Part One of Dog Training Boot Camp had you hand feeding your dog, and teaching him that the clicker signified he would be getting treats. In this lesson, you will learn to use the clicker to get your dog to recognize his name, especially important for a dog that is new to your family. You will also teach him to make eye contact with you when you say his name. You will also continue working with your dog at feeding time, if it is safe to do so.
You should now review last weeks exercises, and determine if your dog poses any aggression issues that need to be dealt with by a professional, in person. When hand feeding him, he may have been a bit overzealous and licked and chewed your fingers. However, if there was any growling, biting, or other aggressive or defensive behaviors, stop now, and consult a professional to assess your next steps with this dog.
To train the dog to know his name and make eye contact is extremely important. Owners know puppies need to be taught their names, but many owners forget that older dogs who are newly adopted may be given new names and will need to learn them, as well. Many people inadvertently teach a dog his name, as the dog comes when called, but do not follow through with the eye contact portion. Even if your dog knows his name, please follow through on this lesson.
Equipment and Supplies you’ll need for this lesson are:
Your clicker on your wrist
Training your dog to know his name is very simple. Start with your dog in arms reach, you standing or sitting on furniture, not on the floor at his level. Say his name, click and treat. Repeat 20-30 times in one session. You will do this 1-2 times per day for the first two days of the week. Rare is the dog that does not get this lesson.
A caution, DO NOT call your dog by name to have him come running from another part of the house. You do not want to train your dog to come when you call his name. You will train him to come to the command “come”. Many owners think this is odd, and want their dogs to come running the instant they call them. However, this can prove deadly for your dog.
Imagine for a moment that your dog has gotten away from you and is happily sniffing in the bushes across a busy street. You want his attention, but you do not want him to dash out in front of the oncoming traffic. You want to be able to call his name and have him make eye contact, ready for the next command. For safety’s sake, in that emergency, it will probably be “down” and “stay” until you come to get him. A dog that comes when the owner calls his name could be doomed in an emergency.
Next is training the dog to make eye contact with you when you say his name. On day three of the week, you will start this exercise. Start with your dog in arms reach, you standing or sitting. Say his name, and look him in the eye. If he makes eye contact, and only WHEN he makes eye contact, click and treat. If your dog does not make eye contact after a few moments, let him smell the treat, then bring the treat up and hold it between your eyes on the bridge of your nose. He should watch the treat and follow it with his eyes. Click when you make eye contact, then treat. Repeat 20-30 times per session, as many sessions as you like per day.
Always give the dog a moment or two to make eye contact on his own before bringing the treat to the bridge of your nose. Watch the dog as you start to move the treat. As training progresses, he should start to look at where the treat ends up every time, and make eye contact with you before the treat makes it to your nose. Click and treat when he does, do not wait until you have the treat at your nose. Continue this exercise for the rest of the week.
If you have an overzealous dog that jumps at the treat at first, ask for eye contact from a standing position to avoid unintentional injury from him jumping on you. If you have a bigger dog who could possibly reach you or knock you over when jumping up, merely continue the exercise while taking a step back to prevent him from being able to land on you when he does. Ignore the jumping for now, it should extinguish itself when it doesn’t prove successful for him.
Until now, you have been acquainting the dog with the clicker. He has learned that the click means a treat is coming. Now, you are actually using the clicker as a training tool. The “CLICK” sound now marks the desired behavior in the most immediate way possible. You are able to click much more quickly than you are able to complete saying “good dog” or giving a treat. By clicking the instant you get the response, you are letting the dog know he did the right thing, and his reward is coming.
Lastly, continue working with your dog at feeding time. Hand feed, and pet your dog while it eats. This will acclimate your dog to touch while eating. If your dog shows any mild sign of aggression (hair raised, growling), stop feeding for at least a half an hour. Return to hand feeding only, and try to pet again at the next meal. If more intense aggression is shown (snarling and growling and a pause in chewing, or actually snapping), go back to hand feeding and consult a professional.
Look for the next installment of Dog Training Boot Camp where you will start to train your dog for more specific behaviors. Have fun and enjoy your dog!