Teaching the Essentials

It is common to think that any problems your dog may have can be training issues. For example: your dog shows signs of aggression towards dogs or people, perhaps he is nervous around new dogs and becomes worried when people arrive at your home. These issues are actually behavioural problems and will not be sorted by following some training program. Instead behaviour problems must be dealt with by improving your dog’s social skills.

But remember for serious problems with an older dog you will need to work with a Professional Trainer to help you make the changes you required.

There are, however two essential skills that we should start with all dogs, regardless of age. The first one is that your dog should ‘Know His Name” the second is that “Give to Pressure”.

Essential Skill 101 - Know Their Name

The most important thing your dog will ever learn is his NAME.
Your objective is to ensure that your dog realises when he hears his name then you need his attention. The more active you are with his name then the more attention you want.

Start by working with the dog in the back yard. Just wander around with no particular intentions. Have a few treats in your pocket. Then using an excited voice repeat the dogs name over and over, bend over and wave your arms at the dog’s eye height. Your body movement will help to direct him towards you. As he moves towards you, activate the clicker once and offer a piece of food, initially you may even throw the treat a few feet in front of you in direction of the dog. This will encourage the dog to continue towards you.

Continue moving around the yard, don’t look at the dog but wait until the dog is distracted with something else. Then repeat the exercise as before.

Three or four repeats each time will give the dog an opportunity to see the pattern. You can repeat this exercise a few times over the next week then you will see that the dog turns and looks for you when he hears his name. You must maintain encouragement when you want a dog to come to you. If the dog starts to dodge and weave around you then he is playing games. If you try to lunge at him to catch him then you are showing him that you are prepared to play his games. If he tries to involve you into his game, turn and walk away, there is a good chance he will drop the game and run to you to get your attention.

Essential Skill 2 – Give to Pressure

Objective: If your dog understands to give to any pressure on the collar he will become easy to walk on a lead by anyone. Your dog will also develop the patience to wait quietly when tied up anywhere, even at your favourite cafe.

Initially to teach this lesson you don’t even need to move. Place the dog/pup on a lead (ideally 1 - 2 metres in length) and maintain a position you feel comfortable with. Your role now is to ensure that the dog understands not to place you under any pressure. He may decide to move away from you to explore - you tug the lead and release. Tug and release continually until he stops pulling. You maintain your place DO NOT use any voice command and ideally don’t even look at him.

Remember, You are teaching the dog to Give to Pressure, the dog is not required to sit so if there is light contact just leave dog to choose either sit or stand. He is free to move around as long as he doesn’t pull against the lead. It is certainly acceptable in the early stages for him to circle around you, just swap the lead around your body and maintain your position. Once the dog realises that if he pulls against the lead then he is made uncomfortable, he will start to back off from a lighter pressure, now you can test and see whether he will back off before you Tug/Release.

Walk on Lead:

When teaching a pup to walk on lead you can use a series of short tugs to encourage the dog to walk with you. If the pup is reluctant to walk out have a couple of people he likes in front of you this encourages the pup to move forward. After a few minutes of walking stop and praise. If pup starts to fight the lead then stop, ignore him and his tantrum, wait until he settles and then continue. Sometimes pup will just prop and not move, however if you continue to tug on and off, you will find the pup loses balance and will take a few steps, then another tug will continue to keep pup moving. Do not drag puppy along.

Long Term Problems:

An older dog can often have a tendency to pull on the lead and drag. Bigger dogs are stronger therefore harder to adjust. The same Tug Release technique is used however the level of the tug you need to give an older dog is much higher. There must be a tug and release. Without the release the dog just leans and ignores. Remember the aim is for the dog to see that he needs to give to pressure.