Dogs perceive jumping on people as a friendly gesture, a dog’s way of letting the object of his affection know how happy he is to see him. He’s literally jumping for joy. You can train your dog to greet people in a less rambunctious fashion, but you don’t want to punish your happy pet simply because he’s glad to see you.
Perhaps even more annoying is the dog’s habit of sniffing parts of our anatomy we prefer he didn’t. Although this behavior may be normal for the dog — he uses his nose to identify the rank, gender, and age of other dogs he meets — you need to insist that he get this information from people in a less-intrusive way.
So how do you get him to stop these behaviors without dampening his enthusiasm? By teaching Sit and Stay on command. Your dog can’t jump on you when he’s sitting — the two behaviors are mutually exclusive.
You also need to teach a release word to let him know that he can move again after you’ve told him to stay. If you don’t release him from the command after a reasonable period of time, he’ll release himself, and the length of time he stays will become shorter and shorter. The recommended release word is Okay, meaning “You can move now.” Another common release word is Free.
Most dogs readily accept the leash. Some dogs, especially puppies, need a little time to get used to it. If your dog hasn’t already been leash trained, you need to do it now.
Do this over a period of a few days. After she ignores the leash, pick up the other end and follow her around. She’ll happily wander off wherever her fancy takes her.
You’re now ready to show her where you want her to go. First use a treat to entice her to follow you, and then gently guide her with the leash, telling her what a good dog she is. If you’re teaching her outside, use the treat to coax her away from the house, and use the leash to guide her back toward the house. Before you know it, she’ll not only walk on the leash in your direction, but she’ll actually pull you along. (See the section “Born to pull” later in this chapter, to teach your dog not to pull.)
Of all the commands your dog will learn, he must know the following to be a good house pet and socially acceptable companion:
The Sit and Stay is one of the simplest and yet most useful combination commands you can teach your dog. It gives you a wonderfully easy way to control him when you need to most. It’s also one of the most basic commands that you and your dog can quickly accomplish.
The importance of teaching your dog to sit and stay can’t be overemphasized. Not only will he stop jumping up on Grandma when she walks into the house, but when the door opens, he won’t run into the street.
Use the Sit and Stay command when you want your dog to remain quietly in one spot.
Getting your dog to sit — the easy part
Teaching your dog to sit on command is quite simple.
1. Show your dog a small, bite-sized treat, holding it just a little in front of his eyes, slightly over his head.
2. Say “Sit” as you bring your hand above his eyes.
When your dog looks up at the treat, he should sit.
3. When he sits, give him the treat and tell him what a good dog he is.
Tell him without petting him. If you pet him at the same time as you praise him, he’ll probably get up, but what you really want him to do is sit. Praising is verbal, such as saying “good” or “good dog” in a pleasant tone of voice. Rewarding is giving the dog a treat for a correct response while he’s still in position. For example, if your dog gets up after you told him to sit, and you then give him a treat, you’re rewarding his getting up and not the sit.
When using this method of teaching your dog to sit, position your hand properly in relation to the dog’s head. If your hand is held too high, your dog will jump up; if it’s too low, he won’t sit. Hold your hand about 2 inches above his head.
4. If your dog doesn’t respond on his own, say “Sit” again and physically place your dog into a Sit position by placing your left hand under his tail and behind his knees and placing your right hand on his chest, and then tuck him into a sit.
5. Keep your hands still and count to five before giving him the treat.
6. Practice making your dog sit five times in a row for five days.
Some dogs catch on to this idea so quickly that they sit in front of their owner whenever they want a treat.
Getting your dog to sit on command — the next part
When your dog understands what Sit means, you can start to teach her to obey your command.
1. Put the treat in your right hand and keep it at your side.
2. Put one or two fingers, depending on the size of your dog, of your left hand through her training collar at the top of her neck, palm facing up, and tell her to sit.
If she sits, give her a treat and tell her how good she is while taking your hand out of the collar. If she doesn’t sit, pull up on her collar and wait until she sits, and then praise her and reward her with a treat.
3. Practice until she sits on command — that is, without having to pull up on or touch the collar.
4. Give her a treat and praise her for every correct response, keeping her in position to the count of five.
As your dog demonstrates that she has mastered sitting on command, start to reward the desired response every other time. Finally, reward her on a random basis — every now and then, give her a treat after she sits on command. A random reward is the most powerful reinforcement of what your dog has learned. It’s based on the premise that hope springs eternal. To make the random reward work, all you have to do is use it and keep using it!
Now when your dog wants to greet you by jumping up, tell her to sit. When she does, praise her, scratch her under the chin, and then release her. Following this simple method consistently, you can change your dog’s greeting behavior from trying to jump on you to sitting to being petted.
As a part of your dog’s education, he has to learn the Sit-Stay in a more formal manner — not just at home, but anywhere. Because he already knows the Sit command, teaching the Sit-Stay will probably go relatively quickly.
How much time you have to spend and how many repetitions it takes for each progression depend on your dog’s personality. How much time do you need to spend at any given session? As long as you and the dog enjoy it. You can also practice several different exercises at the same session — the Sit-Stay, the Down, Walking On Leash without pulling, and the Come. Whatever you do, there’s no point advancing to the next progression until the dog masters the previous one.
Follow these steps in mastering the Sit-Stay:
1. With your dog sitting at your left side, both of you facing in the same direction (called the Heel position), put the rings of his training collar on top of his neck and attach the leash to the dead ring of the collar (or fit the gentle leader/head collar over his head).
