Our first three blog posts offered up what Train Your Dog Month (TYDM) is, what you’ll need and how to get organized, and what you might want to teach your dog.
Let’s get into the HOW to teach your dog!
The how is the fun part. There isn’t any required equipment. At Smart Dog University, we like to use a little dohickey called a clicker. But it’s not imperative that you have one. You’ll get much faster results and your dog will understand you much more quickly by using one, but dogs can learn without it. (You just have to be full up on patience without the clicker.)
The internet will make your head spin when it comes to the “how to’s” of anything. Here’s the straight skinny on dog training:
There isn’t good behavior. There isn’t bad behavior. It’s all just behavior.
Here’s an example:
Your dog hears someone come through the door. He greets the person with woofs and barks, jumps right up on them planting his paws on their chest, and grabs their hand in his mouth. Is that good behavior or bad behavior?
That kind of depends, doesn’t it?
If it’s your mother in-law, you’ll probably tell me that it’s bad behavior.
If it’s an intruder bent on doing you harm, you’ll tell me your dog’s the best dog in the whole wide world.
Behavior is just behavior.
Most dog owners hate that statement. That statement doesn’t help them fix their dog.
Ah, but it does!
Because behavior is just behavior, there’s not a whole lot we can’t fix about your dog! Your dog jumps on mother in-law? Not a problem: we’ll teach your dog a new and different behavior. We’ll teach him to sit. And not only to sit. But to sit when people come to your house. Problem solved. Just like that.
It’s that easy.
Let’s get started.
Pull out your worksheet where you wrote what you’d like to teach your dog. You should have written something for your dog to do. See the previous post if you wrote something like “I want my dog to stop doing whatever.” We need a solid, easy to define behavior to teach.
Let’s say you wanted to teach your dog to greet guests politely, instead of jumping on your friends when they walk into your house. We’re going to focus on the behavior of SIT. For this exercise, and every exercise, really, I want you to get your dog to the point where you only need to ask him once to sit and he puts his rump right on the ground.
Here’s the bottom line: if you have to ask your dog more than once to do something, it’s not really trained.
There’s no way we can add real life elements like distractions (people knocking on the door, for instance), distance (how far away your dog can be from you), and duration (how long can he stay seated). Without distractions, distance, and duration, that sit won’t do you (or your guests) any good.
So, if you’ve never taught your dog to sit — or — if your dog can’t sit the first time you say it, you’re going to start right here.
I like to use a clicker when teaching my dog because it makes the process very clear for the dog and speeds up training. However, you don’t have to use a clicker, it’ll just take you a little longer to get the reliable behavior we need for your dog to remain sitting when guests come in.
There are two ways to teach your dog to sit.
One is to just pay him whenever he sits all on his own. This is the easiest way to train, but sometimes not the most efficient. Just click whenever your dog sits, all on his own. When you click, follow through with a treat. Here’s a short introductory article and video explaining how to use the clicker.
The other way to teach your dog that you love it when he sits is to set him up to sit, then click and pay him. To do this, hold a small treat in your hand, palm up. Use your thumb to hold the treat so it doesn’t roll off your upturned palm. Put that treat right in front of your dog’s nose and slowly move the treat up and slightly backward, just over your dog’s head. If he jumps up, your treat hand is too high. You’re not saying anything to your dog, just let him follow the treat.
The instant your dog’s rump hits the floor, click and treat! Repeat this with the treat in your hand two more times, always silently, and always clicking and treating when your dog gets it right.
Now, we have to get rid of the food in the hand.
On the fourth try, you’re going to pretend that you have food, putting your hand in the same position as the last three tries. This time, when your dog sits and you click, reach quickly for the food (because it’s not in your hand) and give your dog a treat.
Continue doing this until you’re ready to bet me $100 that your dog will sit as soon as you begin to move your hand upward and backward slightly. Now, and only now, are you ready to add the word into the process.
To add the word sit, follow these steps.
Say “Sit,” in a pleasant voice, then move your hand up and backward slightly. As soon as the dog sits, click and treat! Continue working on that until your dog begins to sit immediately after you’re saying the word.
Now you have two ways to ask your dog to sit: a word and a hand signal. Cool!
Next time, we’ll talk about how to add in those real life elements like distractions, distance, and duration so that your dog can sit like a champ when people come into your house!
Remember, this method works no matter what you’re teaching your dog. So if what you want to teach is different than the sit, no matter. Simply follow the guidelines above with the behavior you’re interested in teaching, and let me know how it’s going!
Your turn: what are you going to teach? Leave a comment and let me know. Also, leave a comment if you’re not sure what to train (or how to get started).
Great post! I wish I’d known about clicker training when my Elka was a puppy, so I could have trainer her with it exclusively. However, the impression I’d gotten of it prior was nothing nearly so clear and succinct as what you’ve just laid out.
Behavior is behavior. This is one of the most important things to keep in mind, I think!
Laurie Luck says
Thanks for stopping in, Jen! Yes, behavior is behavior, that’s the bottom line and that’s what’ll solve just about any problem you run into. Woofs to Elka!