By Floyd Miller
Training your dog is part of being a responsible dog owner. Not only does your dog’s ability to respond to simple commands make him a more enjoyable pet to be around, but the process of training your dog is a natural bonding experience between you and your canine friend.Every well-mannered dog should know at least five basic commands: heel, sit, down, stay and come. Once your dog has these commands under his belt, he can now take a test to prove he’s a smarty pants. By taking the Canine Good Citizenship test, started in 1989 by the American Kennel Club, Fido can be certified as a pleasure to be around. Designed to demonstrate a dog’s ability to be a respected and respectful member of the community, any dog can take the test — mixed or purebreed — and those that pass all 10 segments receive a Canine Good Citizenship certificate from the AKC. For more on the program go to the American Kennel Club. SitHold the treat directly above the dog’s head. When the dog’s eyes follow the food, his head will tilt back and his hind legs will begin to fold under him to offset his body position, causing him to sit naturally. As the dog’s back legs begin to bend, say: “Sit.” When the dog fully sits, give him the treat.Once the sit command is understood, reduce and then eliminate the food reward, always praising the dog as he sits obediently. DownWhile the dog is in the “sit” position, hold a treat near its nose and move the treat downward. As his nose follows the treat, move your hand forward in front of his face. As he starts to lower himself, give the command: “Down.” Move your hand farther down and forward until the dog is fully lying down. Immediately praise him with: “Good, down!” Reward him with the treat. StayDuring early training for “stay,” you should use a short leash so the dog is aware of your control. With the dog in the “sit” position say, “Stay” and with your palm facing the dog to reinforce the “stay” command, move a small step away while maintaining eye contact. After a brief pause, reward the dog with praise and a food treat for remaining in position. Don’t be too effusive in praise or say his name, as he will probably break his stay to come to you. Repeat the exercise, gradually increasing the length of the pause. If the dog breaks the stay, make him sit and repeat the exercise with a shorter pause before giving the treat. Once the dog masters this, use a longer, slack leash to maintain control and gradually move farther away as the dog remains in the “stay” position. ReleaseWith the dog in the “stay” position, reward him for his stay with a treat. Stand in front of him, open your arms and say, “OK!” or your own personal choice for a release word. Then reward this behavior with a treat. ComeThe dog should know how to sit and stay. Move away, turn to face the dog, call him and while motioning with palm inward, say “Come.” When the dog reaches you, command the dog to sit, and then give him his food reward.HeelWith the leashed dog in the “sit” position on your left side, hold the treat in your right hand. Say the dog’s name, followed by, “Heel.” Walk, left foot first, holding the treat just over the dog’s nose and doling out little bits to encourage him. Keep the dog on a tight leash. Ideally, your dog should pace himself so that his shoulder is in line with your left knee. Reward him with larger treats when he does this.
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