Basic Obedience Home Work Week #1

Let’s begin by defining your relationship with your dog.  Dogs are pack animals and consider their human family their pack.  Every pack needs a leader, and we would like you to be that leader

Obedience training, is the key to becoming that leader.

My preference for a training collar is the prong collar, fitted snuggly around the upper neck. Do not leave the collar on the dog, rather use it only when the dog is under your direct supervision. If using a, prong, head collar or slip collar, put the collar on just for your training sessions. Leaving it on all the time is too dangerous.  Gentle leaders or Halti head collars, may be use but please be aware of the potential for neck injuries with these devices.  For some dogs all we will need is their plain buckle collar.  Collars are used to manage behavior and redirect attention, not for correction.

Reward Marker:  Verbal or clicker?

We mark behavior we like with verbal praise or the use of a clicker.

1.     What is a clicker?  --- Just a little plastic box with a button.  When you depress the button with your thumb, the clicker makes a "click" sound.

2.     Why use one?  ---- The clicker increases the accuracy and therefore the speed (and fun!) of training.

3.     How does Clicker Training work? ---- You pair the click sound with the delivery of something your dog loves, such as a yummy treat. (Note:  It must be Click then Treat, not the other way 'round.) Soon, (generally after between 20 and 50 pairings) the dog acts as if the click were as exciting as the treat.  Why?  Because Click now announces, "You just won a prize!" Now that your clicker is "Charged up", you can use it to "mark" behaviors that you like.  The brief, novel sound of the click is a much more accurate communication, and often a more exciting one for the dog, than is your voice.  

The first two exercises, this week, are “HEEL “and “SIT. “ Remember to use a firm clear tone of voice, when giving commands, and a warm loving tone, when praising. Use the dog's name before giving any command that will cause the dog move. Train for at least 15 min. 5 days per week. Use lots of praise when the dog is working properly. Remember your verbal praise marks the correct behavior.

Now to begin, step around so that the dog is on your left side hold the end of the leash in your right hand, with your left hand grasping the middle of the leash. This should leave a loop of leash between your hand and the dog’s collar. Step out with your left foot and say the dog’s “NAME” and the word “HEEL”, in a clear firm voice, give the command only once. Start moving immediately!  Often the dog will move off with you, more readily if you remember to praise verbally, the second he makes any motion to get up and go with. Cheer him on. Pat your left leg and encourage him to move with you. Remember to mark the correct behavior, with verbal praise or your clicker, followed by food or play rewards.

Use an about turn to the right when your dog begins to forge ahead. This is done in complete silence, and without tightening the leash to guide your dog through the turn. Instead let him bump the end of the leash. It's his fault, for not watching you. Praise or click  him when he is back in heel position, followed by food or play rewards

As you halt you will begin to teach SIT.  To mold a sit you use the following steps.

1.     As your left foot lands, let go of the end of the leash with your right hand. Then swing your right hand in front of the dog, starting from the height of his chest, up past his face and take the leash from your left hand.

2.     Now you command SIT, and pull up gently on the leash with your right hand and push down on the dog's rump with your left hand.

3.     He should assume a sitting position. Remember to mark the correct behavior, with verbal praise or your clicker, followed by food or play rewards.

  The sit can also,  be taught with a treat, hidden in your right hand. 

1.     As you halt, bring the treat up past his nose and back toward his eyes, as he tilts his head back to keep the treat in sniffing range, his butt will go down. 

2.     He should assume a sitting position. Remember to mark the correct behavior, with verbal praise or your clicker, followed by food or play rewards.

Please vary the number of about turns between sits. This keeps your dog watching you, and alert to the command “heel. “ Practice heel and sit 3 or 4 times, and then release your dog with the command OK. Now you can pet and praise him.

Sit-stay: Place 8 or 10 food treats in your Right hand, and wrap the leash around your Right wrist. This will leave your left hand free to signal. With your dog sitting at your left side, place your left hand in front of the dog, your palm facing him. This is the hand signal for stay. Pivot on your left foot, until you are directly in front of your dog, about 4 inches from his nose. As you do this, give the verbal command, “STAY”.

