Training Your Dog- Creating Another Well-Mannered Member of the Family

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Even though my purpose for training my dog may differ from yours, dogs need training in order to execute a specific skill or activity on a consistent basis. I also know that I have to remember that what I may be training my dog could save its life or someone else’s life.
My dog developed negative behavior, consistently became worse because I ignored it instead of trying to remedy it. I realized my dog needed training and so did I.Basics for Dog Training

I’ve learned that there are certain techniques and activities any dog owner needs to do no matter what type of training:

1. In order to create a consistent and lasting response from my dog, I had to dedicate at least 20-30 minutes of formal training several times a day to the actual training techniques. I had to think of my dog as a child who is learning something for the first time! I had to repeat the activity three or four times per session so that it could become a learned response.
2. I needed to train everyone in my family to use the same command that I was using. My dog needed to connect the specific commands to the specific action I was telling him to do or else he was very confused by the whole thing!
3. I learned NOT to feed my dog right before I had a training session with him. He had no interest in any treat I had to offer him because he was too full already!
4. I realized that negativity was counterproductive, so I made sure that even if training didn’t go too well, I ended the session on a positive note so that he would not associate training with a negative experience.
5. I always tried not to yell, even I became frustrated with him. I practiced keeping a soft, steady, and firm voice during training. When I yelled, he became startled or afraid and would usually run away.
6. I found that once my dog mastered a command, I could remove the treat as a constant reward and just used treats sporadically to keep the dog’s behavior consistent.
7. Praising a dog is a key component of training. So, I made sure that as I rewarded him, I simultaneously praised him for listening.

In Home Dog Training

At some point, I felt that I might not have the necessary time to properly train my dog on my own. I found out that there are professional dog trainers who do in home dog training for you. They will usually begin with the basic five dog commands(see below).

At some point during the training, the trainer involved me in the process so that my dog understood that I was his master and he needed to follow my lead. My trainer seamlessly handed over the reins to me and taught me the basic commands so that I did not have to start from scratch.

There are five dog commands that are the foundation for any type of dog training techniques that my professional trainer taught me to practice with my dog:

1. Sit

• Stand in front of your dog
• Hold a treat close enough to your dog’s nose without touching it
• Elevate your hand so that your dog follows your movement with his eyes
• This should cause his hind quarters to naturally lower and for him to sit
• Once in a sitting position, say the command “sit” and immediately reward him with the treat and praise him.

2. Come

• Put your dog on his leash
• Bend down to your dog’s eye level and then say, “come” and pull gently on the leash
• When he comes to you all the way, reward him with a treat and praise him
• The leash can be removed once the dog fully masters the command

3. Down

• Hide a treat in your closed hand
• Hold up your hand in front of the dog’s nose
• Let him sniff your hand for the treat
• When he appears to have realized it is a treat, immediately move your hand down to the floor or ground and allow him to follow it
• Do this until his entire body is down on the floor or ground
• Once completely down, say “down” and give him the treat and praise him
• Do not push him into the down position at any time

4. Stay

The pre-requisite to this command is that your dog has mastered the “sit” command

• Command your dog to sit.
• Put an open palm in front of your dog’s nose and say “stay.”
• Move back a few steps. If he continues to stay, go back to him and give him a treat and praise him.
• As your dog masters one distance, continue to move farther and farther away.

5. Leave it

• Make sure to put a treat in each of your hands
• Show your dog one hand that is hiding the treat and say “leave it,”
• He might do many things to get at the treat, but ignore him
• Once he gives up, give him the treat from your other hand
• Repeat this until the dog automatically moves to the opposite hand and looks at you for the reward.
• When he does this, reward him with the other treat and praise him.

Training an Aggressive Dog

I needed to consider further training for my dog in order to alleviate his potentially dangerous behavior, so it was important to first analyze why he was aggressive before I would even begin the aggressive dog training process. I consulted with my veterinarian for this and pinpointed the cause of the aggression before I started to address it with specific aggressive dog training techniques. Because an aggressive dog can be unpredictable, my dog wore a muzzle while he was being trained.

I found that my dog’s aggression was being triggered by a specific person, so I gradually introduced the dog to this person with a calm demeanor and a constant positive reassurance that the dog was safe.

I approached the person who was the “trigger” with the dog in tow on a leash in a non-threatening manner by extending my hand and giving them the treat to give to the dog after an initial welcoming environment was established.

