There are different kinds of training methods and we will talk about the most common here. The first type of training is called verbal positive reinforcement. The second is clicker training and the third is the coercive or pack-leader training. There are proponents of each type and you can read up on all of them. Cesar Millan is the avatar of the pack animal approach but he now says that he uses it more for problem dogs. It is for dog rehabilitation rather than dog training. He actually uses both the pack-leader and the positive reinforcement types for training and our main dog training books by the Monks of New Skete (books cited at the end of the article) also use both types. Our doctor and hospital here in Burbank like the Monks training ideas a lot. Clicker training is supposed to be good also but harder to learn how to do. They say to practice clicker training on a spouse first which could be a lot of fun! The book below by Jill Abramson uses partly clicker training and likes it a lot. She also mentions that people who like to talk to their dogs a lot often like the positive training. At Rainbow we talk to the pets a lot in the hospital so positive training is natural for us. Often we talk so much that the puppies (“AppleJack”) here look at us very inquiringly. You have to give clear and concise instructions in training and they hear a lot of blah, blah, blah with their instructions. There are trainers that love any of these methods and many who use more than one also.
Puppies want to please so starting training early gives you time to bond with your puppy and is the easiest time for them to learn. They will still do well as adults though. Puppies can begin simple training (wearing a collar and/or learning about praise) as early as 8 weeks old but basic training can start between 12-16 weeks old. Training sessions should be kept brief-5 to 10 minutes at first-and always end on a positive note. The puppies at Rainbow called “AppleJack” learned to sit first and we always went back to that if they didn’t seem to be learning something new very well. Also a firm “NO” should be enough correction for most puppies. A reward for learning could be anything your dog likes. Small foods like the “Schein Lean Treats” that “AppleJack” loves or praise or the opportunity to play with a favorite toy are all good rewards.
Usually everyone teaches the Basic Five Commands first:
1. COME – Teaching your pet to come on command. Don’t grab him as soon as he gets there. Give a treat, praise and maybe a scratch for coming. Don’t call him in order to punish him which only teaches them to avoid you.
2. HEEL – This means you want the dog walking on your left side, his head even at your knee while you hold the leash easily. When it’s a puppy, you can be more relaxed as long as you aren’t pulling the dog along and he isn’t pulling you. Some people like to say “HEEL” but other trainers say “LET’S GO” or “FORWARD”. You just want to use a consistent word. “AppleJack’s” owner likes “LET’S GO” because we like to run first then slow down and walk nicely most of the time (Not Always). There are many ways to teach training. For instance, you can hold a squeaky toy in front of and slightly above their head and encourage him to look at the toy and then step forward and the puppy should follow. Squeak the toy if they stop or get distracted. Also praise the puppy if he looks up at you. This is called “checking in” and it is a good thing to encourage. Our owners are always asking us to “focus” by looking up at us. It does make us pay attention and can often be reinforced by holding a treat above their noses. When “AppleJack” was younger, our owners
could only get us to heel for short periods of time and then we wanted to play with the toy. It works well for short periods although we like to run and our owners want us to get worn out anyway.
3. SIT – There are a couple of ways to teach this too. Apples and I like the treat to be held over our noses and say “SIT” as you lift the treat up. We sat right down as the food was lifted over our heads. It worked the best of all the command we learned. Sitting is something that we do well.
4. STAY- This command consists of staying in a sitting (or down) position until you give him another command like “OK” or “GO”. We learned by putting a hand down in front of us and hearing the word “WAIT”. We will stay behind a fence until the word “GO” and the fence is opened. It works well but we do have trouble waiting sometimes because there might be cats to chase on the other side. Our training sessions are always kept short and we also get play time and treats after it.
5. DOWN – There are different ways to teach this last command also. They all start with your pet sitting first and either pushing on the shoulders and pulling the front legs gently out or using a treat and pulling it straight down in front of their face from a sitting position and then pulling the treat away at ground level. If they lie down, give them their treat right away. Dachshunds are very food oriented and the second way worked best for us. This works well with shy animals (like Apples) and very playful animals (kind of like Jacques).
Jacques and I want to add that cats can be trained too. We had a lady bring her cat into Rainbow Veterinary Hospital the other day on a leash. She told our veterinarian that it took her a while to do it but the cat learned well eventually.
Here at Rainbow, we used several ways for training. We took the puppies to classes at PetCo but we also used several really good books about raising a puppy. It is always good to read up before or when you bring your puppy home. We like: “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” and “The Art of Raising a Puppy” by The Monks of New Skete. These are a couple of the best books on raising a dog although there are others. We also love “The Puppy Dairies – Raising a Dog Named Scout” by Jill Abramson. The book is very entertaining and still gives an amazing amount of good help. She also had her problems during that year which makes you feel better. Last the AKC has a very good handbook called the “New Puppy Handbook”. It’s short so a good starter but packs in an amazing amount of information. It also tells you a good list of what you need before you pick up your puppy. This is very helpful to get you ready. HAPPY NEW PUPPY!