Teaching your dog basic obedience is necessary, not only because a well-behaved dog’s a pleasure to be around, but because basic training could help keep them safe in potentially harmful situations.
Before training your dog, consider your methods. Dr Michael Ferreira of Three Rivers Veterinary Clinic tells us more about positive and negative reinforcement:
‘There are several schools of thought regarding dog training. My suggestion to anyone interested in training their dog is to consider what they’d like to achieve through that training and then adapt their training style to their dog’s needs,’ Dr Ferreira explains.
Whether you choose positive reinforcement (rewards for good behaviour) or negative reinforcement (punishment for bad behaviour), you need to keep it consistent. ‘Consistent reactions from you to every behaviour your dog exhibits will teach them what to expect after completing a certain action,’ says Dr Ferreira. In theory, your dog will learn how to exhibit good behaviour to get a positive reaction from you.
Training: come, sit, stay
Based on Cesar Millan’s positive reinforcement methods, here are some basic at-home obedience training guides for you and your dog to try:
Make your dog stop what they’re doing and come to you when called. Start teaching your dog this as soon as they recognise their name.
- Put a leash and collar on your dog.
- From a few steps away, say, ‘come’, or call their name while giving their leash a light tug.
- When they’ve walked up to you, reward them with affection and a small treat.
- Once they’ve mastered this while on their leash, remove it and practice the command in a safe, enclosed area.
Keep your dog calm and seated in any situation. In Dr Ferreira’s experience, this is one of the easiest tricks to teach your dog.
- Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose.
- Lift your hand up, your dog’s head will follow the treat, causing their bottom to move downwards.
- Once they’re sitting, say ‘sit’, give them the treat, and show them affection.
- Repeat a few times daily until your dog sits when told to without having to smell the treat first. Thereafter, ask your dog to sit before meal time and walks.
Keep your dog still, calm, and in one place. Try this once your dog has mastered the ‘sit’ command.
- Ask your dog to sit.
- Hold your open hand in front of you and say, ‘stay’.
- Take a few steps backwards. If your dog stays, reward them with affection and a small treat.
- Slowly increase the distance each time you say, ‘stay’.
- Always give your dog a reward for staying, even if they’ve only managed to stay put for a few seconds.
Remember: Obedience training is a big test of your dog’s self-control, be patient and don’t get discouraged if it takes longer for them to master advanced commands.