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Dog Training Obedience

Dog in Training – The dog in training should be in good physical condition and should receive the necessary inoculations to safeguard her* health. Before each training session:

  • Feed lightly
  • Exercise thoroughly
  • Give a small amount of water
  • Groom for comfort and appearances’ sake

Class Equipment – The High Jump: Five feet wide. Adjustable in heights of from eight to thirty-six inches. Consists of four 1″ x 8″ boards, one 1″ x 6″ board, one 1″ x 4″ board and two 4-foot Standard uprights, each with a wide base, constructed with grooves into which the boards fit. (See Regulations and Standards for Obedience Trials, available from: The American Kennel Club, 221 Park Avenue South, New York, New York, and The Canadian Kennel Club, 667 Yonge Street, Toronto, Canada.)

Training Suggestions – Plan your dog’s schooling so training for the OPEN CLASS will be a series of progressive lessons. Long, long before you start the OPEN work, condition your dog for advanced training by encouraging her, while she is young (yes, even as a puppy), to carry assorted articles, to retrieve thrown objects and to leap small hurdles. If your older dog is just starting her Obedience career, include carrying and jumping as part of her Novice work.

Heeling – Perfection in FREE HEELING is achieved through leash training. Study your dog’s natural movements and select a speed suitable to the dog. The heeling exercises will then be a normal procedure, based on the dog’s physical and mental characteristics. If you have not already done so, get into the habit of starting the heeling action with your LEFT foot. In the Novice work, it didn’t matter which foot you started on, because the Novice exhibitor normally uses the heeling command.

Free Heeling – When you take the leash off, remember the following:

  • Walk in a straight line. Angling into your dog will cause her to heel wide.
  • Walk briskly! Don’t adapt your pace to that of the dog.
  • Hold your LEFT hand close to your body!
  • Give the first command in a happy tone of voice.

Change to a demanding tone or call your dog’s name sharply if she lags or ambles away. AFTER the second command, gently pat your side and give praise.

If forging is your problem, or if your dog attempts to dart away,

STAND STILL! Signal back with your left hand and repeat the heel command forcefully, then pat your side coaxingly.

Heeling Problems – Leash corrections can be made by an assistant who walks at the dog’s left, while holding the leash in the RIGHT hand. The owner commands “Heel!” When the dog forges, the assistant jerks backward on the leash while the owner gives praise.

For off-leash corrections, the assistant walks backward in front of the dog. After the owner gives the heel command, if the dog forges, the assistant tosses some object (an empty cardboard carton is excellent) directly in front of the dog, or bangs on the floor with a rolled magazine.

Drop In The Distance – Owners of Novice dogs would do well to postpone the DROP ON RECALL until their dogs have gained the CD. Degree, read 10 Dog Breeds for Personal and Home Protection from PreppersWill. The “drop,” which sometimes slows a dog up on the COME, could result in lower scores while the dog is competing in the Novice Classes. Practicing the DROP IN THE DISTANCE, however, alternating it with the COME, and the SIT and STAY, is good training experience for the dog.

Drop On Recall – When your dog is ready for the DROP ON RECALL, put her back on leash and face her at its full length. Call her by name, command “Come!” then follow with “Down! Good Girl!” Don’t let the dog get up too much speed before you drop her. Give the command without bending your body, and DON’T YELL! If the training for DROP IN THE DISTANCE has been adequate, you should have little trouble with the DROP ON RECALL exercise. However, if your dog continues toward you after you give the command (and you had better be prepared for this), run forward, bump her nose gently with the palm of your hand, using a backhand motion (like that used when playing tennis), making the correction with as little hand motion as possible. After the dog lies down, pat her.

Drop On Recall #2 – Keep the dog on leash. Teach your dog to drop directly in front of you before you make her drop at a distance. Without bending forward, tell your dog to drop (command or signal).

When you use a voice command, avoid yelling. If the dog doesn’t obey the FIRST command or signal, bump her nose with the palm of your hand, or stamp on the leash forcefully. At the same time, say “DOWN!” and after the dog is down, pat her!

