20 May How good are your dog’s basic commands?
I do most of my training in my 700 sq ft apt. There’s so much you can do in a small space to challenge your dog’s brain and establish control. Let’s look at the 3 basic foundation training behaviours – SIT, DOWN, and STAND and all the ways we can work to achieve fluency with these commands.
1. Start with the basics. Get a good clicker book to teach the 3 basic commands. I like Clicking With Your Dog by Peggy Tilman
2. Establish Voice Control. If you want to do freestyle (and why wouldn’t you?), every command must be under voice control because you can’t let your hand signals get in the way of your funky dance moves 🙂
3. Go ahead let your dog on the furniture. With your dog on an ottoman (picnic table if you work outside), practice the above exercises with both hand and voice. Using an ottoman for distance work means that dog can’t move forward. They have to learn to work away from you. (An excellent foundation behaviour for agility and freestyle.)
4. Now bring out your HEEL position. The heeling is back to haunt you because now you need to get your dog to SIT, DOWN, STAND in heel position. In Rally-O these 3 commands all need to be done in HEEL position.
5. And you though HEELING was hard!. Imagine you are a clock. We want to practice SIT, DOWN STAND with our dogs at 12 o’clock (FRONT), 3 o’clock (right side HEEL), 6 o’clock (Dog is behind you and can’t see your face), 9 o’clock (Left side heeling). This is a real challenge for a dog and an excellent foundation for freestyle. In my apartment I practice 6 o’clock by standing close to and facing a wall, and using just voice.
6. TARGET IT. First of all your dog needs to know that he can’t grab food on the floor until you say ‘TAKE IT’ so you might need to work on that first or you will get really frustrated with this exercise. Once you’ve accomplished this you can place a small target (ie, cd case, tupperware lid, etc.) a couple of feet away from your dog with a treat on it. We want the dog focus on the target but still follow the commands. After a job well done, you can reward your dog with a treat from your hand or say ‘take it’ which gives them permission to get the treat from the target.
7. HOLD IT. How about Sit, Down, and Stand with a toy in their mouth. If Rover wants to be a movie star this one is essential.
8. SIT DOWN STAND at a distance with no elevation. The dog should not move forward. I like to do this one with the dog on a mat and slowly increase my distance.
9. SIT, DOWN and STAND while in MOTION. Yikes! In other words you are walking, you say DOWN and YOU KEEP MOVING while your dog lies down and stays in position. Substitute SIT and STAND and now we’re talking… For STAND, I use the command WAIT. The dog has to stand in position while you keep moving forward
10. The Wacky trainer challenge. What if you start doing something weird, will your dog still do their commands? Try sitting on a chair, or sitting on a floor and asking your dog to SIT, DOWN and STAND. If you want to proof these commands, and see if your dog truly knows them than bust out some wacky moves. The best thing about training in your own apartment is that no one else is watching.