by Connie Cleveland-Nolan
I often ask the participants at my seminars: “If you were by yourself in this facility, with time to train, what would you work on?” Participants that have the most trouble answering this question are the ones who are starting new obedience dogs. There is so much to work on, the trouble is knowing where to start.
I was training with some friends the other day and one of them commented: "Connie, you always have a plan." She's right, I do, and you can too. If are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, I have a plan that will simplify it for you.
Over the next few months, I will show you how to teach your dog the skills that every new obedience prospect needs to learn. If you have a new dog or one that you’ve already started, follow along to ensure that you haven't missed an opportunity to lay a solid foundation.
Let’s get started by teaching your dog the following four skills.
1. Tricks for Treats
How many behaviors can you get your dog to perform in the hopes you will give him a treat? Get started by teaching your dog the following “tricks.”
- Spin (both directions)
- Shake (both feet)
It is important for you to fade the lure when your dog demonstrates that he can perform the tricks. Luring a dog is simply getting him to chase food. As soon as possible, you want to use your treat as a reward instead of a lure. Watch the following video and note the difference between using the treat as a lure and then as a reward.
Introducing Luring & Rewarding
2. Moving Away From a Treat to Get a Treat
Every bit as important as using your treat as a lure and then a reward, is teaching your dog to move away from a treat to earn a treat. Can you send your young dog to his crate in anticipation that you will deliver his dinner? Great! How about sending him to his bed? Introduce your dog to the concept that by moving away from what he wants, he can earn what he wants.
Using Conditioned Reinforcers
3. Coming When Called
Use every opportunity to teach your dog to come as soon as you bring him home. Start by attaching a long line to his collar every time you take him out to play or relieve himself. Practice “Come” three times every time you take him outside. If you take your dog out seven times a day, and call him three times, he’s going to practice “Come” 21 times every day. With that amount of practice, he will quickly learn to come when called!
4. Encouraging the Retrieve
Do everything possible to get your young dog interested in retrieving. Not only are there several obedience exercises that involve retrieving, but it is also good exercise. Learning to retrieve is easier once your dog has learned 1) to come when called; and 2) go to a place.
If you dog is reluctant to run out and return with a thrown ball or toy, you can build a foundation for the retrieve by tossing a treat and calling him back to a place. Watch the following video to see how this young dog is learning to retrieve.
Encouraging the Retrieve
Begin by teaching these four skills regardless of your dog’s age. These skills will lay the foundation your dog needs to participate in any sport you wish to pursue.
If you have a puppy or a young dog that you are ready to start training, or you know someone with a puppy or young dog, please share this with them. It’s time to get started!
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