Become Better #8: How to teach your dog to heel

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Become Better #8:  

How to teach your dog to heel

You have probably seen a strong willed dog who is dragging his owner wherever he wishes, instead of gently going along wherever his owner wants. This sight should clearly show the benefit of training the dog to walk effortlessly by his owner’s heel, even when not on a leash.

And there are even more benefits to teaching your dog to heel, other than being tugged by your dog, and then stopping stubbornly whenever your dog wants to sniff of a lamp post.

When walking your dog is not a “chore,” you’ll enjoy it more, you’ll do it more, and you and your dog will both benefit from more frequent walks.

Dogs, and their ancestors the grey wolf, are by nature territorial. Sniffing and leaving scent marks are the natural necessity, to establish their kingdom and gain information about what other dogs are in the area, and when they dropped by. With the great number of dogs in the area, this practice is even more important, as seen from the point of view of the dog. So teaching him to decrease this practice is quite a challenge.

After all, dogs, unlike people, do not naturally walk side-by-side with their friends and family.

What is the best way to teach the dog? Using some type of choke collars, intimidation or brute force to teach the dog to heel is known among some dog trainers – amateurs and even professionals.

From a dog’s point of view, this concept of “heel” must seem more like “hell.”

That is definitely not our approach. By turning the lesson into an interesting game, teaching your dog to heel may be easy and enjoyable.

But it will take a little time; you may not get to a finished “heel” for a few weeks. That’s OK, because the process will be lots of fun for you and your dog.

Follow our training system, and soon you and your dog will be the ones struggling dog walkers gaze at in wistful admiration!

Lesson 8: How to teach your dog to heel

Read this lesson first, and then practice it with your dog.

  1. Load up your pocket (or a bag or pouch) with treats.
  1. Take your dog to a quiet area where it’s safe for her to be off a leash.
  1. Decide on which side you’ll prefer your dog to heel—your left side or your right. It doesn’t matter which side you choose, but once you decide, don’t change your mind later and confuse your dog. For the purposes of this lesson, we’ll use the left side. If you prefer the right side, just substitute “right” whenever we say “left.”
  1. Put a few treats in your left hand.
  1. Show your dog the treats in your hand and then start walking away.
  1. Encourage your dog to stay with you as you walk away. Call her name, slap your left leg, make smoochy noises, etc. Pick up the pace of your walking, almost as if you’re trying to get away. As you’re doing all this, wave the hand with the treats down low on your left side so your dog knows where they are.
  1. If your dog follows you, stop after a few strides and give her the treats and lots of praise. It’s great if she’s stayed right by your side, but don’t worry if she lags a bit behind at this point.
  1. Wait a couple of minutes, and then repeat Steps 4 through 7. Vary your walking speed and make sudden changes in direction. The point is to make it interesting and fun for your dog to keep up with you.

Not doing what you want? Here is what to do

If your dog doesn’t follow you, go back to her and put the treats right under her nose before walking away and encouraging her to follow.

If she still isn’t interested, the treats are not tempting enough or she’s too distracted. Find a treat she likes better, wait until she’s hungrier, or move to a less-distracting location.

Practice for Lesson 8

Practice this lesson a couple of times a day, but only for short periods of a minute or less.

Make sure there are few distractions, and your dog is eager to play and get lots of yummy treats.

This is the last lesson in these Become Better dog training lessons!

Congratulations for finishing the course.

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Become Better #7: How to teach your dog to go to his room or crate

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Become Better #7:

How to teach your dog to go to his room or crate

There may be situations when telling your dog to get away and relax, and not to jump upon a guest (see previous lesson #6), isn’t even enough to let your guest feel comfortable. The sad fact is that some people are very afraid of dogs, and are not feeling easy when a dog is around. This, of course, can be the most prevalent when the dog is of a large dog breed.

In this case, it is helpful if you are able to tell your dog to go to its room or create, and your dog will comply without hesitation.

Sometimes it’s easier to avoid a jumping-up situation by letting your dog leave the place, rather than try to prevent jumping upon a guest. To do this, teach your dog to run to another room when the doorbell rings or someone knocks.

 

Lesson 7: Getting your dog to go to his room or crate when visitors come

For this lesson you’ll need a hallow toy stuffed with peanut butter, cheese or some other food your dog really likes.

