Some basics – Sit, Stay, Walking + Leadership
Dogs have boundless energy and make amazing running partners.
If you are already a runner, here are some tips to help make running with your dog easier and more fun.
The Sit & The Stay
The foundation of a well behaved dog is to teach him to sit and to stay. A dog that can sit and stay will be much easier to handle on your walks and runs. That said, your dog needs to be as trained as you want him to be, no more, no less, you can run with your dog without teaching him to sit and stay, but these basics will help you in your quest to be seen as his leader, be a bonding experience and make walking and running easier.
The sneaky sit:
-Spend time with your dog when your home is quiet and free of distractions.
-Be on the alert for every time your dog sits.
-Whenever you catch your dog transitioning from standing to sitting say “sit”.
-Once sitting, reward your dog with gentle, happy, energy and a “good boy” or just a “good” vocal reward that you prefer to use.
Make sure the timing of the command is as close to the stand to sit transition as possible and make sure your vocal reward is as immediate to the full sit position as possible.
If your command interrupts your dog’s sitting action, it’s ok. Just ignore it and don’t stress or start asking the dog to sit over and over again, be patient and wait for the next good moment, and please never yell, yelling is confusing and upsetting for your dog.
The advantage of this technique is that you are not risking getting into an overreliance on treats to get your dog to listen to you.
The even sneakier sit:
When you are standing up with a treat in your hand your dog’s attention on you perks up (quite a bit).
-Stand with your dog facing you.
-Hold the treat in your hand in front of you and wait for his attention to focus on your treat.
-Once your dog’s nose approaches your hand, close your hand around the treat and let him smell it
-Glide your hand over your dog’s head to the back of his neck. Your dog will naturally go into a sitting position to reach the treat.
-As your dog sits say “sit”.
-Once your dog has sat reward him with a kind and gentle energy and a “good boy” vocal reward and the treat.
Do the exercise from five to ten minutes per day and gradually begin asking your dog to sit when you don’t have treats and vocally reward him when he does sit. If your dog doesn’t sit, don’t say sit over and over again and don’t revert back to using a treat, the command will lose its importance. Instead of saying sit a second time, you can calmly approach your dog and use the guided sit.
The guided sit
-Have your dog on a leash.
-Gently physically guide him into a sit position by simultaneously softly pressing on his rear and pulling up on his leash.
-As you guide your dog into the sit position say “sit”.
-The moment your dog sits reward him with positive energy and your preferred vocal reward.
The stay can take a lot more patience on your part, but with calm, positive energy, discipline, and practice you can do it!
-Facing your dog and with him on a leash ask your dog to sit and reward him when he does.
-Make a stop-sign hand signal and say stay.
-Keep your hand signal.
-For any amount of time that your dog is staying praise him vocally even 1 or 2 seconds at first.
-Gradually increase the amount of time required for you to praise him.
-Gradually work-in walking backwards from your dog while keeping your hand signal.
-Gradually work-up to using the stay command when your dog is off leash.
-Gradually add in distractions (eg. other people in the house walking around).
Stay positive and have fun. It is very important that you remain calm, and never get angry or frustrated, make it a fun bonding experience with your dog.
General training tips
-Keep the sessions short, but do them often, 5-10 minutes a day and you will be successful.
-For puppies keep them at 3-5 minutes.
-Your sessions should happen when the house is quiet and your dog has been well exercised and is in a calm, good mood. If you are using treats, consider doing the sessions before your dog’s next meal.
-Same goes for you, schedule the sessions at a time of day that allows you to be positive, patient and present for your dog.
-Your dog will be most trainable when he’s getting enough social activity and exposure with other dogs, people, places and things and exercising and eating good food on a regular basis.
Dogs will pull while walking when they are stressed or they feel that they are the leader. Stress can come from not having enough exposure to the many different elements encountered while walking in the streets (dog who stays mostly in the yard) and also from the act of being leader itself.
Here are some tips for best walking practices:
-Leadership has almost become a bad/ controversial word in dog trainer circles of late. The old school dog training techniques used to be about asserting “dominance” over your dog as it is a “pack animal”.
We believe that any healthy relationship should not have anything to do with one of the parties asserting dominance over anything. Our philosophy is that relationships of all kinds and especially those with our dogs should be about setting boundaries and limits and effectively comminicating our needs and expectations. Leadership to us is about building relationships that result in you the ” leader” being loved and respected and wanting to be followed.
