The one basic fact in dog training is that the animal must always be rewarded if it performs correctly and punished if it performs incorrectly. This reward or punishment must be given immediately upon performance so that the dog can directly associate them with the specific action. If too much time elapses between the action and the expression of reward or punishment, the animal will not associate them with the action. The reward is most often expressed by a kind word, a gentle pat on the head, or the feeding of a tidbit. Punishment is most often expressed by a harsh word, a sharp tug on the leash, or by grasping the animal by the scruff of the neck and letting it know in no uncertain terms that you disapprove. Disapproval also may be expressed by slapping the haunches of the animal with a folded newspaper. However, this procedure often seems to cow the animal and tend to break its spirit, and for this reason, it is not generally recommended.
The idea behind this system of reward and punishment is that it seems to be the innate desire of the dog to please the master to win his approval and to avoid his disapproval. If the master appreciates this fact, dog training rarely presents any special problem. All he essentially has to do is to approve those actions that he wants the dog to perform and to disapprove those actions he does not want the dog to perform.
This requirement is not always as easy as it sounds. It is sometimes difficult to be rigidly consistent, especially with a pet for whom the owner has a deep affection. It must nevertheless be understood that the most obedient pet is the most desirable one, and any strain on the conscience that may be accompanied by persistently firm discipline will be more than compensated by the fullness of pleasure that will be derived from the completely obedient pet. And let us stop kidding ourselves: pets are acquired mainly to give the owner pleasure. When they are disobedient they cause the owner displeasure. When they cause the owner displeasure, they destroy the essential purpose for which they were acquired. So it goes without saying that to enjoy your pet fully it is necessary to teach it obedience.
It must also be understood that the mind of the dog is not as well developed as the human mind. Therefore dogs are often slow in “catching on” to what the owner is trying to teach. It must also be borne in mind that the animal’s power of concentration is limited; no more than half an hour a day should be devoted to training. Thus, especially at an early stage in training, an enormous amount of patience is necessary before the dog can be made to behave with any semblance of consistency. However, as the animal becomes increasingly obedient, it is amazing to what limits the training can extend. With patience and discipline, the obedient pet can be made into a wonderful companion and can be the source of wholesome enjoyment.
The Command “No”
One of the first and most imperative things for the puppy to learn is to obey the command, “No.” Teaching this should start in the housebreaking period. Whenever the animal makes a mistake it should be told briskly, “No,” grasped by the scruff of the neck, shown what it has done, and then placed on its housebreaking paper. The sharp “No” should also accompany any excess barking or biting on the part of the puppy as well as any other of its undesirable actions. The tone of voice and the attitude of the owner must be such as to make it completely clear to the puppy that disapproval is expressed. The dog will gradually come to associate unpleasantness with the word “No,” and will often seek refuge in its bed until the “heat is off.” The owner should maintain aloofness for a couple of minutes. By that time the pup has forgotten about the whole thing, and further punishment would serve no purpose. Dogs seem to grasp the meaning of the word “No” very quickly, and this is a good thing because the word is invaluable in further training.
The Commands “Heel” and “Stop”
The dog may be taught to obey these commands when as young as four months of age, but consistently better results will be obtained if the dog is from five to seven months old.
Use a choke collar in this training. Attach a leash to the collar and hold it short in your left hand, with the remaining portion in your right hand. Make the dog walk on your left side close to the back of your left knee. As the animal walks in this manner, give the command “Heel!” If the dog obeys this command, praise it with a pat on the head and an encouraging word. If the dog lunges ahead, pull it back briskly while repeating the command “Heel! Heel!” This procedure should be repeated several times a day on a quiet street as free as possible from any distractions. After a time, varying in length with different animals, the dog will master this walking technique and thereafter, to take the animal for a walk will be a pleasant, effortless experience. When the animal is thoroughly trained to heel—that is, when it is about eight or nine months of age—the acid test is to attempt to repeat the procedure without any leash at all. If the animal performs properly, praise it profusely. If the animal does not get the point, go back to more rigorous training with the leash, and also repeat the procedure without the leash until the animal completely grasps the idea of what you are trying to accomplish.
The “Stop” command is often taught in conjunction with the “Heel” command, but it is better not to attempt to teach it until the animal is quite thoroughly accomplished in the art of heeling. While walking the animal, stop and give the command “Stop” at the same time. Make the animal stop and also stand on all fours. Do not permit the animal to sit. Repeat the procedure until the animal masters the idea. As with healing, the acid test is to make the animal repeat the performance without a leash.
The Command “Sit”
The animal can be taught to sit at the age of four or five months. Occasionally an intelligent animal may be able to master this command at an even earlier age.
Stand on the left side of the animal and hold the leash short and firmly in the left hand. Place the right-hand flat on the animal’s back in the hip region. As you give the command “Sit!” press down with the right hand, forcing the animal into the sitting position. Repeat this procedure many times a day until the idea is mastered. Once the animal learns the meaning of “Sit” it is ready to learn the “Stay” command.
