My new book, 10-Minute Obedience, doesn’t present a secret method for training dogs in less time. The key is that short training sessions make for faster learning. Like us, dogs learn better when they are “fresh” and when information comes in smaller chunks. Regular daily training also aids learning -- and short sessions are easier for busy owners to fit in every day.
The general approach: Training starts out as a 10-minute walk. It’s fun. You go for a walk with your dog, and include activities along the way, bit by bit. Each command -- sit, come, stay, heel, down and stand -- begins as an action your dog will do readily. In successive lessons, you ease the action toward its final form, teaching your dog to do it on command.
A Sample Lesson: Introducing “Heel”
Before introducing a new command, practice those that are already familiar:
- As you and your dog walk, tell him to “sit.” Praise him when he does. Practice a few sits.
- Next, practice “stay,” increasing the length of time he stays over the previous session. Continue walking.
- As you’re walking, surprise your dog by calling him. Praise him when he comes to you and sits. Move so he’s sitting at your left side. (Or the right, if you prefer. Left is traditional.)
Now, introduce the “heel” command, pairing it with the desired action:
- Say, “heel” while stepping forward on your left foot and guiding your dog forward with the leash.
- Go a few steps, then stop and tell your dog to “sit” before he can stray far from your side. Praise him when he sits. Repeat.
- Walk informally for a little way and then practice “heel” again.
Continue your walk, practicing familiar commands.
Consider Your Dog’s Point of View
As the previous exercise demonstrates, training can be fun for both you and your pet. It does not require explanations in terms of “dominance,” which lead away from effective training. Instead, think about the dog’s point of view.
For instance, lots of dogs jump up on people. Why? Jumping is a social overture. To discourage jumping, make sure the overture fails. Step back out of reach, look dismayed, and say “Oh!” Don’t touch your dog or bend forward since, from your dog’s perspective, attention from you makes jumping a success.
Make Yourself the Focal Point
Dogs continue learning outside of traditional training sessions. To teach your dog to pay attention to you, be the key to things he wants. Dogs want lots of things: food, attention, walks, play sessions.
For example, when a door is opened, your dog wants to go through it. If you stand on your dog’s leash, however, he’ll find he can’t go without your OK. Practice, and when a door opens, your dog will look at you for permission.