Now to keep him in the stay,  the signal is your left hand held upright, palm towards the dog, as if you were stopping traffic. Start by practicing very short stays, and then gradually increase the time the puppy is required to stay. The sequence will go like this:

If the dog breaks the stay, reprimand “ah-ah!” and step back towards the puppy, causing him to sit back down on the same spot he started from. If the puppy breaks the stay more than twice in a row, drop back and practice the last time level he was successful at. After two or three repetitions of the shorter stay increase the time gradually.

Gradually increase the time that the puppy stays until he can do 30 - 60 seconds, and you can also stop practicing the shortest stays.

 Now count to three before you pivot back into the heel position. Once back in heel position release him from the stay with a release command, “OK” for example. This ends the exercise. The stay exercise must have a definite beginning and ending. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend standing in front of your dog. This way he will learn to stay in place a little longer each time. Praise your dog very quietly as he does the sit and stay. To much praise will cause him to move. Use your release word, "OK!" "All Done!" and Give him lots of praise. The release word is important, because it allows your dog to move from the Sit/Stay position. If you don't use a release word, every time your dog moves as you praise him, he is in effect disobeying your "Stay" command.

Work on the COME command just as we did, in class. Sometime during the period you spend heeling, give the COME command and begin to walk backward. You go directly from moving forward at a walk to moving backward until you have gone about 10 feet, then command your dog to SIT. He should sit straight in front of you. You should use the collar and a hand on his rump to help him sit properly. Or use a treat held in a closed fist, just above his nose. Your hand opens and he gets the treat the moment that his butt hits the floor.

Problem solving: Many problems are solved by appropriate confinement, and plenty of play and exercise sessions, as well as keeping puppy on a regular schedule of feeding and walking.

·         House training, is best accomplished with a kennel/crate and a solid routine. Feed on Schedule, walk on schedule.  Supervise puppy at all times, this means he is not out of your site, unless he is confined.

·         Chewing, can be dealt with by giving appropriate things to chew, keep everything else picked up and out of puppy’s reach. Kongs, raw knuckle bones, Nyla bones, etc. are all appropriate chew toys

·         Jumping on people should be replaced by the sit for petting behavior we worked on in class.  Practice with a variety of volunteers.

·         Barking is best dealt with by keeping puppy entertained with appropriate chew toys, and proper confinement as well as enough exercise.  If barking needs to be disciplined for, use a spray bottle and squirt puppy in the face with plain water, as you command quiet. Then get him busy with appropriate toys.

·         Digging, can’t be fixed very well, since dogs are denning animals and instinctively dig dens.  Supervision is the answer here, or a concrete floor in their kennel.

Remember to train for 10-15 minutes every day.  LIve the life style of a pack leader.  Praise and reward with food treats and play toys or petting to mark the behaviors your want.

Week 2  This week we continue to work to improve our heeling skills. Concentrate on using your voice / clicker to mark the correct behavior. Try to maintain eye contact with your dog as you walk. Heel for short periods of time, click or verbally mark eye contact and then release him and praise/play with him.

Practice your sit/stays, until your dog can do them for 30 to 60 seconds, with food rewards.

Work on the recall exercise is done very slowly with definite pauses between the come and sit in front of the handler, and the finish. First sit your dog at your left side. Leave him with the stay command. Pause long enough to be sure he stays and doesn't anticipate your come command. Then call him once, by saying his name and the command come. If he doesn't get up and come toward you, tug his leash as you step backward. When he is in front of you, tell him to sit.  Click/Treat. andn praise him quietly and count to 10 before you tell him to go to  the heel position. As you give the “Swing”,  command bring your left hand and left leg back, leading your dog in a small U turn at your left side, bringing him into heel position. Click/Treat as he sits at your side. Practice this recall exercise 5-10 times a training session. Lots of praise when he does it right! Make sure your dog does not begin to anticipate your commands.

The last exercise of the evening is the DOWN/STAY. guide your dog into position with a treat held in your closed hand. Hold a treat in your right hand about 2 inches above his nose as he sits beside you. Now slowly bring it down past his face toward the floor. As you do this your left hand applies gentle pressure to the dogs back, until he is all the way down, at which point you verbally mark / or click and give him the treat.

