UNDERSTANDING OBEDIENCE TRAINING
Obedience training should start during your pup’s formative period, at age 2-4 months. Dogs who don’t learn during this sensitive period will never learn as well as dogs who have done, so this is the best time to start training your dog to understand commands. You don’t need to teach your dog any advanced obedience during this stage; just getting the dog to understand some useful commands and good discipline will lay down the foundations for future work. As dogs get older and reach approximately 8-12 months of age, they will really start to consolidate this learning.
Obedience Training for older dogs
However, it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, and we also specialise in working with older dogs. Older dogs have plenty of potential to learn. The techniques for working with older dogs who already have established behaviour patterns (and frequently, problems) often include more advanced training techniques; our Dog Zen Virtual Dog School and Dog Zen book are designed for older dogs who need to go back a few steps! It will show you how to teach all of the basic commands and work on any behaviour issues you might be experiencing.
The Key Commands
For us, there are three very important commands.
- Firstly, the “come” command. A really strong recall is very important for many reasons. For example, a reliable recall is extremely important when you’re out and about in public with your dog as it helps keep your dog safe and away from any dangers and unwanted interactions
- Secondly, a good “sit” command, as we want this to become our dog’s default behaviour when waiting for us, waiting to receive something it wants such as food or meeting people. I teach the ‘Zen Sit’ which is a sit with your dog gazing at you, as this really enhances your bond with your dog (which makes all other training easier and more effective, too!).
- Thirdly, training dogs to go to their mat and relax in my Zen Down position. This is a great behaviour for reducing hyperactivity and creating a calm atmosphere which then assists with all other aspects of training.
Alongside these basic commands, we also train “down”, “wait”, “stay”, “heel”, “leave it”, and “quiet”. Additionally, having your dog understand a “no” command is also useful.
We use clicker training and positive reinforcement techniques to achieve basic obedience training. For example, when training a dog to sit we use a food treat to get the dog’s attention. By using this treat as a lure and moving it just above and behind the dog’s head, the dog will look up at the treat and lower its rear end onto the ground. We then use a clicker to mark the exact moment the dog is in the sitting position and immediately give the treat to the dog. By repeating this several times, the dog learns how to sit very quickly. You can learn the basics of clicker training here.