In the Heel position, the area from the dog’s head to his shoulder is in line with your left hip, with both of you facing in the same direction.
2. Put the loop of the leash over the thumb of your left hand and fold the leash accordion style into your hand, with the part of the leash going toward the dog coming out at the bottom of your hand.
Hold your hand as close to the dog’s collar as you comfortably can. The farther away from the dog’s collar you are, the less control you have.
3. Apply a little upward tension on the collar — just enough to let him know the tension is there, but not enough to make him uncomfortable.
4. Say “Stay” and give the Stay signal — a pendulum motion with the right hand, palm facing the dog, stopping in front of the dog’s nose, and then returning to your right side (Figure 3-1).
Keep your body as straight as you can, and don’t bend over your dog. Before you step away from your dog, make sure that your right hand is at your side again.
5. Take a step to the right, keeping the tension on the collar, count to ten, return to your dog’s side, release tension, praise him, and release him, taking several steps forward.
6. Repeat, but this time step directly in front of your dog, count to ten, step back to Heel position, release tension, praise, and release.
7. With your dog in Heel position, put the rings of the training collar under your dog’s chin and attach the leash to the live ring of the collar (the one that moves).
8. Neatly fold your leash accordion style into your left hand, and place it against your belt buckle, allowing 1 foot of slack.
Figure 3-1: Giving the Stay signal.
9. Say and signal “Stay” and then place yourself 1 foot in front of your dog, keeping your left hand at your belt buckle and your right hand at your side, palm open, facing your dog.
When you see that your dog’s attention is drifting, he’s probably about to move. You can tell your dog is thinking about moving when he starts to look around and begins to focus on something other than you. Any time you see that lack of attention, reinforce the Stay command by slapping the leash straight up with your right hand. Don’t say anything, but smile at your dog when he’s in position. Return your right hand to your side.
If your dog is thinking about moving or actually tries to move, take a step toward your dog with your right foot and, with your right hand, slap the leash straight up to a point directly above his head. Bring back your right foot and right hand to their original positions without repeating the Stay command. Count to 30 and pivot back to your dog’s right side. Count to five, praise, and release.
Until you discover how to recognize the signs that your dog is going to move, chances are, you’ll be too late in reinforcing the Stay, and he’ll have moved. When that happens, without saying anything, put him back at the spot where he was supposed to stay, stand in front of him, count to ten, return to Heel position, count to five, and release him. Repeat over the course of several training sessions until your dog is steady on this exercise.
Playing the Sit-Stay game
The following steps, using the leash on the dead ring of the collar (or on the gentle leader), involve testing your dog’s understanding of Stay, while extending the time and distance of the Stay command:
1. Starting in Heel position, with your left hand holding the leash and placed against your belt buckle, say and signal “Stay” and then step 3 feet in front of your dog, with no tension on the leash.
2. Slightly rotate your left hand downward, against your body, to apply tension on the leash.
This test is called the Sit-Stay test. If your dog moves to come to you, reinforce the Stay with your right hand. Test three times, increasing the tension until you get physical resistance from your dog.
Your tension needs to be commensurate to your dog’s size and weight. In other words, Terrier-strength tension applied to your Golden Retriever isn’t going to produce the desired results.
For the Sit-Stay test, use a downward rotation of the left wrist. Maintain tension for a few seconds and then slowly release tension. You’re looking for physical resistance from your dog. From now on, practice this quick test before you do a Sit-Stay. Remember to release at the end of the exercise.
3. Starting in Heel position, with the leash now on the live ring, go 3 feet in front of your dog.
The goal is to have her stay for one minute. If she moves, reinforce the Stay.
4. Move 6 feet in front, to the end of the leash.
You need to practice the Sit-Stay on a fairly regular basis, but you don’t want to bore yourself or your dog. After your dog understands what you want, once or twice a week is perfectly adequate. Start with the Sit-Stay test to refresh her recollection of what you expect from her. When she’s reliable on leash, try her off leash in a safe place. First practice 3 feet in front, and then gradually increase the distance and the time you expect her to stay.
Releasing: The magic word is “Okay”
When you say the release word, “Okay,” your dog will know that he can move now and is on his own time. Make it a strict rule to give him the release word, which allows him to move again, every time after you tell him to stay. If you get lax about releasing and forget, he’ll get into the habit of releasing himself. That teaches him that he can decide when to move — not a good idea and the opposite of what you want him to learn.
Your dog also needs to learn the difference between being praised for responding correctly and being released. Praise isn’t an invitation to move. You say “good boy” when he responds to a command. Praise is when you use your voice. Petting is when you use your hands. You release him when the exercise is finished.
As quickly as you can, get into the habit of using only one command. If you don’t get the desired response on the first command, show your dog what you want without repeating it. Repeating commands teaches your dog to ignore you. If you’re consistent from the start, your dog learns he has to respond to the first command.
Getting the dog down (and staying down)
Your dog already knows how to lie down, but she needs to be taught to lie down on command. Down is the command to use when you want your dog to lie down in place, right now, and stay there until you release her. The following steps can help you teach this command:
1. With your dog sitting at your left side and a treat in your right hand, put one or two fingers of your left hand, palm facing you, through her collar at the side of her neck.
Show her the treat and lower it straight down and in front of your dog as you apply gentle downward pressure on the collar, at the same time saying, “Down.”
