Shahbazin Anatolian Shepherds How To Make Obedience Training Fun For Your Dog

What is your mental picture of a well-trained dog? Most people picture a dog that obeys promptly, happily, precisely, with his head and tail up and his eyes focused on his owner. If this is the image of what we would like to see, then why are so many dogs (even at obedience shows) doing obedience work slowly, without precision, and with a lack of enthusiasm?

What is often missing is the element of fun for the dog. Very few dogs enjoy being drilled, yanked on, and having incomprehensible commands yelled at them in unhappy voices. Yet, this is often the kind of training that we are taught to use on our dogs.

A happy, encouraging tone of voice is a necessary part of training. Talk to your dog, encourage him, and praise him when he does what you ask him to. The command word need be said only once, but after you tell your dog, "(dog's name), sit", this should promptly be reinforced by telling him "good sit!, what a good sit!" Popping a piece of hot dog in his mouth at the same time also reinforces the dog's cooperation.

Heeling should be fast, energetic, and frequently broken up with play periods where your dog goes from heeling intently, to being patted on the chest, told "OK!," and vigorously played with. After 2 or 3 minutes of this you get back to work, work for another 3-5 minutes, then release and play again. All of this running around and talking in an enthusiastic voice may look a bit odd to other people, but as a writer for "Dog Sports" magazine put it, "If you don't feel really silly training your dog, you're not doing it right."

Corrections (verbal or a jerk and release on the training collar) should not be used until the dog is consistently responding to the command. The dog should be guided into performing the correct responses, then praised and/or rewarded. A dog learning the `sit' command might have his handler place one hand on his chest and one hand on his rump, pushing down on the rump and back on the chest, while telling the dog, in a happy tone, "sit!". The instant that the rear goes all the way down, the dog is told "good sit!" and might also be given a treat. The dog doesn't have to stay in the position; he is just learning at this point - when he learns to maintain a sit or down at your side, you can start giving him the `stay' command, taking one step away and then returning and praising. Don't try to go too fast, and always return to an earlier step if your dog becomes confused.

Once your dog is responding quickly and consistently, you can correct for inaccuracies and lack of attention - then promptly praise and reward.

For example - you are teaching the recall - there is a 15 foot length of cotton clothes line attached to your dogs training collar (a choke-chain just big enough to fit over his head) and he is sitting at the end of it on a `wait' or `stay' command (I use `wait' for moving exercises). He is used to responding to your commands from the end of a six foot leash, and has responded well to coming from a greater distance. However, he is not watching you - he figures that he knows what will happen next - and you want both his attention and a fast recall. You would tell him "(dog's name), come!" jerk on the long line, and start running backwards while saying things in an encouraging tone of voice ("that's a good boy/girl!", "hurry up!", "good come!" etc.). As soon as he gets in front of you, pop a piece of food in his mouth and praise. Don't worry about sitting in front of you at first - just get him to come in fast and happy.

A young dog or a novice might spend about 15 minutes in a training session, and an older, more advanced dog might work 30 - 45 minutes. This time includes all those `release and play' sessions also, so that the dog is not actually in deep concentration all of the time. I use up about 1/2 to 1 hot dogs per dog during most training sessions.

Frequent breaks to energize and reward your dog, lots of positive voice feedback, food rewards, and showing him what you want him to do - this will result in a dog who is eager to play the `obedience game' and who will have fun too!

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