Basic Dog Training

Most dogs, no matter their eventual advanced training or intended purpose, live with people and therefore must behave in a way that makes them pleasant to be around, keeps them safe, and provides for the safety of other people and pets . Dogs do not figure out basic obedience on their own; they must be trained.

The hardest part of training is communicating with the dog in a humane way that he understands. However, the underlying principle of all communication is simple: reward positive behavior while ignoring or correcting negative behavior.

Basic pet obedience training usually consists of 5 behaviors:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Stay
  • Recall (“come” or “here”)
  • Close (or loose-leash walking)

The recall command is arguably the most important of all training commands. It is critical to never punish a dog if they respond to a recall. Punishing a dog upon recall quickly teaches the dog that if he returns he will be punished. If the dog requires a correction, the handler should go to the dog – the dog should not be asked to come and then punished. The dog will attribute the punishment to whatever behavior he was doing directly before receiving it, and if that behavior was responding (correctly) to a recall, then the handler has just inadvertently taught the dog to run away from the recall command.

“Corrections” should never include harmful physical force or violence. Using force while training is controversial and should not be taken lightly, because even if it ends the behavior, it will also teach the dog to fear the handler to a certain degree. It is up to the handler to decide what amount of force (if any) is appropriate. However, the standard used by most trainers is the minimum amount necessary to inhibit the unwanted behavior. A common technique is to quickly jerk an attached collar and “lead” (fancy term for a leash, usually short, 4′ is good) as a consequence for ignoring a command. (i.e., Sparky is jumping up on a guest, say “off” if he’s already jumped up, or if you see he’s thinking about it say, “down” and if the command is ignored then “correct” Sparky by “snapping” the lead to make his collar rattle.) A common alternative to physical corrections is a time-out from a preferred location or activity. (i.e., Sparky jumps up on a guest and is immediately given a 5-minute time-out in a separate room – away from the guests he wants to interract with.)