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Basic Obedience for Your Adult Dog
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With proper training, your dog can become a valued and fun member of your family. I believe that dogs are problem solvers and that they learn by trial and error. These principles are outlined in the article, How Dogs Learn. It may be helpful to read it before you begin training.

The following information will guide you through the steps for training a puppy over six months of age or a dog that that you’ve recently adopted or just never got around to training. [1]

Basic Obedience for Adult Dog Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers WorkshopTeaching Sit
Dogs are problem solvers and “Sit” is one of the simplest problems to solve. Hold the treat in one hand above your dog’s head. Tell your dog to sit and move the treat backwards toward his tail. As he lifts his nose up, and tilts his head back, he will lower his rear end into a sitting position. Tell him to “Sit” as he lowers his rear end. Praise and give him the treat.

The dog’s problem: My handler has the treat and I want it. The dog’s solution: Standing here is not earning the reward, but putting my rear on the ground does. Whew! I knew there was a way to get the treat.

[1] Information for training a puppy younger than 6months of age is provided in articles, Housebreaking, Crate TrainingPuppies: 7-9 weeksPuppies: 9-12 weeks and Puppies: 3-5 months.

Teaching Down
Start with your dog in a sitting position. With one hand on his back, hold a treat in the other hand directly in front of his nose. Tell your dog to “Lie Down” and slowly lower the treat to the ground. The “Down” command and a lowered hand will become your dog’s verbal command and signal. Encourage your dog to follow the treat by lowering his head Basic Obedience for Adult Dog Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
and walking his feet forward. He may try to lower his head and raise his rear. That’s why it’s important to have one hand on his back. Prevent your dog from standing up but do not push him down. When your dog lies down, praise and give him the treat.

The dog’s problem: My handler has the treat and I want it. The dog’s solution: Sitting here does not earn a reward, but lying down does. Whew! I knew there was a way to get the treat.

Teaching a Dog to Stand on a Loose Leash
A dog with poor leash manners believes that if he wants to go left, he should pull left, as hard as it takes to drag his owner along.

It is easy to communicate to a dog that pulling will not yield the response he desires. Imagine a circle around you that is the radius of a leash. If your dog tries to pull you out of that circle, give a quick tug on the leash. The tug on the leash communicates to your dog that you want his attention. When you tug, and he looks back at you, praise and give him a treat for being attentive. If, when you tug the leash, he stops pulling but does not look back at you, do not give him a treat. Only give praise and rewards when he is attentive.

Your dog is a problem solver. It will not be long before he realizes that pulling on the leash elicits an unpleasant outcome. This is his introduction to “Negative Reinforcement.” [2]

Do not be surprised if after a few attempts he decides that pulling left is no longer possible, so he tries to pull in a different direction. He does this because dogs are situational. Respond in the same way by giving a quick tug on his leash when he attempts to change direction. Praise and give him a treat when he looks up at you.

There is no need to become angry at a dog that is pulling you. Let him discover the natural consequence of his action. If he pulls, you will tug. Stay calm, and respond to him with lots of praise followed by treats whenever he looks at you.

[2] Reinforcement increases the likelihood that a behavior will occur. Negative reinforcement refers to something the dog wants to stop and wants to prevent!

Remember, dogs are situational. You can test your dog’s understanding of what it means to stand on a loose leash by changing your location. After practicing in two or three locations, he will generalize what is expected from him and understand that, “It’s not worth pulling on the leash because no matter where I am, when I pull, the consequence is the same.”

Teaching a Dog to Walk on a Leash
It is time to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash when your dog will stand on a loose leash.

Basic Obedience for Adult Dog Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers WorkshopStart moving and give your dog a command that means, “let’s go for a walk” (i.e. “Let’s Go”). If your dog pulls on the leash, give a tug. If a simple tug will not stop his pulling, tug and start moving in a different direction. Don’t worry about whether your dog is on your left or right side.

Praise your dog and offer him a treat any time your dog looks at you when you tug the leash. It is OK if he does not look, but stops pulling, but save your praise for moments when he is paying attention. Soon he will be walking with you on a loose leash, sometimes looking at you, sometimes looking around, but never pulling. He will become aware of where you are headed and change direction with you.

Teaching a Dog to Come When Called
It is time for your dog to learn to come when called when he can stand and walk on a loose leash

Step 1: Put a 10-20 foot long line on your dog. Hold the end of the line, and let your dog wander around. When something distracts him, say his name followed by “Come.” If he does not move toward you, give a tug on the long line to get his attention, and then back up encouraging him to come to you. Once again, the tug on the line means, “Pay attention to me!”
Basic Obedience for Adult Dog Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers Workshop
Make a commitment to take your dog out on his long line at least three times each day. Every time you go out, practice “Come,” three times. If you practice nine recalls every day, it won’t be long before your dog will solve the “problem” in one of two ways: (1) He will come every time you call him to avoid the tug on the line; or (2) he will stop being distracted and stay close to you when you have him out on a long line.

