by Brian DeMartino | January 23, 2022
Obedience training gives your dog things to do and accomplish which they really enjoy and get rewarded for. Learning and practicing obedient commands challenges our dogs mentally in a healthy way the same as our career gives us things to accomplish that we get paid or rewarded for. Obedience training gives your dog a job to do that they enjoy which takes place of or is combined with what they where inherently bred to do as a canine, such as hunt, herd, retrieve, guard, protect, and so on. When training is not done with your dog regularly then that pent up energy and frustration from lack of purpose can cause your dog to start to do his or her own things to get rid of that excess energy and those are the things that start to cause friction in the relationship between you and your four legged family member.
So what does Obedience for your dog mean?
Obedience training is the teaching of commands like a focus or pay attention command, to sit, lay down, stay, come when called, go to a place command which is to go to their dog bed or a spot and stay, and to heel which is to walk properly on the leash when asked. Those are the primary basic commands that dogs learn in obedience but obedience training has many different stages or levels of advancement so the training stays fun and challenging for our dogs in a very healthy way.
How do you start to obedience train your dog?
Training your dog to respond to the obedience commands first takes setting up a communication system so your dog understands what it is that you are saying because our words and language mean nothing to them unless taught in a way that they understand. This means being “conditioned” to something. Which is what the Russian Scientist Ivan Pavlov discovered in 1936 called “classical conditioning”.
Using a healthy high value treat is a great way to teach your dog this beginning stage of training. Buy yourself a treat pouch that clips on your waist to hold the treats in while training this way you have easy access to them during the session and both your hands are free to use, one to hold the treat as a lure and the other to hold the leash when needed.
First is building up your dogs engagement towards you by presenting the treat and then giving it to him or her. This can be done by letting your puppy or dog smell the treat then backing up a step or two and once your dog follows you give a treat and repeat that over and over and over again. Now you want to create what is called a “marker”. A marker is a word or sound to let your dog know that they did what you wanted when they respond to the movement of the lure which is the treat in your hand. The marker can be the word “good” or “yes” or a clicker.
So it would go in this order:
- You present the treat by letting your dog smell it.
- You move back a step or two which is building on your dogs focus.
- You keep your hand at a low level and in the same position so your dog stays focused on the lure.
- Once your dog follows forward or toward you then you say or give your marker “good” or click and then give the treat to your dog.
Those 4 steps are the beginning of you learning the training system that will teach your dog all of the movements of the basic obedient commands. It seems easy but it takes practice to get it right. Shaping the behaviors is when we use the lure to show our dog that we want them to sit or lay down, that is what we will do first before adding in the word sit or down to lay down. This way your dog is doing the motions right before you put the word in for the command.
I will be doing articles on the shaping of these commands and go further into detail on the obedience training. For now practice those steps above and get your dog conditioned to the marker which is them learning the word good or sound of the clicker equals a reward!