Basic Dog Training – By Tony Ratnam

Many years ago, following a request from a friend, I wrote up an instructional guide on Basic Dog Training for him. Filed and forgotten, I came across this recently while cleaning up my hard disk and decided I’ll share this out for anyone interested.

I hope you find it useful. If anyone’s interested, I am also available to provide basic personalized obedience training for dogs here in the Perth region. Contact me at

First, My Story

Like a lot of kids, I grew up around dogs and was very passionate about them.

I found myself  continuously educating myself about dog well being, behavior and training, further growing my passion.

This passion reached its height in my late 20s / early 30s. Work opportunities saw me living in Papua New Guinea for a number of years. We lived in a 5 acre plot of land which housed the office, factory, stores and living premises.

I started off initially having my own dogs there, but due to security reasons we decided to have more dogs, paid for and maintained by the company,  but under my care and guidance, housed in custom built kennels and enclosures. It was like the “Ritz Carlton” for dogs, LOL !!

We had up to 15 dogs at one point in time, breeds of which ranged from Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Dobermans, Great Danes, and mixed breeds (cross of German Shepard, Rottweilers) . Each dog was assigned guard duties nightly at various points  within the premises and within segmented areas therein, with some accompanying the night guards on duty. This proved to be an effective deterrent against would be burglars and intruders. Mind you, some of these dogs were trained (by your’s truly) to attack on command.

It was 1994, I left Papua New Guinea. Sadly I could not take these dogs with me and I had to leave them behind, but confidently in the capable hands of my assistants.

It was a very emotional event for me, leaving for the airport, I could not bring myself to say goodbye to my dogs, I just could not ! Strangely (well maybe not really strange), the dogs sensed the departure and as I left my house, initially there was an eerie silence (or energy) in the air.

As I walked towards the waiting car, which would take me to the airport, all the dogs started howling and crying out at once. It was like nothing I’ve heard them do before, considering I knew all of their personalities individually, having raised most of them from puppies.

That howling and crying by the dogs felt even more eerie, they’ve sensed my leaving, they knew something was amiss, they’ve picked up on my energy. Still, I could not bring myself to go to them to say goodbye or to ease their cries. I kept walking with tears now welling in my eyes, tightness in my chest. I felt so so guilty for abandoning them. My mind went, gosh, what would they think of me, they’d be looking for me eventually … gosh, how much I would miss them.

Today now in 2017, I suddenly realize that these emotions are still with me because, as I write this, I have tears streaming down my face and that tightness in my chest is present again.

Well, a that’s chapter of my life I will always cherish and remember. Maybe I should write a few blogs about my time in that country, but for now, back to the purpose of this blog, dog training.

The Training Instructions  

This is what I had written out for my friend, based on my experience and knowledge, which I’m putting out for those who may need it.

The models in the images below are my son and our Dalmatian.

There are 4 basic commands described below, SIT, STAY, DROP & COME. Try these out first and if you can master this, you’ll have a generally well behaved dog.

Dog‘s have varying temperaments and can develop various behavioural problems, the solution for each however will have to be specific to the dog’s issue & root causes.

Sadly most dogs’ behavioural problems are caused by humans. We tend to treat dogs as humans instead of treating dogs as dogs, often due to pity and/or to fulfill our own insecurities or emotional needs …….. and this is where a lot of issues arise from.

The Law of the Pack is an integral part of the dog’s life. They need a strong pack leader and to be told what to do or they will take over. Watch the likes of National Geographic and observe how wild animals discipline their young ones, e.g. wolves, the big cats, etc. that’s the role we should take.

The four commands are part of you establishing your authority and dominance over these animals. Essentially, you are telling the dog that and own the space around every part of the house, that  you are in control, that you are in charge and that you will provide direction when required.

