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Educating dogs correctly
Educating dogs correctly

Behaviour on the lead for dogs

The highlight of the day - going for a walk!

Being able to take your dog for a relaxing walk in the park to escape from the stresses of everyday life is a pleasure. Unfortunately, the reality is frequently rather different: Your faithful friend pulls on the lead, jumps across your path and appears to be fascinated by everything apart from the other end of the lead. It is too much to expect your dog to walk perfectly alongside its master or mistress with a slack lead for the duration of a two-hour walk. The walk is often the high point of the day and your dog should also be allowed to spend some of this enjoyable time sniffing and running about. To ensure that your dog understands when it can take a break and when it must behave, you should give it a clear signal. This can be a verbal command such as “lead” or "heel", but can also be a different special signal. For instance, attaching the lead to the harness can mean “you can have a break now and can walk in front of me or behind me!” while attaching the lead to the collar can mean “now walk beside me with a slack lead and pay attention to me!”. It is most important that you keep to this rule absolutely and without exception once you have established it. Otherwise, the dog will be confused or, at worst, will no longer take you seriously and it will be extremely difficult to re-establish good behaviour on the lead in future.

How to make your dog behave on the lead!

  • Variety & rest
    Be unpredictable! Once you have decided on a signal to initiate good behaviour on the lead for your dog, you can get started. Bear in mind that it is difficult to train good behaviour on the lead with a dog that has not been exercised as it will then only want to strain forwards on the lead. Delay the lead behaviour training until the dog is calm and has a lower urge to move
  • Environment & level of difficulty
    To begin with, choose a low-stimulus location in which to practise and only increase the level of difficulty very slowly. Imagine a line that runs horizontally across the top of your toes. As soon as your dog crosses this imaginary line, be unpredictable and change direction abruptly without looking directly at your dog (take care if you have attached the lead to the collar as you can injure the dog if you change direction too suddenly!). Perform addition unpredictable changes in direction until you see (from the corner of your eye) that your dog is paying attention to you and is concentrating on keeping in step with you. Do not change direction exclusively when your dog crosses the imaginary line. In this way, you will keep it concentrating on you. Under no circumstances should you reward demanding behaviour by your dog, such as poking your hand with its nose to get bits of food. Ignore this behaviour or reprimand it with a quiet but firm “no”. Don't forget to cancel the command/signal for walking on the lead, otherwise your dog will soon think if can end the exercise of its own accord
  • Rewards & consistency
    Reward it immediately verbally and with food. Once it is concentrating on you, you can also resume eye contact with it. If your four-legged friend continues walking alongside you as desired, well done! Continue praising and feeding it at brief and irregular intervals. However, if it loses interest again, start again with the changes in direction and vary your walking pace. If your go then resumes contact with you, do not reward it! Otherwise it will soon learn that constantly alternating between pulling and walking on a slack lead results in the most biscuits in the shortest possible time

Good behaviour on the lead for professionals & difficult cases

  • Increase the difficulty level!
    The periods during which your dog walks perfectly beside you will gradually become longer and the phases of distraction will become shorter. Only if you are certain that your dog can concentrate on walking beside you for several minutes should you practise in an area with more environmental stimuli. Increase the level of difficulty until your dog can also walk past other dogs while maintaining a slack lead and with occasional eye contact with you. You can now gradually increase the length of time between the rewards. However, do not stop giving rewards entirely! Ultimately, your dog is making a great effort to ignore all the environmental stimuli for your benefit
  • Good behaviour on the lead for difficult cases
    In most cases, the training described will bear fruit provided it is carried out consistently. However, every so often there are dogs for which the exercise simply does not work. One way of clearly indicating your point of view is your body language. Dogs will generally respond to the smallest changes in your attitude. Walk straight ahead, put your shoulders back and look straight ahead. If your dog attempts to overtake you, turn in front of it with your torso facing slightly forward in order to stop it (naturally, without hurting it!). When you do this, observe your dog closely. If it acts in a conciliatory manner, that is, puts its ears back, licks its flews or drops its head, and backs away, immediately remove the tension from the situation by leaning your torso back. This is how to communicate what you want from your dog. With particularly impetuous dogs that also have a high body weight (and could topple their owners as a result), it may be advisable to work with a head collar, which slows the dog by simulating the feeling of being grabbed by the snout. Be sure to have an experience dog trainer show you how to use this type of collar as you could easily injure your dog if you use it incorrectly. When used correctly, the head collar is certainly an ideal way of providing relief for owner and dog alike and of enabling relaxed “walkies”
  • Maintain your appeal
    Every dog owner should consider every now and then whether he or she can successfully compete against other environmental stimuli for the attention of a four-legged friend. After all, everyone can do something to attract the interest of their pet and to direct its focus to them. Incorporate short obedience exercises into your walk, drop a toy unnoticed that the dog must then find, balance together on a tree trunk or let your dog hunt for a hidden treat. The possibilities are endless. The more creative you are, the more excited the dog will be as it looks to you and waits to see if you have thought up a new game for it. Incidentally, making yourself interesting is also the key to ensuring that you can call your dog back from every situation

