Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
Teaching sit stand down, stay and no with a start on the come command
Scientists have only recently proved that many old wives tales have a basis in fact. Fish is a good source of brain food and chewing willow leaves takes away pain as the leaves contain aspirin. We now have the technology to prove this but how did the old wives arrive at their conclusions. All they could have done is simple watch and study behaviour. Today, we do not seem to have the time to do this during the normal working day and watching television takes care of the night. We who have worked so much with dogs have had this time and hope that we too we have come to the right conclusions.
We all have the choice of how to teach our children and probably we use methods we think are correct and as originally taught to us. Most parents have been teaching their children without having to refer to books or training classes for a very long time. Children are unable to talk when they enter the family so how do we communicate with them. We use body language, tone of voice and teaching words to things. You may also play certain skill games to help children to learn like the stacking the cones or shaped blocks into shaped holes. If you have a baby or young child, in your house you do not take it out once a day for an hour of training but teach the child throughout the day. The same approach applies to dogs in your family.
When we bring a new dog into the family we attempt to teach it commands but what are we actually doing. If the dog were an alien what would such words mean to them or their words to us. Would we not communicate by body language in the first instance? Would we not hope that they would recognise our welcoming posturing like holding out a hand in friendship. They may see our gesture as an aggressive sign. Where would we start? Luckily, dogs are not aliens and so they remember and understand much of our body language as we once again try to learn theirs. The early hunter gather must have communicated very well with dogs in order to join forces with them for mutual gain. If they had only written the instructions on the walls of their caves, we may have been further along the dog-training path than we are today.
Ask yourself do you need to teach a dog to sit, stand, down or come or do they do this anyway quite naturally and willingly. If you have a puppy in your house, does it not willingly follow you everywhere? Therefore, all you need to do is to teach them to associate the action to the word or visual command giving praise or a titbit to maintain this willingness. We unfortunately have other things to do and so often opportunities to teach our pet pass us by. Why not let your pup carry the peg bag when you hang out the clothes.
Probably the first word we use is the No but is it the actual word as you could just as easily use any other word that is short, sharp and closest to a deep growl. It is not just the word it is also your body language showing your disapproval. This is the same stance shown by the top wolf in the pack. It would bend its head down with full eye-to-eye contact, growl and standing front on to the offending dog. We still have the same stance and that is why our pet dog can understand it.
One thing we must be careful of is that when you talk to your dog you are showing attention to your dog. If a dog is seeking attention even you saying no to your dog, it has still succeeded and achieved its aim. Barking, jumping up at you and even defecating in the house are other attention seeking messages to you by your dog and are common problems that owner’s frequently request resolved. You need to learn that you control when attention is acceptable and when it is not. This is very important for you learn how to show your dog that now is not the time in a way it understands yet not feel rejected. You may hear dog handlers refer to their dogs as son and simply dogs act similar to children and they never grow up.
The standard and common enforcement type of training does work but do you wish to train by fear and pain. Take for instance the sit command which is taught by pulling up hard on the check chain with the lead, leaning over the dog and pushing its bum into the floor. Your dog will read all three moves as aggressive stances and why it tries hard to fight the command. Stand is to jerk the dog forward into the stand position with the check chain and lead. Down is to pull on the check chain and lead downwards again leaning right over the dog or even placing your foot onto the lead to drag the dog into going down. All dogs will try to fight against this type of training but eventually the dog must submit and obey. This method does condition the dog to the desired reaction but by using pain and is so unnecessary. I think I would object if someone taught me by this method.
If you have some time to watch your dog, you will see that it will quite naturally sit, stand or go down on its own accord. All you need is to teach the dog to associate the command or hand signal to these normal actions. Therefore, there are many opportunities during the day when a dog will sit on its own accord. One occasion is when you are preparing to give it its meal. When you know it is about to sit give the command and when it has done this give a reward by praise or a titbit. Try to remember that all commands lead to nice rewards for your dog so it will want to repeat them again. Just a tip to help you, try moving the food bowl over the dogs head towards its tail and it will probably sit as it looks up at the moving bowl. There are times when you know your dog is about to go down so give the command followed by praise or a titbit. Stand is an easy one because when you stand up your dog usually does the same especially at around mealtime. (Maybe not if the dog is over fed and fat.) One other leadership point is to eat something in front of your dog before you feed them. Most dogs may not react but some intent on challenging you may look disgruntled.
If your dog comes up to you without your command and sits with an expectant look, do not give a titbit. It is now using your training and sitting on its own accord just for the titbit. I just love it when they do this because it shows they are thinking. Just sit sideways on to your dog and ignore it. Your dog will soon get the message and go off to lie down. When you have reached this point in your dogs training you can give yourself a pat on the back and smile, as you are now points ahead of your dog. Do not worry that you may think you might become a dominating handler by this method you are simply thinking the same way as the dog. This type of training will establish you as the leader that your dog can readily accept and once this happens you will then begin to work as a team.
The best way to teach the stay command is with the help of the no command. If you know that when you get up your dog will too then immediately say no and it will hesitate during which time you say stay and show it the palm of your hand like a police halt signal. You then quickly go over to your dog and give praise and a titbit. You will then need to vary the length of time before you go to your dog but remember to always go to your dog and give praise or a titbit. Never finish the stay command by letting the dog come to you. You can teach the stay in the sit, down or more difficult in the stand position. Do which ever you find easier. I prefer the down as the best.
You must keep re-enforcing the commands until you feel confident enough to know your dog will respond without question. Do not rush the training but if your dog starts to do this on its own without the command just to obtain titbits you know you have already succeeded. Do involve the rest of the family with your training so that anyone in the family can give your dog the same commands and obtain the same rapid reaction. This also helps you as you will see that another member of the family my not obtain the same reaction. If you analysis this it helps you to understand your dog.
Now for the recall or the come exercise which seems to cause the most problems. The traditional teaching method is to use a long lead attached to the check chain. You leave the dog in a sit (but not a stay) and the handler then go to the full length of the line and call the dog to them for praise or a titbit. If the dog does not come to you, you need to jerk the lead to make the dog come and then you give loads of praise. After a time this is done off the lead but as to its effectiveness if there is something else to tempt the dog it may not come immediately. Sometimes the dog will recognise this as an exercise and will come every time but again outside where it matters and where there are other distractions it may not be so willing. If the dog fails to come, we see the neck pull routine again or the owner has to chase after it, catches it and so goes back on the lead and so it goes on. There are too many negative problems with this taught as a single exercise that the dog finds little reason to comply other than save itself from chastisement. Are aim is when you say come to your dog it has a very good reason to want to come straight back to you without any hesitation. To achieve this we must consider what will encourage a dog to want to immediately comply with our command.
As this is the most important control by you as the leader, I will spend all next week on this one command to teach this without having to use pain or show anger.
I must give some words of warning. Owning a dog can seriously improve your health. Certainly, walking is healthy but sitting stroking your dog actually reduces your heart rate and so lowers your stress levels. Believe me successfully teaching your dog just one exercise will give you a definite buzz.
We hear a lot about corporate bonding but why not form a bond with your dog. If your dog is lying down in the sunshine just occasionally lie down and rest your head (not your full weight just symbolically) on the shoulders of your dog for just a few minuets. At first, your dog may lift its head and then if it is comfortable it will probably lie down again as it is accepting you and this will improve your bond with your dog.
Never let your dog lie on top of you or on your legs pinning you down nor
allow your dog to place a paw over your leg. Leaning against your legs is another
little doggy ploy. I know it looks sweet but this is not bonding from the dog
but it is attempting to show it is in control of you.