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Basic Training - How to control your dog.

Back to Training Page


You must ignore your dog’s attempts to get your attention such as whining, pawing, staring, etc.

IGNORE MEANS: No looking at your dog, no speaking to your dog, no touching your dog. When he demands attention you must pretend that he does not even exist (unless he is asking to go outside to urinate).
You must of course still give your dog attention every day but this must be initiated by YOU.

Your dog must now earn everything that he wants. This means that he must obey a command such as ‘sit’ before he goes outside, before he gets a treat, before he gets his dinner, etc.

Reserve at least half of your dog’s daily food allowance to use as rewards during training. Also make sure to have extra tasty treats. (e.g. cheese) for rewarding your dog when he behaves especially well.

Prepare your dog’s dinner at the same time that you prepare your own.

Eat your dinner while allowing your dog to observe. Attach him away from the table if necessary to prevent him from jumping up. Ignore any of his attempts to get your attention while you are eating.
Do not feed your dog from the table!

When you are finished eating you may add scraps from your dinner into his bowl. Then give him his dinner.

Do not allow your dog to sleep in your bedroom! Your dog should have his own bed area that is separate from all humane members of the family.

You should train your dog to obey basic commands such as come, sit, stay, when he is asked and not simply when he feels like it.

Reward your dog for obeying your commands! A reward is anything that your dog wants and is willing to work for. Food is an obvious reward but other rewards include verbal praise and toys.

Use low value rewards (e.g. piece of dry dog food) when training inside the home and save the higher value rewards (e.g. piece of cheese) for training outside where there are more distractions.

You may want to use a ‘HOUSE LINE’ in the home during this training. A house line is simply a long lightweight lead (at least 6 feet long) that is attached to your dog’s collar (ONLY when you are home with him) so that you can guide your dog (e.g. off the couch) if necessary without having to actually touch him. Once you have so guided your dog, you can then reward him. NEVER USE A HOUSELINE TO PULL YOUR DOG TOWARD YOU TO BE DISCIPLINED!

RE: FOOD REWARDS – When you first start this training you may want to show your dog that you have food treats in order to get him interested, but as you progress over the days you should switch to hiding the treats in your pocket so that your dog cannot see them. Once your dog understands a command you can wean him off the food treats somewhat by giving him a treat every second time he obeys, and later even less frequently. Remember too that food is not the only reward that you can use!

Move all dog toys out of your dog’s reach so that he no longer ‘owns’ any of his toys. Chews and bones can be left down for your dog but they should never be used as a toy.

You MUST play with your dog every day. A few shorter sessions are generally better than one long one. Make sure that YOU initiate the play session.

Take out one of his toys and play with your dog but only for as long as YOU want and end the game (i.e. put the toy away) if he gets over excited.

It is important to play fetch with your dog. Reward him for bringing the toy back to you, using lots of praise and maybe food treats too.

Tugging games can be played but only with you and you must win EVERYTIME. Winning means that your dog releases the toy when you ask him to do so. Make sure that you reward him for releasing the toy. DO NOT release the toy while your dog is holding onto it because that would be letting your dog win the game.

Try to end games (i.e. put the toy away) while your dog is still keen on playing.

NEVER punish your dog after the fact.

For example, shouting at your dog when you get home and discover that he has misbehaved in your absence will not be effective. Your dog will NOT associate his past actions with your present mood and will likely be confused and fearful of you.

If you DO punish your dog after the fact, he will probably try to calm you down by acting submissively, he may slouch and hang his head and give you a certain ‘look’. Many people misread this behavior as ‘acting guilty’.

PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT at anytime is unnecessary and generally does NOT work. Moreover physical punishment can badly damage the relationship between you and your dog. Without a good relationship training will be difficult.

If you want to show your dog that you are upset with his behavior (WHILE he is still performing the behavior) try using a ‘time out’. For example get up and leave the room for a few minutes, slamming the door behind you.