Learning commands

In the communication between man and dog, it is essential that both partners are willing to continue learning. With plenty of motivation and praise, dogs are open to learning new things and putting them into practice. The more bonding, respect and trust that is established between both partners, the more harmoniously they will interact and understand what one wishes to “say” to the other. The more sensitively they deal with each other, the better they can respond to one another and the closer the bond between them will be.


The command “SIT” for dogs

The dog should learn to sit. You cannot explain this in words and neither can you demonstrate by sitting down yourself. You must gain the puppy’s attention so that it watches the owner and can respond to his or her body language and voice. The puppy will find this easier to learn in an environment that doesn’t offer too many distractions. If the puppy's eyes follow a hand that glides (slowly!) visibly upwards from the nose of the dog, the puppy will sit down in order to regain its balance. Only then should you say “sit” in a calm, friendly voice, i.e. his action is confirmed by the command "sit", followed by a quiet “good dog” in a deeper intonation to provide (positive) confirmation. Depending on the dog's temperament, this can also be accompanied by tactile praise. To do this, stroke your hand while applying gentle pressure steadily and calmly over the head in the direction of the coat, and say “good dog” in a quiet voice. Stroking roughly back and forth will completely distract the dog. A treat can also be used along with the voice as praise (and confirmation). This procedure should be repeated often because a dog learns by repetition (conditioning). Dogs also learn by “imitation”, or by example, i.e. dogs also copy things amongst themselves – naturally negative things as well. (Conditioning can also be negative)

The command “HERE” for dogs

In this case, you should also only say the command if the dog actually does what it is supposed to, as the command “here” means nothing to the dog to begin with! The dog approaches you while running free. You confirm this behaviour by using your body language to encourage to come quickly: To do this, drop down on your hunkers, i.e. make yourself small, extend both arms and, if possible, motivate and encourage its behaviour in a high-pitched encouraging voice. Moving backwards will encourage it to come. Conversely, running towards it achieves precisely the opposite effect. This would be interpreted as a threat; the dog will slow its pace in your direction or may even run away. As it draws nearer, repeat the command “here” and the “here whistle” frequently so that your little puppy will associate his “running to you” with your command “here”. If it comes bounding up to you, it should be allows to “run into you” or jump up on you gently – always accompanied by a praising and happy voice so that it notices how pleased you are about its arrival. In this situation, you can also stroke it extensively. You can also stroke against the direction of its fur from time to time as the dog is also permitted to move as it displays its pleasure in being with you. Here too, treats will reinforce your praise. If your dog tries to evade a command, assuming it knows what you want it to do, you should hang in there. Motivate it with resolve, but also calmly and in a friendly and patient manner, to do what you have asked. Review the situation yourself: Did I give the command clearly? Was I thinking in terms of my dog? Distraction, pitch, body language, patience, motivation, consistency?

Is there a solid connection between man and dog?

Your dog may attempt to withdraw into itself on occasion. If this happens, you should always yourself what the cause could be. Are you too impatient? Are you pressed for time, are you hectic? Did you fail to take the environment into account? Perhaps it is experiencing a hormonal situation that is putting it slightly off course temporarily, or maybe it is ill? A dog that is still young may also try to see how far it can push things with you? Or perhaps it has just discovered something really interesting? You should set it some boundaries here. This means practising with it, making it clear in a steady voice that you do not want this and that behaviour. However, always do so patiently, calmly and fairly.

