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Dog Training 101

By Katie Cincotta

WHEN they roamed the wild as wolves, dogs came and went as they pleased. But since being domesticated, and taking up room on the sofa, dogs have had to fit into man’s world – which means playing by the rules.

Enjoying regular meals, cuddles, grooming and vet checks are just some of the perks of being a pet – but with domestication comes the expectation that dogs will respond to us, behave, respect others and stay out of danger. Dog obedience training is how we teach them.

Puppy training tips

For most dog owners that means enrolling puppies in a dog training class. Puppies should be enrolled in puppy preschool between 8 and 16 weeks to promote good socialization between other dogs. But don’t wait until then to start basic commands. Use positive reinforcement (rewarding for good behavior) to show your pup how to come, sit, stay and drop. You may find that heeling by your side takes more time and patience, but as a start use food as enticement to teach your dog good manners.

To sit: Hold small bits of food over your puppy's nose and move slowly backwards
To drop: Draw food down to the floor
To stand: Bring food back up
To come: Entice with food held out at a distance
To heel: Keep food at your thigh as you walk to teach puppy to heel or follow.   
To hand feed your puppy: Offer the food on the flat of your hand, if puppy tries to grab the food quickly close your hand and cue “Gentle”, repeat until puppy takes food gently.

Toilet time - To avoid stained carpets, housetrain your pup from the first day. Lay down newspaper or puppy nappies (which have a scent to attract your dog) to show your puppy where to do its business. Take your puppy there every 45 minutes if you can and praise and reward them each time they eliminate in their toilet area.

More on puppy training

The key to dog training

Most dog trainers agree that the secret to an obedient dog is consistency. Always follow the same commands to ensure your dog gets the right message. If you only ask your dog to sit occasionally for food they soon learn to stretch the boundaries and end up not sitting at all. The tone of your voice is also important – keep your “no” voice low and firm and your “yes” voice bright and excited. If you change the tone of your voice with your commands, the dog can become confused, so always use your positive, happy tone to call them so that they associate their name with good behavior.

If you need your dog to come to you in an emergency – yelling at them certainly won’t do the trick. If your dog has been trained to respect its name, a cheerful but forceful “Max, come here!” followed by lots of praise and perhaps a food reward should guarantee your dog is never out of reach.

Dog trainer Ron Williams says: “Dog training is moving away from the traditional competition based training where we expect perfect heels, etc to pet dog training where the owner is shown how to get the dog to walk without pulling on the lead, to come when called no matter what it's doing, and be well-socialised with other dogs and people.”

This new style of dog training is achieved through positive reinforcement, which involves rewarding the dog when it does what it is asked to do. Because at the end of the day, nothing beats a pat on the back for a job well done.

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