You may also shout before leaving the room but DO NOT look at you dog while shouting. DO NOT grab your dog by the collar or in any way touch him.

By avoiding a direct confrontation with your dog, you send the message that you are NOT COMPETING with him. Your dog will therefore not feel that need to compete with you and will be in a better position to do what you ask of him.

Avoiding confrontation is particularly important in situations where your dog becomes aggressive toward you, for example if he growls when you ask him to do something. By avoiding confrontation you will also be avoiding a bite.

It is important that you MAKE UP with your dog after being upset with him. Do not hold a grudge. Re-enter the room (if you left it) and ask your dog to ‘come’ and ‘sit’ and praise him quietly when he does so. This makes it very clear to your dog that it was his PREVIOUS behavior that caused you to become upset.

If you are having difficulty with getting your dog to move away or off of things, (e.g. off of furniture) you may want to make use of a ‘house line’ (see earlier section on BASIC COMMANDS).

Written by Penny Fordham, Pasadena Humane Society Behavior Counselor
email to penny@phsspca.org.

Barking at people passing outside the house – Toys and games
Attach an eight-foot line to your dog’s collar and allow him to trail it behind him wherever he goes in the house.

You must remove it when leaving your dog by himself and when going out for walks. Use the line as much as possible to teach your dog how to come away from the window or doors when you tell him while he is barking.

Also make sure that you use the line to teach your dog how to behave in any situation where you might want to control him. (e.g.. put him out into the garden or getting him off furniture).Remember to make lots of fuss of him whenever he does anything that he is told.

You should now use the toys and games to reinforce good behavior when they are offered.

Barking at people when outside the house – Food
Now take out all of your dog’s food and some favorite toys whenever you take him out of the house for exercise. Use the food and toys to reward him for being under good control whenever there are other people and/or dogs around. This part of the program emphasizes the importance of behaving in an acceptable fashion because all of his food and games with toys are at stake. There is to be no food or games with toys offered at home for this week of the program.

Barking at visitors – Food
In order to stop your dog from barking at visitors, do the following:
· Divide all of your dog’s daily food allowance up into ten equal portions. No other food is to be available.
· When anyone that your dog knows well and is friendly towards enters the house they are not to greet him at the front door.
· They should walk straight past him without saying a word and go straight to where the food and toys are.
· They should get one position of food and place it on the floor for him to eat.
· It sometimes helps if he is very friendly towards certain people to get them to stroke him before giving him the food.

Excessive territorial barking – food
In order to reduce your dog’s barking in his territory feed him in the following manner each day:

· Prepare his food for the day in the morning and put half of it in the refrigerator for use in the evening, with the other half split up into five containers, each containing an equal amount.
· Keep some containers near to areas where you have had problems in the past with his barking, etc.
· Whenever he sees someone go past the window, call him away and offer one container of food.
· If he comes away quickly then he is allowed to eat that container of food.
· If he does not come away from the window then let him see you put that container of food into the bin.
· He is only allowed five chances each day to get this half of his food.
· There is to be no other food at all which is made available to him for the duration of this program.
· The only food that he gets is for behaving in the manner that you want.

Barking when left in the house
In order to stop your dog from barking when you leave the house, you simply need to remove all of the signals that let your dog know you are going out so that he thinks you are always in.

· Make a list of all the things you do before and during the time you are about to go out.

· Every day on a daily basis go through your going out routine but stay in the house or immediately return after closing the front door.

· You will also need to trick your dog into thinking you are still in the house by using some or all of the following tips.

Try leaving the radio or television on.
Make a recording of sounds that your dog will recognize as you being present in another room of the house. Vacuuming, washing up holding a telephone conversation, etc. Play this tape in another room whenever you go out so that your dog thinks you are at home.
Leave an unwashed item of your clothing just outside the door of the room that your dog is left in so that when he stiffs the bottom of the door he thinks you are on the other side.

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