TRAINING FOR LIFE
If you are starting with a puppy, then the first thing on your mind, if he or she is supposed to live in your home with you, will be house training or house breaking. However, during this phase, you can and should also be teaching your dog basic manners.
If you have acquired an older pup or adult, the manners training will be the same except that if your new dog already has some bad manners, you will have to work harder to over come old habits.
A bit of personal story line…
I had not had a puppy of my own for many years until almost a year ago. Last summer, June 2016, about a week after two of my most beloved older ‘pups’ (both house dogs) aged 17, passed away, I needed some puppy love to help with my grieving. I have raised many puppies over the years but my youngest dog (outdoor ranch dog) last year had turned 5 years old and it was time to acquire a large dog friend for him while he was still young enough to help me raise another large dog puppy.
I found a Great Pyrenees/Golden Retriever puppy, 9 weeks old, male, and a bit bashful. I fell in love with him immediately. He and his 4 remaining litter mates ran away from us (my husband and I) when we walked into the outdoor kennel where he had been born and raised thus far. His Golden Retriever momma was quite friendly and ‘Dadda’ apparently was the neighbour’s Great Pyrenees so we didn’t see him. Normally, when picking a puppy, I would pick one with a friendly outgoing personality, and with a middle range dominance. I wanted a male puppy, and there were only 2 male puppies left so pickings were slim. The shyness did not worry me as the puppies were very Great Pyrenees in physical appearance, so it was obvious, their sire was a purebred Great Pyrenees. Great Pyrenees are generally reserved with strangers, from a young age depending on breeding traits. As to dominance, I took a chance on that, and hoped with early training and my 5 year old dog’s influence, dominance would not become an issue.
I named him Ciro (Seero), which is spanish for ‘sun’ or touched by the sun’. Imagine a Great Pyrenees puppy and then colour him a light Gold on all the areas the sun would touch him. The name suits him perfectly. I quarantined him in a spare outdoor kennel area that I have in my Dog kennel facility for about a week or so, and then gradually I introduced him to my older dog, Sirius (pronounced with a long i), who is a Golden Retriever/Collie X. After that, I allowed Ciro to mingle with some of my dog kennel guests along with Sirius on a regular basis. To make a long story short, I have ‘socialized’ him with many dogs, of all ages and sizes so that any aggressive dominance would not be a problem even as an adult. Ciro and Sirius have become best buddies and Sirius has taught and continually reminds Ciro, that Sirius is the dog boss.
Since Ciro will not be a house dog, the training is very different. There has been no house breaking but there has been a lot of socializing with dogs, horses, chickens, cats, and people. I taught him early on that jumping up on people is NEVER allowed. He still has to spend most of his time in an outdoor run because I don’t totally trust him to stay within our ranch borders but we are working on that every day. Ciro is almost a year old and was recently neutered, and has healed up nicely from that.
My point here is that all training is done gradually, and is something I work on with my dogs with every single interaction with them, every single day, every minute they are close to me.
Now back to Training for life..
Whether you have a young puppy or older dog, as I mentioned in the beginning, training them is done with every interaction that you have with them. It is not a matter of letting your puppy run wild and then in desperation, when behavior has become unbearable, you sign him up in an ‘obedience’ class. Obedience classes have their uses, especially if you need to learn to leash train your dog and expose him or her to other dogs…. however it will not solve your at home behavioral problems with him or her.
For instance, every puppy and dog, needs to learn ASAP, that jumping up on people is NOT good manners. It is easy to teach them this first lesson when they haven’t learned any bad manners yet.
Here is a Free quick list of Basic dog manners you should teach your dog to be polite.
- Train a dog not to jump up on people
- No mouthing of any part of a person’s body or clothing
- Sitting when asked
- Waiting until you say Okay at mealtimes
- Waiting until you give permission to step through a doorway or gate
- Walking on leash
7. Learning the phrase ‘Leave it!’
These are the seven most important things you should teach your dog. They are easy to teach but you have to work on them with EVERY interaction you have with your dog. What I mean is, you will not be setting aside a training session once a day or once a week to teach your dog basic manners. You will be working on teaching your dog these 7 basic manners every time you are close to your dog. Everyone in your family or home that spends time with your dog, should also be doing the same.