  1. Pick a designated room where you want your dog to go when the doorbell rings or someone knocks.
  1. Have the hallow, food-stuffed toy ready on a shelf or somewhere (other than the floor) in that room so you can quickly grab it.
  1. When your dog is in the house and calm, go to the door and ring the bell and/or knock, then run to the designated room, calling your dog and clapping so he’ll run after you.
  1. As soon as your dog follows you into the room, give him the food-stuffed toy, leave the room and shut the door (with him still in the room, of course).
  1. After 10-20 seconds, go into the room, take the toy away and let your dog out.
  1. Wait about 10 minutes, and then repeat Steps 3 through 5.
  1. Practice this exercise three times, pausing for several minutes between each session.

This will teach your dog that if he runs to the designated room when the doorbell rings or someone knocks, he’ll get a delicious reward.

  1. For your fourth practice session, change the procedure a bit. While your dog is still inside the closed room busy with the food-stuffed toy, go ring the doorbell or knock and then talk as if you’re greeting friends. After a few seconds, go let your dog out of the room.
  1. After your dog has learned to run to the designated room when the doorbell rings or someone knocks, advance the training with a real visitor. After the visitor has been inside for a few minutes, go let your dog out of the room. As your dog approaches the visitor, practice the “no jumping” lesson where your visitor asks your dog to sit as he approaches. Immediately reward his correct response.

Tip: Give your dog the food-stuffed toy whenever visitors are in the house, so he’ll be more interested in that than jumping up on them.

Not doing what you want? Here is what to do

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Practice Plan for Lesson 7

Practice these lessons several times a day. Vary the time of day and location.

You may ask a friend or family member who doesn’t live at your house to help with this practice by “paying you a visit”.

If your dog hasn’t learned yet not to jump up on people, then you may tell that person to wear some rather sturdy, less than fine clothes, as your dog might jump upon them while he is still learning. So tell them not to wear fine silk blouses, jumpers made from delicate knits where a loop may run out, and so forth.

Coming up next week:

Become Better – Training Lesson 8: How to teach your dog to heel

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Become Better #6: How to teach your dog not to jump on people

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Become Better #6:

How to teach your dog not to jump on people

The seriousness of your jog jumping upon you or others depends on his size. You will certainly not be knocked over by a Chihuahua or a Yorkshire terrier, while you or your guest may be in a serious situation if your dog is a 140 pound Great Dane.

Your dog does not think he is doing anything unacceptable. For a dog this is perfectly normal behaviour. Canines greet each other by licking or sniffing each other’s muzzles.

Your “muzzle” is too high, so they try to jump up to reach it. They’re not being rude or pushy; they’re being sociable! We just need to train them to be sociable in human terms.

You’ll need a volunteer to help you with this lesson.

 

Lesson 6: How To Teach Your Dog Not to Jump Up on People

This lesson is divided into two parts: One about your dog jumping up on visitors, and the other about jumping up on you or your family members.

Read this lesson first, and then practice it with your dog.

A. For Teaching Your Dog Not to Jump on Visitors:

  1. Load up your pocket (or a bag or pouch) with treats.
  1. Take your dog near the door where you and your visitors most often come into the house. (You and your dog will be inside the house.)
  1. Ask your helper to come through the door and, as soon as your dog gets within a few feet, have your helper ask your dog to sit in a low, calm voice.
  1. If your dog sits, immediately praise him and give him a treat. (Your helper makes the request, but you provide the reward for correct behaviour.)
  1. Repeat this exercise five times.

Not doing what you want? Here is what to do

If your dog doesn’t sit when asked to do so by your helper, move in front of your dog (so you’re facing him) and ask him to sit yourself. Immediately reward his correct behaviour with praise and a treat. Practice this a couple of times: after your helper comes through the door, you step in front of your dog as he approaches the helper, face your dog and ask him to sit, then give the reward. After he sits successfully for you two or three times, ask your helper to ask your dog to sit after coming through the door.

If your dog still won’t sit and keeps trying to jump up on your helper, don’t raise your voice or show impatience; your dog is probably just a bit too excited about greeting your helper. Instead, when your dog doesn’t sit as asked by your helper, instruct your helper to abruptly turn his back on your dog, walk outside and close the door. If your dog then turns to you, do the same—turn your back on your dog. After about 10 seconds, have your helper come back in, approach your dog again and ask him to sit… and again turn his back, walk out and close the door if your dog does not comply. Have your helper keep doing this until your dog sits as requested—then immediately reward your dog with praise and several treats for (finally!) calming down and doing as asked!

