Puppy Training – Leash walking, Sit and Down Commands
With puppy training, there are some things that you need to start as early as possible so your puppy can grow up with these habits. One of the first things you need to teach your young puppy is how to behave on a leash.
It is a crucial skill to master for both you and your dog’s future. After training a puppy to walk on a leash they are much safer and more manageable, plus it means walking is an experience you can both look forward to and enjoy.
If you follow the steps outlined below you should have your puppy leash trained within a couple of weeks. Some puppies will get it down in a matter of days and some will take much longer but just about any dog can learn the basics so never give up.
Don’t just expect your puppy to know this stuff! Your goal is to clearly communicate to your dog, what is acceptable behavior on the leash, and what is not.
The Three-Step Guide:
Step 1: Collar Familiarity
This first step can begin as soon as your puppy arrives at his new home. All it involves is getting your young pup familiar with and comfortable wearing a collar. A simple light weight leather collar is ideal for this task.
Place it on your puppy when you feed him or as you are playing, this provides a bit of a distraction from the collar. He’ll probably roll around trying to dislodge it, or try his best to scratch it off.
When he is doing this it is important that you don’t take it off him. Wait till he has settled down and forgotten about it before you take it off.
Step 2: Leash Familiarity
Once your puppy is happy wearing his new collar, it is time to introduce the leash. Same thing again here, you just want to get him comfortable with the leash, and to show him the leash is not to be feared.
Any light weight, thin leash is fine for this step. You can buy your puppy a fancy leather leash after he is properly leash trained if you choose.
All you need to do is clip the leash onto his collar, let him check it out and drag it around the house (always under your supervision). He’ll forget about it after a while.
Step 3: In-Depth Leash Training
Now that your puppy is comfortable in his collar and with the leash, it is time to pick up the other end of the leash. Make these first leash training sessions short, sharp and fun.
At this early stage you will probably find that your puppy loves to follow you around everywhere – use this to your advantage. To start with just walk around the house with the leash in hand, and your puppy trotting alongside you. When he is walking along on a loose leash give him plenty of praise, petting and even some treats.
When he strains on the leash, stop immediately. Don’t yank him back over to you with the leash, just call him back over to you and praise him when he comes. Never ever keep walking when your puppy is pulling on the leash, this only rewards his behavior and reinforces the habit.
Your puppy has to learn that when he pulls on the leash, he gets nowhere. If he wants to continue walking, it has to be by your side on a loose leash. The same rule applies if your puppy sits down when you are walking.
Don’t yank him forward towards you, just call him over and reward him when he arrives. Then set off walking again with your puppy by your side.
This method of training a puppy to walk on a leash is suited to very young puppies, it requires no pulling from you or your dog. The result is a nice loose leash hanging down between you and your dog. All it takes to achieve this is to follow the above steps, then apply some patience and persistence.
The “Sit” Command
Training your dog to sit on command is a good place for you and your dog to start your obedience training. It’s a nice easy command which your puppy or dog will master very quickly. This will increase your dog’s confidence and provide a foundation on which to build more advanced skills and commands.
Another benefit of training your dog to sit is that it gives you a good alternate behavior to request of your dog. If your lovely dog likes to greet visitors to your home by jumping up all over them, or charges out the front door every time it opens, you can gain control of him by applying your “sit” command.
You can start with this obedience command as soon as you bring your new puppy home, or any time after that. Before you start training your dog to sit (or any other obedience command) ensure that your dog is confident and comfortable around you – lets you touch him, gives you his attention etc.
General Rules To Remember When Training Your Dog To Sit
⦁ Keep your training sessions short, ten minutes is plenty to begin with.
⦁ Any time is a good time to practice really, you don’t have to structure all your lessons. Incorporate the training into your daily routine. Get your dog to sit before you feed him or make him sit before you throw his ball at the park. When applied in this manner obedience training will be fun in your dog’s mind, and rewarding.
⦁ Make it perfectly clear to your dog what you are asking of him – what you want him to do.
⦁ Make training your dog to sit fun, don’t make it feel like a chore, for you or your dog.
⦁ Training sessions should be full of consistent repetition, praise and positive reinforcement.
⦁ Don’t expect your dog to immediately learn this, or any other obedience command and then never forget it. It’s up to you to reinforce the meaning of your command through repetition and consistency throughout your dog’s life.
⦁ Gradually phase out the food rewards you may use in the learning period of a new command. Giving a food treat or reward every now and then doesn’t hurt your dog though, even if he respects your commands without one.
⦁ When training your dog to sit for the first time, make it easy for him/her to succeed. Start your training sessions in a familiar environment to your dog, free from other distractions. Master the command in this setting, then slowly make it harder for your dog. Add other variables, throw a challenge out to your dog such as taking the training session to the park or increase the duration of the sit.
The Three-Step Guide:
Step 1: Puppy Connection
This first training technique is great for young puppies. When you are with your pup and you see him about to sit or in the act of sitting, say “sit” in a clear and firm tone.
As soon as your dog’s rear end hits the floor, give him praise and maybe a bit of a scratch behind the ear. In your dog’s mind you are building an association between your verbal “sit” command and the act of him sitting.