2. When she lies down, give her the treat and praise her by telling her what a good dog she is.
Keep your left hand in the collar and your right hand off your dog while telling her how clever she is so that she learns she’s being praised for lying down. With a small dog, you may want to do the exercise on a table.
3. Reverse the process by showing her a treat and bringing it up slightly above her head with upward pressure on the collar as you tell her to sit.
Practice having your dog lie down at your side five times in a row for five days, or until she does it on command with minimal pressure on the collar. Praise her and reward her with a treat every time.
4. Sit your dog at your left side and put two fingers of your left hand, palm facing you, through her collar at the side of her neck.
Keep your right hand with the treat at your right side.
5. Say “Down” and apply downward pressure on the collar.
When she lies down, praise her and give her a treat every other time. Practice over the course of several days until she lies down on command without any pressure on the collar.
Make a game out of teaching your dog to lie down on command. Get her eager about a treat and, in an excited tone of voice, say “Down.” Then give her the treat. After that, when she lies down on command, you can randomly reward her.
Although the Sit-Stay is used for relatively short periods, the Down-Stay is used for longer periods. Traditionally, the Down-Stay is also taught as a safety exercise — to get the dog to stop wherever she is and stay there. For example, she finds herself across the road. She sees you and is just about to cross the road when a car comes. You need a way to get her to stay on the other side until the car has passed.
The object of the Down-Stay command is to have your dog respond to your command whether she’s up close or at a distance. Pointing to the ground won’t work from a distance, so you need to train your dog to respond to an oral command. This point is where the Down-Stay command comes in — the theory being that the dog is least likely to move in the Down position. Be that as it may, you’ll find this command not that hard to teach, and you do want to be able to stop your dog in her tracks.
Go lie down, doggy!
Go Lie Down is a useful command when you want your dog to go to a specific spot and remain there for an extended period until you release him. Use the command whenever you don’t want him underfoot, such as at mealtimes or when you have visitors and don’t want him making a pest of himself.
Select the spot where you want him to hang out — his crate, bed, chair, whatever:
1. Depending on your needs, you can also use a movable object — a dog bed, crate pad, or blanket, which allows you to change locations.
Assume that you’re going to use a dog bed.
2. Take your dog to the bed and tell him, “Go lie down.”
You may have to coax him with a treat.
3. When he lies down on the bed, praise him, give him the treat, count to five, and release him.
4. Repeat until he readily lies down on the bed.
5. Next, start 3 feet from the bed, give the command “Go lie down,” and lure him onto the bed with a treat.
6. Praise him when he lies down, give him the treat, count to ten, and release him.
7. Repeat several times, gradually increasing the time between the praise and the giving of the treat, from a count of 10 to a count of 30.
Stop for now — you’re getting bored and so is he. Come back to it another time.
For your next session, review the last progression two or three times and then send him from 3 feet. Stand still, but motion him to go to his bed. He may surprise you and actually go to his bed and lie down. If he does, praise him enthusiastically and give him a treat. If he just stands there with a befuddled look on his face, put one finger through his collar, guide him to his bed, and, when he lies down, praise him and give him a treat. You may have to repeat this process several times until he responds to the command.
When your dog responds reliably from 3 feet, gradually and over the course of several sessions, increase the distance from the bed, as well as the length of time — up to 30 minutes — you want him to stay there. If he gets up without being released, just put him back (finger through the collar).
The Go Lie Down command, although practical, isn’t the most exciting exercise. Use common sense, and don’t make it drudgery.
You must release him from the spot when he can move again. If you forget, he’ll get into the habit of releasing himself, thereby undermining the purpose of the exercise.
Dashing Your Dog’s Dashing Habits
Almost as annoying as unrestrained greeting behavior, but far more dangerous, is the dog’s habit of dashing through doors just because they’re open, racing up and down stairs — ahead of or behind you — and jumping in and out of the car without permission. These behaviors are dangerous to your dog because she may find herself in the middle of the road and get run over. They’re dangerous to you because you may get knocked over or down the stairs.
Prevent such potential accidents by teaching your dog to sit and stay while you open the door and to wait until you tell her it’s okay to go out.
Door and stair manners
After your dog knows the Sit-Stay, you can easily teach her door manners:
1. Put your dog on leash, using the dead ring of the training collar, and review the Sit-Stay test described in “Teaching the Basics” earlier in the chapter.
2. Neatly fold the leash, accordion style, into your left hand, and approach the closed door you normally use to let her out.
Follow the same procedure as you did for sequence 1 of the Sit-Stay. Place yourself in such a way that you can open the door without your dog having to get out of its way.
3. With a little upward tension on the collar, tell her to stay and open the door.
Release the tension, and she should stay. If she doesn’t, apply a little upward tension. Close the door and try again.
4. When your dog stays without any tension on the leash facing the open door, slowly walk through the door.
If she tries to follow, apply upward tension on the leash to remind her to stay. Repeat until she stays without having to be reminded.
5. Walk through the door and release her so she can follow you.
6. Repeat the entire sequence off leash, beginning with Step 1.
You’ll find that after several repetitions, she begins to get the message and will sit and stay on her own as you approach the door.
Motion means more to dogs than words, so make sure that you stand still when releasing your dog. For this exercise, you don’t want her to associate your moving with the release. Dogs are also time conscious, so vary the length of time you make her wait before releasing her.
