Training Lessons (2/2)

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Now you are ready to begin training...

Place the dog in a sit position on your left side, with their right leg next to your left leg. The dog should be facing forward, the same direction you are facing. Your leash is folded into your right hand, with your thumb through the loop. Never place your wrist through the loop at the end of the leash - you can break your wrist if the dog takes off! Your right hand is placed at your belly button. The leash should be loose. The left hand is to be used only for corrections!

To get the dog into a sit position pull up with your right hand on the leash, close to the collar. At the same time, place your left hand on their rump, the area right above their tail. Tell your dog to “sit”. Then, PRAISE your dog for correctly doing what you have showed them.

Before giving any command, say the dog's name to get their attention, then give the command. Beginning dogs do not know what you are saying, therefore, show them what to do: “Rover, sit!”, place the dog in a sit, then praise the dog. Your dog will quickly learn what “sit” means through repetition and praise.


When you are ready to begin heeling, have your dog in heel position, as noted above. The instructor will say, “Are you ready?”. You should reply, “Yes”, or “No” if you need additional time or instructions. When everyone is ready, the instructor will say, “Forward”. At this time, say your dog's name and “heel”, step forward on your left foot and begin walking with the dog. The leash should be loose, in order to give the dog a chance to perform correctly, and your left hand should be off of the leash. If the dog does not walk next to you, give a quick jerk on the leash, and tell the dog to “heel”.

Do not use your left hand on the leash unless it is needed for a quick correction to place the dog in heel position. Do not drag the dog. The dog will not learn by being dragged around. If the dog has a specific problem, such as forging ahead or lagging behind, ask the instructor for help. If the dog is forging ahead, quick changes in direction will focus their attention on you, such as an “about turn”. If the dog is lagging behind, quick corrections and praise with the dog in heel position will help.

During the heeling exercise, about turns, fast, slow, right and left turns will be called by the instructor. These are to practice teaching your dog to walk with you at different paces and stay with you when you turn different directions.

Most important, these calls are to teach the dog to pay attention to you. Remember to praise the dog when they are in the correct position. You may also want to use treats or toys as well as praise. If the dog becomes too unruly, have them sit and become calm before resuming your heeling.

Sit - Stay

The “sit-stay” and “down-stay” are practiced “on a line”. Everyone is lined up with their dogs in heel position. For these exercises you place the leash in the left hand.

For the “sit-stay” exercise, say your dog's name to get their attention, then tell your dog to “sit”, even if they are already sitting. This lets the dog know what they are supposed to do. Then tell the dog to “stay”. At the same time use your right hand, palm open, and place it in front of the dog's nose. Step out on your right foot and stand directly in front of the dog. Hold the leash taunt above the dog's head. (In later classes, you will go further from the dog.) The dog should remain sitting for at least one minute. If the dog gets up, simply bend over and place him back in a sit and tell him to “sit”.

To return to heel position, hold the leash above the dog's head (do not let it touch them) and walk around the dog, from the dog's left side to their right. Be sure to practice this at home - you can start a sit-stay for five seconds and gradually work up to one minute. You can also use treats to reward the dog, only after they have remained in the sit for your designated period of time. When you have returned to heel position, walking around the dog, the instructor will say “exercise finished”. At this time you may release the dog by giving them a verbal command, such as “okay” - and praise!

After every exercise in class and at home you should let your dog know when you have completed that exercise. Use a word such as “okay” to let them know they are through. Praise is also important to let them know they have done the exercise correctly.


The down-stay is similar to the sit-stay and performed on a line with the dog in heel position. The dog should be in a sit, next to your left leg. With the leash in your left hand, tell the dog to “down”, pointing with your right hand to the ground. For the dog that does not know the down exercise, place the dog in a down. As you hold the dog's rear with your left hand, you can use a treat in your right hand and lower the treat to the ground. Some dogs will follow the treat to the ground and to the down position! However, some dogs will not follow the treat to the ground. For these dogs, hold your left forearm firmly on the dog's back and rear. Then with your right hand take both the dog's front legs and pull them out from under him/her - then lower them to the ground.

When the dog is in the down-stay, praise them. Stay kneeling next to your dog until they will stay to the down position. It does not matter if they lay on their stomach or back or side, if they remain down. When the dog is steady remaining on the down, tell the dog to “stay”, give them the stay signal with your right palm, step out on your right foot and stand in front of the dog. Do not pull on the leash or call the dog. The dog should learn to remain on the down-stay for three minutes. Again, when it is time to return to the dog, walk around the dog from their left side to their right side, to heel position.

When the instructor says, “exercise finished”, you may release and praise your dog.


The stand-stay exercise may take the longest period of time to teach. It is not “natural” for a dog to stand in place for a long period of time. You must teach them “stand” and “stay” just as other stationary exercises. This should be taught as an enjoyable exercise, without strict “no's”. To place the dog in a stand, place your right hand under their neck and your left hand under their stomach. Then remove your left hand and stroke the dog's back and tell them “stand”, “good dog”. If they sit, simply use your left hand to place them back into a stand. Have them keep the position for about 5 seconds, then praise them.

Continue this exercise, increasing the time periods, until they do not sit when you stand next to them. When they have learned what “stand” means, you can tell them to “stay”, using your right hand, and step in front of the dog. If they do not remain when you are in front of them, return and place them in the stand again.

