Saturday, March 29, 2014

Classic obedience lessons utilize a lot of leash work. Dogs must be trained to obey and follow, which generally involves a lot of ordering about and corrections for misbehavior. It’s serious stuff. Not so with trick training and other adventures like agility and flyball. These activities depend on an invisible leash — a strong tie that brings you together in a flow of excitement and trust, like a coach guiding an eager athlete. Are you concerned about how your dog will handle the freedom? I will walk you through the basics and guides you toward the freedom of off-lead control. In this section, I give you an overview of trick training and some things you can do to get started today.
Figuring out who’s teaching who
The first thing you need to explore is your relationship as it exists now. Does your dog look to you for direction, eager to follow you and learn new things? Or does your dog’s schedule look something like this:
  Paw for attention: Promptly at 7 a.m.
  Bark at the window: 1–3:30 p.m.
  Scratch at the door: 8 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 9 p.m.
  Steal socks and get the family to chase me: 4 p.m.
If your dog’s day is one long human training session, all hope is not lost! This is a sign of a smart and clever dog; he’ll be easy to train. At the moment, though, he’s training you.
Trying lessons without words
Dogs learn in ways that are both simple and complex. Dogs are so eager to earn rewards and attention that it’s amazingly easy to teach them simple things. Get five super-savored treats or a toy your dog loves to play with, and then try the following lessons.
Heeding the four-paw rule: All paws on the floor
Stand upright in front of your dog and wave the treat above his head. If he jumps for it, lift the treat up and look to the sky. If he scratches at you frantically, wear a trench coat and completely ignore your dog. When he pauses, reward him immediately with the treat or toy. Repeat this five times in a row, three times a day. My hunch? In three or four days, your dog will hold still when you offer him treats and toys. Give it a try!
Sitting for a toy or before dinner
Try this wordless lesson, building on the preceding four-paw rule. Wave your dog’s toy or hold his dinner bowl above his head and wait. Don’t look at or talk to your dog if he jumps or barks at you. Ignore him so he understands that these behaviors will not work with you. No sirree! Be patient with your dog and keep your eyes peeled for success. The moment he sits, reward him immediately. If he stands calmly, position him or maneuver the toy or bowl above his head so that he moves into a sitting position himself.

After five repetitions, surprise — he won’t bark or jump —he’ll sit automatically! Good dog. Good person. You make a great team.
Copyright © Sarah Hodgson – Originally appeared in Dog Tricks and Agility for Dummies 2nd ed by Sarah Hodgson

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