STEP by STEP: Let the Training Begin!

Loose Leash Walk

The leash walk is an extremely important daily practice to foster respect and build a bond with your dog.  Have you ever walked a dog and felt like you were being hauled by a tow truck?  Leash walks are much more fun for you and your dog once the dog has learned how to walk by your side or behind you.  It will be much easier for your dog to learn this behavior if he has had some exercise first! 

  1.  Start by having your dog on a standard flat buckle collar with a 4-6 foot leash attached.  Pick a practice  area with few distractions, like a hallway or a quiet street.
  2. Take a treat in one hand and sweep it in front of your dog’s nose to get his attention.  Lure your dog to the starting position where his nose is to the side of you, facing the direction in which you will be walking.  Imagine you are playing follow the leader, where the dog follows you and the treat.  If he loses focus, “sweep” the treat close to his nose to regain his attention.
  3. With your treat in hand, initiate your walk by saying “Let’s go!” and begin walking naturally.   Hold the treat in the hand that is on the same side as the dog.  Allow your dog to nibble on the treat as you walk.  Tell him “Good!” as he is walking.
  4. If your dog pulls on the leash, stop in your tracks and wait for the dog to stop pulling.  Pretend you are rooted to the ground.  Soon the dog will recognize that he is unable to move forward while there is pressure on the leash.  He will relax and move closer to you, and you will feel a slack on the leash pressure.
  5. At this moment, redirect the dog’s attention with a treat sweep past the nose and return your dog to the starting position, with his nose at your side, facing in the direction of your walk.
  6. Repeat steps  1-5, and tell your dog “Good!” in a positive tone of voice every time his walks politely!  Practice for 3-5 min at a time. 

“Look”

This command is a great one to teach first, because it is simple for the dog to learn, and the foundation by which we teach other behaviors.  Literally we are asking the dog to give us eye contact.  By utilizing the “look” command, we teach our dogs to pay attention to us when we request it.

  1.  Start by having your dog in a calm and quiet area.
  2. Take a small treat in your fingers and wave it in front of your dog’s nose to get his attention.  You will know your dog is interested when his nose follows the smell of the treat, and consequently your dog’s nose will follow the direction in which your hand is moving.
  3. SLOWLY elevate the treat to your eye level.  Ideally, the dog’s eye contact and focus will follow your hand up to your eyes.  If your dog loses focus and becomes distracted elsewhere, redirect his attention by waving the treat in front of his nose again and moving your hand more slowly up to your eye.
  4. As soon as the dog makes EYE CONTACT with you, say “Look!” followed by “Good!” and reward him with the treat and praise immediately.
  5. Once your dog has mastered the basic “look” behavior, practice tucking the treat into your palm so he cannot see it, and using your pointer finger in the same motion to teach him to perform the behavior when there is no treat present!
  6. As your dog is successful holding the eye contact for 1-2 seconds, gradually start extending the time between his initial eye contact and when you reward him with treats and praise to teach him to lengthen his attention span.

“Sit and Stay”

Sitting is how dogs say “please”.  Teaching your dog to sit and stay is a wonderful way to gain control, while encouraging calmness and polite manners.

  1. With a small treat in hand, gently wave the treat in front of the dog’s nose until you have his attention.
  2. Slowly, move the treat over the dog’s forehead, so that his nose is inclined to rise towards the sky.  Keep the treat close to the dog’s head to decrease his inclination to jump towards the treat.
  3. As the dog’s chin moves up, his hind quarters will be inclined to move down towards the floor. 
  4. When the dog successfully sits on the floor, immediately say “Sit”, followed by “Good.”  GIVE THE DOG A TREAT NOW IF YOU ARE TEACHING YOUR DOG “SIT” FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME ONLY. Otherwise, withhold feeding the treat until the following steps:
  5. Immediately say “Stay.”  Keep your hand still to help him maintain focus.  Expect your dog to stay in this position for only a brief moment.
  6. Release your dog from “Stay” by saying “OK!” while moving your hand down by your knee.   This will encourage your dog to get up from the sit position.
  7. When your dog is standing on all four feet, give him the treat and tell him “Good!”

*The goal is to release the dog from the “Sit and Stay” BEFORE he gets up on his own.  This reinforces in his mind that the only way he can get the treat is by sitting still until he sees/hears your release command “OK!”.  If your dog breaks the sit and stay position before you are ready to release him, simply start over in the place you originally requested the sit position.  If you can, try holding the “stay” for less time.  This will make the exercise a little easier for your dog and give him a greater chance of being successful next time!

“Down and Stay”

With practice, many dogs are more comfortable in the down position than the sit position for lengthy periods of time.  Like the “Sit”, the “Down” is very important to encourage calmness and control.  Be aware that dogs need to feel comfortable to lay down, so practice in areas that are calm and quiet, and on soft surfaces like a carpet or dog bed.

  1.  Start in the “Sit and Stay” position.
  2. Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose and slowly lower the treat towards the floor. 
  3. As the dog’s nose follows the treat down to the floor, his front shoulders legs will be inclined to reach towards the floor as well.
  4. When your hand is touching the floor, if the dog is still not lying down, move the treat in an L-shape to the side of him to encourage him to move down further.
  5. If your dog’s hind end rises off the floor as you are practicing, simply start over in the “Sit and Stay”, and try again remembering to move your hand slowly.
  6. Once the dog is lying down completely, say “Down!” followed by “Good!”.  REWARD WITH A TREAT ONLY IF YOU ARE TEACHING DOWN FOR THE FIRST TIME.  Otherwise, withhold feeding the treat until after the following steps:
  7. Immediately say “Stay.”  Keep your hand still to help him maintain focus.  Expect your dog to stay in this position for only a brief moment.  Ideally your dog will pause and look at your hand while patiently holding the down position momentarily,
  8. Release your dog from “Stay” by saying “OK!” while moving your hand down by your knee.   This will encourage your dog to get up from the sit position.
  9. When your dog is standing on all four feet, give him the treat and tell him “Good!”

*The goal is to release the dog from the “Down and Stay” BEFORE he gets up on his own.  This reinforces in his mind that the only way he can get the treat is by staying down until he sees/hears your release command “OK!”.  If your dog breaks the down and stay position before you are ready to release him, simply start over in the place you originally requested the “Down”.  If you can, try holding the “stay” for less time.  This will make the exercise a little easier for your dog and give him a greater chance of being successful next time!