Introduction: Dog Training Basics
Hello everyone! We recently adopted a puppy and while she is great to have around, was lacking in even basic obedience training. Since I had the time, I decided to train her myself. If dog training has taught me anything is that dogs can be lazy and unmotivated when they want to be. The largest part of this battle is to be persistent, supportive of their learning, and consistent. If you don't do the training the same way every time, your poor puppy will not know what it is that you want from them. All you will need to train your puppy is a lot of time, patience, and dog treats. At the end of training your dog should know exactly what you expect when you give them your commands.
Step 1: Sit
The sit command is the best command to start out with in my personal opinion. From there you can add other commands like shake and lay down. There are two methods that seem to work quite well. The first is position your dog in front of you with a treat. Show them the treat by presenting it directly in front of them. Once you have their attention, move the treat above their heads and towards their tail. Most often, they will instinctively follow the food and they will sit down. While you move your hand back and when they start to sit down, give the sit command. If this method doesn't work you can apply a light pressure directly over their hind legs. This will actually force them to sit down. Make sure you give the sit command as they are sitting. I recommend the first method, everything in dog training will be easier if your dog wants to participate! If you have to force them, odds are it won't be as effective. When your dog does sit, be sure to reward them with a treat and lots of attention. For best results, it seems that doing these commands in sets of 10 and then taking a 30 minute break will allow your dog to really comprehend the command without getting burnt out or getting sick of the treats you are giving them.
Step 2: Shake
For us, shake was a behavior that she already performed before training but it was always inconsistent. If this is the case for you as well, this is a very good thing as it always seemed like behaviors that they already do are easier to train. Rather than them needing to learn the command and the action, they just need to make the association between command-behavior. To teach the shake command, first instruct your dog to sit. Then gently grab their front paw while giving the shake command. For us, she responded really well to "Put her there" so that's the command we went with for shake. If your pup tries to nibble on your hand during shake, just say something like oops, or no bite and move your hand away from their mouth. While you are moving your hand, don't let go of your puppy's paw. They will associate bite= let go which is not something we want to encourage. Once they calmly let you shake their paw reward them and repeat.
Step 3: Lay Down
Lay down is a easy command to do if your dog has mastered sit. To teach this action, first have your dog in the sitting position. Show them a treat then close it in your hand. Put your closed hand on the floor in front of them (close enough that they can smell the food) then slowly move your hand away from them. They should follow your hand to get the food. Remember, dogs can be lazy and will stretch out to get food before they will attempt to move to get food. As you move you hand back, give the lay down command. When they lay down, give them a reward. For added bonus effect, when you see your dog lay down on their own outside of training, praise and reward them while telling them "good lay down" or something to that effect. They will make the connection that command=action=reward.
Step 4: Stay & Come
This command was the most difficult to teach our puppy. The old saying that dogs are man's best friend is proven by them not wanting to be away from our side even for a brief moment. This one can be done in phases. Start out by commanding your dog to sit or lay down. They will be less tempted to follow you if they are nice and comfortable. Once they are comfortable, give the stay command and take a few steps back without turning you back to them. If they stay still call them to you and give them their reward. If they come to you before you call them, tell them oops and put them back on their spot and try again. Once they are comfortable, slowly build up the distance that you span between the stay and come commands. During this time it is always important that they can still see you. Once they have mastered stay with you in their field of vision, you can begin stepping out of their line of sight. As always, reward good behavior. If they start to relapse, turn down the intensity.
Step 5: Leave It
This is one of those overlooked commands that can be a very useful tool to keep your dog safe and out of trouble. With this command, you can stop them from getting into things they shouldn't be (like the trash) or things that could harm them (unsafe food, dead animals etc.). For this command, you will need two treats, one in each hand. Show puppy the closed hand and give the leave it command. Let them try to get the treat from your hand. Once they give up and turn their attention away from the treat in your hand and back to you, reward them with the treat in the opposite hand. Repeat until they immediately turn away from the first hand after receiving the command. Once they get consistent with this, you can ramp it up. For this you will need two treats, your dog's favorite and something that is just acceptable. Start by holding the decent treat on the floor near your dog. Give the command, if they try to get the treat tell them oops and move the treat away. If they do listen and turn their attention to you, give them their favorite treat instead. This process will teach them to ignore items even if they smell like food. Just like with the stay training, if they start to get impatient, start from the beginning.
Step 6: Finished! (For Now)
Congratulations, with this tutorial and some patience, I hope that your dog has taken the lessons we have covered today and learned them well! Having a dog that has even some basic commands will give you some peace of mind just to know that they will respond to your instructions and will promote a healthy relationship with you and your furry friend. While we have covered 5 basic commands today, it is important to know that dog training is a continuous process and is only ever completed when you decide to stop training them. Thanks for reading and I hope this guide has helped you out!