#1- Jumping up on you
When your puppy jumps up on you, do NOT push your puppy off of you with the flat of your hand, do NOT give him eye contact, and above all, do NOT talk to him in a soft tone or tell him something inane like ‘Down!’. The word ‘Down’ is a command that is best saved for when you are teaching him or her the more advanced ‘lying down’ at your request. That is a pet peeve of mine actually. So often I hear someone say ‘Down, Down, Down!’ in desperation or exasperation, when their dog or someone’s elses’ dog is jumping up on them. It means NOTHING to the dog unless he or she has been especially trained to lie down on command. I should note that a dog that will lie down on command with simply the word ‘Down’, is a well trained dog indeed and would not be jumping up on you either.
What should you do then? This is what I do. Imagine my puppy Ciro, cute puppy that he was and still is, jumped up on my legs in a plea for attention. If I give him eye contact, place my hands on him to push him off, and I use a word he doesn’t understand anyway, I have just REWARDED him for putting his paws on me. Yup, Ciro wanted attention, he wanted me to notice him, and I have just rewarded him for jumping up on me.
Instead, if I give him a nudge off of me with my leg or knee, look away and say a sharp non word like ‘Ah,Ah!!’ or ‘Hey!’. If he persists, I would step forward, towards him so that he loses his balance. I would be using gentle methods like these with a young puppy or a timid dog. With a more aggressively jumping dog, methods have to be more severe. Now if Ciro was an older puppy or adult, that had not learned this most important lesson and persisted in jumping up, with such force that he pushed me off balance? I would step forward first to put him off balance and use a sharp non word. If he persisted and was very pushy about it, I would bring my knee up just as he was coming up, so that his chest or belly made contact with my knee and I would use the sharp non word again. Obviously, with an aggressively jumping little dog, this would not work, stepping forward, and giving a light chuck under the little dog’s chin with the sharp non word, would be the method with small dogs.
If Ciro was big enough that a knee could make contact and yet he still persisted to slam into me, I would use my fist under his chin or use my arm to chuck him under his chin as he was coming up to slam into me. If Ciro came up from behind me, I would quickly flip one of my heels up to make contact with his belly as he was crashing into me from behind. I have had to do this with many bad mannered dogs in my Dog Kennel facility. In fact I have two damaged knees as a result from large dogs smashing into my knees at high speeds so I take this very seriously indeed!
However, if you are beginning with a young puppy, and you are consistent with the training, you will never have your future medium to large adult dog pushing you off balance, throwing you to the ground, or otherwise dis respecting you by putting his paws on you. Little adult dogs can be very annoying too, with jumping up and pawing at a woman’s panty hose, tights or leggings, ruining them with snags or tears. Men also, don’t appreciate having their suit pants snagged or spoiled by a little dog jumping on their legs. Your dog of course doesn’t know when his or her paws are dirty. If you allow your dog to jump up on you when his paws are clean but get mad at him or her when the paws are dirty… how does that make sense?
Your dog, small or large, does not know when you are wearing scruffy jeans or nicer clothes. So you allow him to jump all over you when you are wearing at home clothes but get mad at your dog when you are dressed up and he jumps all over you? It certainly does not make sense to your dog. Little children can be scratched badly by any size dog by this behaviour and knocked over by larger dogs. Your little frail Granny, could be badly injured by your dog jumping on her. Still thinking its not so bad to allow your cute pup to jump on you? Think ahead.
Note-regarding jumping up by little dogs, while it is not dangerous to you, it is nevertheless a behaviour that often leads to other less desirable behaviours. When a dog is putting his paws on you, little or big dog, he or she is not showing you respect at all. I have observed dogs putting their paws up on another dog. If one dominant dog does this to another dominant dog, the result is often a fight. If a lower dominance dog does this to a dominant dog. the more dominant dog will warn the other to get his paws off or else! When young dogs do this to each other, it generally results in play or a wrestling match because they haven’t yet established pecking order. Remember, you must be more than a playmate, you must be a Leader first. My older dog, who is great friends with my much younger dog, will play and wrestle with his buddy but on his own terms. When Sirius, my older dog, wants some respect, Ciro, my younger dog, soon finds himself disciplined with teeth!
