III. Training

There are many different ways to train your dog so I encourage you to do your research and decide for yourself but I will share some universals as well as some approaches that we have found easy and successful.

 

I have already covered crate training.  Crate training- while it takes away from the snuggle effect- prevents a lot of problems down the road.  So be strong and know this will be rewarding later.  Crate training a dog later is difficult and hardly seems fair.

Dog mentality:  Dogs are not that very long ago descended from wolves.  They are a pack animal and as such find safety in a pack.  The pack can be a wolf's natural family or it can be made up of an alpha male and an alpha female who are alone allowed to breed.  Whether a pack of wolves, a herd of cows, or a flock of chickens, all social animals need to know where they stand in the order of things.  This creates peace within the group.  Look at a herd of cows coming from the range to the watering trough.  The herd queen will drink first. Long and slow and take her time.  No matter how thirsty the others are they wait. 

No pushing and shoving as they all know their own place and will get their turn.  Once the queen leaves then the next ones come in and finally, with a little pushing at the lower levels (no one likes to be bottom) they all get their chance.  Then following the queen they all file back out to the grassy fields.  But if the second place cow thinks that the queen is weak or not doing her duties well enough she will challenge her and there will be a big tussle until someone is established quite clearly as queen.  This is played out in all social animal groups including dogs.  While you might want to be the dog's friend (and indeed dogs do recognize friendships) you first must make it clear that you are in charge and as such you will protect the pack- your dog- and the dog can look to you for leadership and guidance.  If you are not providing that leadership or protection then the dog will think you are weak and that the job must now come down to them to be the leader.  Most dog problems come out of this.  Establish yourself as the kind pack leader who is strong, fair, and capable and you will have a loyal follower forever.

 

Some people cannot wait to take their puppies to dog parks for "play dates".  I do not recommend this for several reasons.  Dogs are not children who have been taught their manners.  They see you as their pack members, not other dogs, and to bring them together with other dogs means that they have to go through all the work of identifying with a stranger dog and then they have to figure out where they stand in the wild milieu of dog park dogs where there is no pack order.  And there are always those bully dogs that just chase and chase because they have declared themselves top dog.  You also will see a dog being chased who runs over to its owner looking for protection but the owner just pets it and keeps on talking to the other human.  The dog is looking to its pack leader for protection but his leader has failed him.  Then we wonder when the dog turns and viciously bites another- he had to take matters into his own hands since his human won't.  Also, dogs do not process events like humans do.  They do not consider what went wrong and how they might have behaved differently.  They don't undergo psychotherapy when they have a traumatic event to help them "get over" it.  If a dog is suddenly attacked by a loose dog at a dog park he will be imprinted forever on the fact that other dogs are bad and will often become a dog attacker himself.  It is just not worth the risk.  A dog's world should be filled with you and only you as his pack can bring him satisfaction- everything else should be wallpaper.

 

So now, how do we train this little puppy that we have?  I like to take the puppy and put him on a leash and everywhere I go, he goes.  You can tie the leash to your belt or around your waist to free up your hands.  I spend a good portion of my day in my kitchen and so I have a little spot under one of my wire rack shelves where I attach his leash and put a little bed for him.  If I am done in the kitchen I take him with me.  This way he is always within my sight and unable to create trouble.  Take him out to go potty initially every hour on the hour whether he goes or not.  This training teaches him that there is a time and place to go potty and soon he will start to associate with that.  It is also good training for you so that you are not constantly cleaning up after him.  This is a lot of work but if followed will lay a foundation of training and will lessen the impact of puppy hell on your household and furnishings.  We also put up a dog play yard in the living room for when we are all gathered together but not directly interacting with puppy.  This allows him to play with his toys but not use our shoes or a chair as his personal chew toy.  Some dogs like a wide variety of toys to play with while others love to just chew on a favorite.  This way he won't wander off while you aren't noticing to potty someplace else either. A special place for puppy will make your life much easier. 

