide to keep a pup from a litter you can be sure that we will be right back in classes for her at the appropriate time. Of course we can practice before class even starts so we will be a little ahead of the game. It's all good.
After sitting, teach your dog to pay attention to you with a 'look at me' command. Take your treat to their nose, bring the treat up to your eye and use the moment where he follows the treat to your face to click (if you have a clicker) say 'watch me' or 'look at me' - or even simply their name - whatever you are comfortable with and reward. This command comes in handy when you want to draw their attention to you instead of something that you don't want them paying attention to. You can also practice this on your daily walks. Sounds like a crazy command but really useful in many situations after you have it pretty solid.
Then after this, you can move on to 'stay' As you can see Nathan is teaching an 'advance' form of 'stay' to Abigail but when you first start, you wave the hand in front of their face in a sweeping movement and say 'stay;. Then you walk directly in front (close)and return to their side and reward. If they get up, you quickly place them in a sit position and start again. Do it till you get a success and build on it going further and further away and then ultimately around the back of them and then trying it with distractions.
A fun command to teach is 'come' and we should remind you never to get your dog to come to do something they do not want to do. If you do, you end up reinforcing why they shouldn't follow the command. As this is such an important command, you should do it with enthusiasm. After your dog has learned a 'stay', put them in a 'sit' and then a 'stay' and go out in front of them. Sweep your hand down and towards you and in an upbeat voice say their name and the word 'come'. Reward them when they come.
Another interesting command is "finish" which is when you ask your dog to end up sitting at your left hand side. For example, Nathan places her in a sit and then stay command. Then he walks across the room and turns to her. She should still be sittign patiently, waiting for the next command. In this case Nathan says "come" and she comes running to him. Just before she arrives he says "finish" accompanied by a hand motion that she has learned to associate wwith that command and he takes a small step forward. She knows exactly what is required of her and immediately spins and sits neatly at his side. What a good girl.
We will also add our own fun ones that we aren't doing in class just to mix it up over the next week and keep it interesting. Remember, if you skip too many days in training, you are usually back at square one with the 'new' command. Try to do it daily. You will see amazing results if you do.
As a final comment on this subject, Kat took a few Obedience courses three years ago with Nathan and did really well in them. Some of the commands they learned come up every day but some haven't really been used since the classes finished. At a recent dog show they were testing for the Canine Good Neighbour award and on a whim Nathan decided to take the test with Kat. One of the requirements is to place your dog in a stay position, cross the room and then call him to come and have him sit when he arrives. They provided a long leash for this purpose so that even though your dog was across the room from you he was still attached to a leash. They were a bit taken aback when Nathan said "no thank you" to the long leash and simply placed Kat in a sit stay and walked away. When he got across the room, and now everyone was watching, wait for it, he said "Kat, come!" with enthusiasm. And Kat came flying across the room to him and right into the finish position. Everyone was smiling, especially Nathan, beeming proudly at his boy.
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