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Obedience Exercises

To use as rewards, you will need lots of small food treats - something your dog is very interesting in following with his nose. Use a reward that the dog will work for. This means if the dog will work for cheerios or kibble, don't upgrade to slices of hotdogs or diced chicken. If your dog doesn't like any of these foods as a reward, check for a pulse.


* Put the food in the palm of your hand covered by your thumb. Let the dog sniff it. * Say "sit", then scoop upward with your palm facing up, stopping just over and behind the dog's head. * Wait. Ignore any other strategies like jumping, pawing, nibbling or licking. Simple wait for a sit. * To continue comfortably sniffing the treat, the dog will eventually sit. Once he does, praise warmly and then let him eat the treat. * Repeat several times. * When he sits reliably as soon as you give the signal, demand two sits per treat, then three or more. * Recognize and exploit training opportunities. Ask the dog to sit before initiating walks, opening the door to the yard, greeting him when you come home, putting down his dinner, etc... Think of sit as the dog's way of saying "please".


* With the dog in a sit, put a treat in your hand. Let the dog sniff it. * Say "down", then bring your hand, palm down, treat and all straight down from the dog's nose to the floor between his front paws. * Wait. Again ignore all other strategies like pawing, licking and nibbling and reward a down when you get one. * If this doesn't work on the first few attempts, sit on the floor and make a tunnel with your bent knees: draw the dog through with the treat, opening your hand as soon as he is in the down position. * Repeat, then ask for and reward a "sit" once you get one. * Repeat and reward several "pushups" (sit-down-sit-down). * Make the dog do pushups whenever a training opportunity arises in the daily life.


* With the dog in either a side or down, turn your hand sideways, palm and treat toward the dog. * Say "stand" and move your hand horizontally away from the dog. * To continue targeting, the dog will have to take a step forward. When he does, praise him and give him the treat. * Practise going smoothly from sit to down to stand in random order, rewarding all correct performances. * When the dog is reliable, make him do more for less: reward after every time or two or three position changes. Try to select particularly nice efforts for reward. * When the dog is reliable for occasional reward, practise with the treat in your pocket instead of your hand. For this step, go back to rewarding every correct performance again. * When the dog is reliable for empty handed command, demand more for less again. * Practise in different locations. Dogs don't generalize will, so you must vary your practise venue. Initially, if the enviroment is distracting, more frequent rewards. Follow the same as before to gradually wean off these.


* With the dog in a sit, say "stay" and give him a traffic cop style halting palm signal. * Play devil's advocate: dangle a treat in front of him at nose level. * When he moves toward the treat, say "too bad" and snatch it away. Your timing is important: inform the dog he blew it the instant his rear leaves the ground. * Re-sit the dog and repeat the exercise. * Eventually, because plan A (moving) is not working, the dog will eventually try plan B (not moving). As soon as he freezes when you dangle the treat, praise his effort of self control and feed him the treat. * Repeat until you can't get the dog to move, no matter what you hold in front of him. * Cancel the treat at any time if he breaks his sit position. * When the stay exercise is over, give him a release word "ok" to let him know he can move now. * Gradually increase the duration of the stay in 10 second increments, rewarding him "in position" at the end of each new accomplishment. * Practise waling in a circle around the dog. Start with a step or tw, pivoting back to reward him for not moving. If this is successful, add steps until you can march around the dog. Head movement is legal, but do not allow him to rotate - he must keep his body facing front or he gets a "too bad". * Gradually increase distance in five foot increments, returning to reward after a second or two at the newly established distance. * Combine distand and time: practise stays for up to a minute or two at 30 feet or more. Always watch the dog so you can time your "too bad" perfectly. * Practise in different locations.


List your dogs favourite five things. These might be playing with dogs, fetch, cookies, cuddling and walks. For the next few weeks, precede these things with the command "come". The first tip off the dog has that something great is about to happen should be the word and first impressions are extremely important. * Escort your dog to your fenced yard or try working together in your house. * For basic conditioning, play a game where you send the dog back and forth between two people. Each takes turns calling the dog as follows: 1) Command "come" 2) Encourage your dog to you by crouching, clapping, backing away or high pitched baby talk 3) Praise the dog when he arrives 4) Ask him to sit, then take hold of his collar 5) Dispense a treat that you have hidden in your pocket * Practise this in a variety of locations. If there is no one on hand to help, call the dog randomly during the day using the same sequence. * In the early training, protect your recall (come) command: always associate it with pleasant things for the dog. If you must end a walk in the woods or do nail clipping or put the dog in his crate, label these honestly "nail time" "bed time" but NEVER ever use the word "come". * After several practise sessions, start providing consequences when he does not comply right away. When you call and he does not come, calmly and mater-of-factly go collect him and escort him to your calling position. Thank him and then let him go. Immediately call again. If he complies, praise and give him a treat. If he does not, repeat the escort and try again. Your message to the dog is that he would like to carry on doing what he was doing, his best policy is to comply with your command. If he doesn't, he will be made to complete the recall anyway and then be called continuously until he completes one solo.

Always reinforce training. Whenever you are out with your dog, mix and match the commands "sit" "down" "come" 'stay" Do so randomly so that he must constantly be thinking about what you are telling him to do. In that way, he will always look upon you as his leader. He will also respect your mind, and you will have the positive influence on his that will, in turn, make him a delightful, responsive and intelligent companion.