#2- Mouthing or grabbing with the dog’s teeth
My dog, Sirius, STILL tries this at almost 6 years old! The Retriever breeds are very mouthy, it’s in their DNA to ‘hold’ something in their mouths. It’s partly what makes them such good retrieving dogs. Sirius does not mean to hurt anyone but when he gets excited, and he loves people a little too much, it’s his way of ‘holding’ your hand. Usually using my sharp non word “Ah Ah!!” will stop him from doing this. However if he persists, I immediately give him a quick tap or slap over his muzzle as he starts to grab my hand. His desire to mouth is very strong. Not all dogs are this persistent and some never are. Ciro has never mouthed anyone, he has no desire to.
Again, everyone, including visitors to your home, must be given directions in this. If your puppy continually ‘grabs’ your hand, a sharp tap on his nose each and every time might be necessary. However, with the very aggressive pups, it might be necessary to follow that with a ‘redirection’. What is a ‘Redirection’? It’s redirecting your puppy or adult’s attention from grabbing your hand or clothes to something else. For example…If your pup does this while you are playing with him or her, pop a toy into his mouth instead, to teach him that mouthing a toy is great but your hand is off limits. Same with grabbing your toes or clothing as I have seen some dogs do. Using the sharp non word of ‘Ah,Ah!! or Hey!!’ at the same time you give him a sharp tap, reinforces this as a negative too.
#3- Sitting when asked
This is an easy one and something most dogs learn quickly, especially when food is involved! I always keep some good quality dog treats in my pockets. During seasons where I have to wear a jacket, my pockets always contain treats. During the summer when I might be wearing clothes without pockets for dog cookies, I often wear the infamous ‘fanny pack’ to hold treats. I start the puppy to learn SIT by holding a cookie or treat between my fingers so he can see it but not grab it. I hold the cookie in front of his nose and slowly move it towards his eyes, just over his muzzle, often this results in the puppy sitting down on his own.
If he does not sit but instead tries to grab the cookie anyway, quickly enclose the cookie in your fist and reach over and push his butt down. If you do this often, your puppy will Sit on his own, just having you put the cookie in this position, close to his nose. After he does this every time, now you can add the word SIT every time you put the cookie in the same position. Of course, be sure to let him have the cookie each time he sits! Now that your puppy has mastered the meaning of what SIT means, you can start making him WAIT a bit before giving him the cookie or treat. Make him wait a few seconds and then give the cookie. Next time, wait a bit longer and use the word WAIT in a quiet tone and then reward him.If he moves back to standing or jumping, do not reward him while he is doing that! Ask for a SIT, again, wait a bit and give the cookie. Get the idea? You want to teach him to be patient too. The WAIT command or request comes in very handy when you are teaching your puppy or adult dog to sit and wait for you at a doorway, gate or sitting quietly in front of his food dish. More about that next,,
#4- Waiting at mealtimes
Now you are going to take it a bit further. Practice the WAIT at mealtimes when you put his food down for him. I NEVER feed my dogs FREE CHOICE. Why? I want my dogs to know that food comes from me or whomever in the family does the feeding. When your puppy or adult dog realizes that his favorite human is the source of all the good food and treats in his life, he or she will be a lot more willing to please you. By feeding your dog FREE CHOICE, you are giving up a valuable tool in communicating with your dog. Also, I have observed that dogs fed free choice become very picky eaters, and well… mealtimes are just not very exciting for them because the food is always there. The food also has the potential to become stale or attracts other animals or even insects. Seriously, it’s boring enough to eat the same food every day, and then also have it sit there in the same dish all day long? Try to see from your dog’s point of view. I would feed a young puppy 3 meals a day until about 4 months, and then feed 2 meals per day, generally at consistent times, every day.
Now to teaching the WAIT at mealtimes. The first few times, you are going to have to be very quick and you might have to be a bit pushy if your dog tries to push you back. With food dish in hand, I would ask for SIT, then when he’s sitting, say WAIT in a quiet but firm tone and start to put the food down. If your puppy rushes forward, immediately pick up the dish, blocking him from the dish with your legs and feet. It’s important not to let his mouth make contact with the food, which is why I mention you must be quick! Start over again and don’t give up until he at least stays in the SIT position until you take your hand away. As you take your hand away, you say OKAY! in a cheerful tone to let him know that you have just given him permission to eat this wonderful food that you have so thoughtfully provided for him ! After you and your puppy or adult dog have practiced this over a few meal times and he’s gotten the idea… now you will start asking him to WAIT a bit longer. You will have to step in front of him very quickly each time your puppy tries to rush. Your goal is to have your puppy or adult dog, SIT, and then WAIT until you say the word OKAY, no matter how long it is. Please don’t torture him though, he’s hungry and wants to eat, expecting your puppy to sit and wait for a few minutes is really unnecessary. A few seconds, counting silently to 5 would be reasonable.
