Okay, now you’ve got everything in place, and you’re ready to begin your first dog obedience training session. For this type of basic training, there are five basic commands you’ll be teaching your dog: heel, stay, sit, come and down.
Normally you’ll want to begin your first training session with your dog on a lead. If you’ve enrolled in a formal obedience training class at a pet store or other facility, you’ll follow your instructors instructions at this point. If you’re training your dog at home by yourself, then your first task will be to train your canine the “heel” command.
The "heel" command
Even if you don’t teach your dog another obedience command, you’ll want your dog to heel, and walk on a leash without pulling. Everyone has seen dog owners who seemed to be constantly dragged and pulled all over the place by their dogs, especially when there are other animals around. This isn’t just bad behavior, it can also be dangerous if the leash slips out of your hand and your dog runs out into the street.
When training for the heel command, you’ll normally want your puppy or adult dog on your left side at all times. The object is to have the dog walking alongside you, at a relaxed pace, without straining the leash, or pulling or surging ahead. You’ll want to use a choke collar on your canine when training for this command.
When the dog does try to pull on the lead, correct her by tugging upward firmly (but gently), raising her neck and leading her back into position beside you. Don’t stop when you do this, and voice the command “heel” in a steady tone each time. Also use positive reinforcement when your dog obeys the command with a “good dog!” and a treat or pat on the head.
Once your dog seems to “get it” and has learned to heel during your training sessions inside the house, you’ll want to start moving your training outside. A good place to start is in the back yard, where there are fewer distractions. Once she’s heeling on command there, you can move to more challenging locations like a park or along the street, where there will be many more things to compete for her attention.
The "sit" command
Once you’ve trained your dog to heel, the next lesson you’ll want to teach her is to sit on command. Again, it’s best to begin indoors, in an area with few distractions. And have your treats ready to hand out, as they are an important component of this training exercise.
Position yourself in front of your dog, either kneeling or standing (if it’s a large animal) and make sure you have her full attention. Then, with a treat clearly visible in your hand, raise your hand slowly up and over your dog’s head. This should cause your dog to raise her nose up toward the treat, and her back legs should pivot down as she lowers her read end to the floor.
At the same time, issue the command “sit” over and over, until it becomes reinforced in your dogs mind. Then praise the dog once she’s fully seated, and give her the treat as a reward. Once you’ve completed this exercise several times, try it again with an empty hand (but still give her a treat at the end).
Then, when the dog has mastered that, try giving the sit command with no hand movement. If she sits on a voice command only, give her a treat and perform the exercise several more times. Then you can move the training outdoors, or into an area with more distractions until your dog is sitting on command in a variety of situations.
The “stay” command
Once you’ve trained your pooch to heel and sit on command, the next lesson you’ll want to teacher her is to stay. This can be a tough one for a lot of dogs, especially puppies or hyperactive dogs who like to run around and are easily distracted. Anyone who’s raised young children know now hard it can be to get them to sit in one place for any length of time, and it’s no different with puppy or adolescent dog.
With this lesson, it’s especially important to train in an area with few distractions. Indoors is best, away from guests, family members and other pets. You’ll want your dog’s undivided attention. Begin by giving your dog the sit command. Then, standing directly in front of her, give the command “stay” in a firm voice. At the same time raise your arm at the elbow, vertical to the floor, with your hand open and palm down toward your dog.
If your dog stays in position, then back up a few steps, keeping eye contact with her, and give the same command. If she gets up or moves away, get her back into a seated position, and try again. Expect this training to take some time, especially with older dogs who are used to running around unimpeded. Repeat the exercise, moving a few steps away each time. Eventually you’ll want to move into another room entirely and have your dog stay put even when you’re not visible to her.
The “come” command
Once you’re dog has learned the “sit” and “stay” commands, you’re ready to move onto the “come” command. For this training you’ll want a longer leash, typically one that’s ten feet long or longer. And once again you’ll want to start your training session indoors, in an area with few distractions.
Begin by giving your dog the sit, and stay commands. Once she’s settled in, step back and away from the animal to the end of the leash. Make sure you have eye contact, and your dog’s full attention before proceeding.
At this point say “come” in a firm and steady voice. At the same time gesture with your hand in front of you, the back of your hand facing your dog, and move your hand toward your chest. You should only give the come command once, and you can tug on the leash to get your canine moving if necessary.
Again you want to associate the command with the action in your dog’s mind. Eventually the tugs on the leash won’t be necessary, and your dog will walk toward you on the command and hand gesture alone. When she does, make sure you give her praise and a treat as a reward.
You can move the training outdoors into a fenced yard at some point, without the leash. Then the next phase is to travel to a park or other area with more distractions, and complete your tutoring until these commands have become second nature.
Avoiding obedience training burn-out
Once you’ve completed your first dog obedience training lesson, you’ll want to end on a high note and heap lavish praise on your puppy or adult canine. To avoid overstimulation and training burn-out (for you and the animal) it’s best to limit your training sessions to once per day. And don’t make your sessions too long either - usually thirty minutes is enough.
And don’t take it too hard if the dog doesn’t seem to remember a command that you taught her in a previous training session. The key here is repetition, drilling the command into your dog’s brain over and over until it sticks. This is where you’ll need to have patience, and stick with the program until you start to see lasting results.
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