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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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)
- 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
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 email@example.com if I can be of help.