My dog is smarter than your dog! Ever heard that one? My dog sits, fetches, heels, spins on a dime to every whistle command and comes when I call her. Can your dog do that? If that sounds familiar, I've got good news. Your dog can easily learn these simple commands. Dogs are begging to be trained.
I've been involved with AKC Hunt Tests as a Master level competitor, and then as an AKC dog competition judge. What I've learned can change your outlook on dog training, all dogs, not just retrievers like mine.
Here are 5 easy ways to instantly gain more respect from your dog, and have it listen to you as you teach it to sit, heel, come or fetch.
Stop playing around with the dog and start getting the dog to focus on you and not the squirrel in the tree. If you want the dog to do something cool, like sit nicely as you sip your morning java, then concentrate on that one task and nothing more for several days. Dogs are creatures of Habit, they learn by repeatative training, often referred to as attrition training.Making eye to eye contact is a great way to begin training a dog for obedience. Understand that the dog must know what you expect, so start by teaching the dog what "sit" really means. Say "sit" and push its butt down and say "good boy or girl" and treat the dog if you like with a favorite soft kibble (smaller the better). Do this for several days, about 10 minutes per day. The verbal sit command is followed by the gentle push of the rear end until the dog's tush makes contact with the ground and then reward the dog. After several days do it without touching the dog, and I'll guarantee that the dog will begin to sit. Be patient, it works. Uncooked hot dog pieces are great motivators.
Dogs only understand so many words so keep all your commands simple. Next, try the "come" command. Using a long piece of rope, attach it to the dog's flat-buckle collar. Be sure it is at least 25 feet long. Sit the dog (you should know this one now) and walk away. Then say "come". Don't say his or her name or anything else. Use your hand in a waving motion if that helps. If the dog doesn't come when commanded, tug on the rope gently until the dog understands what you want and bring him next to you. Do it again and again for several days and the dog will learn how to come when commanded. Be sure to do this in a controlled environment if the dog is off leash!
Every time your dog learns a command, be sure to reward the dog. Most breeds respond well to treats, or a verbal "good boy." Never teach command after command, always take a break from instruction and play with the dog, especially if the dog loves to fetch or play games. Dogs play naturally and you need to establish this kind of social contact with the dog. But remember, there is a time to play and a time to work.
I see people walking their dogs on the street everyday, actually, I see the dogs walking the people on a leash that is WAY too long. To teach a dog to "heel" as you walk, it takes a short leash (no more than 3 feet long) and several miles on foot each day for about a week or so. Put the dog on your right or left side and start walking. DO NOT let the dog walk in front of you or behind you! The dog must stay right next to your side at all times. Your object is to teach the dog his or her boundaries (how far they can creep). Never let the dog take you on a walk, if they do, gentle tug on the short leash and get the dog to sit (you should know this one already). When the dog is seated, say "good boy" and start walking again. I prefer to start walking with my closest leg to the dog, so if the dog is on my left side, I start out walking with my left foot, etc. This gets the dog's visual attention immediately. Walk, walk, and walk more. As long as they have enough water and the pavement isn't hot, you can walk for miles. Keep the leash short and be ready to tug the leash and sit the dog every time the dog falls back or walks ahead. Soon the dog will learn the boundaries you have set.
Fetch is the most difficult because there are plenty of breeds that just won't do it. In fact, most dogs will chase something you throw, but they don't always bring things back to you. However, sporting dogs are easily trained to do just that. To learn the fetch game it is simple and requires that same rope you used to teach the "come" command. Put the rope on the dog's collar and have him or her sit by your side, then toss the object (something the dog loves) about 10 yards in front of you. Tell the dog FETCH, softly, not too loudly. If the dog refuses to leave your side, stop and simply toss it a few feet away in front of you and give the FETCH command again. Try to use something the dog loves to mouth, a tennis ball is good. When the dog finally goes after the object and refuses to bring it back, start at the beginning again and when the dog picks it up, reward him with praise and maybe a treat. Repeat the drill until the dog understands what FETCH means. Now toss it out about 10 yards in front of you again and give him the FETCH command. Once the dog picks it up at that distance, gently tug on the rope and say HERE as you pull the dog toward you. All it takes is a gentle tug on the rope to get the dog by your side again. Tell the dog "good boy" (or girl), treat the dog and say GOOD! Always reinforce your commands with positive energy and words. Do this over several days for about 10 minutes per day. Once the dog learns that he must bring the object back to you, the game of fetch has been mastered. Be patient and you will be playing FETCH the proper way in no time at all. Once the dog completes the task, he will continue to play the game as long as you make it fun.