Note: If you can get more than one person to volunteer to help you with this lesson, individually at various times, your dog will more quickly learn the correct response (sitting, not jumping) for anyone who comes into the house.

B. For Teaching Your Dog Not to Jump on You:

  1. Think of situations in which your dog is likely to jump on you, and be prepared to ask him to sit before he can do so… ideally, when he gets within six feet of you.
  1. Practice training sessions where you go out and come back into the house, through various doors. Use the same methods as mentioned above: ask your dog to sit after you come in, and immediately reward the correct response.
  1. Plan your practice sessions for when your dog is relatively calm.
  1. Use your verbal sit command as well as your hand motion, as learned in Lesson 2. Important: Keep your voice low and calm. This may require diligence and practice on your part, especially if you’re coming home after being gone all day and are used to greeting your dog with excitement and enthusiasm. Remember: the goal is to control your dog’s excitement so that he’s less likely to jump up on you. So try not to sound excited to see him. If you’re calm, he’ll calm down quicker.
  1. Give praise and treats when your dog sits as requested. Tip: Have a baggy of treats ready outside your door, so you can quickly reward your dog for sitting whenever you come into the house.
  1. Don’t have your dog sit for long. Ask him to sit, give him the rewards as soon as he does so, and then move away and allow him to follow. Give him a chew toy or do something that takes his focus away from jumping up to greet you.

Not doing what you want? Here is what to do

If your dog doesn’t sit when asked, turn your back on your dog, walk outside and close the door. After about 10 seconds, come back in, approach your dog again and ask him to sit… and again turn your back, walk out and close the door if your dog does not comply. Keep doing this until your dog sits as requested—then immediately reward your dog with praise and several treats for doing as asked.

If you’re practising in other areas and other situations where you dog might jump on you, immediately turn your back on him if he doesn’t sit when asked. Don’t talk to him. The point is to teach your dog that he’ll lose your attention when he jumps up on you or doesn’t sit when asked.

Important: When your dog jumps up on you, do not attempt to correct this behaviour by pushing him away with your hands, or by bringing up your knee to block his jump or force him backwards. This is what many trainers tell people to do, but don’t do it. Most dogs will perceive this action as play, and they’ll get even more excited and will jump back with greater enthusiasm. This is the not the effect you want.

Instead, follow the above instructions for deterring their jumping behaviour (turn your back, walk away). Being ignored by you is “punishment” enough for most dogs, and they’ll quickly learn to sit as asked, rather than jump up.

Practice Plan for Lesson 6

Practice these lessons several times a day. Vary the time of day and location.

You may ask a friend or family member who doesn’t live at your house to help with this practice by “paying you a visit”. Tell that person to wear some rather sturdy, less than fine clothes, as your dog might jump upon them while he is still learning. So tell them not to wear fine silk blouses, jumpers made from delicate knits where a loop may run out, and so forth.

Coming up next week:

Become Better – Dog Training Lesson 7: How to teach your dog to go to his room or crate

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Become Better #5: How to teach your dog to lie down

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Become Better #5:

How to teach your dog to lie down

Here is one good  reason why it is important for you to be able to let your dog lie down at your command. The key word is. Control.

Could your dog be off chasing a cat, barking at other dogs, or following closely your every move and getting in your way inside the house, when you really need to be undisturbed? Could your dog be demanding your attention when you actually need some peace and quiet? Sometimes a dog is like a shouting three year old, and so spinning around full of energy that the dog can get himself into trouble. Calming down is a pressing necessity.

A dog that will happily lie down when you ask him to will calm down, and is less likely to get himself (or his owner) into trouble.

This lesson uses methods similar to the ones you used when teaching your dog to sit. But it may take your dog a bit longer to learn to lie down on command than it did to sit on command. Lying down, after all, takes a bit more effort… and being asked to lie down when you’re not even tired seems kind of silly, even to a dog. So it may take longer, but don’t get impatient or discouraged.

