“Sit! I said Sit, dang it!” Have you ever yelled that at your dog before? I have. And while the sit command seems to be a simple request, we humans seem to think our dogs should understand it the very first time we yell it at them. But sorry to tell you, it doesn’t work that way…
Dogs view us us as part of their pack, and as I have said in a previous article, there is one leader in the pack, called the Alpha Leader. And that alpha leader needs to be you. Please read more on pack leadership, and once you are done, come back and read on…
Teaching your dog basic OB commands is not only a way to establish a strong working bond with your dog, but it also is a great way for your dog to live. You see, domesticated dogs live to please and with a job to do (being commanded certain things to obtain their daily requirements), they will flourish as dogs.
So let’s get right to the training. Before we get into “sit/stay” stuff, let me first tell you about the four different training phases I use.
Teaching your dog is more complicated than just repetitive actions that form a behavior. Yes, your dog will do “ok” with that command you teach in the front room, but what about using that same command in a “high stress” environment?
You see, just because your best friend will “sitz” (I teach my GSDs in German, for ease of Schutzhund) for you in the living room without distractions, but what about when you are at the park, and 17 kids are all running up to you and your GSD? Will he break that command? I dare say so, unless you are using the 4 basic phases below:
- Learning Phase
- Distraction Phase
- Correction Phase
- Maintenance Phase
In this phase of training we begin teaching our commands using “markers“. Markers can be viewed just like in clicker-training. You see, clickers will “mark” the expected command at the very second your dog does what you’ve asked. Basically, you click the clicker. I use verbal markers, which I recommend you do to, so you won’t need a clicker handy at all times during training.
What you do is simply “mark” the desired behavior the second your doggie does it. I use the word YES! So I say to Zero (my 4 year old male GSD), “Platz” (German for “down”) and the second his tummy hits the ground, I mark with YES! – then “Good Platz!”.
In this phase of training, once your dog is doing great in your living room or kitchen, then you gradually add distractions to the environment. So you’d give the command Platz while your kids roll your dogs favorite ball his way. Motivational training works really great here (I’m all for motivation training, coupled with compulsion for an all around great dog), with the result of a failure to “down” because of the added distraction leading to not getting his food reward (or toy, etc).
Another distraction I feel you really must include is moving your pal outside for this command training. Remember, inside your house are very few distractions, but the great outdoors offers tons of them! So repeat your training outside. Once Fido has it down, slowly add distractions like you did indoors. Please remember to have tons of patience!!!
In this phase – and in my personal opinion, and the opinion of the professional dog trainers who train PSDs (Police Service Dogs), PPDs (Personal Protection Dogs), and sport dogs that I know, motivational only training fails. Here is where you, after adding distractions, you being to correct your dog for failures to comply.
You must make sure, however, that your dog understands the commands 100% – and thus a failure to comply means disobedience warranting a correction. You must be a fair pack leader!
So back to my dog Zero. I got him at 3 years old, and he didn’t have much obedience trained into him. So I started with the outline above, adding distractions as I’ve written. When I give him the sitz command, and he fails at it, I will use his prong collar to correct him. This is done not very often, as he loves to please me.
Maintaining your pals training is a simple matter of taking your dog through the steps above when he seems to be bending a command or two.
In part two of Basic Training, we’ll cover the following commands:
- Sitz (pronounced siitz, meaning sit)
- Platz (down)
- Hier (pronounced hee er, meaning come)
- Bleib (pronounced bly’b, meaning stay)
- Fuss (pronounced fooss, meaning heel)
- Hopp (meaning jump)
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