Give clear and neutral commands! The more assistance and praise you provide in the beginning, the better it will learn and the more motivated it will be. And this is particularly important - never leave your dog with a “negative” - situations should always end on a positive note, commands should always be cancelled again, in other words, the dog must be “released” once it had carried out a command. There are different levels of praise, reprimands and motivation! There is no place here for inflicting rage on your dog – it is your partner that loves you, that is dependent on you, and for which you are responsible.

Receiving postmen & visitors

Politely please!

This problem probably arises as frequently in German households as the dog itself. The doorbell rings and the beloved four-legged friend goes berserk. Dogs can be divided into two groups here: The friendly welcoming type that joyfully jumps up on and licks every visitor and the watchdog that barks at every “intruder” in the hope that he or she will beat a hasty retreat. Neither variant is particularly popular with the majority of guests and both types of behaviour should be remedied appropriately. However, procedures used differ significantly. Whereas the dog in the first case “only” has to be taught how to welcome people in a friendly manner, training a watchdog is much more intensive.

Training the “welcoming type”

Dogs that joyfully jump up on a visitor in order to lick his or her face are at least doing one thing right to begin with: What they are doing is actually a very sociable and polite type of welcome among dogs. They want to lick their counterpart's “flews”. Since human faces are generally too high up, they try to reach them by jumping up (not to be confused with jumping up as a form of reprimand, which involves forceful molestation on the part of the dog). However, since this behaviour will not go down well with particularly nervous visitors, teaching the dog an alternative way of behaving is a good option. One possible variant would be that the dog sits and waits until the visitor wishes to initiate contact. To train this type of behaviour, you need a large number of different and previously briefed visitors who ring your doorbell at irregular intervals. As soon as the dog jumps up on them, they should turn around without remark and - in the case of very persistent dogs - close the door and depart. If the dog sits quietly, the visitor rewards it with attention and a biscuit. If it then starts to jump up again (which is very likely), the guest turns away again. Once the dog has understood what is expected of it, the length of time it must wait for its reward should be gradually increased. Soon enough, your dog will wait politely until it is its turn when a visitor arrives.

Training with a “watchdog”

Training a watchful dog that barks at visitors is immediately more difficult because this behaviour is very likely to have been crowned with success on several occasions. This is because the vast majority of people will react to aggressive behaviour on the part of a dog by retreating: If a dog barks at a person who wants to stroke it, the person will usually withdraw his or her hand in shock. The dog’s plan was therefore a success and it will always display this undesirable behaviour in the future. Teaching a “watchdog” an alternative type of behaviour calls for a great deal of stamina and consistence. Some breeds tend to be more watchful than others – it is in their blood. But quite apart from hereditary factors, there are dogs that have a more territorial disposition, sometimes so much so that one can never fully break their habit of barking at strangers. However, this territorial aggression can be reduced in virtually all cases.

Put your dog on the lead every time the bell rings and ignore it for as long as it remains agitated. Be patient, some dogs can be extremely persistent with their defensive behaviour. The moment that your dog calms down (or at least takes a break from barking), reward it according to all the rules of discipline: verbally, by stroking, with treats and/or with a game. After numerous training sessions, your dog will learn that you have no time for its aggressive behaviour and that it pays to stay quiet. If you have problems putting your dog on the lead when it is agitated, you can also set up a house tow-rope for it. The dog then drags this thin and lightweight fabric lead measuring approximately 1-2 metres in length behind it all day, which means you can easily grab it at any time. For these exercises, you can also gradually increase the level of difficulty. Once your dog can manage to react calmly to visitors while on a short lead, you can lengthen the lead and increase the dog's radius of movement. However, you should forbid it to use this radius of movement. If it leaves its allotted position, bring it back without comment. The goal of the training is that the dog goes to its place also without a command when the doorbell rings and remains there until it is released.

The postman is here!

The problem where the dog strikes when the postman arrives is very similar to the issue of barking at visitors. With one exception: The dog's aggressive behaviour is immediately successful every time. That is because the sequence is always identical. The postman arrives, the dog barks, and the postman disappears again. Naturally, the fact that the uninvited guest is not leaving the property because of the barking but would have left anyway is lost on the dog. It merely learns that its barking has the desired effect because the intruder then disappears.

If the dog has already developed an antipathy towards the postman, the training used for a “watchdog” can be carried out here. However, if you have just introduced a new four-legged friend into your home, then prevention is of course much better than a cure. Turn the postman into your dog's best friend. Give him some treats or place a toy outside the door that only the postman can give the dog. In this way, your four-legged friend will quickly grasp that the arrival of the post signals one of the highlights of its day at home.