As with other lessons, you need to decide what command you’ll use. Remember, consistency is key with verbal commands; one word or phrase, one meaning. If you use “Down” for this lesson, you can’t use “Down” to also mean “Get off the couch” or “Stop jumping on Aunt Mavis!” Many trainers use “lie down,” but that’s a bit too close to “get down.” To make it easier on your dog, we recommend a totally different-sounding word: “Rest.” We’ll use that word in our training lessons.

So let’s get on with the lesson.

 

 

Lesson 5: How To Teach Your Dog to Lie Down

Read this lesson first, and then practice it with your dog.

  1. Load up your pocket (or a bag or pouch) with treats.
  1. Take your dog to an area where there won’t be a lot of distractions.
  1. Put a treat in your hand and ask your dog to sit.
  1. With your dog sitting and you squatting or sitting next to him, hold your hand with the treat about an inch from his nose and slowly move your hand straight down to the ground. Important: move your hand straight down, right below your dog’s nose, being very careful not to move it away from him as this will cause him to get up and move toward it. We don’t want that. (If that happens, just start over.)
  1. Your dog should follow the treat down with his nose, and then lie down completely. You may need to hold the treat on the ground for a few seconds before he lies down. It may also help to tap the ground with your other hand. Be patient.
  1. As soon as your dog lies down, immediately give the treat and verbal praise (“Good!”)
  1. Walk a couple of steps away to a new location.
  1. Repeat Steps 3 through 7. Practice this a few times.
  1. Did you notice you haven’t told your dog to “Rest” yet? Just as you learned with the Sit command, do not give the verbal command until you can get him to lie down consistently by moving your treat-filled hand down to the ground. Once you’re sure he’s going to do this properly the next time you do that, say “Rest” in a calm, low voice a split second before you start moving your hand. When he lies down, immediately reward your dog with the treat and “Good!” praise.
  1. Repeat this process five times, saying “Rest” in a calm, low voice just before he does so and rewarding his correct response.

 

Not doing what you want? Here is what to do

If your dog backs up instead of lying down, try having him sit with his back to a corner, so he can’t back up.

If your dog doesn’t lie down all the way, repeat steps 3 through 7 but add this: place your other hand (the one without the treat) on his back, just behind his shoulders, and gently push him slightly sideways and downward as you move the hand with the treat down to the ground.

If your dog still doesn’t want to lie down, try moving him to a rug. (Some dogs simply don’t like lying on cold, hard surfaces.)

As with other lessons, make sure your dog is not too distracted…or nervous. He’ll be more willing to lie down if he’s calm and relaxed. If he’s nervous or full of energy, postpone your lesson until he’s settled down.

Remember to keep your tone of voice calm and low.

Remember, the instant he lies down, give the treat and praise (“Good!”).

 

Practice for Lesson 5

Practice this lesson several times a day. Vary the time of day and location.

Also watch your dog when you’re not practicing the lessons, and when he starts to lie down on his own, say “Rest” as he does so. Then quickly give him a treat and praise.

 

Coming up next week:

Become Better – Training Lesson 6: How to teach your dog not to jump on people

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Become Better Lesson #4: How to teach your dog to stay

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Become Better Lesson #4:

How to teach your dog to stay

If your dog truly loves your company, then it is not easy to teach her to stay in one place, while you walk away. Yet, it can be beneficial for your dog and yourself if you manage to teach her to stay. For instance, if you need to cross a busy street, then you can let your dog stay on the pavement while you go, keeping her away from dangerous traffic. Your dog will also learn patience, and to control her impulses.

If you find yourself too far away to use your voice, then a visual hand signal can help you control your dog when needed. Your dog probably has much sharper eyesight than you. For this, the use of hand signals will be incorporated in this lesson.

You’ll use two verbal commands for this lesson: a word to tell your dog to stay, and a different word to let her know it’s OK now to move (release her from the stay).

As with all training, pick specific verbal commands and use them consistently. The obvious word for the stay command is “Stay.” (Don’t be tempted to lengthen that sometimes into “Stay there.”) The release command can be something like “Release” or “Free” or “Okay.”  Make sure it’s not a word you might use for another meaning in other circumstances (such as “Release” when you want your dog to let go of a toy). It’s probably best to use “Free,” as you’re not likely to use that for anything else. That’s the word we’ll use for this lesson.

