Puppy Training 101
Tags: dogs, puppy, training, come, sit, stay, down, fun, tips
Question Comment 1: I have 10 week old puppy black lab, which I will be using for duck shooting.
To begin training properly I would like some direction on the methods of training the basics commands like, heel, responding to the word NO, sit, stay and down.
How to Train: Come, Heel, Sit, Stay, and Down
Comment 2: Your dog is just the right age for pre-training. She may not comprehend the commands, but you can start training anyway.
The first thing in puppy training is to take your dog where you can work it without a leash. It needs to learn to stay with you by itself. Your puppy also needs to adventure, and learn to work away from you while keeping track of you, particularly if you plan to use your dog for upland hunting.
Come: Off a leash, run away from the dog while repeating come, come, come. She will chase you. Let her catch you, and give her lots and lots of praise. Repeat. Some people use doggy treats. Don't over-do them. As your puppy gets a little older, put it on a check cord and make it clear that come means come, every time.
Never punish a dog for coming. If it has been misbehaving, you tell it to come, it comes, and you punish it, you have just trained the dog not to come. I once trained a dog that had been treated that way. The first time I said 'come', the dog turned around and ran 100 yards in the other direction! I had to abandon the 'come' command entirely, and used 'here' instead. Try to be aware of the message you are giving your dog.
Heel: Walk along with the puppy. Bend down and pet the dog as you walk, talking and praising the dog, and saying heel every few seconds. She will quickly learn to love walking at a heel. When my dogs are tired, they automatically come to heel. You also need to teach the opposite command, which varies from "hie on" to "hunt 'em up." The last thing you need is a boot polisher that won't hunt the field.
Sit: Press gently on the puppy's hind quarters while saying sit. Praise. Be sure to press hard, preferrably with two fingers right in the back center of his rump, between his two hind legs.
Stay: Have the puppy sit, then back away slowly while saying stay. Start small. A couple feet is a long ways for a pup to be separated from you. If she breaks, have her sit again, repeat the stay command, and watch carefully. If it looks like she is going to break, quickly give the come command, plus praise.
Down: This is a tough training command for a puppy, because it requires them to assume a submissive position. Be very calm while teaching down. Start at a sit, then pull the dog's front feet forward while petting it and saying down.
Be sure to use a command for only one thing. If the puppy jumps on you, don't say down, say something else, like NO (while giving her a knee in the chest). If you say 'down', you will just confuse the dog's training. If a dog is on the furniture, the command I use is 'Off".
You get the idea. When starting pups, the only punishment I use is to withhold praise, except if they are doing something that will get them killed. Then the wrath of Jove descends on their little puppy heads. If they run into the street or start to chase a car, I will whip them all the way back to safety, but stop as soon as they are back where they belong. Don't put a dog in an E-collar until they are fully trained and know all the commands, or if you want to aversion condition them to something like snakes.
Your puppy in training may be too young to understand words yet. Don't get impatient with a dog that young. A while back I adopted a stray lab about 8 or 9 months old. It had never been obedience trained. Working with him a few minutes a day, it took about a week to teach him all the commands, except for stay. He had some real abandonment issues, and was afraid of rejection. It took weeks of patience, but he finally accepted it. He understood the command just fine, he was just afraid to follow it.
Another thing you need to do is train the pup to use its nose. Spread pieces of a hot dog, or other favorite treats, around in tall grass and let the pup search for them. Give it time to just explore. Spend as much time in the field with it as you can, giving it plenty of opportunity to learn what all those smells mean.
Some of the best trainers are other dogs. If you know someone with a trained lab, let your puppy run with it. It will see what the older dog does, and mimic it.
Your pup is a little sponge, soaking up life. Every dog and person your pup comes into contact with trains it. Do what you can to keep your family and friends from ruining your work. Group dog training classes are a great way to get your pup used to behaving well in group situations, but wait until it is a bit older.
Your pup has a very short attention span right now. Keep your training sessions to 2 or 3 minutes at a time, after the pup has had the chance to run and play a bit and shake the ants off its toes. I have always found the best time for a training session is on the way back to the house after a walk. You won't have to fight the dog to get its
attention, and will end up with a dog that really wants to be obedient.
Specialized Training Tips
Comment 3: Although I have been a trainer for Pointers, for well over a half century the same principles apply. When folks get pups from me I recommend they get a good training tape, dvd, etc.(more likely to be viewed by entire family than is a book). At risk of oversimplification my personal classification scheme is to divide the puppyhood into three stages of "training" for the first year..the 3rd stage commencing around one year of age. The first starts at one day old..the 1st three weeks being only very brief (a less than a minute) daily handling for weighing and other brief stimuli. Brief holding continues until they are able to walk and run at which time 1st stage really starts. Larry calls it pre-training which is very descriptive. I call it experiences. I give pups all the experiences they will encounter (other than gunfire) in later on formal training. There is no "teaching" here.. only experiences.. no corrections.... no direct rewards.. only experiences at something they will later encounter. Beginning sometime well before midyear the second phase starts which involves hearing verbal commands with physical enforcement.. enforcement doesn't involve corrections. Rewards are introduced here (i.e. something good for obeying you, the pack leader) Final stage around a year at age at which time formal training is appropriate. At that time you first make sure the dog understands the commands (result of second stage) and rewards are used and finally, if needed, corrections.
As an example I use a barrel for many phases of yard training. In the first phase they are placed on barrel, stood up and made comfy. When they appear relaxed and seem to like the experience I put them back on on the ground..all in less than a minute at first and then a minute or so. In second phase I physically make them stay on the barrel by holding them there with my hands (or other methods) and require them to eventually stay there a few moments at which time they are rewarded and put back on ground. Verbal command is used during this process. Third phase involves corrections if they wont stay put. Breaking this down into three phases makes it go forward only one step ar a time. Instead of having to deal with new physical (location), physical restraint, verbage by pack leader, rewards and corrections all at the same time pup is led thru the steps one step at a time.
The consequence of this is a no-fear program. Graduates like barrel training and will happily jump on barrel on their own. Again, my experiences are with Pointers, but the rinciples should be the same. By three months of age they are usually ready for stage two. By that time they have also had field experiences and they know how to hunt, know how to cross creeks, find game and will point and hold them until I get there.
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