Drop On Recall Problems – Ask someone to stand close to your dog. Get the dog’s attention, then call her, and follow the command with praise. If she doesn’t start, the assistant taps the dog on the rear with the toe of her shoe as though it were accidental After she does it, clap your hands playfully, and give extra praise.

Tossing something at the dog from a hidden location will have the same effect; but take care that the dog does not see the object thrown or the person who threw it. Cover up every correction with play.

Retrieve In-Play – As suggested earlier, holding, carrying, and retrieving do not have to be associated entirely with a dog’s adult life, or with Obedience Trials. Even a young puppy can be taught to hold and carry if you place something in her mouth and encourage her with “Take it to so-and-so!” Carrying from one person to another thus becomes a game, and with it, comes a chance to show off. These early attempts at carrying will teach your dog, with a minimum of effort, the basic steps of the RETRIEVE exercise, one of the most difficult in advanced training.

Retrieve In Play#2 – Play games every chance you have.

Use an assortment of articles, and include the dumbbell.

Practice RETRIEVE IN PLAY, both on and off leash.

  • Keep the retrieve command a happy one.
  • Give the command ONCE.
  • Give praise while your dog is taking the article from the floor or the ground.
  • Allow your dog to chase articles without waiting for them to stop rolling.

Holding On Command – If you have taught your dog by playful means to hold what you give her, you can pass up this part of the training. The older dog that doesn’t know what it means to carry things around will require the gentle, FIRM instructions outlined in this section.

The first lesson is to teach your dog to HOLD your finger. This isn’t as dangerous as it sounds, because even a strange dog will seldom bite when handled in the proper manner. With your dog on leash and sitting at your left side, stretch the leash taut and step on it with your RIGHT foot. This will keep the dog from backing away

Holding On Command #2 – Keep the dog on leash.

  • Flatter your dog while she is holding. Scratch her ear, stroke her head. This will take her mind off the desire to drop the article.
  • Hold your hands close to the dog while she is learning. Move Quickly if you think she is going to drop what she is holding.
  • If the head goes down, tap your dog under the chin and say “Hold it! Hold it!”

Carrying On Command – If your dog will hold what you give her, either as the result of early puppy training or the methods described in HOLDING ON COMMAND, teach your dog to carry while on leash. Dogs often carry things by themselves but will drop what they are holding when the leash is on. Give your dog something to hold, then scratch her back or tickle her stomach to get her to a standing position.

Jumping – Your dog may be a long way yet from retrieving, but why not brighten the training routine by teaching the JUMPING exercise? Place the Solid, the Bar, and the Broad Jumps in different parts of the training area. Keep the Hurdle and Bar Jumps LOW, and the Broad Jump NARROW. The jumps can be raised or widened after your dog has become an expert at leaping obstacles, but to simplify the training and make proper corrections, it is important that the jumping be ridiculously easy the first few times.

Recall Over Hurdles – As your dog progresses in the JUMPING exercise, set the three jumps in a row, approximately fifteen feet apart. This is a fun-exercise that is enjoyed by both dogs and owners. Place the Broad Jump on one side of the Solid Hurdle and the Bar Jump on the other. With your dog on leash, leave her on a sit-stay in front of a NARROW Broad Jump. Face her on the opposite side. Tell her “Jump!” then snap the leash toward you with praise. Tell her to sit, then pat her.

Teaching Jumping – Teach your dog to jump obstacles of various shapes and sizes. Keep the dog on leash until she knows how to jump. Keep the jumps simple during the first few lessons.

  • During the “Hup! Heel!” exercise, leap the hurdles with your dog to give her confidence.
  • Give the jumping command BEFORE you use the leash to pull the dog across.
  • Move the leash over the jump AHEAD of the dog. Give praise while the dog is jumping.

Jumping And Carrying – Having trained your dog to CARRY and to JUMP on command, JUMPING WHILE CARRYING should create no problem. Follow these suggestions:

While your dog is learning, keep the jumps simple. Keep your dog on leash.

