The basis of training any animal is winning its trust, confidence and respect. True training cannot begin until the animal has accepted you as its leader, respects you and entrusted you with his or her confidence.
The mistake many puppy owners make is mistaking love and affection for respect and confidence. While it is certainly important to love your new puppy, it is also very important that the puppy respect you and see you as his leader. Dogs are naturally pack animals, and every dog looks to the lead dog for advice and direction. Making yourself the pack leader is vital to the success of training any dog.
Failure to gain the respect of the dog can create a dog who is disobedient, out of control and even dangerous. Problem dogs are dangerous, whether they are created through bad breeding, owner ignorance or improper training. It is important to train the dog right from the start, since retraining a problem dog is much more difficult than training a puppy right the first time.
It is important for any new dog owner, whether working with a 12 week old puppy or a twelve year old dog, to immediately get the respect of the animal. That does not mean using rough or dangerous handling methods, but it does mean letting the dog know that you are in control of the situation. Dogs need structure in their lives, and they will not resent the owner taking control. As a matter of fact, the dog will appreciate your taking the role of trainer and coach as you begin your training session.
When working with the dog, it is important to keep the training sessions short at first. This is particularly important when working with a young puppy, since puppies tend to have much shorter attention spans than older dogs. Keeping the training sessions short, and fun, is essential for proper training.
Beginning training sessions should focus on the most basic commands. The heel command is one of the most basic, and one of the easiest to teach. Start by putting the dog or puppy in a properly fitted training collar. Be sure to follow the instructions for fitting and sizing the colour to ensure that it works as intended.
Begin to walk and allow your dog to walk beside you. If the dog begins to pull, gently pull on the leash. This in turn will tighten the training collar and correct the dog. If the gentle pressure is ineffective, it may be necessary to slowly increase the pressure. Always be careful to not over-correct the dog. Using too much pressure could frighten the dog and cause it to strain more. I the opposite problem occurs and the dog lags behind, the owner should gently encourage it until it is walking beside the owner.
Most dogs figure out the heeling concept fairly rapidly, and quickly figure out that they should walk beside their owners, neither lagging behind nor pulling ahead. Once the dog has mastered heeling at a moderate pace, the owner should slow his or her pace and allow the dog to adjust along with it. The owner should also speed up the pace and allow the dog to speed up as well. Finally, walking along and changing pace often will reinforce the lesson that the dog should always walk at the heel of the handler.
From heeling, the next step should be to halt on command. This halt command works well as an adjunct to heel. As you are walking, stop and watch you dog. Many dogs immediately realize that they are expected to stop when their handler does. Others may need the reminder of the leash and the training collar.
After the halt on command has been mastered, the handler should encourage the dog to sit on command as well. Once the dog has stopped, the handler gently pushes on the dog's hindquarters to encourage the sit. Usually, after this walk, halt, sit procedure has been done a few times, the dog will begin to sit on his own each time he stops. Of course, it is important to provide great praise, and perhaps even a treat, every time the dog does as he is expected.