 

Be sure that puppy gets his playtime and exercise.  Remember, a tired puppy is a good puppy.  Be sure to also take puppy for walks getting him used to walking on a leash.  A retractable leash is popular as it also allows puppy to run and play but also has its downside as he might run in front of a car before you can retract the line, or he wraps it around you, or he runs full steam ahead only to reach the end with a violent jolt to both his neck and your arm.  Halter leashes are popular but really if you will eventually be using a collar and leash you might as well get him used to it now.  Make whatever you do fun and irresistible.  Make him look to you for pleasure as well as for leadership.

 

When teaching him his name and to come to you always associate that with a treat and a big excited exclamation.  Imprint onto him that coming to his name means only WONDERUL things.  Even if he has run off and chased the cat or chewed up a shoe.  His responding to you is what is rewarded- not his previous action.

 

How NOT to teach a dog:  Some people come home from work to find their loose puppy has, at some point in the day chewed something up and gone poop in the corner of the living room.  In anger they will hit the dog with the chewed up item and rub their noses in the poop thinking they are disciplining the dog for his previous actions.  Well, the dog has no sense of his previous actions and will not associate his behavior with his discipline.  Instead he will think, yay, my master is home but now he is being mean and rubbing my face in this stinky poop and I don't know why so I will cower next time he comes home.  You see, dogs, think in lots of moving picture frames.  If you were able to catch him in the moment of chewing then you could reprimand him with a low growl "no" and command to "leave it" as you take away the item.  If you caught him in the action of pooping in the corner, then pick him up and take him to his potty spot saying "go potty" even if it is too late, so that he knows he should only go there.  But once that picture frame is past it holds no meaning for him.  That is why hitting dogs rarely works because the moment is usually past and they don't know why you are hitting them- only that you are being mean, and you are someone to fear.

 

How TO teach your dog:  We use a modified clicker training system which has proven to be fast, effective, and best of all, easy.  Spend a day or two teaching your dog to associate the word "yes" with a high value treat- something really, truly, wonderfully, yummy.  Just work on associating the word and the treat.  No behavior related to it necessary.  The word "yes" is the traditional click that you might use if you used an actual clicker but whoever has the clicker ready at hand.  But your voice is always with you.  The theory clicker training this is that you want to catch the dog being good and you want him to associate a treat with that good behavior.  But like I said previously, they think in quickly moving picture frames so a click, or in this case "yes", is the short cut that provides that positive reinforcement within that same picture frame as the behavior, faster than what you can actually provide a treat in.  So the "yes" is the bridge between a positive re-enforcement for a behavior and the treat itself actually arriving.  Try to see through your dog's eyes and be quick on your response and always follow up the "yes" with the treat.  When a dog does NOT do what you want do not scold or discipline.  Just calmly say "nope" again and again and let him figure out what it takes to get the treat.  He will be quite creative, but when he lands on the correct thing, quickly say "yes" so he can create a freeze frame of the correct behavior, and then give him the treat and lots of praise.  This is something that you can do the rest of the dog's life.  Usually once he knows something he doesn't need the immediate reward but dogs are like people and he will get lazy in his training just as you will get lazy in training him.  So do training boot camp from time to time to brush up on skills.  He will enjoy the time spent with you and will enjoy showing off his superior intelligence. 

 

