Training your dog is one of the most essential parts of dog ownership. Whether you have an 8 week old puppy or an older dog, you can always increase both the bond you have with your dog, and the level of obedience you get from him. Reward based training such as in these tutorials can be done at any age, and with almost any dog. All you’ll need are a few supplies available at most pet stores, and a minimum of 15 minutes a day. One caveat, if you know, or come to find, that your dog has aggression issues that make him dangerous, immediately seek the counsel of an in-person professional.
One of the most popular methods of dog training today is “Clicker Training”. This has been used across the animal kingdom to train Dolphins, Horses, Dogs, Birds, and even some reptiles. This is the method used in these tutorials.
The supplies you will need throughout Doggie Boot Camp are as follows:
A Clicker: available at most pet stores, often for less than $2
A wrist lanyard: People often use these for keys, stretchy coils of plastic with a key ring on them. You will put your clicker on this so it is always at hand. You can also use a thin elastic hair tie, or plain rubber band.
A 6ft. Leash and, optionally, a 20 foot “check cord” or long leash.
Your dog’s normal food
Treats: There are many “levels” of dog treats. Dry kibble can be used as a “low-level” reward. Other treats are Training Biscuits, pieces of fresh fruits and vegetables, like apples, pears, carrots, etc., freeze dried liver, and pieces of cooked meats like hot dog, chicken, liver, beef, etc. All treats should be in very small pieces, smaller than a dime.
The first week of Doggie Boot Camp you will be feeding your dog by hand. This is usually a safe practice, even when dogs have food protecting issues, like guarding their bowls. They will usually take food from their owner’s hand without issue. However, please do not attempt this if you have been bitten aggressively (not just accidentally by an overly zealous dog) when attempting to treat your dog and consult a professional in person.
Starting the first day of your training week, feed your dog with you sitting on a chair, not on the floor at the dog’s level. Positioning yourself above your dog gives you a dominant stature. Feed the dog just a few pieces of kibble or a spoonful of wet food at a time. Do not worry about the dog’s manners yet. Continue to feed until the dog’s normal dinner portion is gone. As the week progresses, begin to take a break for a few moments to a few minutes, several times while feeding.
If you have a new dog, feeding by hand teaches them that you are the source of life, and the pack leader. They learn that you give them permission to eat. If you are training a dog you’ve had, this re-establishes you as the pack leader.
This week, you will also acquaint your dog with the clicker. Have 20-30 treats readily available, and your clicker in your hand. Click the clicker then treat your dog. Do not ask for any behavior yet, just click and treat, and repeat until you are out of treats. This is where the session ends. Start these sessions on day one as well. As the week progresses, pause between the click and the treat, sometimes for a second or two, sometimes for several seconds. Return to immediate click and treat. Randomly add the pauses.
Clicking and treating teaches the dog to associate treats with the clicker. They will learn that the treat may come immediately after the click, or may be delayed a bit. This is essential for later shaping of more complex behaviors.
If you have an overweight dog, you can modify the training. Instead of treating, use the dogs dry kibble instead of treats, and reduce the dinner portion by the amount you have treated him.
Have fun, and enjoy your dog! Look for the next installment of Doggie Boot Camp and keep on training!