Teaching your dog to stay involves working with three elements:

1. Distance. Distance refers to how far you move away from your dog.

2. Time. Time refers to how long you want your dog to stay.

3. Distraction. Distraction refers to everything going on around your dog that is tempting her to get up.

It’s best to begin with easy challenges for your dog in all three elements: short distance, short time, fewest distractions. Eventually we’ll work on each element separately, gradually increasing the degree of difficulty.

Let’s get on with the lesson.

 

Lesson 4: How To Teach Your Dog to Stay

Read this lesson first, and then practice it with your dog.

  1. First, load up your pocket (or a bag or pouch) with treats.
  1. Take your dog to an area where there won’t be a lot of distractions.
  1. If you’re right-handed, put a treat in your left hand (vice versa if you’re left-handed; you want the treat in the hand you won’t be using for your hand signal).
  1. Place yourself about two feet away from your dog.
  1. Ask your dog to sit. As soon as she does, say “Stay” in a low, quiet voice and raise your hand, palm open and facing her, in the universal “Stop” hand signal. Look directly at your dog. Try not to move any other part of your body.
  1. After a very brief pause of just 1 or 2 seconds, say “Good,” lean forward and give your dog the treat from your other hand. Important: Make sure to quickly move the treat all the way to her mouth so she’s not tempted to get up and move toward it.
  1. While your dog is still eating her treat, release her by saying “Free” in a low, quiet voice, and lean back away from her.
  1. Important: Let your dog get up or do whatever she wants, but do NOT praise or reward her for getting up. You want her to learn that the Stay action is the one that will reap the rewards.
  1. Repeat Steps 4-8. Be sure you don’t allow more than a couple of seconds to go by before rewarding after giving the Stay command.
  1. Repeat this process five times.

Not doing what you want? Here is what to do

If your dog doesn’t stay still for a couple of seconds, she’s probably too distracted. Try moving to a different location, or waiting until she has less energy.

Make sure she knows you have a treat in your hand.

Keep your tone of voice low and quiet, letting it drop in pitch (versus going up, as if you’re asking a question).

Make sure your hand motion is distinct and does not look like the arm motion you use during the Sit training.

Practice for Lesson 4

Practice this lesson several times a day, with fewer repetitions. Vary the time of day and location. Make sure there are as few distractions as possible.

Remember to use the same commands (“Stay,” “Free”) every time, using a low, quiet tone of voice.

Give instant praise and reward after just a couple of seconds by bringing the treat all the way to her mouth so she doesn’t move to get it.

Do not be tempted to see if she’ll stay longer. Right now it’s very important to lay a solid foundation.

Practice your “Stop sign” hand signal and make sure it’s different from your “Sit” motion.

Coming up next week:

Become Better – Training Lesson 5: How to teach your dog to lie down

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Become Better Lesson #3: How to teach your dog to come when called

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Become Better Lesson #3:

How to teach your dog to come when called

One of the most valuable lesson in these Become Better Sessions is the one about teaching your dog to come when you call him.

Learning this could even save your dog’s life

If your dog comes with certainty when you call him, this will allow you to keep your dog out of danger from traffic and other things. You will be safe, letting him run freely on the beach, in the woods or in the dog park, since you know that he will come back to you, in the moment when you call him. You will have peace of mind, and you can allow your dog more freedom.

However, this is one of the most challenging lessons – not for your dog, but for you.

You will need to control your normal tendencies and pay close attention to your own body language. What you’ll be learning to do is counter-intuitive to humans, but very effective. The end result—a dog that comes when you call him, every single time—will be well worth the effort.

You must decide which command to use, before the training begins.

Give this some thought, because you’ll need to use it each and every time, without change. Consistency is key with verbal commands. You can’t expect your dog to learn that “Come,” “Come here,” “Get over here,” “Hey, come on,” and “Max, get your butt over here right now!” all mean the same thing. The simplest, of course, is “Come!”

Three things during this training are going to be different from other lessons.

First, your tone of voice. It should be upbeat and enthusiastic. Think of yourself as an excited coach yelling encouragements to a player running down the field, versus calmly telling the player what to do.

Second, repetition of the verbal command is good for this particular training, because a series of short, enthusiastic sounds works best when getting your dog to move quickly. Imagine a coach yelling “Go! Go! Go!” Also, clapping while giving the command is extremely effective.