Take every opportunity to enforce these commands with the dog. Consistency is the key here. E.g. ;

  • Always get it to SIT & STAY before you give the dog its daily food. Eventually you can even get it to eat only at your command
  • Before entering or leaving an area
    • Dog to sit first at the back or front door before entering the house, (SIT / STAY) and enter only at your command (COME)
    • The same applies when leaving the house with you. SIT / STAY before leaving, you go outside first, apply COME, and when the dog comes, then apply SIT
    • This conditions the dog’s mind to the fact that there are boundaries and that YOU own the boundaries / you’re in command. This can also prove useful to prevent the dog rushing in & out uncontrolled
  • When visitors come, get the dog to SIT / STAY (even DROP), you greet and get the visitors to enter. You’d have to check the dog in place if it does otherwise
    • Dogs can get over protective of us against visitors and our behaviour / actions (or non-action) can inadvertently reinforce negative behaviours in dogs.
    • On the converse, some dogs get overly excited and jump all over the visitors
    • Applying the SIT/ STAY / DROP commands in a way tells the dog, that you’re OK and in control and checking it tells it that is behaviour is unwarranted.
    • For the overly excited dogs, the idea is to get them calm and non-fixated before getting the visitors in (a slightly more advanced technique)
  • When you take it out e.g. to the park or public places, you’ll find the need for these commands even more for practical reasons.

The training starts with the verbal commands, while using fixed hand signals (visual), with food used as an incentive and reward. The dog forms an association with the commands, its actions and rewards and learns from this. Through repetition and consistency, a strong association is formed with the visual signals and what’s required. This will be your goal .. to be able to eventually command your dog with just visual (non verbal) commands  and / or just verbal, without visual commands.


  • You’d need to have a relaxed, calm, affirmative composure about you as dogs can sense your energy and react adversely to it, if otherwise
  • Remove any nervous / excited / highly strung persons / kids away from the vicinity
  • Train dogs preferably one at a time & away from distractions
  • Dogs get easily fixated on distractions & other things, you’d have to break them from this fixation and get them calm & focused on you before you begin
  • You’d need to command in a calm, low, firm voice, one word , e.g. SIT , repeated after pause, praise the dogs when do it / reward with titbits
  • High pitch commands tend not to work as well, as dogs may in turn get excited
  • Yelling / scolding, punishing the dogs during the process can be considered to be counterproductive
  • For titbits/ food rewards when training, liver treats work well, dog biscuits … but even bits of bread will do


  • Titbits held between yr thumb and middle finger
  • Hand extended out in front of you
  • Palm up towards you, back of hand facing dog
  • The dog will smell but can’t see the food
  • Get the dog’s attention, if necessary place your hand (with food) closer to the dog’s nose and once you’ve the dog’s attention, bring it back up as shown
  • As you move close towards the dog, say SIT
  • Its head will usually rise up towards your hand / food and usually this will cause them to sit
  • If it does not, gently push its bum down with other hand while saying SIT
  • Reward must immediately follow positive action by dog

Hence as soon as the dog sits .. give it the food & praise.

This hand position below is very important … as it will form the basis for you to command the dog at a later stage purely by hand signals only.

Hand signal used for the SIT command .. with food
This is what the dog will get used to seeing for the SIT command
This is the same SIT command without the use of food, which is where you’d want to be eventually with the dog, commanding it with visual commands only (no food)
Dog in the SIT position, notice the head position of the dog, as it senses the food (in this image, the command was executed without the use of verbal commands) .. move in closer to the dog if it helps
Dog in the SIT position, notice the head position of the dog, as it senses the food (in this image, the command was executed without the use of verbal commands) .. move in closer to the dog if it helps


When the dog is in the SIT position, place hand, palm down, towards the dog (see pic below) and say STAY

  • In the initial stages, reward with food immediately
  • Later on, walk a few steps back, maintaining the hand signal and reinforcing the word STAY
  • Walk back to the dog & reward with it with food & praise
  • As you progress, you may take more steps back / and or wait longer before doing the above

You may use titbits, held between your thumb & middle finger, while doing the STAY command (like in the SIT command, only different position), just to get the dog’s attention

Do not expect immediate results with this, it may take time. Patience, consistency & repetition is the key. If the dog moves, just go back to the SIT command  and restart  with STAY. Do not reward with dog with food yet, and most of all, keep calm,  no yelling or scolding the dog.

