(The following article was originally published in the USKBTC newsletter, Blueprints, in 1989.)
“A trained dog is a better citizen,” is the motto of my obedience club, Bayshore Companion Dog Club, and here are some words of advice to help you reach your goal in training your dog to be a “better citizen.”
It’s important to understand the exercises we are teaching you and your dog are NOT TRICKS! They are behaviors that the dog will be expected to do for the rest of his life. Sit . . . Stay . . . Down . . . Come . . . Heel . . . are the basics, and all serve a useful purpose in making life better with your dog.
The command “Come,” is very important. This should be something the dog responds to from the very beginning as a puppy. Always use the dog’s name when you call him and be sure to praise him when he comes to you. If your dog has done something wrong never call him to you to punish or scold. Instead go to the dog when you want to give him a reprimand for doing wrong. Think about it, if you were your dog, would you come to you if all you got were a harsh word? I do not think it would be too long before you didn’t want to come at all.
Be persistent and consistent with your commands. Don’t tell the dog to do something and not follow through. For example, if you say. “Sit,” make him sit when you say it, not when he decides he will do it. If you are not going to follow through, don’t ask the dog to do it, because in a very short time your dog will learn to ignore your commands because you do not mean it. Also, your dog should not be allowed the freedom to roam off the leash, if he will not come when called.
Keep your command consistent by using the same words all the time, which is especially important when teaching the dog something new. Use the magic word, “No,” when you mean no and “okay,” when it’s okay. Don‘t think your dog is hard of hearing and get louder when he is not doing what you ask. Rather, re-enforce the command with a slight correction to his lead or gentle repositioning with your hands. When he does it right, give him heaps of praise. He will soon get the idea.
Don’t forget that the most important advice is to make training fun for your dog. Not all training needs a formal session. Incorporate exercises throughout the day, as you spend time with the dog. Try not to train when you are in a bad mood or when your dog seems to be feeling down. Be firm! It’s not mean to ask your dog to behave. Most dogs get into problems because they do not know the rules you want them to know, so they make up their own rules and the result can be an unacceptable member of your house. This is the dog that destroys things, is annoying to visitors, can’t be taken anywhere outside the home, and may become a menace to other dogs and people.
Don’t let this happen to you. It can be prevented with basic training that gives the dog rules he is expected to live by everyday. You are everything to your dog and to please you is his greatest reward.