Back to basics
So, following on from yesterday’s blog post about indoor games, I got to thinking that some dogs might not have the basic skills for some game ideas that I was introducing. Therefore I’m going to put together a few posts outlining my approach to teaching the basics – they may not be your traditional methods, but trust me, they work amazingly. All of the methods that you will find in my posts are completely positive, no check chains, correction or punishment in sight. That’s one thing that I’m really passionate about. Reward the good, ignore the bad is my dog training motto.
I’ve decided to start with an overview of how I teach a dog the stay command, because it really is a great asset to be able to leave your dog somewhere and know that he will still be there when you return.
Stay or wait?
Before I get into the method, just a quick word on what I mean by stay. It might seem obvious, but there is a difference between what you want from your dog in staying or waiting. The actual words don’t matter, you could call them cabbage and potatoes, the dog won’t care, so long as the commands are used consistently they will learn what they mean.
In my terminology stay means I want you to remain where you are until I return and give a release command. Whereas wait means I want you to remain where you are until I release you to do something else, eg come to me, run ahead, whatever. Hopefully that’s clear, but feel free to drop me a comment in the box below if it’s not.
So, my training methods focus on giving the dog every opportunity to succeed, and reducing the options for failing as far as possible. Bear with me on this, hopefully it will make sense as I explain further. I want the dog to understand exactly what I am asking of him, and exactly what he is being rewarded for. So, to begin with I will load my pockets up with treats (you don’t have to buy treats, small cheese cubes or sliced raw carrot make great training treats).
To begin with I am just going to have my dog inside the house, no distractions, just me and him, and I’m going to have him standing in front of me. I’m going to have a treat ready in my hand, I am then going to move half a step away, say ‘stay’, then return to him and give him the treat and loads of praise. Sounds simple, even though you’re not really moving far away, this is what I mean by giving every opportunity for success. He hasn’t had the chance to fail because we’ve done it so slightly and quickly.
From here it is simply a case of increasing the distance that you go before rewarding. Don’t be in a hurry, keep it fun and don’t do it for too long. Ideally I would be doing this for two minutes at a time max, but repeating that several times a day. Do it while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, while the ads are on TV, whenever you can fit in a minute or two and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can progress. Half a step away, then one step, then a few steps, eventually working up to being able to leave the room. Remember you are always going to return to your dog, the other way around.
This is where people often get frustrated. I have heard so many people in my training classes saying ‘he does it fine at home’. Of course he does, there is only you and him at home. Add in half a dozen other people, all with dogs, and it’s a massive difference in a training class. We’ve got to build up to that gradually. Same as going outside, think of all the other interesting and exciting things that are at the park. You’ll need to go back to the first steps each time you introduce the command in a new environment, but it really doesn’t take a huge amount of time, just loads and loads of repetition.
Get going and try it!
I hope that this little guide helps. It’s really the first blog post where I’ve started to set out my approach to training dogs, so I would welcome any feedback on what you like or don’t like about it. Also stories about your experiences using this method would be awesome.