Third, you’ll need to use your entire body (not just your voice) to get your dog to do what you want. Most people tend to stand facing their dog, or even step towards him, when they want him to come. That’s the opposite of what you should do. To get your dog to come, you’ll need to turn and move away from him as you call him. This will be the hardest trick for you to learn, but you’ll be amazed at how well it works!

Think of yourself as “pulling” your dog toward you. When pulling something heavy on the end of a rope, you can stand facing it and pull it towards you with just your arms… or you can do it the easy and much more effective way—by turning, putting the rope over your shoulder, and walking away from the object, pulling it behind you.

Here’s another tip: most dogs want to go where their owners go. They figure out where we’re about to go by looking at our feet. That’s why you’ll be turning and moving away from your dog to get him to come to you.

One more thing before we begin. It is very important during this initial training that your dog learns to love coming to you. As mentioned earlier in this course, your primary reinforcer (such as the treat) must be something your dog loves—not just accepts, but really loves.

Your tone of voice when giving praise must be encouraging and happy, too. Have you ever seen someone yelling at their dog that got loose? Typically they lose patience quickly and switch from a cajoling voice to a stern, angry yell if the dog doesn’t come immediately. Think about that. Would you want to run towards anger? Of course not! Remember, your goal is to make your dog very happy to run to you when you call. So be very careful to not patience during this lesson, keep your voice happy and enthusiastic, and give tons of praise when your dog does the right thing.

Now (finally), let’s get on with the lesson!

 

 

Lesson 3: How To Teach Your Dog To Come When Called

Read this lesson first, and then practice it with your dog.

  1. Load up your pocket (or a bag or pouch) with treats. You’ll need more than usual for this lesson.
  2. Take your dog to an area where there won’t be a lot of distractions.
  3. Move about 10 feet away from your dog as he’s not paying attention to you.
  1. Enthusiastically call out your dog’s name, followed by the come command: “Come! Come! Come!” Do this while turning sideways (don’t turn your back, you need to watch him closely), and start clapping as you begin to run away from your dog.
  2. As soon as he moves in your direction, call out your praise (“Good!”) and keep going
  3. Slow down and let your dog catch up to you; then stop and immediately give him a handful of treats and lots of enthusiastic praise—like coming to you was the best thing in the world!
  4. Walk about ten steps away from your dog and wait for him to look away from you.
  5. Repeat Steps 3, 4 and 5
  6. Repeat this process three times.

Important: This method reinforces your dog’s actions twice—first for diverting his attention from whatever he’s doing (Step 4), and second when he reaches you (Step 5). Step 4 is just as important as Step 5. Be very good and consistent about praising your dog the instant he turns his attention to you. Considering how many smelly distractions there are in your dog’s world, getting him to stop whatever he’s doing and look at you really is quite amazing, and you need to show your appreciation. Give your praise (“Good!”) immediately when he looks at you and starts to move in your direction. And be sure that with Step 5, you give the treat immediately when he reaches you. Do NOT wait because he may sit down. If you give him the treat after he sits, he’ll think sitting was the action that’s being rewarded, not coming to you.

 

Not doing what you want? Here is what to do

If your dog doesn’t come, he’s probably too distracted. That’s OK. Remember, he hasn’t yet learned that coming to you will make him happier than anything else he’s doing.

So here’s what you do: go to him. (This is difficult for some people to do as they feel it is “giving in” to their dog. But please trust us… this is the right thing to do at this point of training your dog.)  Let your dog know you have a treat in your hand, and use it to lure him as you walk away, giving your come (“Come! Come! Come!”) command. Stop after a few steps and give him the treat.

If the treat lure doesn’t work, put a leash on him and gently pull him along as you give your come command. Stop after a few steps and give him the treat.

Remember to keep your tone of voice upbeat, enthusiastic and happy.

 

Practice for Lesson 3

Practice this lesson several times a day. Vary the time of day and location. Think of the training as a fun game for you and your dog.

Remember to use the same come command every time, turn away from your dog, and clap while running away. Give instant praise when he turns his attention to you, and instant treats when he reaches you.

Be aware of what your dog is doing when you call him to come to you. You want him to learn quickly and easily, so don’t call him when he’s focused on something else. Keep the degree of difficulty for this exercise as low as possible at this point.

Use the command also when you know you’re dog will be coming to you automatically, such as when you put his food bowl down.