Most puppies make this connection very quickly. Before long you will be able to say “sit” at any time, and your puppy will understand what you are asking of him. Remember to always reward and praise your pup as soon as his behind hits the floor.
Your pup will love it, he’ll be thinking “all I have to do is sit down and I get attention, treats and praise!”
Step 2: “Off Leash” Training
For older puppies and dogs this training technique works every time. With your dog standing right in front of you, grab a small tasty treat in your hand. Guide the treat from his nose level up over his head, the treat should be a few centimeters away from your dog at all times.
Your inquisitive dog will follow the treat up with his nose and at the same time his rear end will hit the ground. As soon as his behind hits the ground give him the treat and lavish him with praise.
If your dog backs away or jumps up at the treat you are taking your hand too far back over his head, or holding it too far away from his nose.
Repeat this step until your dog gets it, then you can introduce the verbal part of the command. Just before you begin to move your hand (the one with the treat in it) say “sit”. Your dog will soon respond to your verbal “sit” command without you even moving your hand.
Remember to practice/reinforce this command at any time throughout the day, in any situation.
Step 3: “On Leash” Training
If your dog doesn’t respond to the methods outlined above, or if you prefer to use a collar and leash in your training, this technique will do the trick. Stand next to your dog, both of you facing the same way. Hold the leash straight up, directly above the collar.
At the same time gently press down on your dog’s back (down near his hips) and say “sit”. As soon as your dog is in the sitting position, reward and praise him. Within no time you won’t need to press down on your dog’s back or even hold the leash up.
He will understand that your “sit” command means that you require him to plant his backside on the ground. And he’ll be happy to do it for you because he knows that he receives praise and attention when he does.
The “Down” Command
The down command is the next lesson to teach in your dog obedience training schedule. It should be taught as soon as you and your dog have mastered the sit command.
The down command is a fundamental ingredient of your overall dog obedience training program. It provides the foundation for many other advanced commands/skills and establishes you as the leader in the relationship you share with your dog.
The reason for this is that the laying down position is a submissive and somewhat vulnerable position for your dog to be in, especially when you are standing tall over the top of your dog.
The down command is a very handy tool you will come to rely on in many situations. Popping your dog down into the lying down position is great for times when you need to go into a shop or for occasions when there are small children around. It can take a bit of practice to reach this level, but it is worth the effort.
General Rules for Learning The Down Command
When you are in the learning phase of teaching the down command, start out by making it simple for your dog, then slowly turn up the difficulty level.
⦁ Move your training sessions to a public place.
⦁ Increase the time you keep your dog in the down position.
⦁ Bounce a ball around your dog when he is in the lying position, or scatter some food around him. The idea is that your “down” command will be so strong in your dog’s mind, that none of these other distractions matter. He can only get up to chase the ball or eat the treats when you release him from the down command.
What you are trying to achieve with the down command is to have your dog quickly get down into the laying position, belly touching the ground and his front legs extended out in front.
In a familiar environment to your dog with no distractions, let’s get started!
The Two-Step Guide
Step 1: Off-Leash Training
Grab your dog’s favorite tasty treat and hold it a couple of centimeters in front of his/her nose. Move your hand straight down to the ground. Your dog should follow it down (you can praise and encourage him down).
As as his belly hits the ground, with his legs out in front, lavish him with praise and give the treat. Repeat this action over and over in short sharp training sessions.
When your dog is “getting it” and going down right away, you can add the verbal part of the command. I use “down” other people use “lay” or “drop”, just choose the one you are comfortable with and stick to it (make it a one word command only).
Add your command just before you start to move the treat towards the ground. This step is all about building an association in your dog’s mind between the verbal “down” command and the act of him laying down.
The idea is that eventually, after plenty of repetition and praise your dog will only require your verbal command, and not the treat in your hand to lure him down. Also, in time you will be able to start the command not only from the sitting position but from standing and in any situation you and your dog are in.
⦁ When your dog is responding well to your verbal command, introduce some other variables which make the down command a little more challenging. Try the command as you go about your daily business, around other people or dogs and increase the duration of the command.
Step 2: On-Leash Training
Put your preferred collar and leash on your dog – I just use a nice leather buckle collar when teaching the down command.
⦁ Place your dog into the sitting position and stand or kneel right next to him.
⦁ Basically you are trying to guide or coax your dog into the down position. How you do this depends on the size and co-operation level of your dog.
⦁ Always say your “down” command first, then immediately guide your dog down into the lying position. Grab hold of the leash and gently pull your dog’s head down, at the same time guide him down by pressing down between his shoulder blades with the palm of your hand. You can also lift up your dog’s front legs and extend them out in front of him, find the method which works best for you. Praise and encourage your dog all the way down. Then of course as soon as he’s in the down position make it clear to him that you are happy with him and that he has done a good job.
⦁ After lots of repetition your dog will respond to your verbal command only. Then try the command when your dog is in the standing position and in other settings. Make the command a little more challenging by adding some distractions and increasing the time he is required to stay in the down position.
Whichever method you choose to teach your dog the down command be consistent and keep at it. When you are happy with your dog getting into the down position you will probably want to add a release command to it. This means that when you issue your down command, your dog goes straight down and is not permitted to get up until you issue another command. You can use “away” or “off you go” for this purpose.