Some people prefer to go through the doorway first, while others want the dog to go through first. It makes no difference, as long as your dog stays until you release her. Practice through doors your dog uses regularly, including the car door, especially when exiting the car. Every time you make her sit and stay, you reinforce your position as pack leader and the one in charge.
If you have stairs, start teaching her to stay at the bottom while you go up. First Sit her and tell her to Stay. When she tries to follow, put her back and start again. Practice until you can go all the way up the stairs with her waiting at the bottom before you release her to follow. Repeat the same procedure for going down the stairs.
After your dog has been trained to wait at one end of the stairs, you’ll discover that she’ll anticipate the release. She’ll jump the gun and get up just as you’re thinking about releasing her. Before long, she’ll stay only briefly and release herself when she chooses. It may happen almost as soon as she grasps the idea, or it may take a few weeks or even months, but it will happen.
When it does, stop whatever you’re doing and put her back, use the stairs, turn, count to ten, and release her. Don’t let her get into the habit of releasing herself. Consistency is just as important here as it is in teaching any other exercise.
The doorbell and guests
Your dog now knows to sit and stay when you open the door. It’s doubtful, however, that he’ll obey these commands when the doorbell rings or someone knocks on the door. The doorbell usually causes an immediate charge amid barking. Even though most people want their dog to display his protective side, they then also want him to stop, sit, and stay so they can answer the door.
To accomplish this goal, you need to enlist the aid of a friend or neighbor to ring the doorbell.
1. Agree on a time and then put your dog on leash.
When the bell rings and your dog goes through his antics, tell him to Sit and Stay.
To help make your helper’s arrival as traditional as possible, have her ring the doorbell only once. Ask her to wait for you to open the door.
2. Start to open the door, and when your dog gets up, which he surely will, reinforce the Sit-Stay with a check (a quick pull of the leash).
If your dog is an excitable soul, you may have to put him on the live ring of his training collar before he takes you seriously. Less excitable dogs catch on after two or three attempts.
3. When your dog stays, open the door and admit your accomplice.
At this point, your dog wants to say hello. Again, reinforce the Stay and have your helper approach him while holding out the palm of her hand.
4. Let your dog sniff the palm and then have your helper ignore him.
You may have to be right next to your dog to reinforce the Sit-Stay.
5. You need to repeat this procedure several times until the dog is reliable and holds the Sit-Stay while you open the door.
Remember to release him. Successful training depends on who is more determined and persistent — you or your dog.
Paying attention to inflection
Give commands in a normal tone of voice. For example, when giving the Sit command, remember that it’s “Sit!” — the command — and not “Sit?” — the question.
When releasing, say “Okay!” in a more excited tone of voice, as in, “That’s it, you’re all done!” Unless impaired, a dog’s sense of hearing is extremely acute, and when giving a command, there’s absolutely no need to shout. In fact, the opposite is true — the more quietly you give your commands, the quicker your dog learns to pay attention to you.
The procedure to teach your dog not to jump on people is the same. Follow the same progressions as you did for the doorbell, and when he wants to jump on your helper, reinforce the Stay command. After several repetitions, he should be steady enough to try him off leash. The key to your ability to control him is a reliable Sit-Stay.
Having said that, you also need to remind your guests not to get your dog all riled up with vigorous petting or active solicitations to play. The less excitement, the better. The proper way to greet a dog on a Sit-Stay is to let him sniff the palm of the hand and perhaps give a little scratch under the chin. A dog doesn’t like to have the top of his head patted any more than kids do.
When teaching a new command, you may have to repeat it several times during the initial introduction before your dog catches on. After the first session, teach him to respond to the first command. Give the command, and if nothing happens, show your dog exactly what you want by physically helping him. Consistency is the key to success.
Setting the Tone for Proper Table Manners
Teaching your dog table manners is your responsibility, and you have to remember only one rule: Don’t feed the dog from the table. This concept sounds a lot simpler than it is, especially in a multiperson household. Moreover, don’t ever underestimate your dog’s ability to train you.
Every time you reward your dog’s efforts with a treat from the table, you’re systematically teaching her not to take no for an answer.
When she was a puppy, nobody thought much about occasionally slipping her something from the table. But now she is 6 months old, almost fully grown, and has started to beg at the table. Because her begging is no longer cute and is embarrassing when you have guests, the family resolves to put a stop to it.
At first, your dog doesn’t believe you’re serious; after all, you were the one who started it in the first place. She digs a little deeper into her repertoire of begging routines. She may sit up, nudge you, paw you, or whine in the most pathetic tone as though she’s near death’s door from starvation. Sure enough, little Sally takes pity on her and slips her something.
As this scenario repeats itself, often with longer intervals before someone gives in, your dog is systematically being trained to persevere at all cost and never give up. Looking at it from her point of view, you’re rewarding, even encouraging, the very behavior you want to stop.
When you stop rewarding the undesired behavior (begging), your dog will stop begging at the table. As soon as you stop giving in to your dog, her efforts will decrease, until over time, and provided you don’t have a relapse, she’ll stop begging altogether. You have extinguished the undesired behavior by refusing to reward it.
You can also save yourself all this aggravation by teaching your dog the Go Lie Down command so you can enjoy your meals in peace. (See “Go lie down, doggy!” earlier in this chapter.)