This took several weeks to master, but the dog eventually showed less and less aggressive behavior the more he was reassured that the person was not threatening to me or to him. Many treats later, he mastered his fear about the person who was no longer a threat to him.

I also found that certain environments were a trigger for my dog that prompted aggression. I have another animal, a cat, that the dog was not comfortable being around. I modified the dog’s surroundings by removing the cat from the space that the dog usually occupied. I gradually re-introduced the cat in the space and rewarded the dog with a treat each time he exhibited positive behavior towards the cat.

For the first few months of training, I made sure the cat was secured in a carrier crate to avoid any confrontations between him and the dog that could result in harming either of them. This was a process that involved a lot of patience and positive reinforcement. You also have to be aware of the disposition of the other animal and remove it if it shows a high level of anxiety. I definitely did not want to deal with a scared cat!

Guard Dog Training

I also considered buying a dog to train as a guard dog. Although many people refer to dogs that are trained to guard as “attack” dogs, this is not what a guard dog is actually trained to do if it is done correctly. They are actually trained to be non-confrontational as opposed to learning how to strike.

Guard Dogs- Good Personality Traits for Training

I found that a dog that can be trained easily for this should probably have the following characteristics:
• They must have confidence – a shy or a timid dog will be difficult to train.
• They must be socially healthy – this means they can be around other dogs and around people and not act uncontrollably aggressive.
• They are not self-centered – they have more of a loyalty to you than putting their own needs first with behavior that elicits always wanting or needing something for the purpose of comfort.

Guard Dog Training

A guard dog in training needs to be properly socialized and have a grasp of basic commands. These include responding to being asked to “sit”, “stay”, and to stay “down.” (see above training techniques for these commands).

• Choose a word that triggers the dog to bark on command. Do not pick a common trigger word that can be figured out by an intruder like “bark” or “speak.” Choose an unusual word that is completely unrelated to what you are commanding the dog to do like “apple” or “doorway.”
• Say the word with as close to the same inflection and tone each time you use it.
• Put your dog on a leash and tie them to a designated area.
• Slowly move backward away from your dog far enough to be out of his sight. At the same time, hold a treat out in front of you.
• Wait for your dog to bark, then immediately go back to him and give him the treat while simultaneously praising him verbally with “good apple” or whatever your chosen trigger word is.
• As your dog becomes better at this ritual, move him to a different place and repeat the same technique.
• Do not reward him if he continually barks. Wait for him to stop. Give him the trigger word command once more. Repeat this until the dog barks once time, then immediately reward him with the treat.
• Repeat three or four times consecutively or for no more than 40 minutes.
Once the dog seems to have mastered the command, have someone else stand outside and knock on the door. Stay inside with the dog and as the knock occurs, say the trigger word. Reward the dog if he barks one time at the knock on the door. This should also be repeated three or four times until he can associate the door knock with having to bark.

Dog Training Camp

There is another option that I took into consideration besides in home training and that was considering a dog training camp. They offer a variety of techniques and types of classes as well as different types of locations that are both indoors or outdoors. I went to check one out in my area and found out that I had options for training like the following classes:

Group Class: For dogs with a calm demeanor and strong social skills, a class with a variety of dogs will work well. In fact, some dog owners prefer that their animals get acclimated to other dogs while they are in process of learning basic skills because the additional activity of other dogs teaches them to be less distracted in a busy or noisy environment. Puppies are also considered to be better suited for group classes since it teaches them social skills right from the start.

Private Training: Although most often these types of classes are more expensive, they are better suited to dogs that have behavioral issues and are being trained to act less aggressively. Usually, with private classes, professional dog trainers are addressing a particular issue with barking, anxiety, social adaptability, and possibly marking inside the home.

Board-and-Train: You can also keep your dog at a dog training kennel and have a professional dog trainer work with them over a period of weeks to train them. If this is an option that you choose, make sure you understand the methods that the dog trainer will use as well as keep you up-to-date on the dog’s progress. When the training is over, make sure that you are given the proper instructions to continue the training at home on your own. Even better would be video instructions on how to perform the commands.

I found that with so many ways to choose from to train my dog either on my own or with professional guidance, I could ensure that my dog understood the role he played in my home as well as creating another well-mannered member of the family.