New Year Training!
by Imogen Lloyd // January 2018
New Year Training!
The start of a new year is that time when we tend to reflect and set goals for the future. Perhaps, like me, you’ve decided to try to eat a bit healthier and exercise a bit more. Or, maybe you fancy learning a new skill this year. So, why not also take the opportunity to set some goals for improving your dog’s behaviour? Teach your dog to greet people calmly with all four paws on the ground, learn how to get a reliable recall and how to show your dog that walking on a loose lead with you is fun!
Simple training can make more difference than you can imagine, and done correctly you’ll often see results really quickly! AND – they are really good fun, both for you and for your dog!
At Dog School classes we teach you how to teach your dog to walk nicely on the lead, come back when called (yes, every time!!), and how to greet people and other dogs politely and calmly, as well as lots of other really useful everyday skills!
The key to having a dog that is a pleasure to own is by simply showing them what you would like them to do. It is easy to get sucked into constantly saying ‘no’ which at best your dog ignores, and at worst may actually reward the behaviours you don’t want! More importantly, saying ‘no’ doesn’t tell your dog what you would like him to do.
One of the easiest and most helpful exercises you can teach your dog is to be able to sit reliably – and for longer than a second! If he can hold a sit position, this will help with greetings and give you a chance to regain calm control when things might otherwise have gone a bit wrong. Here’s how to get started at home…
We want our dogs to know that when we say ‘sit’ that means ‘keep your bottom on the floor until I say otherwise’ – this saves having to also teach a ‘stay’ cue. The trick is to start simple and build up very gradually until your dog can hold the sit position for longer periods, even when you are moving around or other exciting things are happening. This is a valuable skill that you can use on a daily basis.
If your dog can already sit on cue then skip to step 2. To teach the sit, face your dog with a treat in your hand, hold it close enough to your dog’s nose that they are interested but not so close they are nibbling your hand. Slowly move your hand up and backwards over your dog’s head, when they sit say ‘yes’ and give them the treat. Practise this a few times. You can then try doing the hand movement without a treat in the hand, still,say ‘yes’ and give them a treat as they sit. Once they are reliably sitting when you make the hand movement, you can start paring it with the word ‘sit’. Practise asking them to sit by saying ‘sit’ whilst doing your hand movement, then say ‘yes’ as they sit and give them a treat. Next, you can try just saying ‘sit’ without any hand movement if they don’t understand then just practice with the hand movement again.
Ask your dog to ‘sit’ and as their bottom touches the floor, say ‘yes’ and give him a treat immediately. Repeat this a few times and your dog will quickly learn that ‘yes’ predicts a treat and that sitting is a worthwhile behaviour. You should quickly find your dog begins to offer you a sit, even if you haven’t asked him – when he does, still say ‘yes’ and reward him as this is telling him that sitting is a great behaviour to choose to do.
Now we are going to teach your dog to sit for a little longer before he gets the treat. Ask your dog to ‘sit’ again but this time count to two, before you say ‘yes’ and then give him a treat. If your dog stands up again before you manage to say ‘yes’, simply ask for the sit again and this time say ‘yes’ after one second and then give him a treat. Gradually lengthen how long your dog can sit for before he gets his reward. Each time you ask for ‘sit’ (or your dog offers a sit) add another second or two, before saying ‘yes’ and giving the treat. With a gradual build up, your dog will quickly be able to sit for 30 seconds before he gets his reward. Continue to build up how long your dog can sit for before he is rewarded.
Finally, we teach your dog that he continues to sit even if other things are happening around him. If you are moving, your dog is likely to find it hard to stay still. So this time, ask for your sit and then lift your foot slightly off the floor – if your dog is still sitting, say ‘yes’ and give him a treat. Next, lift your foot a bit higher or shift your weight very briefly from one foot to the other and again say ‘yes’ if your dog stays sitting. Build up to being able to take a few steps away from your dog while he remains sitting. Remember, there’s no need to say ‘stay’ – simply build up the ‘sit’ so it becomes longer and stronger.
By saying ‘yes’ when your dog is doing the right behaviour helps make it much clearer for him what you do want, so he will learn quicker – but always teach what you want in tiny steps
Take care not to wave your treats about in front of your dog when you are asking him to remain sitting – a treat wafting past his nose may be a temptation too far!
Don’t be tempted to tell your dog off if he makes a mistake – simply, make the task a little easier and do it again, so he can get it right and be rewarded. This will help him learn more effectively.