Hold the leash slack. A choking effect will cause your dog to drop what she is carrying. Encourage your dog by stepping over the jumps with her. Give praise while the dog is jumping.

“Take It” Exercise – If your dog will reach for an object when you say “Take it!” the training outlined here will not be necessary. If the older dog has never learned to take things from your hand, or you have a dog that refuses to pick up an object because she is tired of playing games, put the dog on leash and make her sit at your LEFT side.

Take It Exercise #2 – Place the dumbbell directly in front of the dog’s muzzle and hold it steady.

  • Give the command in a quiet tone of voice. Give the command ONCE. Follow the command with praise.
  • While giving praise, apply slow pressure on the collar with the LEFT hand.
  • Alternate the steady tightening of the collar with a short snap of the leash, depending upon whichever gets results.

Dumbbell Walking – Having learned to reach for an object from a sitting, a standing and a lying-down position, REACHING FOR THE DUMBBELL WHILE WALKING will not be too difficult. Wad the leash into a ball and carry it in your LEFT hand. Hold the dumbbell in your RIGHT. WHILE WALKING, place the dumbbell close to your dog’s muzzle, and give a quiet command of “Take it!” Follow with a series of short tugs on the leash with the LEFT hand, while you keep saying “Good Girl!” Continue walking until the dog takes the dumbbell, either because she reached for it, or because you slipped it in her mouth.

Dumbbell Walking #2 – Keep moving the dumbbell slowly AWAY from the dog.

  • Give the command ONCE.
  • Follow the “Take it!” command with praise.
  • Apply pressure on the collar by tugging at the leash held in the LEFT hand.
  • Give praise when you tug on the leash.

Picking Up Dumbbell – If you have not been successful in teaching RETRIEVE IN PLAY, put your dog on leash. Sit on the ground or on the floor, and hold the leash in your LEFT hand close to the dog’s collar.

Take the dumbbell in your RIGHT. Play with your dog in a teasing manner. Hide the dumbbell behind your back. Scuff it between the dog’s paws. Get her interested so she will lower her head. When she does, WHISPER the command “Take it!” and tug on the leash ONCE while you say the “Good Girl!” Slip the dumbbell into her mouth, then pat her.

From The Ground – Sit on the floor or the ground with your dog and be comfortable. Attempt the exercise first as a playful game. Keep your dog on leash. Give a single command.

Follow the command with one tug on the leash, slip the dumbbell into the dog’s mouth, then pat her. Each time you use the leash, snap it a little harder.

Whether you use the leash or whether the dog picks the dumbbell up by herself, give praise

Dumbbell And Walking – With your dog at heel position, hold the leash wadded into a ball in your LEFT hand. Carry the dumbbell in your right. Start walking, and toss the dumbbell to the floor or the ground a few feet ahead of your dog. Give the command “Take it! Good Girl!” walk slowly past the dumbbell without moving your left arm, and without coming to a definite stop. If the dog reaches for the dumbbell, keep the leash slack so you won’t distract her by jerking her collar, and give extra praise while she is picking it up.

Dumbbell And Walking #2 – With your dog at heel position, hold the leash wadded into a ball in your LEFT hand. Carry the dumbbell in your right. Start walking, and toss the dumbbell to the floor or the ground a few feet ahead of your dog. Give the command “Take it! Good Girl!” walk slowly past the dumbbell without moving your left arm, and without coming to a definite stop. If the dog reaches for the dumbbell, keep the leash slack so you won’t distract her by jerking her collar, and give extra praise while she is picking it up.

Retrieve On Flat – With your dog on leash and sitting at your left, tell her “Stay!” and place the dumbbell on the floor directly in front, so the dog can reach it by lowering her head. Hold the leash in both hands, low down and close to your body. Without moving your arms, give the retrieve command and follow the command with praise, such as “Take it—Good Girl!” The praise may encourage your dog to reach for the dumbbell, and if she does, pat and praise her! If she ignores it, the correction is one downward snap on the leash, with extra praise, after which, slip the dumbbell into her mouth, then pat her.

