The Socially Acceptable Dog
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Your Dog and Their Manners
a clear reflection on you
Training a dog is ideally about understanding a concept of training and then applying it to you and your dog, rather than simply following steps of how to say something and when to say something and how to hold the treat or the leash or whatever. For most, this understanding only comes after going through "the steps" that someone else teaches them many, many times. In the process of teaching these skills, you will be gaining valuable ground in learning to communicate with your dog as you give him excellent skills for coping with the new world you show him with your socialization efforts.

Instead, DigitalDog would suggest that you consider trusting the relationship you have with your dog and your inherent ability to solve problems. It might even help to write things down. Saying that you did, you might list walk on lead, recall, sit and stay. None of these are complicated and all of them can be taught easily and quickly at home as part of your day to day routines, you just need to determine how.

The obvious aspect of tying a positive to a desired response is hardly revolutionary to anyone. The problem is that most of us aren't very attentive to what our dog considers positive. For example, you yelling "Good Dog!" might seem positive to anyone that knows English, but to your dog, it might sound pretty similar to "Bad Dog!", especially if you holler bad dog more often! So the first part of getting ready to train is to learn your dog and what makes them happy. Find things they like that help them relax (like a scratch under the chin) and things that make them energetic (like pulling out a favorite toy).

The next part might already be a bit obvious, when you pull out the toy and they are across the room, ask them to come (or whatever recall term you might want to use) and run out of the room. If your dog doesn't come, you need better toys! Then you can do it one day without leaving the room.. make sure they always get the toy, only do it a couple times and then put the toy up where they can't get it. That is the superspecial wonderful toy your dog gets when they do superspecial and wonderful game of recall with you.

For stay, it's time to pull out that favorite relaxing reward. Pick a time when its quiet and your dog isn't distracted, even when they are considering a nap is good. Sitting or down doesn't matter as we are introducing the stay not the position, ask them to stay and then do the gentle reward, if they get up, just stop. When they settle down again, use your stay term and continue the reward. Once they are pretty much "assuming the position" when you offer the term and the reward, you can start pausing the reward and resuming after a few seconds. You can randomize how long you stop the reward and give a verbal praise. Change it up. You can see the effectiveness of the approach has a lot to do with the motivators you find and how you implement them.

Walking on lead seems like an entirely different task though, doesn't it? Well perhaps, let's consider getting that toy out. Right, they will be jumping and not paying much attention to what you want them to do, will they? If you walk away, with that toy, they will be right there though won't they? So wear grungy clothes and forgive the enthusiasm for now. Take a few steps and then toss the toy or give them the toy (whatever the game is). Get the toy back and do this a few more times. Not too many, don't let them get tired of the game. Before long you will have a dog that loves walks (even without the toy) and tends to stay close to you as you build up their sense of it being fun. Especially if you make it so that they are never really sure whether you have the toy or not!

So, using the approaches we discussed above, how would you approach the sit? Would sort of depend on the motivators you found and how energetic your dog is, wouldn't it? A dog that prefers to lay around might need the energy motivator to get up to a sit and the wired dog would do better with the calming reward to build the sit. In order to keep it interesting for your dog, only ask for a split second sit at first. The stay is what builds duration and for the dog to sit is to actually complete the exercise for these purposes. So, if you have a dog that you can use your energy motivator for this, use the toy dangling over their head to get them to lean back and sit. Let them have the toy. Do it a few more times, attaching your sit term if you want, then hold the toy up. Do they hit their sit? Give them the toy and end the session (put the toy up). If they don't sit, still end the session and put the toy up. They will be pondering what an odd duck you are and figuring what they have to do to get that toy next time!

Now using the elements above and some creative thinking and confidence, you are very possibly in the place to be able to teach your dog virtually anything! Not that you need to put all the trainers out of business yet!

Dogs are inventive and creative (part of the fun in training) if they offer responses that you don't expect like hit a sit and then bounce up for the toy immediately (so you think they believe the thing you want is for them to jump) you have options, think it through how you would or could better communicate. Hold the toy a bit lower so they don't jump? Talking to your favorite trainer will get some help as well. Mostly, if you aren't having fun... STOP! That is the best indication that it's not going well and you aren't doing it right.

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