Also remember the key to this lesson is to teach your dog that coming to you is a wonderful thing. So for now, do NOT use the come command to call him to you if the end result is something he won’t like, such as having his toenails trimmed. Instead, go to him, put on the leash, and lead him to where you need him to go. Keep your tone of voice upbeat, friendly, and encouraging, but be sure to avoid using the come command when your dog won’t like what happens afterwards.

 

Coming up next week:

Become Better – Training Lesson 4: How to teach your dog to stay

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Become Better Lesson #2: How To Teach Your Dog To Sit

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Become Better Lesson #2:

How To Teach Your Dog To Sit

Welcome! Have you already mastered letting your dog sit down when you ask him to do so? Even so, don’t skip this lesson, for it contains valuable learning for both you, and your dog.

The so-called “lure and reward” is used here to teach your dog to sit. This is about luring your dog to sit, and when he sits down, you will reward him without any delay. This method is very common, as it is based on positive reinforcement, it is easy for you to do and effective, and easy and pleasing for your dog to learn by.

A great “side-effect” of this method is that it allows a natural motion to become a visual cue… a form of sign language for your dog. This is so cool! Dogs are very visual and they often respond to body motions better than they do to sounds. (You’ll need to keep this in mind as sometimes it can work against you: to your dog, your voice may be saying one thing while your body language is saying the opposite. In dog communication, body language trumps verbal language every time. We’ll cover this in more detail later.) Imagine being able to use hand signals as commands for your dog when you’re on the phone, or too far away for your dog to hear you. It’s definitely something worth pursuing.

So let’s get on with the lesson.

Lesson 2: How To Teach Your Dog to Sit

Read this lesson first, and then practice it with your dog.

  1. Load up your pocket (or a bag or pouch) with treats.
  1. Take your dog to an area where there won’t be a lot of distractions.
  1. While your dog is standing, put a treat in your hand, and move your hand to within an inch or so of your dog’s nose. Make sure she smells the treat hidden in your hand and is focusing her attention on it.
  1. Move your hand slowly backward, about an inch over her head, between her ears, toward her tail. Keep your hand low over her head so she doesn’t try to leap up to get the treat.
  1. As your dog watches your hand with the treat move just above her head, she will raise her chin up—and her butt will plop down into a sitting position. When that happens, immediately give her the treat and say “Good!”
  1. Now move a few steps away. Get your dog to stand and follow you.
  1. Repeat Steps 3, 4 and 5.
  1. Did you notice you haven’t told her to “Sit” yet? Don’t say that until you can get her to sit consistently by moving your treat-filled hand over her head, toward her tail. Once you’re sure she’s going to do this properly the next time you do that, say “Sit” a split second before you start moving your hand. When she sits, immediately reward her with the treat and “Good!”
  1. Repeat this process five times, saying “Sit” just before she does so.

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Not doing what you want? Here is what to do

If your dog backs up instead of sitting down as you move your treat-filled hand over her head and toward her tail, position her so that she’s facing out of a corner and cannot back up without hitting the wall.

Practice for Lesson 2

Practice this lesson two or three times each day during the week. Vary the time of day and location.

Do no more than five repetitions during each lesson. Reduce the number of repetitions as your dog learns… eventually asking her to sit just once, two or three times a day. Dogs tend to learn to sit quickly, and repeating the lesson too often will only make them bored (remember, we don’t want bored students).

After a few of days of successful “Sit” practice, start to focus a bit on your hand movement. As you move your treat-filled hand over your dog’s head and toward her tail, begin to emphasize an upward sweep of your hand… less over her head, more in an upward curve toward your body. (Don’t go too far with this just yet; we’ll continue working on it in next week’s lesson.)

Coming up next week:

Become Better – Training Lesson 3: How to teach your dog to Come When Called

(Stock images from 123rf.com, referral link.)

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Become Better Lesson #1: How to teach your dog to know his name

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Become Better Lesson #1:  

How to teach your dog to know his name

Welcome! Does your dog know his name when you call him? You should not skip this lesson even if he does, for it contains valuable learning for both you and your dog.

In the beginning, when your dog became a family member, one of the first specific sounds that your dog heard you say was his name. This “sound” had the purpose of getting his attention, and was among the very first training that your dog received. This is what saying the name should be used for, and nothing else.