Because dogs are situational, before you move on to Step 2, try a different location that offers new, more exciting distractions. Whenever something or someone catches his eye, and he wanders away from you, call him back enforcing your command with a pop on the long line if necessary.

Step 2: It is time to let your dog drag the long line when you feel confident that he will come to you. Call him when he is 25 to 35 feet away from you. If he does not respond, pick up the end of the long line, and give a tug making him come. Back up to the spot where you were standing as he is coming toward you. This will teach him that, if he does not come the first time you call, you will enforce the command with a tug on the long line.

Step 3: It is time to shorten the line when your dog is coming every time you call him while dragging the long line. Shorten the line to 4-6 feet. The line should be long enough for you to be able to go to him and make him come if he does not come the first time you call him.

Step 4: There is an easy way to determine when to take your dog off the long line and expect him to come when called. You will notice a change in the way he responds to your command, for example: 
Your dog refuses to come when you call him. You walk toward him. When he sees that you are coming, he comes to meet you instead of ignoring you or running away. A dog who comes toward you is convinced that you are going to enforce the come command, and he is also convinced that running from you will not solve his problem.
When you notice that your dog comes toward you instead of ignoring you or running away, try turning him loose in a safe location without the long line.

When he is distracted, say his name and “Come.” If he does not come toward you immediately, walk in his direction with your hand out. Make it obvious that you intend to come and get him. When you get your hand on his collar, back up to the location where you were standing when you called him. Soon you will find that even off leash, if he fails to come, and you walk in his direction, he will move toward you and not away!

Teaching Place

It is easy to teach your dog a “Place” command. “Place” simply means a location he should go to and remain. It can be a bed, or a crate, if it is obvious to the dog what location you are asking him to occupy.

Basic Obedience for Adult Dog Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers WorkshopSelect a “place.” It is easier for your dog to learn to go to his place if the edges are obvious to him. Starting with something that is a few inches off the floor or that has an obvious edge so it is very clear to him when he steps on or off it. Tell your dog “Place” and guide him on to it with your leash. Since you don’t care whether he stands, sits, or lies down, it is not necessary to give him any other command. The only requirement is that he remain on his “place.”

Step away from the dog, holding the leash. When he steps off the place, step toward him, tell him he’s wrong, “No,” and say “Place” again, as you use the leash to return him to the bed.

Basic Obedience for Adult Dog Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers WorkshopRemember, dogs are situational. Just because you keep them from coming off the bed in one direction does not mean they won’t try to get off the bed in another direction. Start circling the place, stopping your dog every time he attempts to get off. Soon he will understand where his boundaries are.

Other Common Behavior Problems
Does your dog steal food off your counters? Put a sheet of clear contact paper on your counter with the sticky-side up and leave the room. Your dog will learn that if he tries to steal food off your counters that he will be in a sticky mess.

If you are holding a plate on your lap or have a snack on a coffee table, will your dog try to snatch a bite for himself? This is easily remedied by reacting to his thievery just as an older dog would respond to a younger dog that tried to steal a bone or toy. Next time he reaches for a bite, make an exclamation like “Hey” or “No” mimicking an older dog’s growl and, at the same time, make a quick movement toward your dog. Moving toward him is mimicking the snap that an older dog would make to defend what is his. Your correction should be quick, loud, and businesslike.

Is your dog willing to steal items out of the trash? Put a mousetrap in the top of an almost full wastebasket and cover it with a paper towel. The purpose is not for your dog to be hurt by the trap, but to have the wastebasket explode. A warning: You must be home when this happens so that you can reset the trap, otherwise your dog will regain his courage and discover that if he quickly bumps the wastebasket, it only explodes once and then he can eat the trash! Remember dogs are situational. This may keep him out of one wastebasket, but not others until he has had similar experiences in a variety of wastebaskets.

Most young dogs begin jumping up as soon as they realize they can get their feet in your lap when you are sitting. There is nothing wrong with a dog that jumps up, if he is invited, but he should also get off when asked. While sitting in the chair, tell him “Off” and if he does not put four feet back on the floor, put your foot on one of his back feet. Feeling pressure on his back foot, he will perceive that he is trapped and get off. Praise him and repeat the process when he climbs up again.

Basic Obedience for Adult Dog Connie Cleveland Dog Trainers WorkshopYou can use the same technique with a dog that is big enough to put his feet on your table or counter. The same correction is appropriate. Tell him “Off” and then gently step on his back foot. It won’t be long before he understands that the command means “put four feet back on the floor.”

If you are patient and consistent with your training, your dog will become a fun and valued member of your family.

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