I like to begin my basic obedience classes with some Conditioned Relaxation because I find it really helps the dogs adjust to the many distractions of a group class environment. Most of my private lessons also learn Conditioned Relaxation, in fact, and it certainly never hurts! If your troubles with your dog mostly stem around him being too hyper or overly excitable, Conditioned Relaxation is where you should start.
When teaching Sit and Down, there are a variety of methods you can use. My favorite method is targeting, but luring with food is quite popular and a good option. Don’t forget to also teach your dog a release command– a word that lets them know they are done with that command. Think of it like a recess bell, not like a Come command. You can use a Stay command or you can simply have the stay be implied, either way.
Once your dog has the basics for Sit and Down, start adding in difficulty by asking them to stay there for longer (increasing duration), or to stay there while you move away (adding distance), or by increasing the distraction of the environment around you. Do this step by step, careful not to go too fast. If you’re working with multiple dogs, you can play speed games, asking the dogs to sit or down, rewarding only the first dog to do so, and releasing right away. This will help the dogs learn to respond quickly to commands.
Leave It – This command is designed to be a very strong command that could potentially save your dog’s life. Never let your dog get the Leave it item, even after you’re done with the command. Always pick it up before putting it away or (possibly) giving it to your dog as a reward for something else later on.
Loose Leash Walking – There are many ways to teach Loose Leash Walking, but the way I find to be the fastest, gentlest, and easiest for the dog is known as pressure-and-release. This method also happens to be the most difficult for the owner, with the longest time to mastery for the owner.
Come – Make sure you never call your dog to punish them–which means looking at the world from your dog’s point of view!
Be sure to check out Mel’s training manual:
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