-Be in a state of assertive zen on your walks and in all your training sessions with your dog. Your dog sees anger, frustration, or other lacks of self-control as weakness and will not see you as a leader.
The leader in a pack eats first:
This is about boundary setting. If you do not set any boundaries you will not be seen as a leader. (Also if you reinforce to your dog that they can get food off your plate the moment they stick their nose in it, you will reinforce that unwanted behaviour by giving them your food as you eat it).
-If you share food with your dog make sure it happens only on your terms, never feed your dog because he puts his nose on your plate. If you want to offer him something from the fridge ask him to sit wherever he is first and reward him vocally. Then ask him to come, as you walk to the fridge and reward him for coming and then ask to him sit again with the food as a reward. (This is an easy way to positively reinforce two commands while still giving your dog the healthy benefit of eating real fresh foods).
-Feed your dog his meal after you have finished eating, not before.
-Do not feed your dog table scraps while you are eating, if you feed him table scraps, feed him after you have finished and give it to him as a reward for sitting.
-Giving your dog constant attention though most of the time that you are together encourages your dog to think that you are not the leader. The leader in a pack mostly ignores the others. Give your dog attention in moderation. (Giving your dog any attention when he is hyperactive is reinforcing that behaviour. Generally dogs, as much as people, want to get the attention of those around them).
-If your dog is very excited when you come home and you give him lots of attention you are teaching him that jumping all over you when you get home is great way to get what he likes. If you want a calm dog who is more walkable, give him attention when he is calm and generally ignore him when his behavior is not calm. This means you might consider ignoring your dog for the first five minutes of coming home. This will also help limit the amount of separation anxiety that he feels when you are away during the day.
Prepping for the walk
-Before you even get the leash or your boots, or your coat, command your dog to come to wherever you are and reward him and have him sit and reward him.
-Have your dog follow you to where his leash is with “come” and praise him for coming.
-Command your dog to sit and praise him for sitting.
-Say stay after he sits, then wait, wait, wait and then say good boy and calmly put the leash on him.
-You are the leader. Every single doorway that you must go through on your way out of the house needs to be gone through by you, the leader, first. (Old school trainers used to call this asserting dominance. We see it as just another opportunity to positively reinforce behaviours that you want from your dog).
-Make this happen by asking your dog to sit before you get to each door and praise him when he does.
The leader is at the front of the pack and is responsible for making walking decisions, to be the leader you need to teach your dog to heel – be at your side-.
Walking and heeling
There are many options. All of them involve praising your dog when he is where you want him to be.
-Every time and for as long as your dog is walking where you want him to be (beside you) give him praise, good boy, goood. Your dog wants to please you.
-Every time (be consistent) that the leash is not as slack as you would like it to be use any combination of the following options:
Stop, wait, and start again:
Stop, ask your dog to sit, praise him for sitting and continue to go forward when you are ready. You are the leader when you are ready to go forward just go forward with calm positive energy.
Stop, turn and go the other way and say “Heel” – there should be good moments as you start going the other way to positively reniforce that your dog is beside you, make sure you praise him. As soon as the leash becomes not as slack as you’d like – repeat and be consistent. This is also an excellant way to start a walk with any dog that pulls too much. It can also be practiced in the house before going on your walk. This way you can practice in an environment where your dog is most calm and responsive.
Heeling is all about discipline. Make sure you are praising him when he is where you want him to be and when he’s pulling you need to use your preferred method of bringing him close to you – every time- the second you lose your discipline/consistency your dog will consistently pull ahead of you and decide which direction to go on your walks.
Walk tall, with shoulders back, chest forward and deliberate steps, a good posture will naturally make you feel more confident and your dog will sense it.
Repeat every day and be consistent and you will have a great walking dog.
Note on harnesses:
-Harnesses are designed for pulling, which is exactly the opposite of what you want your dog to do and they actually encourage your dog to pull. Dogs should not be walked on harnesses. If you establish the proper relationship with your dog you won’t need a harness and you won’t hurt his neck.
For the most part running is just fast walking, (aside from certain safety precautions to be discussed in another post), if you follow the tips above you’re on your way to safer and more enjoyable runs with your dog.