Dogs and their owners attending a dog training class

The basics of dog training

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by Erik Prins

03/03/2023

I am a volunteer trainer at a dog training club which is registered with the Kennel Club. At the club they do not just teach about obedience training, they have many sections. These vary from scent training, rally, agility, gun dog or fly ball. I volunteer for both Adult and puppy obedience training. We teach some of the basic obedience elements during the classes and slowly increase the difficulty as people progress from beginners all the way up to the gold standard.

The sit

This is an instruction for your dog to place their bottom on the floor. You initially start this by holding a treat above their nose and moving your hand slowly backwards above their nose. This has the effect that your dog will follow your hand with his nose and as he moves backwards his bottom moves down. The moment his bottom touches the floor you say “sit”.

The down

When they are in a sit you can then move to the “down” position. The way I do this, is by having a treat between my thumb and the palm of my hand and then shaping this into a tunnel. I let the dog smell the treat and slowly move my hand forwards on the floor. Your dog will follow the treat and slowly move their front paws forwards until their belly touches the floor. This is the moment you mark the behaviour by saying “down”

The Stand

When they are in a down position, you can get them to stand again on all fours. You can achieve this by holding a treat in front of their nose and very slowly moving your hand forward. As they want to get the treat it will encourage your dog to stand on all fours. The moment they stand on all fours you mark the behaviour with the word “stand”.

Person walking their dog with a loose lead

Loose lead walking.

This is so easy but, a skill many people do struggle with. I teach this, through the use of a treat. Let your dog know you have a treat in your hand and start walking. I usually mark the behaviour with the word “heel”. Whilst your dog is walking next to you I also say “good heel”. If you have a small dog you will need to bend through your knees to ensure the treat is in front of your dog’s nose and then simply start to walk.

The wait.

The wait is an instruction which relies on building up your dog’s confidence. With this command, your dog is in their favourite position, either a sit, stand or down position and they will remain in that position until they are given the next instruction. We have given them the, for instance, sit instruction and then we show them a flat hand and say wait. This is a request that you shape over time. First, just show your hand and say “wait”. You then count to three whilst you do not move. If they have not moved you can give your dog lots of praise. You then start to build your dog’s confidence using the same method but you start to add in 1/2/3 steps away and return, then you can add the time element in from 3 steps and a 3 count all the way up to 30 seconds.  

A person giving a stay instruction with a flat hand towards the dog.

The stay

The way I train for the stay is the same as wait. I hear you ask what is the difference between a wait and a stay. I am glad you asked. To remind you, with the wait instruction you place your dog in its preferred position, and you tell them to wait until you give the next instruction which could be come, this way, find etc. With a stay, you place your dog in their preferred position and give the instruction to “Stay”. We then go to the pub nearby, have a pint, and walk back to find your dog in the same position. So with the stay, your dog does not move until you return to your dog.

The Play

Play is not an instruction as such but you could make it one. Here I want to touch upon the importance of play. In schools, playtime is a valuable part of the learning day. The same method can be used during your dog training session and will make the training more fun for you and your dog. You can use the word play as an indication of the start of playtime. When you start the game you can add the word hold, take, grab, or get as a marker for the behaviour. When you are in the mitts of the game you want to teach them to stop on instruction, you can use leave, drop, release or let go. It is a great way of teaching impulse control.

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About the Author

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Erik Prins

Hello, My name is Erik, I am a 3D (Dutch, Dyslexic, Diabetic), 55-year-old young man who lives with his wife, daughter and 3 Greyhounds in North Warwickshire. I volunteer as a dog trainer and run my own dog training and dog psychology business. I am proudly Dyslexic, please forgive my grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and you may be so lucky to experience my chaotic mind. I hope you will enjoy the content as it builds up over time.