#5- Waiting at the door
Now that your puppy understands SIT and WAIT and OKAY, he is ready to learn to wait at the doorway or gate before stepping through with your permission.
This is a hard one for very energetic excitable pups to learn! That open doorway or gate is beckoning, calling them forward to more adventure and fun! If you have an outdoor dog that you are going to give some indoor time, like I do with my outdoor ranch dogs, this command is easy to teach. An outdoor dog is going to be a bit more hesitant to come into ‘your zone’, your home space, so therefore he or she won’t necessarily come barging in like a high speed train! The training is the same however, for house dogs in training or outdoor dogs/indoor dogs in training in this.
I would suggest that you start this training with the puppy wearing a leash, hopefully, he or she is already wearing one and is used to it. The leash should be a nylon one or similiar, not a chain that could injure your hands. Keep it loose but in your hand. Put your puppy or adult dog in a Sit, then say WAIT and open the door slightly. If your pup sits quietly… GREAT!, however most dogs will stand up at this point and try to go out through the opening. Close the door and as you did when you were teaching the SIT,WAIT,OKAY at mealtimes, put your puppy back into Sit and start over. That is just the introduction to the lesson.
Next, (you will have to be quick with this!), as your dog is sitting and looking at you expectantly, open the door a little wider but as the puppy rushes to the door, quickly close it! If your puppy bumps into the door, all the better. You have just gotten his attention that a door opening does not mean to rush through it. The leash in your hand should be loose and is only a safety precaution to prevent your dog from escaping. A note of caution, you don’t want to get your pup’s paw squished in the door or his neck. Timing is the key! During this exercise, you are in the house with your pup, you will not be stepping through yourself and waiting outside. That is an advanced lesson.
Once your puppy has completed this exercise well enough that he will wait a second or two, while in the SIT postion, with the door partially open, quickly give him a treat! Your Pup has earned it! If you were planning on taking him outside, then perform this exercise again and when he has performed well again, instead of a treat… say OKAY and using your leash, invite him to go outside with you. This is just the first part of this lesson. Eventually you will want your pup to stay in the SIT AND WAIT position in the open doorway until you invite him or her to go through. For now however, just go on with the rest of your day.
For the more advanced part of this lesson
Your pup should do the first part of the lesson above very very well before you move forward. Once your pup is consistant with staying in the SIT and WAIT, you can step through the doorway or gate, turn around to face your pup or adult dog. If he moves, you start over. Your aim here is for you to be standing on the other side of the doorway or gate threshold and your puppy is sitting quietly facing you. Your puppy should be waiting for your magic word ‘OKAY’. Again, your training will go faster if you immediately give your pup a treat, timing is all important, when he is doing what you asked.
The picture on the right is your goal, so you can leave the door open and your dog will not cross the threshold without your okay.
Dogs, do not think like humans, they live in the immediate moment. Your dog will not be analyzing all the different steps of the training like a human would. You have to do any training in steps so you can get your puppy or adult dog to the point of reward. He will remember that moment of reward and will eventually connect the reward or praise to the act. It’s called conditioning.
#6 Walking on leash
Walking on leash is important, especially for a dog that requires walks regularly, for example, dogs that live in urban areas like cities. For those of us who live in rural areas, farms, acreages, ranches etc., leash training is often never done. Those dogs may need a leash to visit their Vet every now and then, but otherwise those dogs are often let out the front door to run around on their own. Of course it is vital that rural house dogs be taught their property boundaries. If a rural house dog will not stay within those boundaries, then putting them on a long line or in a fenced area will be necessary for those outdoor exercise or potty times. I never used to bother leash training any of my rural house dogs and neither my outdoor ranch dogs. It was not a big issue to have my dogs walking in a heel position on leash because they rarely left the property.