When your puppy is a little older and walks have become a time of training and not just exercise, be sure to have a regular length leash and train him to heal.  This makes the walking process to be that of a team, him walking beside you matching your step and not dragging you down the street.  We have all seen those dogs pulling on the leash to the point of strangulation with the poor owner behind barely able to hold on.  That is not what you want and it certainly is not good for the dog.  Look at a dog's neck.  It is pure muscle.  Now compare it to the size of your arm.  Unless you are an extreme body builder, even a medium sized dog has more muscle in his neck then you do in your arm.  A dog will naturally want to pull against a resistance.  You need to train him to second think that.  I highly recommend a pinch collar for walking your dog.  Not for your little puppy.  But as he grows you need him to start thinking about the consequences of pulling on the leash.  Many people think that pinch collars are appalling but in reality they are just power steering for dogs.  If you look at the design, they can only pull in so far and then stop.  Unlike a choke chain that will close in ever tighter on a dog's throat, a pinch collar has a natural stop so a dog is unable to choke on it.  The prongs put pressure on the dog's neck that he can feel unlike a regular collar that provides no feedback to the dog.  This lets the dog know that he needs to slow up or the prongs will bite a little harder.  When the collar is relaxed it sits easily on the top of his coat.  By applying pressure, you are steering the dog to walk beside you not in front where you have no control.  This is a collar you only put on for walks and then it must be removed afterward.  My dogs love the sound of the pinch collar jangling as I go get it because that means we are about to go on a walk and that is their favorite thing to do.  I can now walk with my dog alongside me with his leash loose and draped over his back, him keeping in step with mine.  That is true companionship. 

Some people like those halter style leads that go over a dog's muzzle.  That is fine if you are convinced of it.  I am not a fan because I feel like if someone had something over my face I would be pretty sensitive about it.  Dogs breathe through their mouths, they cool off through their mouths and they defend themselves with their mouths.  It seems that that would be a very vulnerable feeling for a dog and lacks respect.  I understand the premise is to be able to train a dog more easily as he must follow his head, but a well brought up puppy who has already been trained with positive re-enforcement, and a dog who has been trained to a pinch collar so has learned not to pull when on a leash, certainly does not need this.  I do not think it is more humane- not from a dog's point of view.

 

One of the most important things in training is to be sure to catch your dog being good so you can keep re-enforcing his good behavior.  If you are needing to train him out of a bad behavior then set him up for it.  Don't suddenly try when you are out of time or being distracted with other things.  If he barks at people at the door without stopping when you tell him to don't just yell at him and then drag him off to be quarantined in the bathroom and then be done with it.  Have a friend come by after explaining what you want to do and then with the friend left standing on the front porch you can now calmly train him to listen to you using the clicker, "yes", "nope" system.  Do this several times.  You want to be sure to be successful every time.  You want him to concentrate on your commands and not on what he wants to do.  Remember that every time you fail to make him listen you are teaching that he only needs to listen to you some of the time.  Or cleverly, you can teach him to count by saying "lie down" for example, 5 times before he feels you really mean it.  Dogs have very good hearing and really can hear you the first time. 

 

When teaching a puppy to come you will want to put him on a long line and when you say "come" give a firm tug then be all excited when he comes to you along with his reward.  As you want to expose your puppy to the farm be sure to put him on a long line at all times.  Do not let a puppy in with larger livestock as they might hurt him and drive all his herding instinct away.  When throwing the ball, keep him on the long line so you can give a tug when you want him to return to you. Work up to letting go of the leash so you can always catch it easily as he sails past you.  Even when just playing have him on the line.  Long line work is very important.  It allows you to train your dog while maintaining control over him.  Again, use the clicker-yes style of training so he will always be excited to come back to you and do as he is told.

 

There are a couple of exceptions to this method of training.  The premise is that your dog wants what you are offering.  But sometimes what you are offering is not nearly so wonderful as what he can find for himself- herding breeds are especially this way.  Their herding instinct is built upon the predator drive to chase prey.  Your puppy will be this way as well and perhaps no amount of calling him back will pull him off the chickens he is busy chasing.  A chicken is a supreme reward for a herd dog.  They run, they squawk, they flap and feathers go flying, they are fast running but not very nimble and can't fly away.  If your puppy does happen to get a chicken he might just start chewing on it like a big chew toy.  Protect your chickens.  Do not let puppy into the chicken yard without being on a long line.  If your chickens are like mine and like to go all over the property they will soon learn that staying in the yard and out of puppy's way is the best deal.  Should your puppy actually kill a chicken, that is sad but do not think that you now have a forever chicken killer on your hands.  It is not true that once a dog tastes blood he is always a killer.  He will most likely grow out of this phase once he realizes that chickens are only so much fun for so long.  But stay on him and let him know that chasing chickens is NOT ok.  Train him using the long line and when he runs after them, pull back on the line with a stern "no". 