Puberty in dogs

How to overcome puberty together with your dog!

When a puppy becomes a young dog and subsequently a pubescent dog, it is frequently susceptible to problematic behaviour. To ensure the optimum natural development of your four-legged friend, it is vital that you handle it correctly after the puppy phase. The “teenage years” provide an opportunity for you to further strengthen your dog's nature and to do so in conjunction with the genetic traits and the preparatory work by dog breeders, the dog's mother as well as your own involvement during the puppy phase. Your growing dog needs trusting and intensive guidance now more than at any other stage in its life.

Most dog lovers know just how important the first month of a dog's life is for its future character development. Nevertheless, inexperienced dog owners are only too happy to sit back and relax after completing the many hours of playing with the puppy - after all, the dog has been house-trained, taught to walk on a lead, to travel in the car and has completed its first obedience lessons during this time. However, the development of your four-legged friend's character is far from over by the time you reach the end of the puppy phase.

Those who continuously train their four-legged friends can expect to achieve ongoing success - as is often expected. But particularly while the dog is undergoing puberty, one’s own ambitions should be reined in. As the dog gets older, the demands placed on it also increase: Ultimately, several basic exercises such as sitting, lying or coming in response to a signal have been on the agenda for several months. Training sessions are extended not only in terms of time but also in terms of quality. Despite all of this, success often remains elusive. What are the causes of problematic developments between man and four-legged friend?

Puberty and adolescence - time for change.

The changes to the internal state of a young dog during adolescence often lead to communication problems. Sexual hormones in particular are the reason why the dog responds more forcefully to environmental stimuli. The understanding between man and beast during training suddenly evaporates. The dog makes lots of "mistakes” because it is frequently confronted with training situations in which it can only fail. The level of difficulty of familiar exercises should not be increased any further now and one's own ambitions should be reined in.

Cooperation instead of confrontation.

But if the level of difficulty is no longer increased, will this lead to stagnation during training? No, because the dog receives everything that is important to it but only in return for cooperating with humans. But what does cooperation mean? An example: When a four-legged friend meets his doggy pals, it is normal to make the dog sit down before taking off the lead. Conversely, less attention is paid to where the dog is looking, which is generally already towards the doggy pal. Cooperation now means turning its gaze back from the doggy friends taking a couple of steps with the human partner away from the other dogs. Only if it cooperates in this way does it get a reward: Permission to run over to its pals.

Training "cooperation" on the long lead.

In this way, the process of getting the dog to turn away from and be called back from various distractions is continuously practised. What is important in this case is that the four-legged friend is on a long lead, which creates a safe learning situation: In this way, the dog is unable to reward itself by refusing to cooperate. This principle in particular is extremely valuable during puberty because it practises the rules of living together using cooperation instead of confrontation.

Distance training

What does distance training mean?

Distance training involves gradually and continuously establishing a distance between the dog and human and simultaneously increasing the social connection. Particularly in the case of dogs that are easily distracted by stimuli of all sorts, distance training provides a good opportunity to establish, improve and strengthen communication in the dog-human team. However, it’s not about having the dog walk by your side. The aim is to exert control over distance. Naturally, this is something that must be developed step by step.

When both turn in a circle

The first lessons take place on the circular training area: The dog handler inside the circle guides the four-legged friend on a loose lead around the outside of the circle, whereby the dog is not permitted to cross the boundary marked by the barrier tape. The dog and dog handler continue turning in a circle, as a result of which the following development should gradually emerge: The attempts to cross the boundary reduce, the dog runs attentively on the outer track, the dog attempts to make eye contact more frequently and for longer.

Gradually building up distance

The sporadic change in distance has proven itself to be an ideal strategy for establishing distance. This involves repeated increases in distance of a few centimetres, which if successful can also be reduced again. While building up the distance, you should use a five-metre towing line as a means of guidance. Once the dog has reached a distance of three to four metres from the dog handler, the line can be dispensed with in most cases. In most cases, the bond between the four-legged and two-legged partners will have been cemented to such a degree that the dog can be guided by visual signals alone. Even the elementary obedience exercises sit, down and stand up can be performed successfully using conditioned visual signals.


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