The Command “Stay”
Tell the animal, “Sit.” Then command the animal “Stay,” and walk away a few feet from it. If the animal follows you, grasp it by the collar and return it to its original sitting position. Repeat the performance until the animal gets the idea. When a pretty fair mastery has been achieved, repeat the performance and gradually walk farther and farther away from the animal and remain away for longer and longer periods. If this dog training procedure is done within the household, an acid test would be for the animal to learn to obey the command when you walk into another room and remain there for several minutes. Sooner or later, with patience and persistence, the animal can be taught to obey this useful command.
When the “Stay” command is thoroughly understood, the animal is ready to learn the “Come” command.
The Command “Come”
Command the animal, “Sit” and then, “Stay.” Hold the animal at the end of a three-foot leash. Suddenly snap the command “Come,” and with beckoning motions encourage the animal to come to you. If the command is obeyed, praise the animal profusely. If the command is not obeyed, gently tug the animal toward you while repeating the word, “Come.” When the animal starts to grasp the idea, keep repeating the performance using a longer and longer leash after each successful trial.
It will often speed up the procedure if the dog can be tempted with some sort of tidbit that it particularly enjoys. The animal will associate the reward with obedience. The acid test is to make the animal come to you without using a leash.
The Command “Down”
The dog must first learn the “Sit” command before it can be properly taught the “Down” command. Stand on the right side of the animal. Tell the animal, “Sit.” Kneel down and place your left hand flat on the dog’s back in the shoulder region and your right hand in back of the front paws. Then snap the command “Down!” and as you do so raise the dog’s front legs upward and forward, forcing the animal into the “Down” position.
This procedure should be repeated until the dog learns to obey the command. It goes without saying that kind words and gentle pats on the head should encourage the animal the more it seems to “catch on” to the idea.
Get Off Sofa
The most obvious way to keep a dog off furniture is never to encourage an animal to go on it. A pet should never be left alone at night in a room where it can be free to make use of a sofa or bed. Nor should the young dog be picked up and held while the owner is seated on a chair or sofa.
If the animal insists on getting on furniture anyway, it should be grasped by the scruff of the neck, told briskly, “No, No, No,” and put down. The obedient pet will grasp the idea very quickly.
With particularly stubborn dogs, more drastic measures may be attempted. Commercial repellents, which may be bought at any pet shop, may be tried. If these do not do a satisfactory job, a loaded mousetrap may be placed under some newspapers in a favorite chair. When the animal hops on the chair, the loud, sudden noise of the closing trap will serve as a surprise that will deeply impress the animal. After a few shocks of this kind, the animal will be extremely wary before it goes on furniture. Soon it will simply get out of the habit.
But the main keynote is obedience. When the simple reprimand of “No, No” is sufficient to turn the trick, you know that you have an obedient pet.
It is obvious that if a dog is never permitted on the street without a leash, the problem of car-chasing will not arise. However, assuming that this is not a practicable procedure and that the animal is in the habit of chasing cars, how is the habit to be broken?
Here is a routine method suggested by trainers. Stand on the sidewalk or lawn with your dog and have a friend drive a car past you. Hold a small, light piece of chain in your hand. As the animal rushes at the car, throw the chain at its hind legs. Repeat the procedure several times. The dog’s mind does not realize that you threw the chain. It comes to associate the blow from the chain with the passing car and feels that somehow it has been attacked by the car. Repeated performance of this procedure sooner or later will break the animal of the car-chasing habit.
One very well-known trainer records that he modified this method by using a water pistol filled with perfume. The trainer stood a short distance behind the dog, and when the animal lunged for the car the pet’s rear end was squirted with perfume. This is a clever modification, because not only did the animal feel “attacked” by the car, but the attack somehow persisted. Needless to say, the car-chasing habit was broken very quickly in this case.
Any animal that has thoroughly mastered the above-mentioned procedures has certainly become sufficiently obedient to learn almost any kind of trick. There are no set methods in the teaching of tricks. These depend upon the notions of the trainer and on the intelligence or peculiarities of the individual dog. Any way in which a trick can be made clear to the dog is satisfactory. The amount of patience demanded before a trick is learned depends naturally upon its complexity, the owner’s persistence, and the intelligence of the animal. But any dog that has learned to sit, stay, heel, lie down, come, and to obey the “No” command, can certainly be taught to sit up, to beg, to retrieve, to give a paw, to jump through a hoop, to balance objects on the bridge of its nose, and the like. By the time the owner has had experience in training the dog to obey the basic obedience commands, which we have endeavored to describe, he will already have developed certain refinements in dog training that are exclusively his own, and the application of these ideas will be adapted to his own animal. He will proceed to develop a generous repertoire of tricks for his dog that he will proudly demonstrate at every opportunity.
The depth of pleasure that is felt in the relationship between a master and a well-trained dog has to be experienced to be appreciated. It is wonderful.