Walking Your Dog
Taking your dog for a nice, long walk is balm for the soul and good exercise for both of you, provided he doesn’t drag you down the street. Teaching him to walk on a loose leash makes your strolls with your dog a pleasure rather than a chore.
You want to be able to take your dog for a walk on leash and have him remain within the length of his leash without pulling. A leisurely stroll is an important daily routine, and for many dogs, it’s the only opportunity to get some fresh air.
Even better from the dog’s perspective is a good run in the park or the woods. For this privilege, your dog has to learn to come when called. You can teach him to respond to the Come command by playing the Recall Game.
Another command you want your dog to learn is Leave It. The command tells the dog to ignore whatever interests him at the time. The object of his interest can be a cat, another dog, a person, or something on the ground. Leave It is especially useful when your dog discovers something disgusting he perceives as edible.
Even if you don’t ordinarily take him for walks, the well-trained dog knows how to walk on a leash without pulling your arms out. For example, at least once a year, you have to take him to the vet. If he’s been trained to walk on leash, the visit will go much more smoothly than if he bounces off the end of the leash like a kangaroo.
Dogs pull on a leash because they’re more interested in the sights and scents in their environment than in you. Your job is to teach your dog to become aware of and respect your existence at the other end of the leash.
Born to pull
To teach your dog not to pull, you need her training collar, her leash, and a few treats. Attach the leash to the live ring of the training collar (or to the gentle leader). Take her to an area without too many distractions — you don’t need other people and dogs (especially loose dogs) in the vicinity right now — and where you can walk in a straight line or in a circle (about 30 feet in diameter).
Perform these steps:
1. Put the loop of the leash over the thumb of your right hand and make a fist.
2. Place your left hand directly under your right.
Hold the leash in both hands as though it were a baseball bat. Plant both hands firmly against your belt buckle.
3. Say “Let’s go” and start walking.
4. Just before she gets to the end of the leash, say “Buddy, easy,” (using her name instead) make an about-turn to your right, and walk in the opposite direction.
Be sure that you keep your hands firmly planted. As a safety precaution, don’t put your entire hand through the loop of the leash or wrap it around your hand. If your dog catches you unaware and makes a dash, she may cause you to fall. By having the loop over your thumb, you can just let go, and it’ll slide off.
5. Step 2 produces a tug on your dog’s collar and turns her in the new direction.
As she scampers to catch up with you, tell her what a clever dog she is, and give her a treat. Before you know it, she’ll be ahead of you again, and you’ll have to repeat the procedure. When you make your turn, do it with determination. Be sure that you keep your hands firmly planted against your belt buckle. Make your turn, and keep walking in the new direction. Don’t look back, and don’t worry about her; she’ll quickly catch up. Remember to praise and reward her when she does.
The first few times you try this exercise, you’ll be a little late — she’s already leaning into her collar. Try it again. Concentrate on your dog, and learn to anticipate when you have to make the turn. Always give her a chance to respond by saying, “Buddy, easy” before you make the turn. You need to repeat this sequence several times over the course of a few training sessions until she understands that you don’t want her to pull. Your goal is to teach her to walk within the perimeter of her leash without pulling.
Most dogs quickly learn to respect the leash, and with an occasional reminder, they become a pleasure to take for a walk. Some, on the other hand, don’t seem to get it. If your dog seems particularly dense about this simple concept, or if the training collar or gentle leader just don’t cut it, you may need to use a pinch
or prong collar
(see Chapter All the Right Stuff
for more on pinch collars).
Put your dog in a position where you can praise her.
How readily your dog responds to her collar depends on these factors:
– How distracted she is by what’s going on around her, including scents on the ground
– Her size and weight in relation to your size and weight
– Her personality
– Her touch sensitivity
The pinch collar is an equalizer for these factors. It lets you enjoy training your dog without becoming frustrated or angry. Your dog, in turn, will thank you for maintaining a positive attitude and for praising her when she responds correctly.
Heeling on leash
Heeling and walking on a loose leash are two different exercises. When you take your dog for a walk to give him exercise or to do his business, he’s on his own time. He can sniff, look around, or just aimlessly wander about, as long as he doesn’t pull. For those times when you walk him on a busy sidewalk or in an area with traffic, he needs to learn the Heel command.
Heeling means your dog has to walk at your left side, the traditional position, while paying strict attention to you and staying with you as you change direction or pace. When your dog is heeling, he’s on your time, not his own. His responsibility is to focus on you, and you have to teach him to accept that responsibility. He has to learn to heel whether you make a right turn or a left turn, do an about-face turn, run, or walk slowly. The key to teaching heeling is to get him to pay attention to you.
Heeling is used for walking your dog in traffic — when you need absolute control — and for competitive obedience events. The American Kennel Club (AKC) definition of heeling is walking “close to the left side of the handler without swinging wide, lagging, forging, or crowding,” either on a loose leash or off leash.
Teaching your dog to sit at heel
Before teaching your dog to heel with both of you walking, you’re going to teach him what to do when you stop, which is called the Automatic Sit at Heel:
1. Attach your leash to the gentle leader/head collar or to the live ring of your dog’s training collar and have him sit at your left side with both of you facing in the same direction while you put the leash over your right shoulder.
2. Say “Buddy, heel.”
3. Take a step forward on your right foot, and then a step with the left past the right; drop down on your right knee, put your right hand against your dog’s chest, and fold him into a Sit at Heel position.
