Basic Obedience Training for Dogs

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Introduction: Basic Obedience Training for Dogs

Mastering basic obedience commands is a vital part of being a responsible dog owner.  These basic commands make navigating the relationship between animal and owner much easier and keep both you and your pet safe in emergency situations.  

From an outsider's perspective, basic training can look either very simple or extremely difficult.  Recognize that training can take a lot of work.  Also recognize any dog can learn at least the most basic and necessary commands.  Dog owners occasionally run into road blocks when training, don't become frustrated.  Seeking assistance from a professional trainer benefits first-time owners or individuals struggling with teaching commands or correcting problem behaviors.  Don't ever hesitate to ask for help!    

Training takes a lot of time and patience, even if you aren't trying any complicated or 'fancy' tricks.  The responsibility of pet ownership includes properly training and socializing your animal.  Before considering adopting an animal, please take into account how much time you will need to dedicate to making sure you have a happy, healthy, well-socialized and well-trained animal.

Finally, dog ownership and even training should be fun!  Don't be too serious and make sure both you and your pet have a good time so you will look forward to future sessions!  

Step 1: What You Will Need

1. A dog!

2. An area in which to practice where it is free from distractions when you are first training your dog. As you and your dog master commands, you will want to move to areas with more distractions, such as outdoors, to continue improving your dog's ability to focus on you and the commands.

3. Treats or a toy as rewards. Figure out what works for you and your dog. Some dogs are very food driven, and some dogs prefer toys and play as their reward. Additionally, consider the size of treats you use during training! Treats that are too large fill a dog up quickly, so seek out small treats for training.

4. A short leash, and a longer training leash for distance work.

5. Realistic expectations!
  • Don't expect to get it done on the first few tries. Some commands take a lot of time to teach and perfect.
  • Try to make training sessions about 15 minutes long at the most.
  • There will be times when both you and your dog are frustrated. When struggling with a certain command, simply move on to another or better known command. Come back to the one you are struggling with later.
  • ALWAYS end training on a positive note. This keeps training sessions fun for you and your pet. Next time, your dog will be excited when it is time to practice!

Step 2: Sit Command

1. Make sure you have your dog's attention and a treat in hand. Stand or kneel in front of your dog and hold your hand a little higher than your dog's head.

2. Use the treat to guide your dog into position by slowly moving the treat straight back over the dog's head and towards the tail. Your dog should point his nose up and his rear should drop towards the ground.

3. As the dog moved into the sit position firmly say 'Sit' and make the hand signal shown in Picture 2.

4. As soon as the dog moves into position reward your dog with a treat and some praise, like saying, 'Good sit!'

5. If your dog is having trouble understanding, you can help guide them with a gentle push. Place two fingers on his hips and gently push his rear towards the ground while firmly saying 'Sit'.

Step 3: Down Command

For this trick, your dog should already know the Sit command. This command can be a little more difficult to master because it is a very submissive position for your dog to take.

1. With your dog in the Sit position, kneel in front of your dog.

2. Hold a treat in front of your dog's nose and guide him by lowering the treat slowly to the ground. Firmly say 'Down' and make the hand gesture shown in Picture 2.

3. As your dog moves downwards he may only slouch. If this happens, move the treat towards or away from your dog as needed to further guide him.

4. As soon as your dog is down in the correct position, reward him with a treat and praise.

5. If you are having trouble guiding your dog into the Down position, you can physically guide him by placing a hand on your dog's shoulders and lightly pressing it down to the side while saying the command. Praise your dog as soon as he drops to the floor.

Step 4: Stay Command

To master this command, your dog should already be able to do either the Sit or Lay positions. You will need both a short lead (6') and a longer lead to assist in training.

1. Begin with your dog in the Sit or Down position.

2. Standing in front of your dog, firmly say 'Stay' while making the hand signal in Picture 2.

3. Move a short distance away while keeping eye contact with your dog.

4. If your dog remains in position, then step back towards him and reward him with a treat and praise while he is still sitting. As your dog's response improves, you can move to a longer lead and distance. Eventually you can begin practicing off-leash in a fenced area.

5. If your dog breaks position, guide your dog back to the sitting position in the original spot and try again.
 

Step 5: Come Command

To begin working on this command your dog should already know the 'Sit' or 'Down' and 'Stay' commands.  You will need a longer lead for this command.

1. With the dog in the Sit or Lay and Stay position, walk a few distance away from the dog on the long lead.

2. Firmly, but pleasantly, say 'Come' and make the hand gesture shown in Picture 2. Then reel your dog in with the lead if necessary. You should only say this command once!

3. As soon as your dog reaches, reward him with a treat and praise.

4. As your dog improves, you will be able to begin practice off-leash in a fenced in area. If your dog refuses to come off-leash, then return to using the long lead until he begins responding appropriately and consistently to the come command.

Step 6: Credits and Thanks

The Tutorial:
This tutorial was put together by my group and I as a project for Technical Communication English 314 at Iowa State University.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding the tutorial please feel free to leave a comment.

The Credits:
All photos were taken by Brittany Stine (author). 

A Special Thanks To:
My group members Gregory Yu, Jay Hong, and Josh Moore.
Our professor, Jacob Rawlins.
My fiance, Daniel Burkard, for posing in the pictures.
My dogs, Phooka and Cinder, for being cooperative (most of the time).

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    19 Comments

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    I don't ever advocate pushing on a dog's back. You never know what dog is harboring a back or joint problem that's gone undetected. You can easily just capture a sit. There's no force involved. It also makes the dog think instead of you working them like a puppet.

    Remember if you are doing a fun activity, like teaching fetch don't use treats, play with your dogs as a reward. This will help the dog be more interested and excited about training. Also no dog wants to eat while playing

    Tip for those of you with overweight pets or a fear of your pet gaining too much weight: Set a portion of your pets food aside as treats. Usually, it's not so much the treat at hand as it is the prospect of gaining praise and getting something from you. :)

    Excellent suggestion. Yes, always make sure you subtract the amount of treats from the meals you give to your dog to make up for those extra calories they're getting.

    If you're still worried about weight problems you can also use low-calorie, healthy treats like a cubed apple. :)