The other exception to the rule is the problem of chasing cars.  This is a major killer of dogs and cannot be allowed.  But what do you do when the dog is streaking away from you full blast?  First of all, your puppy should only be allowed outside on a long line in order to control his behavior at all times just as he is inside.  But when he has outgrown this stage and seems to be a perfectly well behaved dog in all other manners but insists on chasing then the final control mechanism can be used.  We use a field training collar.  These are collars with a shocking mechanism in them. Please follow the careful directions when using one of these, but some will tell you to shock the dog until they do what you want.  This seems to me unnecessary.  A better understanding is to use it as you would use the word "no".  Very quickly and in the moment.  Obviously it is easy to abuse these collars and to over shock or inappropriately shock your animal.  Only use it once they have been trained to it and understand what it means.  Usually then the smallest level of shock can be used (feels like a buzz to you and me) to get their attention.  Often just merely the wearing of the collar reminds them to give up the chase and leave it alone. 

 

Another exception to the training rule is when puppy gets too mouthy.  Herding breeds are very mouthy dogs and while playing he will want to use his teeth on you.  That is not ok.  We will sometimes keep a squirt bottle filled with apple cider vinegar diluted in water on hand.  You will need to set puppy up for this correction as he needs to be corrected in the moment.  As he starts to make teeth contact with you quickly squirt the water directly into his mouth (not his face and avoid his eyes) and the bad taste will cause him to back off.  We will use this method for other back off corrections such as not getting up on the furniture, or jumping up on people.  Again, this correction must be staged and you must be ready in the moment.  Use the squirt with the word "off" firmly spoken.  Do not hit the dog.  Just make it a very unpleasant experience.  He will be thinking about the bad taste in his mouth for a few minutes.  But be sure you are praising and rewarding for every good move he makes.  Be sure that all your training is intentional and carefully applied.  Never respond out of anger or frustration.  Your dog is looking to you for guidance and leadership.  Don't let him down.

 

What temperament of dog are you looking for?  A high energy dog will be a dog that can handle a lot of activity, a lot of change, and will love to play all day.  The down side is that he will want to play all day and has a lot of energy.  A lower energy dog will be a dog that might be shy or pulls away from lots of stimulation.  He may hang back from high activity or even be grumpy if you interfere with his activity.  The upside is a dog that is not very reactive and settles down easily.  All that being said- puppies ALL have tremendous energy.  They should ALL be interested in you and what you are doing.  And English Shepherds especially are known for their ability to settle down when inside and all is quiet.  Also, some dogs are "hard" dogs and some are "soft".  This is not what you think.  You can have a strongly protective dog that barks fiercely at strangers yet are "soft" and you can have fun, easy going dogs that are "hard".  These terms are referring to how much it takes to correct your dog.  A "soft" dog may respond instantly to a low soft voice correction with a lowered tail and even perhaps rolling onto his back submissively.  A "hard" dog may need increasingly stronger correction.  A harsh voice correction will be responded to with a smiley, proud, panty face deciding whether it's worth it or not.  This is just the way the dog is and has nothing to do with high energy or calm temperament but you must adjust your training accordingly.

So just to sum up such a long section:

- Puppy starts to be crate trained from day one. 

-Puppy should stay attached to you at all times, indoors and out. 

-Puppy is either in his crate, in his play yard, on you, or on the long line.  No exceptions.  -Take puppy on a regular schedule out to go potty whether he shows a need or not- always use the term "go potty". 

-Use the clicker-yes method for quick and easy training or utilize some other positive reinforcement training method. 

-Be the pack leader and his protector.

-Know the temperament of your dog and train him accordingly.

-Have fun with him but do not treat him like a child, he will be happier being a dog, and ultimately your best friend.

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