Retrieve On Flat#2 – Keep your dog on leash, so you will be ready for that first important correction.

  • During the early lessons, place the dumbbell directly in front of the dog so that she can reach it by lowering her head.
  • Give the command ONCE, without body motion.
  • Follow the command with generous praise. The praise may even encourage your dog to start without a correction.

Retrieve On Flat Problems – See RETRIEVE ON FLAT for ON-leash training.

For off-leash correction, give the command, and if the dog doesn’t start, reach back with your RIGHT foot and tap her lightly on the right flank. Give praise as you do so, then rush forward and encourage the dog to pick up the dumbbell.

If your dog is foot-shy because you previously made a bad correction, “spank” the dog forward with your left hand, giving praise!

Retrieve Over Hurdle – Before teaching the RETRIEVE OVER HURDLE exercise, train your dog in the jumping part WITHOUT the dumbbell. Never correct for such things as not jumping, or for poor sits and finishes, while your dog is learning the retrieve part of the exercise.

Take your position in front of a low Solid Hurdle with your dog at your left side. Hold the leash in BOTH hands, as when teaching the heeling exercises.

Retrieve Over Hurdle #2 – Train your dog to jump and retrieve in play, but keep the dog on leash.

  • Keep the jump low for the first serious lessons.
  • Stand close to the hurdle so you can place (or throw) the dumbbell where you can reach it by leaning over the hurdle.
  • Give ONE command.
  • Follow the command with PRAISE.
  • If the dog fails to start, jerk the leash ONCE while you are giving the praise.

Retrieve Hurdle Problems – Before you correct a dog for refusing to jump, be sure that she is capable of jumping. When a dog gives the impression of wanting to jump by teetering back and forth, but lacks the courage, suspect some form of hip trouble painful to her. Consult your veterinarian, and if necessary, request that the dog’s hips be X-rayed.

The Broad Jump – It is assumed that your dog is familiar with the BROAD JUMP, having learned to leap the individual hurdles in play, as described in the JUMPING exercise. To prepare your dog for the BROAD JUMP as it is done in Obedience Trials, place the individual hurdles close together and tip them on their sides. This will take away temptation, teaching your dog to clear the hurdles from the very beginning.

The Broad Jump #2 – Keep the dog on leash until she knows how to jump.

  • Keep the jump narrow while making leash corrections.
  • Stand with your back slightly toward the dog.
  • Hold the leash in BOTH hands.
  • Give the command WITHOUT MOVING YOUR ARMS.

Broad Jump Problems – Alternate the Sit-stay with the Jumping command. Leave your dog sitting in front of the first hurdle. Take your position to the right of the jump. Wait a few moments, then return to heel position. Leave your dog again. Do this until the dog no longer anticipates the Jumping command. If she starts before she is told, tell her emphatically, “STAY!”

Sit Stays – When training your dog to stay while you go out of sight, leave one way, then return from another direction. The element of surprise, not knowing from which direction you

MIGHT return, will help your dog to settle down and wait more contentedly.

Practice the stays as part of your dog’s daily routine, and practice in strange places.

Sit Stay Problems – Fasten a long line to your dog’s collar. Ask an assistant to hold the end, out of sight, in back of the dog. (The line can be run through a crack in the door or through shrubbery or bushes.) When the dog inches forward, the line is jerked sharply.

Ask an assistant to stand behind your dog and hold the handle of the leash. Whenever she moves, the assistant jerks the dog back to position.

General Problems – Correct your dog every time she looks away. Jerk the leash, bump into her, tumble her by catching her off guard. Use any trick you can to make your dog watch you while she is in training. Praise with all corrections and the dog will not resent them.

Every time your dog lowers her head, jerk up on the leash without saying anything. If she is off leash, throw something or kick at the spot the dog is sniffing.

Open Obedience Classes – Give your dog sufficient training, so you will feel confident when you enter the Obedience ring.

Read the Obedience rule book carefully! Familiarize yourself with show ring procedure. The extra commands, signals, and body gestures you used to train your dog are not permitted in a regular trial. Careless handling can cause your dog to fail.


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