The American Dog Trainers Network

The Many "D's" of Dog Training --
15 Steps To Obedience Training
 & Proofing Your Dog

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1) Difficulty of the command

    Always begin teaching your puppy or dog the easiest command(s) possible (ie: "Look", "Sit", etc.). Very gradually introduce new and more difficult commands.


2) Degree of inherent genetic compatibility with a given command

    Consider your dog's genetic makeup. If you have a Basset Hound and want to teach him personal protection, you may have your work cut out for you. If instead, you have a German Shepherd or Rottweiler from Schutzhund lines, you'll probably have an easier time teaching him personal protection.
    Using the above example, if you have a Labrador Retriever from field lines that you are interested in teaching to fetch a ball, you're dog is likely to learn how to retrieve relatively easily.
     

3) Duration of time

    When initially teaching a new command, such as "Sit", if your dog sits for even just a second or two, he should be praised, rewarded and released. Gradually, the duration of time your dog should be taught to remain in position should be increased.

    [Note: Make sure your dog is physically comfortable throughout any training exercises. Always release your dog from a command/session before s/he becomes stressed. Short and sweet sessions are often best. Always end sessions on a positive note!]
     

4) Distraction level

    Start training each new command in an area free of distractions, such as your home or yard. Once your dog is responding reliably, gradually increase the distraction level.

    Add distractions such as:

    A) Bouncing a ball

    B) Throwing a ball/toy

    C) Squeak a toy

    D) Doing "Jumping Jacks"

    E) Singing a song

    F) Running around your dog

    G) Playing "Ring-Around-The-Rosie" around your dog

    H) Play "Patty Cakes" with a friend in front of your dog

    I) Have dogs heel around your dog

    J) Throw treats around your dog


    [NOTE: Never use a distraction that frightens your dog!]


5) Distance between you and your dog

    Begin teaching a command with you dog right next to or in front of you. Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog to 30 feet.


6) Distance between your dog and an object of attraction

    If your dog is 3 feet from you and 37 feet from a squirrel, flock of pigeons, or an other dog, you have a greater likelihood of getting your dog to respond to a command than if your dog is 37 feet from you and 3 feet from a squirrel, flock of pigeons, or an other dog! Once your dog is reliable in the face of distant distractions, gradually, decrease the distance between your dog and any "objects of attraction".


7) Different locations

    Just because your puppy will respond to the word "Sit" in your living room, it doesn't mean he understands that command in the context of the local dog run. Don't expect your dog to automatically generalize the meaning of a given command in every environment or context. Once your dog fully understands a command at home, it is important to re-teach the command in many different locations. Make sure to practice commands in both rural and urban locations.


8A) Different surfaces

Practice commands on a variety of surfaces including:

    A) Cement sidewalks

    B) Grass-covered lawns

    C) On sand

    D) On dirt


8B) Different object surfaces

    A) On a chair

    B) On a table

    C) On a low wall

    D) On a log

    E) On a surf board in the ocean

    F) On the back of a horse


9) Differing order of commands given

A "pattern trained" dog will always expect one specific command to follow another specific command. This can work for or against you depending on the circumstances. Usually it is advisable not to pattern train, as your dog will have greater difficulty learning how to respond to a given command that is out of order.


10) Different contexts

Many dogs have difficulty responding to commands that are given out of context to normal training situations. Many dogs simply have not yet fully generalized a given command. Trying giving known commands:

    A) As you're walking down the street with your dog.

    B) When you're in your local pet supply store.

    C) While you're on line at the bank

    D) When you're both within five to ten feet of your local dog run entrance,
    while dogs come and go.

    E) While inside the dog run with your dog, both with and without a leash.

    F) When riding in a moving elevator (assuming your dog is already
    acclimated to riding in moving elevators).
     

11) Different times of the day and evening

Practice commands at different times of the day and evening.


12) Different body positions while issuing command

Does your dog really fully understand a given command? Try giving the command when you're in a different position than usual. For instance, if you are sure your dog understands the command "Stand", try issuing the "Stand" command (from a sit or down):

    A) While you're laying down on the floor, stomach side down.

    B) While you're on the sixth rung of a ladder.

    C) While you're one flight above or below your dog, each of you
         located at the opposite ends of a staircase.


13) Different levels of volumes and different tones of voice

    Try issuing commands to your dog in several different volumes (whisper, quiet, moderate and loud) and different tones of voice (squeaky, in a low voice, grumbly, singing, etc.).


14) Disappearing after issuing command

    Give a command your dog knows well, then go out of sight for 3 minutes. Does your dog remain in position until you return and release him or her?


15) Disappearing before issuing command

    First, try standing behind your dog, facing away from him, when giving a command. Use a mirror when possible to watch your dog. Then Give your dog a "Sit-Stay" command, then go out of site for 1 minute (ie: into the next room where your dog can't see you). Then, while still out of your dog's sight (but within hearing distance), issue a command for your dog to "Down".

Copyright 1995 - 1999,  Robin Kovary

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Robin Kovary is the American Dog Trainers Network helpline director
 and canine behavioral consultant.


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