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Just for Kids: Training Your Dog

By: Virginia Wells

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Does your dog ignore you when you tell him to "come"? Does he jump up on Aunt Millie when she comes to the door? Does he run away from you even if you tell him to "stay?" If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your doggie needs some basic training.

Everybody likes a dog that has good manners. It's important to teach your puppy or your dog how to behave so that everyone will like him as much as you do.

We've already discussed some commands in Teaching Your Dog to Sit and Stay. Those are very important commands that every dog should know. In addition, your dog should come to you when you call him (come), and he should know how to walk on a leash (heel).

Teaching Your Dog to Come

This command can keep your dog safe. If he is running away from you where he can get lost, or if he is heading toward traffic where he can get hit by a car, it is important that he knows that when you say "Come," he must return to you.

This is how you can teach your dog to come to you. Start training in your living room or in the backyard where there is a fence. Kneel on the ground, hold your arms away from your sides and cheerfully shout, "Rover, COME!" You might even say, "Rover, come, good boy," before he comes so that he knows he's not in trouble.

When he comes to you reward him – give him a treat or lots of praise. Now do it again, this time increasing your distance slightly. Do this for about 10 minutes, and be very patient. Don't expect too much for the first few days. Always end on a positive note.

When you feel your dog is doing well, try him out in the park or another new place, but keep him on a leash until you are really sure.

Teaching Your Dog to Heel

It's fun to take your dog for a walk, but it's not so great if he is pulling you down the street at his own pace. A dog with good manners will walk alongside you at YOUR pace, and the walk will be enjoyable to both of you.

This is how to do it: Start off with your dog on your left side. Hold the end of your dog's leash in your right hand and take up the slack in your left. Tell your dog to "Sit!" Hold a food treat in your left hand, bring it to his nose and say, "Rover, HEEL!" in a bright voice. Next, walk briskly for about ten steps, keeping the food slightly elevated at your side. When you stop, lift the treat slightly or pull up on the lead so that your dog sits. Now you can give him the treat and lots of praise.

Do this every day once or twice for about 10 minutes each time. Soon he will get good at it and will do it without getting a treat.

Keep These Things in Mind

  • Training should be fun for you and your dog. If you are not in the right mood for training, don't even start.

  • Keep training sessions short, about 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Be very patient. Your dog wants to please you and he is really trying hard to learn.

  • Say the command once. Don't repeat it. Dogs will hold the thought in mind for about two minutes. Make sure your tone is cheerful.

  • If you say the command and your dog doesn't respond, don't reward him. Maybe he doesn't understand yet. Try again in a few minutes – maybe with something easier.

  • Always end the session on a positive note. Give your dog a command that you know he will obey. Then reward him. This way both of you will feel good about what you've accomplished.

  • Never, never punish your dog when he doesn't get it right. This means no yelling, no hitting, and no chain jerking. Each session should be upbeat and fun.

  • The reward should be a favorite food such as small pieces of cheese or freeze-dried liver. You want the dog to work hard for the treat.

  • Treats should be small – no bigger than the size of your little fingernail – and should not require chewing. Large treats, like Milk Bones®, take too long to eat and your dog will soon lose attention.

    A Final Note

    Just like us, dogs learn best when they are having fun – and are getting treats in return. They like spending time with you, too. And remember: Help him practice everything he's learned so he won't forget.

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