When they have learned the exercise, you should be able to tell them to “stand” and “stay”, walk in front of the dog, another person will come up and examine the dog, and then you will walk around the dog, back to heel position. This exercise is one of the most useful of the exercises because it can be utilized successfully at the vet's office, when bathing your dog, or washing their feet. It is also good for the dog to learn to stand in place when someone comes up to pet them. Again, remember when the exercise is over, praise the dog.

Come Forth Recall

There are several variations to the “Recall” exercise. Beginners start with the “Come Forth”. As you are heeling your dog, you stop and take five to ten steps backwards from the dog, give the dog the “Come” command and pull the dog to you with the leash, and give LOTS of praise.

The leash can be “reeled” in like a fishing line to give you better control over the dog. Be sure to look behind and make sure your path is clear, and take care not to fall. AFTER your dog is in front of you, and you have praised the dog, place them in a sit directly in front of your feet, looking at you.

Again, praise the dog. Be sure to use their name before each command, and the one word, “Come”. Do not use “come here” or other phrases because it makes it harder for the dog to learn. You may show/entice the dog and give them a treat or toy once they have come to you.


When your dog is able to stay in place on the “Sit-Stay”, you are ready to begin teaching the recall from this position. The recall begins with your dog in heel position. Hold the leash in your left hand, and give your dog the “Stay” command, step off on your right foot and go to the end of the leash, turn and face your dog. Give your dog the command, “Come”, and guide the dog to you, using the leash to pull them towards you, with LOTS of praise.

Do not ever punish the dog when it comes to you when called.

If you call your dog and the dog comes to you, and you punish the dog, that is giving them the signal that coming to you is not good. If you must scold or punish your dog, you must go to them.

Variations should be practiced with this exercise. One is going to the end of the leash, turning, and calling the dog. Another is going to the end of the leash, calling the dog, and walking or running backwards, stopping after 5 -10 feet - this will give the dog incentive to come to you faster. Use your leash to guide/pull the dog in front of you. After the dog reaches you, and you have praised them for coming to you, tell the dog to “Sit” and place the dog in a sit directly facing you at your feet. Again, praise the dog.

Do not ever let your dog off leash until they come to you every time when called.

 You may want to use a long line for the recall exercise to teach the dog to come to you from longer distances. Until they are trained and come to you every time when called, the dog is always in danger when off leash. The dog does not understand that a car can kill; if they run off they might not be able to find their path back to you; there are other animals or dogs which can also hurt/kill. If there is an accident and the dog runs away, such as bolting out of your car/house/ backyard, until they are trained there is no guaranteed method to get the dog to return to you.

Dealing with mischievous or wandering

Do not run after your dog when they are bolting away from you. The dog will think it is a game of chase and try to run farther. Call your dog, but run the opposite direction. The dog will possibly think it is a game of chase and you are the object to chase. Then stop and sit on the ground and let the dog “catch” you.

If your dog likes to ride in the car, open your car door, and invite them to get in to go for a ride. Entice the dog to you with their favorite toy, a ball, a treat. (Opening the car door or bouncing a ball has worked well with my labrador when he has gotten loose.) Again, there is no guaranteed method to get your dog to “Come”, until they are trained to come to you every time when they are on leash and have ingrained this command.

Remember you are learning how to train your dog at class. The dog learns the exercises at home during your training sessions - practice each day even if only for 5 minutes. Practice heeling down the block (for about 6 houses and about-turn, then heel back to your house, with a “sit” at every house). Take the dog to the park to practice on weekends to give them more distractions! Soon they will learn to perform the exercise no matter what is going on around them.

Obedience class will be the hardest place for the dog to learn because of all the distractions - such as lots of dogs and people! When they are working well at class, you know they are learning their exercises and will behave well in public. Always train when with a calm, assertive attitude. Do not train if you are upset or mad. The dog will always look to you for guidance, and respond in the manner which you project to them. If you are fearful, mad, upset, the dog will respond attempting to take the lead and overcome your feelings. Dogs are not humans and do not think like humans. They learn from repetition and discipline.

Be a leader to the dog

The dog's basic needs are food, discipline and exercise. A dog that is left in the backyard or in the house without exercise or discipline will never be a happy, stable companion. The dog should be walked every day - and that will also help the dog's owner! The dog must learn their place in your household - and that means you are the leader. A dog that does not submit to the leadership of all your family members will assume that role and create chaos in the home.

Show your leadership in all interaction with the dog - including a sit for food, sit before you open the door to leave, sit to greet visitors, down when you are eating, down when you are resting. The dog gets to go out the door, get in the car, come inside, only when you invite them. If the dog is fearful, aggressive, jumping, barking, demanding - do not give in to their wants. If you react with comfort for the dog's fear or yelling “no” for other unwanted behaviors. This only gives reinforcement to the dog instead of stopping the actions. Again, the calm, assertive attitude is the answer - only when the dog is calm can you praise and pet the dog. Otherwise, place the dog on a sit or down until they are calm.

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When in class, ask questions and let your teachers know about specific problems you are having with your dog at home. We are there to teach and assist you to make a companion and friend in your home.

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