I decided to change that with my present two ranch dogs due to a couple of reasons. My older 5 year old Retriever needs 2 thorough professional groomings a year due to his longer coat. So I do need him on leash to take him to his Groomer. My younger dog, Ciro, needed to be leash trained at an early age as I was teaching him our property boundaries. Ciro, has the typical Great Pyrenees attitude that he wants to patrol the whole neighbourhood. I was glad that I taught him to respect the leash at a younger smaller age, as he is a whole lot bigger now!
Starting a puppy on leash is easier than working with a full grown adult, they are obviously smaller and weaker than full grown.First I suggest that you allow a very young puppy to get used to a collar for a week or two. Older pups or adult dogs just need a couple of day or so. Yes, you could just pop that collar on and immediately start pulling your puppy or adult dog around but you are going to meet with a lot of resistance. My method is gentler and less traumatic.
Speaking of collars, I highly recommend a Martingale collar for training. They come in almost endless colours and styles. Some have a chain and others do not, most are made of Nylon but there are also beautiful leather Martingales too. They all work the same however. I prefer the Martingale collars that also have an adjustable feature so the collar can be used for more varied sizes of dogs. The martingale collars are looser when the dog is not pulling but will tighten when pulled on. They are designed to have only a few inches of tightening (depending on size) unlike a chain slip or choke collar that really can choke your dog if he pulls hard enough. If your puppy learns that pulling results in the collar coming off, he has just learned a bad behavior. The Martingale collars are wonderful for those breeds with narrow flat heads like collies and some retriever breeds. A regular collar will slip off of those head types if the dog pulls backwards. These collars can be left on the dog too, unlike a chain choke collar, which should NEVER be left on a dog. A choke collar can get caught on something and if you are not around to rescue your dog, he or she can choke to death!
There are helpful aids like head collars (Gentle Leader & Halti) that will discourage a dog from pulling but when you are starting off with a young puppy, these devices will not be needed. If you are starting a older puppy or adult dog with some very bad pulling habits, I recommend the head collars, Gentle Leader is a good one that is fully adjustable but there are others. I personally have used the Halti head collars and Gentle Leaders both in my dog kennel facility. I found the Gentle Leaders stay on better but they have to be very snug and some dogs hate this. The Halti head collar has to be the right size or it slips off the dogs nose when he paws at his muzzle. I would advise that when working with head collars, that you attach the other end of the leash to a regular collar on the dog as well. Why? Just in case the dog paws the head collar off his nose that you still have some control.
There are some dogs that absolutely HATE anything on their nose like a Gentle Leader or Halti, and are determined pullers with any collar worn on their necks. For those dogs, I would recommend a Front Leading Harness or Front Range Harness instead, not a normal harness where a leash attaches to the base of the neck (top of the back) but a harness where you attach the leash to the front of the dog, at the chest. Pulling on the chest area, actually redirects a dog from pulling forward to being angled towards you. This takes the dog’s attention and focus away from pulling and puts his attention on you. These harnesses are also very good for very little dogs because #1- while a tiny dog can’t drag you, if he or she is a puller, your dog is liable to damage his trachea (windpipe/throat). A tiny dog breed does not have the heavier muscling around the neck and therefore they are more vulnerable.#2- a little dog generally feels safer wearing a harness anyway and it’s easier to scoop him up out of danger if you need to.
Another tool that works very well for many dogs is a patented collar by Cesar Milan. If you have watched any of his shows, you might have noticed that sometimes he uses what looks like a double collar. For a collar to work as intended, it should be right behind the ears. Most collars will slip down and then when you pull, the pressure is in an area that stimulates the dog to pull HARDER! Either that or you have a dog that is choking himself.
Regarding Leashes, use a sturdy 6 foot nylon type of leash with a strong snap. The retractable leashes have no place in training. A retractable leash can easily be pulled out of your hands by your dog and also have been known to suddenly break. Both situations of course result in a dog on the loose. Both situations have happened to me… not fun. Also, during training especially, you want your dog to be walking beside you, not in front of you.
