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When do I start training? And why train a dog?


Staff member
This is such a great article from dog trainer Dee Ganley. You can download it here: http://deesdogs.com/documents/whendoistarttraining.pdf

There are many more other helpful articles on training and behaviour on Dee's website, as well as her training manuals to buy:


When Do I Start Training??

- Part I


The most important time in your dog's life is right now! His behavior is constantly
changing. A dog that is well-behaved today will not necessarily remain that way forever.
New problems can develop, existing problems can get worse. Dogs are social animals,
but they are animals, and without proper training they will behave like animals. They can
soil your house, destroy your belongings, bark excessively, dig, fight other dogs and even
bite you. Nearly all behavior problems are perfectly normal canine activities that occur at
the wrong time or place or are directed at the wrong thing. For example, he will eliminate
on the carpet instead of outside; he will bark all night long instead of just when a stranger
is prowling around outside; or he will chew furniture instead of his own toys.

Why Obedience Training?

The key to preventing or treating behavior problems is learning to teach the dog to
redirect his normal behaviors to outlets that are acceptable in the domestic setting.
One of the best things you can do for your dog and yourself is to obedience train him.
Obedience training doesn't solve all behavior problems, but it is the foundation for
solving most of them. Training opens up a line of communication between you and your
dog. Effective communication is necessary for instruction. You can teach him anything
from 'stay' (don't bolt out the door) to 'sit' (don't jump up on the visitors) to 'off' or "leave
it" (don't chew the furniture). Training is also an easy way to establish the social

When your dog responds to a simple request of 'come here, sit,' he is showing
compliance and respect for you. It is NOT necessary to establish yourself as top dog or
leader of the pack by using extreme measures such as the so-called alpha roll-over. You
CAN teach your dog his subordinate role by teaching him to show submission to you in a
paw raise (shake hands), roll over or hand lick (give a kiss). Most dogs love performing
these tricks (obedience commands) for you which also pleasantly acknowledge that you
are in charge.

Training should be fun and rewarding for you and your dog. It can enrich your
relationship and make living together more enjoyable. A well-trained dog is more
confident and can more safely be allowed a greater amount of freedom than an untrained
animal. Some people debate whether or not it is possible to train puppies. Others ask
whether it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. The answer to both questions is an
unequivocal YES. Whatever the age of your dog, the right time to begin training is right
now! Enroll in a local dog training class to learn the basics. Then most teaching and
training can and should be done in your home.

How To Begin

It is best to begin teaching in an area that is familiar to your dog and with as few
distractions as possible. When you feel both you and your dog are skilled at several
commands, then take these commands to different areas. Introducing distractions may
seem like starting all over again, but it's worth the effort. In reality, who cares if your dog
will sit stay when no one is around? What you need is a dog who will sit-stay when
company is at the door. Who cares if your dog heels beautifully in your own back yard?
But you need to start there if you eventually want a dog who will heel beautifully when
walking down Main Street. If you want your dog to be obedient in your car, guess where
you have to practice? If you suddenly want your dog to down-stay while you are trying to
move over 3 lanes to make an exit, you had better find time to practice those commands
in the car long before you need them. Don't drive and practice at the same time. Practice
while the car is parked or while someone else is driving.

When Do I Start Training?? - Part II

Training sessions

Keep the training sessions short and sweet. It is dull and boring to schedule tedious and
lengthy training sessions. Instead, integrate training into your daily routine. Make training
interesting and meaningful to your dog. If Rover insists on following you from room to
room while you are getting ready for the day, then insist he have something to do too.
"Roll over" for your wake-up greeting. "Heel" from the bedroom to the bathroom.
"Down-stay" while you're brushing your teeth. "Heel" from the bathroom to the kitchen.
"Sit-stay" while grinding the coffee beans. "Go find the ball" while you get dressed. Now
"go get the leash" so you can go for a walk. "Sit" when the door is opened, "sit" again
when the door is closed. And so on. Be sure that training infiltrates your dog's favorite
activities such as eating his dinner, playing ball, being petted . His favorite activities
should become training, so that training becomes his favorite activity.


The single most important aspect of training is rewarding your dog for good
behavior. Using food, praise, petting and play will help him learn faster. The more times
the dog is rewarded, the quicker he will learn. Therefore, it's essential that you set up
situations repeatedly in order for him to get plenty of practice at doing the right thing. It's
equally important that you always praise your dog for good behavior instead of taking it
for granted. It's easy to forget to praise good behavior because it goes unnoticed. But the
very nature of misbehavior gets our attention. We don't notice when our dog is lying
quietly, but excessive barking gets our attention. How many of us take notice and praise
our dogs when they chew their own toys? But we all go berserk when we notice our
favorite pair of shoes chewed up! Praise and reward are the most important part of
maintaining good behavior and preventing problems from arising.