Use the same technique to sit your dog described in Chapter Teaching Your Dog Manners, and avoid the temptation to push down on his rear. Keep your hands in place as you tell him how clever he is.
Your dog already knows the Sit command (right?), but you’re now showing him exactly where you want him to sit. Practice the Sit at Heel about five times or until both of you feel comfortable with this maneuver (see Figure 3-2).
To teach heeling, choose a location relatively free of distractions (preferably a confined area, such as your backyard), and follow these steps:
1. Attach your leash to the live ring of your dog’s training collar and have him sit at your left side with both of you facing in the same direction while you put the leash over your right shoulder.
You need to allow about 4 inches of slack so there’s no tension on the leash when you start.
2. Make a funnel with both hands around the leash.
Keep both hands about waist high and close to your body. The object is not to touch the leash until necessary.
Figure 3-2: Preparing to teach heeling on leash.
3. In a pleasant, upbeat tone of voice, say “Buddy, heel” and start to walk.
Move out briskly, as though you’re late for an appointment. Walk in a large, clockwise circle or in a straight line.
4. When your dog leaves your left side, close your hands around the leash and bring him back to Heel position.
You’ll notice that as soon as both of you are in motion, your dog wants to get ahead of you. Close your hands on the leash, and firmly bring him back to your left side. Work on keeping his shoulder in line with your left hip. Anytime he gets out of position, bring him back and tell him how clever he is.
5. After about ten steps, stop and place him in a Sit at Heel, and verbally praise him.
It’ll take you a few tries to get the hang of it. At first, you’ll be a little slow on the uptake. He’s joyfully bounding ahead of you, the leash has fallen off your shoulder, and you’re scrambling to get it back. Just start over and work on anticipating what your dog is going to do.
When heeling your dog, walk briskly and with determination, as though you’re trying to catch the next train home. The more energy you put into your pace, the easier it is to keep your dog’s attention focused on you. If you dawdle, so does your dog. By paying attention to your dog, you’ll discover when you need to bring him back to Heel. If you can see his tail, you’ve waited too long.
Your initial goal is to be able to heel your dog for ten paces without having to touch the leash. How long it takes you depends on these factors:
- Your dog
- What your dog was bred to do
- His response to the training collar
- Your attitude
Generally, if you have a Shetland Sheepdog, you’ll reach that goal in maybe five minutes; if you have a Fox Terrier, you’ll work on it considerably longer.
When your dog heels without your having to touch the leash for ten paces, gradually increase the number of steps before a halt. Bring him back to Heel whenever necessary, and then praise him. After about five training sessions, he should be getting the idea, at least in an area relatively free from distractions.
When you and your dog have pretty much gotten the hang of heeling, your next step is to introduce her to changes of direction while heeling. In this section, you find out about the three essential turns — a right turn, an about-turn to the right, and a left turn.
To stay with you when you’re making a right turn, your dog needs to speed up. At this stage in your training, she isn’t yet giving you 100 percent of her attention, and you’re going to anticipate that she needs help with the right turn.
If you want your dog to pay attention to you, you have to pay attention to your dog. Discovering how to anticipate what she’s going to do is the first step to successful heeling. Just before you make the turn, enthusiastically say her name, make the turn, and keep moving. Using her name causes her to look up at you, and she then notices that you’re changing direction, which causes her to stay with you. Without giving her that cue, as you make the turn and go one way, she’ll probably keep going the other direction.
An about-turn is a right turn times two. When you make your turn, keep your feet together so she can keep up. As you did for the right turn, use her name just before you make the turn, to encourage her to stay with you.
If your dog has a particularly difficult time remaining at your side for the right turn or about-turn, you can use a treat or other object of interest to help guide her around. Hold the treat in your right hand as you’re heeling. Before you make the turn, show it to your dog by bringing the treat directly in front of her nose and using it to guide her around the turn, and then give her the treat.
This approach has a potential drawback. Some dogs become overly stimulated when they know you have a treat in your hand. Make no mistake about it, she knows. If you see that your dog becomes difficult to control under such circumstances, you may want to eliminate use of the treat. The hassle isn’t worth the potential benefit.
To make the left turn without bumping into her, she needs to slow down as you make the turn and then resume normal speed after you make the turn. Just before you make the turn, slow down. With your left hand, draw back on the leash, make the turn, bring your hand back to position, and resume your normal brisk pace. Practice heeling and doing the turns for a few times as a regular part of your daily outings.
You need to teach your dog to change pace with you while heeling. He has to learn that whether you walk slowly or quickly, he must stay in Heel position.
For the slow pace, cut the speed of your pace in half, but maintain the same length of stride. As you go into the slow pace, draw back on the leash to keep your dog in Heel position. For the fast pace, double the speed of your normal pace, again keeping the length of your stride the same. Just before you go into a fast pace, use your dog’s name in an excited tone of voice to encourage him to stay with you.
You’re still working with the leash over your shoulder. By now, you’ll also be able to tell whether he is actually heeling. If heeling properly, he doesn’t swing wide on right turns and about-turns, bump into you on the left turn, fall behind you as you go into a fast pace, or get ahead of you as you go into a slow pace.
Winning the Game of Coming When Called
One of the greatest joys of owning a dog is going for a walk in a park or the woods and letting her run, knowing she’ll come when called. A dog who doesn’t come when called is a prisoner of her leash and, if she gets loose, a danger to herself and others. This section offers some proven rules for helping you and your dog realize the benefits of coming when called.
