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Dog Training -- Keeping It Real: Training Your Dog Should be Easy

by Robin MacFarlane

10 Tips from the Slacker's guide to dog training.

I use an electronic dog collar when I train my dogs. I've been accused of being lazy because of it.

I'm not 100% certain of why people say that, but my guess is because it is a faster way to accomplish the task than some of the other methodologies that people espouse as the 'right' way. It gets a bit like religious or political discussions when you talk to other professionals about 'how to train a dog' and thus the "lazy" accusation pops up from time to time.

Personally I consider myself industrious and efficient when it comes to the task of teaching my dogs and my clients dogs to be mannerly, responsible members of the community. But I'm willing to carry the label of lazy if it means I get to teach people how to get the job done in a fraction of the time they thought it would take to teach a solid recall to their pooch. Heck, I'll even embrace "goof-off" if it means my clients come to understand that dog training isn't really all that difficult, and most any pet owner can do it if they take just a little time each day to practice the basics.

Actually, I am going to it a step further and encourage we dump the idea of practicing our dog training all together (sounds like drudgery anyway, doesn't it?). Let's adopt integrate instead of practice, and I'll show you just how easy it really is to train your dog to be a companion you can enjoy and live peacefully with.

Whether you are training with an e-collar or not (but yes, e-collar training will expedite your dog's reliability particularly when off leash) integrating training into your routine day is an ideal way to train and teach your dog that manners and obedience are a way of life, not just some trick to perform during training class or when you are 'practicing'.

So if you are lazy like me ;-) and despise practicing, let's learn to integrate instead!

Here are 10 Tips for training your dog to be a mannerly companion:

1. Teach your dog she must 'Sit' in order to have the leash clipped on. For dogs that get excited about going for a walk, this prevents all the jumping up, barking and darting away from you that often accompanies the idea of going out the door.

2. Enforce a 'Down/Stay' during your morning breakfast or coffee.

3. Insist that your dog walk on a loose leash. Stop letting your dog drag you. Even if you don't get very far the first few walks, those 30 minutes spent teaching the loose leash idea to your dog are as mentally draining as logging that mile and a half.

4. When you play fetch, add in a few obedience commands to keep your dog's skills sharpened up. Having your dog Sit before you toss the ball or Down/Stay while you go pick up one of the tosses helps to teach your dog patience and learning to listen to you even when they are excited to chase.

5. Use feeding time to your advantage. Rather than just pouring all the kibble in the bowl and setting it on the floor, take the ration and hand feed as rewards for cycling through behaviors like Sit, Down, Stand, Shake, or other tricks your dog knows. This allows you to teach using food without adding extra calories to your dog's diet. After the kibble is gone, your dog can finish the other half without having to work for it.

6. Have your dog remain on her Place (dog bed, pillow, rug) while you eat your dinner. If your dog routinely gets off the bed to come beg at your feet, use a leash to anchor her to a piece of furniture so 'staying' becomes the implied behavior until you give permission for her to get up.

7. Microwave training. This is one of the key ways I train my own dogs. I love popcorn, so while I wait for the 3 minutes and 15 seconds for my bag to inflate, I take the treat jar (conveniently located next to the microwave!) and work on the new trick my dog happens to be learning that week.

8. Washing dishes, yard work and taking the trash out are all routine things we do throughout our week. Why not make double duty of that time and have your dog Come to you and then Lie Down nearby while you get the chores done?

9. Doors, gates and stairs are perfect places to teach your dog that she must remaining sitting until given permission to move. Use the opportunity each time you are at one of these key passageways to enforce this expectation, and you will no longer have a dog that bolts the door, charges past you up the stairs or slips out through the gate. This is an ideal habit to establish that helps keep your dog safe.

10. The doorbell is the nemesis of many dogs. Instead of being caught unprepared each time, ask your mail carrier or other regular delivery people to ring the bell each time they drop off. Now you know a set time each day to be prepared to enforce Quiet, Leave it, Go to your bed or whatever other command you prefer to redirect your dog's attention from the door to a more appropriate behavior. A couple weeks of this set up arrangement and your dog will learn a new routine that will give you peace for years to come.

There you have it. Welcome to the Slackers Dog Training Club of well behaved pooches!
-- Robin

Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.
  • Robin writes for Gun Dog Supply on our E-collars Dog Training blog
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