Some dogs feel they are constantly bombarded with "NO, No Bad Dog", "Stop that,
get off, shame on you!" They tend to get used to it so the reprimands become
meaningless and are ignored. If most of our interaction with the dog is praise for good
behavior, then reprimands will take on much more meaning. Whenever you find the need
to reprimand your dog, immediately show him what you want him to do, then reward him
for getting it right.

If you catch him chewing the furniture, you're too late in your correction. Watch
your dog when he is looking at something that is inappropriate and say "Uh, Uh." (You
must give him the information as he is thinking of it, not after he has done it.) Then
immediately direct him to his own toys, enthusiastically entice him to chew on them and
praise him for doing so. If done correctly, your voice alone is sufficient to stop the wrong
behavior. Don't continue to nag him. Put him in his crate or make him lie down for 5
minutes if you have spoken to him twice. Never hit, kick, slap or spank your dog. This
type of inappropriate punishment always creates more problems and usually makes
existing problems worse. Not only will you have a barking, chewing dog, but one that is
leery, hand-shy, fearful or aggressive. Proper training is hard work and lots of practice.
But your reward is having a happy, well behaved dog who is a pleasure to be around.

Copyright Ganley/Lyon 2000
I also think this article contains answers to some frequent questions on training, as well as an excellent training philosophy. It is directed towards dogs who are bossy on furniture -- but relates to many aspects of training and living with dogs. :)


This gives a great outline on the basics of HOW to train:

12 General Rules for Training Dogs
By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman
Its important to end the training session with your dog on a positive note.
Rules for Training

1. Training should be an enjoyable experience for you and your dog. If you are not in the right mood for training, don't even start. Keep training sessions short, on the order of 5-10 minutes, to maintain your dog's motivation.

If your dog doesn't respond appropriately to a command after several attempts, don't reward him. Resume training a few seconds later using a simpler command. Return to the more complex task later.

Always end training on a positive note. Ask your dog to respond to a command you know he will obey. Then reward him for a job well done and issue a finish command such as “free” or “release.” Avoid common words such as “okay.” Following a training session, both owner and dog should be left with a feeling of accomplishment.

2. Every dog should be familiar with the basic obedience commands, including come, heel, sit, down and stay. Teaching your dog to sit-stay and down-stay off leash is also a valuable lesson. Additional commands that are useful include: leave it, give it, stop it, and enough or cease.

Keep in mind that a dog's motivation to respond to a command decreases as the complexity of the task increases. The odds of success, hinge not only on the degree of sophistication of the task but also your dog's motivation to respond. From a dog's perspective the question is, which is more rewarding, chasing the squirrel or returning to the owner? Understanding this aspect will increase your patience and chances for success.

3. Training should not involve any negative or punishment-based components. There should be no yelling, no hitting, no chain jerking, no hanging, and absolutely no electric shock. Each session should be upbeat and positive with rewards for jobs well done.

Remember that the opposite of reward is not punishment; it is no reward. If you ignore unacceptable responses, your dog will not be rewarded for his failed response. Most dogs want to please their owners or, at the very least, to obtain highly valued resources (food, attention and toys).

4. Ensure that your dog's motivation for reward is highest during a training session. If food is the reward, train before a meal, not after. If praise, petting and other aspects of your attention are to be used as a reward, schedule the training session at a time when your dog hungers for your attention (for example, after you have returned from work).

For complex tasks, such as the off leash down-stay, your dog will be more motivated to comply if he has received moderate exercise before the training session. Asking a dog that is bursting with energy to remain in a prolonged reclining position is asking for failure during the early stages of training.

5. Make sure the reward you offer in training is the most powerful one for your dog. Food-motivated dogs work well for food, but the treats used should be favorite foods for the dog, such as small pieces of cheese or freeze-dried liver. You want your dog to be strongly motivated to obey commands to receive the treat.

Food treats, if used, should be small – no bigger than the size of your little fingernail. The texture of the treat should be such that it does not require chewing and should not crumble, otherwise you will lose your dog's attention as he Hoovers up the crumbs. Large treats, like Milk Bones®, take too long to eat, causing the dog to lose attention.

If praise is used as a reward, deliver it in high singsong tones, which are most pleasing for the dog. Also, enthusiasm in your voice will be much appreciated. If petting is to be used as a reward, it should be in a way that the dog enjoys, such as stroking the dog's hair on the side of his face in the same direction that it grows, or scratching him on the chest. Note: Petting on top of the head is not appreciated by most dogs.