Follow these basic rules to encourage your dog to come to you when you call her:
– Exercise, exercise, exercise. Many dogs don’t come when called because they don’t get enough exercise. At every chance, they run off and make the most of this unexpected freedom by staying out as long as possible.
Consider what your dog was bred to do, and that tells you how much exercise she needs. Just putting her out in the backyard isn’t good enough. You have to participate. Think of it this way: Exercise is as good for you as it is for your dog. A good source for exercise requirements is The Roger Caras Dog Book: The Complete Guide to Every AKC Breed, 3rd Edition (M. Evans & Co.).
– Whenever your dog comes to you, be nice to her. One of the quickest ways to teach your dog not to come to you is to call her to punish her or to do something the dog perceives as unpleasant. Most dogs consider it unpleasant to be called just before they’re left alone in the house or given a pill. In these circumstances, go and get your dog instead of calling her to you.
Another example of teaching your dog not to come is taking her for a run in the park and calling her to you only when it’s time to go home. Repeating this sequence several times teaches the dog that the party is over. Soon she may become reluctant to return to you when called because she isn’t ready to end the fun. You can prevent this kind of unintentional training by calling her to you several times during her outing, sometimes giving her a treat, sometimes just a word of praise. Then let her romp again.
– Teach her to Come as soon as you get her. Ideally, you acquired your dog as a puppy, which is the best time to teach her to come when called. Start right away. But remember, sometime between 4 and 8 months of age, your puppy begins to realize there’s a big, wide world out there. While she’s going through this stage, keep her on leash so she doesn’t learn that she can ignore you when you call her.
– When in doubt, keep her on leash. Work to anticipate when your dog is likely not to come. You may be tempting fate by trying to call her after she has spotted a cat, another dog, or a jogger. Of course, sometimes you goof and let her go just as another dog appears out of nowhere.
Resist the urge to make a complete fool of yourself by bellowing “Come” a million times. The more often you holler “Come,” the quicker she learns she can ignore you when she’s off leash. Instead, patiently go to her and put her on leash. Don’t get angry with her after you’ve caught her, or you’ll make her afraid of you, and she’ll run away when you try to catch her the next time.
– Make sure that your dog always comes to you and lets you touch her collar before you reward. Touching her collar prevents the dog from developing the annoying habit of playing “catch” — coming toward you and then dancing around you, just out of reach. So teach her to let you touch her collar before you offer a treat or praise.
Training your dog to come when called
You need two people, one hungry dog, one 6-foot leash, plenty of small treats, and two whistles (optional). Some people prefer to train their dog to come to a whistle instead of using the verbal command “Come.” Some people train their dog to do both.
What works best depends on the dog, and you may want to experiment. Consider trying the verbal command first, because you may need to call your dog sometime but don’t have your whistle. You can then repeat the steps, using a whistle, which goes very quickly because your dog already has some understanding of what he’s supposed to do.
For this exercise, you need to be inside the house, with your dog on a 6-foot leash. You and your partner sit on the floor, 6 feet apart, facing each other, and your partner gently restrains the dog while you hold the end of the leash.
1. Call your dog by saying, “Buddy, come” and use the leash to guide him to you.
Avoid the temptation to reach for your dog.
2. When he comes to you, put your hand through his collar, give him a treat, pet him, and praise him enthusiastically.
Now you can — and should — pet him so he understands how happy you are that he came to you. This situation is different from the Sit or the Down earlier in this chapter, when you want him to remain in place, and petting him will cause him to get up.
3. Hold him and pass the leash to your partner, who says, “Buddy, come,” guides the dog in, puts his hand through the collar, gives him a treat, and praises the dog.
Keep working on this exercise until your dog responds on his own to being called and no longer needs to be guided in with the leash.
4. Repeat the exercise with your dog off leash, gradually increasing the distance between you and your partner to 12 feet.
5. Have your partner hold him by the collar while you go into another room and then call your dog.
6. When he finds you, put your hand through the collar, give him a treat, and praise him.
If he can’t find you, slowly go to him, take him by the collar, and bring him to the spot where you called. Reward and praise.
7. Have your partner go into another room and then call the dog.
8. Repeat the exercise until the dog doesn’t hesitate in finding you or your partner in any room of the house.
9. Take your dog outside to a confined area, such as a fenced yard, tennis court, park, or school yard, and repeat Steps 1, 2, and 3.
Now you’re ready to practice by yourself. With your dog on leash, take him for a walk. Let him sniff around, and when he isn’t paying any attention to you, call him. When he gets to you, give him a treat and make a big fuss over him. If he doesn’t come, firmly check him toward you (you may have to use the live ring of his training collar), and then reward and praise him. Repeat until he comes to you every time you call him. After he’s trained, you don’t have to reward him with a treat every time, but do so randomly.
Most dogs need to be trained to come in the face of distractions, such as other dogs, children, joggers, food, or friendly strangers. Think about the most irresistible situations for your dog, and then practice under those circumstances.
Put a 12-foot leash on your dog (you can tie two 6-foot leashes together) and take her to an area where she’s likely to encounter her favorite distraction. When she spots it (jogger, bicycle, other dog, whatever), let her become thoroughly engrossed, by either watching or straining at her leash, and then call her. More than likely, she’ll ignore you. Give a sharp tug on the leash and guide her back to you. Praise and pet her enthusiastically. Repeat three times per session until the dog turns and comes to you immediately when you call. If she doesn’t, you may have to change your training equipment.
