Dog Training 101 - Don't repeat cues and other dog training basics

Just some quick thoughts to make your life as a dog trainer much easier. After training thousands of dogs, it still amazes me how the little suggestions can make the biggest difference.

Don't repeat cues. Each time you say, "Sit, sit, sit . . . SIT" you are creating more work for yourself. Why? Generally one of four reasons. Your dog did not hear the cue. Your dog doesn't know the cue. Your dog is distracted and you need to move farther away from the distraction. Your dog isn't motivated to do the cue. After you say a cue, you need to "help" your dog get the cue correct. For instance, if you say, "Come" and your dog doesn't come to you, gently put a leash on your dog, gently bring your dog to you, and . . . reward.

Yes, you reward even if you are helping. You want to establish a pattern of your dog doing a certain behavior after hearing a cue and getting a reward. That is where the motivation comes in to play. Eventually if you follow the pattern of:

  1. Say the cue once
  2. Help your dog get the behavior correct
  3. Reward your dog (even if you help)

Train in short sessions

The best strategy is to do really short sessions (as little as one or two minutes) before EVERYTHING that your dog wants. For instance, before you take your pup for a walk ask for a "Sit", "Down" and "Stay" for 20 seconds. Then say, "Ok" (release) and put the leash on and go.

This will force you to do training throughout the day, and will teach your dog that your cues have relevancy in her life. Motivation!

Pay attention to what your dog wants and use this as a reward. This goes along with the previous suggestion. For instance, if your dog wants to play with a squeaky toy, take it away, do a short session and then give it back as a reward.

If your dog wants to say, "hello" to his friend Spike on a walk, ask for a "Watch me" and then allow him to say "hello". Then . . . do a quick "let's go" walk away 5 steps and then come back only if he is not pulling on the leash.

Stay close to home, if necessary. It is much smarter to stay 10 feet on either side of your front door for 20 minutes than to allow your dog to pull you around the block which teaches her to pull.

Stay in a setting that is less distracting until the behavior improves before heading to a new location.

Use a Sensible Harness for pullers. There is a fantastic, humane harness called the Sense-ible harness. Find it here. Use it instead of chokes or prong collars.

Happy training!

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