6. Timing of the reward is important. After a correct response, reward your dog within ½ second of the command to ensure that your dog makes the connection between his behavior and the reward.

7. Use short commands such as sit, down, leave it, quiet, out, and off. Say the word once. Do not repeat the command. Dogs will remember a command for about two minutes before the notion is lost. Shorter words are better than longer words and words that end in a hard consonant (C, K, T, X) are better than those that end in a vowel because you can “spit” them out.

The only command that should have three sounds associated with it is COME. In this case, you first have to attract the dog's attention by saying his name, ROVER, then COME (the actual command word) and GOOD BOY, even before the dog comes so that he knows he is not in trouble. Make sure your tone is crisp and cheerful.


8. Put your dog on a leash and attract his attention so he looks directly at you and you at him (“Watch-me”). Then issue an action word, SIT. A poorly trained dog might slowly get into the sitting position, at which point you reward him IMMEDIATELY with praise, GOOD BOY, ROVER, (remember the high tones and heartfelt deliverance) and at the same time as you immediately produce the reward.

An untrained dog will have to be assisted into the sitting position by moving a food treat over and above his head so that he has to sit to reach it. Successful accomplishment of the task is meets with warm praise and the food treat. In some cases, placement techniques (tension on collar, downward pressure on the rump) may have to be used.

9. Once you have a dog performing the desired response greater than 85 percent of the time in a quiet undisturbed environment, you can move onto the next stage; starting to shape the behavior toward the ideal response. You might begin by rewarding a progressively faster SIT, that is, rewarding the dog for sitting in 3 seconds, later in 2 seconds, and ultimately in 1 second, or immediately.

Decide before you give the command what you are going to reward. You can also start to reward longer and more definite SITS so the dog has to do more than just touch his rear end on the ground to receive reward. Withhold the food treat until the dog is sitting properly and then gradually introduce a time delay before the reward is given.

10. Gradually increase the length of time the dog must remain in a SIT-STAY until he can remain relaxed in this position for one minute while the owner is at a distance of 5 feet. Continue to increase the time and distance the dog is asked to remain in a SIT-STAY after the dog has been successful at the previous level for 5-10 trials.

For very long SITS, the reward should be given intermittently throughout the SIT, at least during training. The owner should teach a key phrase such as EASY or STEADY to teach the dog to associate relaxation with the exercise. It also is helpful to have a release command, such as FREE or RELEASE, which tells the dog when he has been obeying for the desired period of time.

11. Vary the commands during an individual training session – keep the training sessions short and frequent. Dogs will learn much more from regular short sessions than from longer, less frequent ones. Once the dog has learned several useful commands on the continuous reward schedule, that is, the dog is rewarded for each successful performance of the behavior, the schedule should be changed to one of intermittent reward.

Initially, the dog may be rewarded two times out of three, then every other third time, and so on until rewards are only supplied occasionally. This is the way to wean a dog off food treats and is the cure for a dog that “will only work for food.” Remember, however, it is always important to praise your dog immediately if he has performed a command properly, whether or not any other reward will be forthcoming.

12. Once training has been accomplished in a quiet area, you can gradually begin to work in environments with more distractions, continuing the training in the yard, on leash, progressively lengthening the leash between you and the dog and finally dropping it, so the dog is now obeying without you at the other end of the lead. It may be helpful to continue this training in relatively busy environments, so that you can maintain control even in distracting situations. The Holy Grail of training is to have the dog reliably obeying commands off lead, even when other things are going on around him. This level of training can be achieved but only after a lot of hard work and investment of time. It's something to strive toward.

And remember, regarding training, “Art and science aren't enough; Patience is the basic stuff.” (Konrad Lorenz).

from http://www.petplace.com/article-printer-friendly.aspx?id=1974
I like the heading on this section of training topics from the dog trainer's site, Diamonds in the Ruff.

It is a good reminder that what we think of as problem behaviour is actually in most cases, normal dog behaviour. Yes, our dogs need to live in our world, and we need to train the dog so that the dog learns not to do these things at times and in places that are inappropriate, but the fact that our dogs do these things is not a sign of a huge problem. They are merely the sign of a task ahead of US, the responsible and caring owner, to clearly teach the dog in a rewarding way that we need a different behaviour pattern. :thmbsup:


Intelligent Diversions and Creative Play

Chewing and Destruction




Jumping up

Counter Thieving

Cat Chasing

The Problem with Outdoor Dogs

Dogs in the Country (an article from the CAPPDT)

Poop Eating *ugh*& Rock Eating
You can read up on all these topics by following the link above. :)