Some dogs quickly learn to avoid the distraction by staying close to you, which is fine. Tell her what a clever dog she is, and then try with a different distraction at another time.
Repeat in different locations with as many different distractions as you can find. Try it with someone offering your dog a tidbit as a distraction (don’t let the dog get the treat), someone petting the dog, and anything else that may distract her. Use your imagination. Your goal is to have her respond reliably every time you call. Until she’s steady on leash, she most certainly won’t come off leash.
Advancing to off-leash distractions
How you approach adding off-leash distractions depends on your individual circumstances. For example, take your dog to an area where you aren’t likely to encounter distractions in the form of other dogs or people. Let him off leash, and allow him to become involved in a smell in the grass or a tree. Keep the distance between you and him about 10 feet. Call him, and if he responds, praise enthusiastically and reward. If he doesn’t, avoid the temptation to call him again. Don’t worry; he heard you but chose to ignore you. Instead, slowly walk up to him; firmly take him by his collar, under his chin, palm up; and trot backward to the spot where you called him. Then praise and reward.
After he’s reliable with this exercise, try him in an area with other distractions. If he doesn’t respond, practice for the correct response with the 12-foot leash before you try him off leash again.
Can you now trust him to come to you in an unconfined area? That depends on how well you’ve done your homework and what your dog may encounter in the real world. Understanding your dog and what interests him helps you know when he’s likely not to respond to the Come command.
Let common sense be your guide. For example, when you’re traveling and have to let him out to relieve himself at a busy interstate rest stop, you’d be foolhardy to let him run loose. When in doubt, keep him on leash.
Mastering the “Leave It” Command
You’d prefer it if your dog didn’t pick up anything from the ground that she perceives as potentially edible. What dogs find fascinating and, apparently, delicious, people often find disgusting. And if your dog gets hold of something rotten, she may get sick. The Leave It command is a good start for such situations.
Teaching this command is a wonderful opportunity to find out more about how your dog’s thought processes work. You can truly see the wheels turning. Depending on how quickly she catches on, you may want to practice this exercise over the course of several sessions. Keep the sessions short — no more than five minutes at a time, and follow these steps:
1. Hold a treat between your thumb and index finger.
2. With your palm facing up, show the treat to your dog.
She’ll try to pry it loose. Say “Leave it,” close your hand into a fist, and turn it so that your palm now faces down. (See Figure 3-3.)
3. Observe your dog’s reaction.
She may stare fixedly at the back of your hand, she may try to get to the treat by nuzzling or nibbling your hand, or she may start barking. Ignore all these behaviors. You’re looking for the first break in her attention away from your hand. She may make eye contact with you or look away.
4. The instant she breaks her attention away from your hand, say “Good” and give her the treat.
5. Repeat until your dog looks at you or away from your hand when you give the command and turn your hand over.
You’re teaching her that looking at you and not at your hand is rewarded with a treat.
6. To find out whether she is responding to the command or to the turning of your hand, repeat Step 1 without turning your hand.
If she responds, praise and reward. If she doesn’t, close your hand into a fist and wait for the break in attention. Repeat until she responds to the command.
7. Make yourself comfortable on the floor and show your dog a treat; put it on the floor and cover it with your hand.
When her attention is on your hand or she tries to get to the treat, say “Leave it.”
Figure 3-3: Working on the Leave It command.
8. Wait for the break in attention, and then praise and reward.
9. Repeat Steps 6 and 7, but cover the treat with just your index finger. Then try it when placing the treat between your index and middle finger.
10. When successful, place the treat 1 inch in front of your hand, and repeat Steps 6 and 7.
Here you need to be watchful: She may be faster at getting to the treat than you can cover it.
11. Put the dog on leash and stand next to her (Heel position), neatly fold the leash into your left hand, and hold your hand as close to her collar as is comfortable without any tension on the leash.
Make sure that the amount of slack in the leash isn’t so much that her mouth can reach the floor.
12. Hold the treat in your right hand and show it to her, and then casually drop the treat.
When she tries to get to the treat, say “Leave it.” If she responds, praise her, pick up the treat, and give it to her. If she doesn’t, check straight up. Repeat until she obeys the command.
Test her response by taking off the leash and dropping a treat. If she makes a dive for it, don’t attempt to beat her to it or yell “No.” She’s telling you she needs more work on leash.
Now go outside — but first you need to do some preparation. Select a food item that’s readily visible to you in the grass or the ground, such as some crackers or popcorn. Drop four or five pieces of food in the area where you’re taking her for the big test. Put some of your regular treats in your pocket, and take her for a walk on leash in the area where you left the food. As soon as her nose goes to the food, say “Leave it.” If she responds, praise enthusiastically and give her a treat. If she doesn’t, check straight up.
If she manages to snag a cracker or kernel of popcorn, you’re too slow on the uptake. Practice walking around the food-contaminated area until she ignores the food on command.
Your dog should now know and obey the Leave It command. Test her off leash, and her response will tell you whether she needs more work. Still, as with any other command, you need to review it with her periodically on leash.
by Eve Adamson, Richard G. Beauchamp, Margaret H. Bonham, Stanley Coren, Miriam Fields-Babineau, Sarah Hodgson, Connie Isbell, Susan McCullough, Gina Spadafori, Jack and Wendy Volhard, Chris Walkowicz, M. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD