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Basic Commands

Basic Commands


 
Why Teach Commands?
 
Some basic commands can give you a way to communicate with your dog, so that when you say them, your dog knows exactly what you want.  Basically, dogs want us to be happy with them.  They just don't really understand what we want.  It is our job to teach them.
 
Training Sessions
 
A training session should be about 10 minutes long, and the dog should be a little bit hungry.  Right after dinner, for example is not a good time.  They aren't hungry and won't be motivated by treats as much as if they would like a little snack anyway.  A dog needs 2-3 sessions a day to be really productive.  If you work you can do a session before and after work and then do one 3 times a day on the weekend.  If you don't work you can do 3 sessions a day all the time, but really doing it every single day is more important than how many times a day you do it.  Like everything else to do with dogs, consistency is the key.
 
Training Treats
 
When I refer to training treats, I am not talking your average milkbone.  Milkbones or dog biscuits are great for a little snack, but not so great for training.  You want a tiny treat that is really good to motivate your dog into doing commands and things they may not really want to do.  You also don't want to fill them up too fast.  My dogs like hot dogs sliced thin and microwaved about 60 seconds until they are kind of crispy.  Your dog may like tiny pieces of cheese.  If your dog is a little short, you may like taking a long wooden spoon and putting some peanut butter on the end of it and letting the dog have a lick.
 
Things To Keep In Mind
 
  1. Your training session should end on a positive note, even if you have to backtrack and do something your dog knows well.  Never end a session on something the dog didn't do.
  2. The session should be short...10 mins or until the dog looses interest.  Their attention span just isn't that long.
  3. It is generally better to shape a behavior with a treat and after the dog is doing it, give it a command to go with that behavior.  Once the dog is performing the behavior with the treat as a lure, loose the lure by using your hand as though you have a treat in it, but there is no treat and give the treat from the other hand.  Once the dog is reliable with the "empty hand" acting as a lure, add the verbal command to your hand motion.  When you are done, your dog knows both a hand motion and a verbal command to perform that behavoir.
  4. Say a command once, and only once.  Give the dog a few seconds to do it.  If they don't, say NOPE! cross your arms, and turn your back as though you are moving onto something else.  DO NOT REPEAT THE COMMAND OVER AND OVER!  After a few seconds, turn back and give the command again.  Repeat this process a couple of times and if they don't do it, move onto something they know and then end the session.
  5. Decide on a positive and a negative word and use them all the time.  They should be words you don't use in everyday conversation.  Personally I use "YES!"  and "NOPE!"
 
Sit
 
The easiest way I have found to teach a dog to sit is to take a treat, and use it like a lure to shape the behavior.  Stand or Kneel in front of your standing dog. Show him a treat in your right hand, then move it from his nose up & back a bit over his eyes but slightly out of reach. Most dogs will rather quickly sit so they can better reach it. You might need to be patient & wait for a moment. But when he does, immediately say "YES" give the treat, and praise. Try to say "YES" at the exact moment his rear hits the ground so he learns that that is what got him the treat! At this point you want to give the treat right away, too.  It's okay if your dog gets up after the "YES" If he doesn't sit at all - maybe keeps backing up trying to get the treat, then just turn away & ignore him for a few moments. Of course... don't give him the treat! Then try again, from the start.  Once the dog is reliably performing the sit with the lure, you add the "SIT" command to it.  Another way to get a dog to sit is to take a piece of scotch tape or a post it note and put it right between their shoulder blades.  The dog has to sit down to scratch it, and when their butt touches the ground say "YES" and give the treat. 
 
Once the dog is reliably doing the behavior with the lure, use your empty hand to make the same motion but without a treat to go along with it.  When the dog's butt touches the ground, say "YES!" and give a treat from your other hand.  Once that is reliable, you start saying "SIT!" with the hand signal.  Then when that is reliable, start giving a treat only sometimes, other times give a praise and a pet only.  This way you phase out using treats all the time.  When you are done you should be able to put your dog into a sit using a hand signal or a verbal command.
 
**Greyhounds are notorious for not sitting.  Some say it is because sitting is not allowed at the track which makes sense.  If the box opens for a race, and the hound is sitting, that hound has lost that race.  Some say it isn't comfortable for a greyhound to sit.  I have seen greyhounds that sit and greyhounds that don't.  If you have a greyhound, you may just move onto another command if it is too hard for your grey to sit.


Phoebe