Another method of getting, your do to lie down, is to, begin by sitting your dog on your left side. Bring your left arm across his back and grip his left front leg. Bring your right hand down, past his face, and lift his right front leg forward slide both front legs forward easing him to the ground as you command down. You can use your left arm across his back to help keep him from standing up with his rear legs as his front end goes down. Click / Treat as his elbows touch the grouns. Praise quietly and pet gently when he is down. And then release him with your release command, “OK,” or “All done.”

Gradually work toward keeping puppy in a down position for about 1 minute. You may need to keep him at your side and your hands on him at first. Gradually wean away from this until he lies down quietly with you sitting or standing beside him. Once he is relaxed in the down position we can begin to add the stay command. To teach a down stay, begin by commanding down and easing your pup into position. Quietly pet and get him relaxed, then place the leash under your left foot, with just enough slack in it so that there is no tension on his collar. Don’t use his name, just say “Stay” and show him the palm of your left hand as you did for the sit / stay. Stand quietly beside him as he does the down stay. If he attempts to get up, he should feel a collar correction toward the floor, from the leash trapped beneath your foot. You can also reach down with your left hand and push on the top of his shoulders to get him back into the down position. When you are ready to release him, use your release command “OK,” or “All done.” Pet and praise after the exercise is over.

Week 3  This week we will work on getting a more rapid response to our SIT command, holding our SIT & DOWN STAYS for longer, and work on the COME command.

As you practice heeling and sitting this week, make sure you always get a sit at heel.  Use your hand signal and mark with a verbal good dog, or a click the second he sits, followed by a treat.  No more luring with a treat, the treats should come after the marker and from your pocket.  You may use the hand signal with an empty hand.

This week we will begin the STAND command. Practice several times each day, putting your dog in the stand. First with your dog sitting at your left side, place a treat in the palm of your right hand. Now step forward with your left foot, lead with the treat in your right hand and command “Stand.” As your dog stands up, slip you left hand under his tummy, for support and praise him for standing. Stand for several seconds and then release him. And praise some more.  

Week 4  Automatic sits at heel. Give the heel command and start on your left foot. After two or three steps halt without giving any command.  By now your pup will probably sit.  If he does click / treat. Praise verbally and then give the heel command and start forward again, stopping after only three or four steps. Repeat this exercise four or five times in quick succession. Our purpose here is to get the dog to anticipate the halt/sit sequence, and to get him to sit very quickly.

Continue to practice heel, with the leash tucked in your pocket or dangling over your shoulder. This exercise helps to get your dog ready for off leash heeling. Don't forget to click/treat or verbally mark eye contact, in heeling.  Your dog must not get sloppy here.

The recall should now include the finish. Please make sure there is a definite pause between the dog's straight sit in front and the finish. Begin by placing your dog in a sit. Give the stay command and leave by stepping out on your right foot. Walk 10 15 steps away and face your dog. Please vary the amount of time you wait before you call your dog, as we don't want him to anticipate the come command. Call your dog with his name and the word come. Don't bow to him. Stand up straight and use a treat if necessary to get that straight sit in front. Pause for a few seconds and then give the “Swing”, command and take one step back with your left foot, guiding your dog into position at your left side. Click/ Treat or use you verbal praise when your dog gets into position.

Practice the stand for examination this week with the handler standing a leash length away and to the front of the dog. Begin by signaling the dog to  stand and give the command stand. Please make sure the dog is standing comfortably on all 4 feet. Then give the stay command and hand signal, step forward with your right foot as you leave the dog. Make him hold the stand for at least a minute. Get several different people to approach the dog as he is standing. If he moves as they approach correct him with a verbal no and replace him in the correct position. Do not use a collar correction. Verbally praise him as you return to heel position after the stand.

To get your dog used to being touched and handled during the stand exercise, you may want to approach him yourself. For example, give the stand command and physically place your dog in the stand position. Then say stay and give the stay hand signal. Step in front of the dog, pause a moment to make sure he is staying. Then walk up to him and touch his head and shoulders. Step out front again. Repeat this several times before returning to heel position and releasing your dog.

Make your sit & down exercises interesting, with creative distractions. Work on them until you have consistent stays of a