It’s important that the dog associates this hand signal with the required action. This will become useful to get the dog to stay when from a distance .. without the use of verbal commands.

Stay Command
Stay Command
Stay Command
Stay Command


The command for this is your hand flat / horizontal with palm to the ground. In the pic below however, my son’s hand  is somewhat bent as he’s holding food between his fingers (same as the SIT hand position, but reversed)

  • Hold hand in front / near dog’s nose (it will smell the food)
  • Say DROP and lower your hand to the ground, repeat the word DROP
  • Usually the dog will follow as in the pics below
  • You may need to adjust the angle of your hand drop. Too near the dog, and it may stand up (backaway). If the hand position is too far away in front, this may make the dog move towards you instead
  • As soon as it “drops”, give it food & praise
  • Get it back up to the SIT position (treat & reward) and repeat

Here again, it will take time for the dog to get used to it … it may be confused at first, but with repetition of the above, you’ll get there.  Once it’s used to “drop” & stay “dropped”, you may apply the STAY command and COME command (see details on COME  below)

Sequence of the DROP command
Sequence of the DROP command
You may keep hand in this position for it to continue to stay “dropped”
You may keep hand in this position for it to continue to stay “dropped”


  • For this to be effective, its best if you’ve already mastered the SIT & STAY command first
  • Start with the SIT position
  • Walk back and reinforce the STAY command
  • Lower your arm down to your side, hand straight, palm facing the dog (bend your body forward a little, if it helps)
  • Initially, you’ll have titbits held between your thumb & middle finger (just like the SIT command, only different position) .. see pics below
  • Upon doing this (& the dog will see the food), immediately say COME, repeat COME if necessary
  • Eventually the dog will associate this hand position with the command COME and the required action
  • Reward and praise the dog when it comes
  • You may also apply the SIT command when the dog comes, and ONLY THEN reward it
Notice the COME hand signal as circled
Notice the COME hand signal as circled
Notice the COME hand signal as circled
Notice the COME hand signal as circled
COME Hand signal with food
COME Hand signal with food
COME Hand signal with without food
COME Hand signal with without food

I hope you’ll find this instructional guide of use for a joyful and healthy relationship with your pet. Know that each dog is different and what works for one may not necessarily work for the other in the same manner. Experiment and adapt.

Feel free to share this around. I’d love to hear your feedback and any questions you may have in the comment section below or drop me an email at if I can be of help.



Lessons From The Rose Bush

Perhaps you were once (or still are) like a beautiful rose bush. You stood out, had beautiful foliage, displayed this awesome spray of vibrant flowers, so fragrant. Yes, you had your share of thorns as well, but these were well shielded and overshadowed by your sheer beauty. People liked you and you possibly even stood as feature in the entire garden.

You Get Pruned

One fine day “the gardener” comes along and brutally cuts you down, he takes away from you everything that you see as you, your beautiful flowers, the slender branches that gave you form and shape, your beautiful green foliage, all gone. All that’s left behind are bare stems, unsightly, naked, the beauty gone, the thorns within you now clearly visible and stark.

Inner Alignment Rose pruning

One may ask, seriously dude ?, why on earth would you cut down a perfect and beautiful growing rose bush. I’m guessing it took a while for it to reach this stage and it probably had its share of challenges to overcome to be where it is now. At face value, it certainly seems ridiculous and unfair to the plant .. like why ?

Such is life, one may say. One day, life’s a bed of roses, the next day we are struck down bare. How many of us have gone through similar, an illness, cancer, a break up, a loss of someone, kicked out of a job, thrown into the deepest and darkest of places, the list goes on.

