Introduction to Obedience Training
Obedience builds a bond between dog and handler that normally does not exist. It is a form of communication
understood by both dog and handler. The dog learns to associate certain works with certain actions. Once thiscommunication is established, many behavior problems can be corrected.
Training your dog is like teaching someone English. Your success depends upon 1) your understanding of the subject
matter, 2) the consistency with which you convey your message, and 3) the amount of patience you have with your
pupil. You will learn how to train your dog in class; he will learn at home.
Commands are the verbal tools you will use to convey your message. They must be clear, firm and pleasant. They
will never be harsh or angry. The commands your instructor will teach you are the same commands used in
obedience classes everywhere. They are SIT, DOWN, STAY, STAND, COME, HEEL. In addition to the verbal
commands, hand signals will also be taught. These must also be clear and without harshness. Do not nag a dog by
repeating the command over and over. To avoid the need to repeat a command, be sure you have the dog's
attention before giving the command.
Rewards as Positive Reinforcement
Just as you would never accept a job working 40 hours a week for no pay, neither would your dog. His paycheck is
not money, it is food, toys, pets and verbal praise. A REINFORCEMENT is something that increases or strengthens
a particular behavior in the dog. Food treats are a dog’s primary reinforcer, as food is something that all dogs need
to survive; it is a tangible reward that the dog will understand. Verbal praise should be used in conjunction with the
food reward as praise will become your dog’s secondary reinforcer, or conditioned reinforcer. Your verbal praise
will become much more meaningful when you pair it with a food reward when teaching a behavior. The more
generous you are with it, the happier he will be to do his job. Whatever words you choose, they should be happy,
encouraging, and most of all, SINCERE.
Once a behavior, such as coming when called, is learned by the dog, the paychecks should not end; the dog must
continue to be rewarded on a random basis in order for the behavior to continue. Once a behavior is learned, the
best way to maintain it is to reward it randomly, and with different types of rewards. Various rewards would
include things such as verbal praise, tactile praise (petting, etc.), a piece of kibble, a favorite toy, 5 pieces of
kibble, a piece of cheese or chicken, a game of tug...the possibilities are and should be ENDLESS! “Various
reinforcements on a variable schedule” is the golden rule to maintain a learned behavior.
The release is a verbal command coupled with a physical action that breaks the dog out of an exercise.
Enthusiastic praise is given and the dog is encouraged to jump up and play for just a moment. In teaching the dog
any exercise, it is essential to define the beginning AND the end of the exercise so the dog clearly understands
what is expected of him. You must always be the one to decide when an exercise is finished, not the dog.
Therefore, do not allow the dog to "break" BEFORE you release him. Without a RELEASE, the dog will learn that
the owner is in charge of when things begin, but not when they end. Your release word, as with all commands,
should be consistent. Examples are: "OK!", "FREE!", "ALL DONE!". Do not confuse praise ("Good Dog!" "Excellent!")
with the release. When releasing the dog, release UPWARDS to keep dog up and focused on you.
Frame of Mind
Dogs often mirror our moods; when you are happy, so is he. When you are depressed, he will be also. A happy dog
wags his tail, while a sad dog will plod along doing what is expected of him but not very happily. If you are annoyed
or depressed, it is best to wait until you feel better before you work with your dog. You'll both feel better for it!
Purchase proper training equipment.
Preparing Your Dog For Class
Before you can do anything, you must be sure that your dog accepts the leash. If your dog already walks on a lead,
you may disregard this section.
How To Acclimate Your Dog To A Leash