How to leash train your dog- Attach a leash to drag around under supervision for short periods. Every now and then, pick up the leash and gently tug him to your side, he may struggle at first. If he does struggle, pause but don’t let go, be patient. As soon as puppy pauses or stops struggling, praise him or give him a cookie (if you have one in your pocket). Do this a few times in one session, and then gradually start walking with him . At this point, don’t worry about whether your puppy or adult dog is in that perfect position beside you, that will come with practice. However, if your dog just wants to charge ahead of you, pulling like a sled dog, immediately go in the opposite direction!
You want your dog paying attention to you and this is a great way to teach him that you are the Leader. Keep walking in your new direction until your dog starts pulling you (and he will), again, immediately go in the opposite direction! You are the Leader, You decide where the two of you will go, if you do this exercise often, soon your pup will be looking to you for direction.
Once your dog is looking to you for direction, he or she will no longer be in FRONT of you, your dog will be BESIDE you, trying to pick up on your cues. It will take a LOT of persistence but a dog that learns to walk beside you is a true joy to walk on leash. A very headstrong independent dog will always be testing you, so make sure you ALWAYS act like a Leader.
These are leash training basics, some trainers like to teach a dog the command of HEEL, meaning to walk beside the human, slightly behind. This command would be considered advanced because it is meant to bring a dog back to ‘Heel position’, even if that dog is running around playing or working (hunting, retrieving etc). This heel command training is not necessary if your intent is simply to have your dog walking quietly on leash by your side. I will not be covering that here.
Last but not least in importance is number seven on the list.
#7- Learning to LEAVE IT!
This command can have life saving implications. Imagine someone dropped a chocolate bar on the floor and your dog naturally ran over to check it out. Most people know that chocolate, especially a whole chocolate bar would either make a dog very sick or even cause it’s death.
If your dog had learned the LEAVE IT! command, he or she would leave it alone or would drop it at your command. You’ve just saved your dog’s life.
I find this command comes in handy with my ranch dogs when they have dug up a nasty bone or some piece of garbage (from our fire pit for burning some garbage) that I don’t want them to have.
This command works best when you use a very stern tone of voice and strong eye contact. With a willing to please dog, sometimes it’s as easy as that and your dog will drop it like it’s hot! Ask your dog to SIT, WAIT and then go over and retrieve the item. Immediately praise your dog and if you have one, give him a cookie. You see, this is why I always try to have dog cookies on my person, you never know when you will need one to reinforce some training!
If your dog wants to run away with the item, follow him at a walk, get his attention by saying his name. Use an authoritative tone of voice, not angry and not begging. If your dog turns towards you, praise him and then firmly command him to SIT, then when hopefully he sits, you tell him WAIT. If it appears your dog is willing to comply, tell him GOOD BOY in a soothing praise type of voice, walk over and take the item. At this point, showing him a treat would really help too. You can also pretend to have a treat and then praise him, fluffing up his fur the way he likes instead if he or she releases the item. Yup, sometimes you have to be tricky!
I have saved the Leave it command for last because your dog needs to learn the Sit, Wait and Okay commands first as basic obedience or manners. If your dog has not mastered those, chances are he will not respond to Leave it training. Why? Without basic manners training, your dog will not see you as the Leader.
You can teach the LEAVE IT! command while playing with a toy as well, toss a toy he likes a short distance from you, maybe a couple of feet so you can grab it. When your dog reaches for the toy, you say LEAVE IT in a firm tone with eye contact, at which point YOU quickly grab the toy. Ask for a SIT and immediately give him a treat. Eventually, you can take it further while the two of you are playing by offering to ‘trade’ his toy for a cookie. It’s a fun game but goes further than that in teaching your puppy or adult dog to leave or drop whatever he’s just put in his mouth or not to pick it up at all.
We have reached the end of the Free seven lessons on basic dog manners techniques. I will be adding more tips on training, games, food treats etc. in my regular posts. Stay tuned 🙂 If you are still in the House training phase with your pup or older dog then you may want to check out that page.
I have often said to my husband that I could not have owned and operated my Dog Kennel facility for almost 23 years if I hadn’t had the example of Cesar Milan. Watching Cesar handle aggressive dogs, gave me knowledge and courage to handle and correct many dogs in my care. You can find Cesar Milan’s training books, DVDS and other products in my Store Review page.I highly recommend his DVD set called Socialization & The Language of Dogs.
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