The Challenge

It can be hard to pick up the pieces, hard to make sense and meaning out of all this. Some of us just get dragged down so much, it’s just difficult to bounce back. You hate the world, you hate your life, you hate yourself. At times suicide may even seem like a viable option. Others in comparison trudge along, but the sparkle is gone, life’s just a drag spinning round and round.

Then there others where all this can resemble water off a duck’s back , they move on, they become more resilient, they bounce back like one of those bouncy balls.

So, why is this ? Why do different people react differently to similar circumstances. Now I say this with the utmost respect for each of your situations as I’ve not lived your life, I’ve not felt your pain, how could I know what you’ve gone through. I don’t ! and I’d never presume to know.

The Lessons

However, what we take from life can be connected to what we perceive of life and of the trials and tribulations of life. “Can be connected” Ha ha .. I’m being light with my words here, in fact perception is everything !!

Lets comeback to the rose bush. Usually the rose bush, if left to its own devices, unattended and left to grow on its own, can get rather gangly and unsightly, spreading out. Resources and nutrients are spread across and between maintenance, growth of these gangly branches and to flowering. Sometimes the bush starts to seed at the expense of flowering. This whole gangly thing can get even more unsightly during the colder months and when spring comes, new growth which produce a new burst of flowers can happen. However sometimes, as in this case, there can be inadequate opportunity for new growth, new vibrancy to happen when the rose bush is the way it is.

And such is life too.

Part of the science behind the practice of pruning of roses during winter is to stimulate and encourage new growth and vibrancy come spring. To let nature take its course, to trigger the plant’s blueprint to overcome, to survive and thrive. To regrow what’s been lost, and quite often in turn, with greater vigour.

“something may have to die first for something new to grow”

The Choice

So ! Let’s come back to the concept of perception. What can you make of the “pruning” that’s taken place in your life ? Yes, it could be seen as unfair, you did not deserve it, it is real, you’re living it and it can be hard for others to understand this at times.

But, it’s said that so long as we hold on to the negative effects of what’s happened, the reality of our life can turn out to be just that. Hence the choice is ours !

One could choose to see it as just that or alternatively choose to move on, look for the lessons within, learn from it and find a way to allow the pruning to nurture the new growth and vibrancy within you. Could this perhaps been part of the greater plan in your life?

I’ll leave it here, perhaps touch more on this in a later blog. But if you have been “pruned”, do take a chance to consider “that outside of the box”, the hidden meanings, the hidden lessons within the “pruning”.

Know too that we can inadvertently entrap ourselves within that deep and dark place by totally accepting and unwittingly being too accustomed to it. It comes down to a matter of choice of perception. At times “You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.



Just Jump – Take A Leap !

Goldfish jumping into the sea
Just Do It – Jump!


There are times when you may wonder if where you are in your life is where you should be ? ….And you feel deep down, something needs to change, but  Aggrraaahh ! It’s just hard .. The How’s, The What Ifs come in. Continue reading Just Jump – Take A Leap !



The Dark Swamp Metaphor

One can metaphorize the experiences and challenges of our lives as a long journey, segmented by beautiful paved paths, lush meadows, rolling hills and then too, raging rivers, torrent downfalls, rocky paths, swamps, steep mountains, the list goes on.

How do we then negotiate this ? Continue reading The Dark Swamp Metaphor



My First Blog Post

Hello, my name is Tony Ratnam a.k.a. (Abang Joe).

Well, I’ve finally done, started a blog page, after sitting on the intention for ages. I have loads of stuff in my head that I want to get out, based on my journey in life, my experiences, my passions, things I know, self authored articles based on the work on I do. Hopefully this is the catalyst to me writing my first two books, currently too trapped in my head .. LOL !!

First a bit about me & I’ll proceed to tell you the story behind “Abang Joe“. Continue reading My First Blog Post