Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obedience training: Start early!

Puppies are so sweet and playful - it's easy to forgive just about anything they do.

But failure to teach them manners from the start is not doing them a favor - in fact, it's the reason that so many young dogs end up in shelters. What was adorable in a ten pound puppy is obnoxious in a 40 pound "teen" and even worse in a 60 pound adult dog.

So begin teaching that puppy right away. His attention span will be short at first, but just keep working on it.

In my opinion, the first thing to teach is "come" and the next is "leave it." Both are easier to teach on leash, but you can do it with a dog who is loose in the house with you.

Start by always using the dog's name when you want his attention. When you say the name and he gives you his attention, administer a small treat and praise him. Then proceed to calling him from across the room. With a leash you can give a little tug toward you. But always remember to use his name along with "come."

Give more treats, and more praise, saying "good come." Just saying "good dog" won't get the job done, because he won't associate the praise with the verbal command.

"Leave it" takes a bit of patience, because you never know when he's going to get into something he shouldn't. You can set up "obstacles" if you're on leash, however. Then just pull him away from it while saying his name and "leave it."

In the house, if you see him getting into something, go pick him up and take him away from it while telling him the command. Before long, when you say those words, he should stop in his tracks and/or drop whatever he's picked up.

Your tone of voice plays a role too. I remember being in obedience class and seeing some people who just couldn't get their dogs to respond. Most of them used little polite voices when giving commands - and that doesn't work. You don't want to yell at your dog, but you do want to sound firm - authoritative, even.

I'm not quite sure what you do about a puppy getting into things when you aren't there to stop him. Somehow I think the best idea is to move temptation out of reach. After all, a puppy is still a puppy, and curious about everything in his environment.

My neighbor is head over heels in love with his puppy, and up until today was forgiving of her every error. But today he forgot to pick up his toys before he went outside... and came back in to find the remote control chewed up.

He's a bit upset with his darling - you know how men are about the remote control!

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