I prefer to use positive reinforcement training principals in my classes. The most common positive reinforcement is the use of small, nutritious treats. Small means fingertip size!! Remember to use nutritious, low calorie treats - check with your local pet shop if you have any questions about treats. As your dog learns the basic commands, and responds promptly, you can wean them slowly away from constant treats, and more verbal praise. The positive reinforcement, combined with the constant activity, variety and repetitions help the dogs learn very quickly. I place less emphasis on perfection in the sit or down, and more that the dog simply performs the command. In other words, I don’t care if the dog sits/downs exactly by your side in a perfect heel position, more that they sit/down quietly and close to you while you perform your exercises. Through repetition the dogs learn their basic obedience in a less stressful setting. Not to insult the 2-legged part of the team, but there is no “performance anxiety” that can make training more stressful. It’s all about getting exercise and having fun, the training component falls naturally into place.
The most basic command is the “watch me.” This teaches your dog to focus on you. Taking one of your yummy doggie treats hold the treat in front of your dogs’ nose, then raise the treat to between your eyes. You should now have eye contact with your dog. In the beginning maintain eye contact for several seconds, then give your dog his treat. When your dog learns the command lengthen the amount of time he watches you.
To teach the sit, ask your dog to “watch me.” When you have his attention take one of the treats, hold it above his nose, and raise it above his head. You may have to gently push his bottom to the ground. As soon as his bottom hits the ground praise him and give him the treat.
The “come” command can save your dogs life, and is a must-have command. While teaching the command, only give the command when you know you can enforce it if your dog fails to obey. And always generously treat when it is obeyed!!! Start with your dog on the short leash, in either a sit or down position. Walk back to the end of the leash. Give your command, then start to run backward a short distance. Stop, let your dog catch up, and have them sit in front of you. Treat when they are seated in front of you.
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