You often see dog owners who seem to think that the name has meaning beyond just being a name. They use it for multiple purposes, that are entirely different, depending on what they are thinking in that moment when they call him.

“Fido!” (Meaning “Come here!”);

“Fido!” (Meaning “Stop that!”);

“Fido!” (Meaning “Get down!”);

“Fido!” (Meaning “Stop barking!”);

“Fido!” (Meaning “Don’t eat that cat poop!). You get the idea.

Your dog may be the smartest dog in the world, but he is not a mind reader. 

It is a good rule to treat your dog’s name just like you do with the name of a child.

For example, if you call a child’s name, he or she may acknowledge that he hears you (if you’re lucky), but his likely response will be to call back, “What?” He probably won’t even look up from the video game or whatever else he was doing when you called his name. You’ll need to follow up with an instruction; tell him what you want: “Bobby! Stop playing that game and do your homework!” (Then he may or may not do as you ask, depending on how well he’s been trained.)

Your approach to saying your dog’s name should be only to get his attention. That’s it. Nothing else. No hidden meanings. You will then train him to understand other sounds, or commands, to convey a certain meaning.

Important: Even after your dog learns his name, he may continue doing whatever he was doing when he hears you use it (just like Bobby). Don’t get upset or impatient. And don’t repeat his name: “Fido… Fido!… FIDO!!!”  Doing this will only teach your dog to ignore you until he hears his name over and over. We’ll give you better solutions.

So let’s turn our attention to the lesson.

 

Lesson 1: How To Teach Your Dog To Know His Name

First, read this lesson, and then practice it with your dog.

  1. First, load up your pocket (or a bag or pouch) with 20 or so treats.
  1. Take your dog to an area where there won’t be a lot of distractions.
  1. Wait for your dog to look at something other than you, then say his name (once!).
  1. When he looks at you, immediately give him a treat and say “Good!” (Or whatever you’ve chosen as the primary reinforcer, phrase or clicker. We’re going to just use “Good!” in our training examples.)
  1. Now move a few steps to another location and again wait for your dog to be looking away from you.
  1. Say your dog’s name again and immediately reward him again with the treat and praise when he looks at you.
  1. Repeat this process five times. If your dog was particularly distracted before responding to his name, give him extra praise and treats.

Not doing what you want? Here is what to do

If you say his name and he doesn’t look at you, he may be too distracted. Move him a few paces to a different location and try again.

Say his name. Use an enthusiastic tone of voice. Give immediate rewards if he looks at you.

If he still doesn’t respond to his name, clap your hands, whistle or make some other attention-getting sound. When he looks, say his name again and immediately give the rewards. Do this as a last resort. You want him to learn to respond to his name, not the other sounds.

[Note: If your dog does not show any response to those attention-getting sounds, please have his hearing checked. Seriously. Some breeds, such as Dalmatians, are prone to hearing problems. A dog owner who thinks the dog is too dumb to learn is sometimes surprised to learn the dog is actually deaf!]

Another tactic: put the treat in your hand and let your dog sniff your closed fist so he’ll know it’s there. Pull your hand away and wait until your dog looks away from you. Say his name and immediately reward his response.

If your dog continues to ignore his name after several attempts, try moving to a less distracting location. (Distractions include smells, not just sights and sounds.)

Keep trying, be patient, and remember not to repeat his name. Give immediate rewards when he responds.

 

Practice for Lesson 1

Practice this lesson.

During this week, you’ll be training yourself as well as your dog. The important lesson for you: Learn to say your dog’s name only once. This is difficult for most people. We rely on verbal communication. Dogs don’t. So you’ll have to train yourself not to do what may come naturally: repeating yourself until you get a response.

Practice this lesson several times each day during the week. Vary the time of day and location (both inside and outside). Do not, however, move to areas with greater distractions to challenge your dog with higher degrees of difficulty, even if he is a fast learner. The Happy Mutt Training System works best when you build on a strong foundation of success and progress slowly, one step at a time.

Do five repetitions during each lesson.

Concentrate on saying your dog’s name only once.

Remember: do not use your dog’s name as a “catch-all” command with multiple definitions.  As our training progresses, you’ll learn that each desired action will have it’s own separate command (and it won’t be your dog’s name).

Coming up next week:

Become Better – Training Lesson 2: Teach Your Dog To Sit At Your Command

(Stock images from 123rf.com, referral link.)