Teaching the 5 Basic Commands:
Training your puppy is an around-the-clock task, and regardless of his age, his likes, and his dislikes, you both need to learn how to best create a life together. Learning to incorporate training with the appropriate balance is the key to success. Although you are the boss, you do not want to be too bossy. Everything you do and say, and how it is done and said affects your puppy training. To be most effective, training requires consistency with a good attitude in addition to patience. Basic training will teach your puppy what you expect from him and it will make it easier for him to determine what the “right thing” to do is. All training is based on correction and reward. You should never be harsh or angry with your puppy when correcting him. All you need is a firm voice to correct most puppies. A reward is anything your puppy likes. I chose to use small treats, but you can also use his favorite toy along with an opportunity for “playtime.” By giving your puppy a treat or his favorite toy while saying “Good dog” in a happy voice, you are teaching him that praise is a good thing and it can be a reward in itself. However, until your pup is able to make the connection between the cue and what you expect him to do when you say it, he is only hearing sounds. Therefore, you will need to avoid conversational tones when training your puppy. For instance, saying “Come on, sweetie, be mommy’s good little boy and sit like a good boy!” is just a group of sounds to your pup. This can also become confusing to your puppy, if by chance, he happens to catch the word “good” associated with his name. Remember to keep cues short, simple, and consistent for the best results in training.
Your puppy can begin simple training, such as wearing his collar or learning what praise is at 8 weeks. You can begin teaching the 5 basic commands that I will describe below when your puppy is anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks of age. Keep training sessions short-about 5-10 minutes at a time, when you first start the training process- and ALWAYS end on a positive note. If you notice that your puppy is having trouble learning something new, end the session with a cue he already knows and is confident with giving him plenty of praise and a reward for his achievement. The “Basic 5” commands will give your pup a solid foundation preparing him for any future training or obedience classes. A few items you may want to consider implementing into your training program are- a 6 foot leash, a buckle collar, a durable squeak toy or “clicker,” plenty of small treats.
Below I have completed a brief description for each of the 5 basic commands and how to teach your Collie puppy these commands:
COME: Teaching your dog to come to you when he is called is arguably the most important of all cues. When he has become reliably well trained, you will more than likely give him freedom to roam since you have gained confidence in his progress. Your puppy needs to learn to come to you no matter what the circumstances, where you are calling him from, and regardless of what distractions are happening around him. This command could potentially save your pup’s life in an emergency.
- Start indoors in a quiet place with no distractions. Squat down so that you are on his level, open your arms to him, say “Come,” then praise him as soon as he starts moving towards you. Be sure to use an inviting tone to indicate coming to you is the most exciting thing he could do.
- Do not grab for your pup when he gets near you. Let him walk up as close to you as possible on his own, then reach out and gently rub his chest, giving praise the entire time. You might also give him a treat. Eventually, you will teach him to sit when he comes, but for now just make sure he comes up close and stops right in front of you.
- If your pup does not come to you, slowly go to him, attach your leash, and lead him back to the spot where you called him. Offer tons of praise the entire time you are leading him there showing him that he has to obey, but that he is not in trouble. You never want to discourage him for coming too slowly, and never call him to you in order to punish him-this will only make him want to avoid coming to you.
HEEL: Heel means that the dog is walking on your left side, his head even with your knee, while you are holding the leash loosely. Refrain from pulling your puppy along or yanking on him, or letting him get ahead of you and giving him the ability to pull on you. Some trainers prefer using “Let’s go” or “Forward” rather than “Heel” when they are teaching this cue. Whichever command you choose, be sure you are consistent with using the same word and speaking in the same tone.
- Begin with your pup standing next you. Hold the leash in your left hand, keep the leash short with your hand relaxed next to your side-do not put constant pressure on your pup during this exercise. Have a squeaky toy, clicker, or treat in your right hand, place your right arm across the front of you so that the training tool you have decided to use is above and slightly in front of your pup’s head. Encourage him to look up at the object as you give the command and step forward with confidence-Do not continue to look down at your puppy as you are walking forward, instead face forward and walk on with confidence this will give your puppy the reassurance that you are his leader and he will learn to look to you for direction.
- Keep your pup’s attention on the toy, clicker, or treat as you walk forward together. If he happens to get distracted use the tool of choice and get his attention, then praise him. Also, praise him if he looks up to you-this is called “checking in,” and is a very good thing to encourage.
- After you have been given 20-30 seconds of your puppy’s attention, give him the toy or treat. Play with him showing that you are pleased with him, then relax and try walking again. Gradually, begin to increase the time you walk together during your training sessions, then gradually stop using the toy, clicker, or treat. In time your dog will walk happily on the leash at your side.
SIT: The easiest way to get started with the sit command is to use a food lure. Once your puppy is lured into position, you can praise and reward him for his efforts. Each puppy responds to cues differently; therefore, not all dogs can be lured by food. If you find that your pup prefers touch, verbal praise or special toys then be sure to use whatever drives him best. If your puppy does not do a full sit the first try, remember this is OK. This cue will take patience and consistency just as all the others do so be sure to remain calm with a positive attitude and Practice, Practice, Practice!
- Start by getting down in front of your puppy, holding his treat or whatever drives him in front of the pup’s nose, then say “Sit” as you slowly place your lure directly between and above his eyes, just inches out of his reach. He will try to reach the food or toy by looking upward. As he looks upward, his rear end will naturally lower. When this happens-even just a little- praise and give him his treat.
- Some dogs will back up instead, if this takes place, put your other hand on his rump and gently guide him down into the “sitting” position the first few times you attempt the exercise. Be sure to offer him praise and a reward as soon as he is sitting, even though he needed your help.
- After you have asked for 3-5 responses or have worked for a minute and a half stop. This will help maintain your pup’s attention span for longer periods of time and he will continue to gain a deeper desire to perform for you when asked.
STAY: Before you begin teaching the “stay” command you will need to ensure that your puppy has successfully learned and retained the “sit” command. You never want to move onto teaching the next cue until your pup has learned a command 100% and is confident in himself with performing that command. A puppy who knows the “Stay” cue will remain sitting until you let him get up by giving him another command, this is called the “release word.” This can be something like “OK,” or “GO!”
- Begin with your pup sitting at your left side. Keeping the leash loose turn to face your puppy. Say “Stay” while holding the open palm of your hand in front of his face, then take a step or two away from your puppy while keeping the leash loose. After a few seconds step back to him, putting one foot on the leash-remember not to pull too tight, just enough to keep him from jumping. Give your release word, then praise and reward him.
- If your puppy gets before you have given him the release word, just walk calmly back up to him without saying anything. Use your hands to put him back into the sitting position, then give the open palmed hand signal for “Stay” and walk away again. Do not repeat the oral command, it is crucial that your pup learn to respond to a single command.
- As you notice your pup catching on to the “Stay” command you can gradually increase the distance between the two of you. You can also increase the time intervals in which he remains in the stay: Three minutes is a good goal to work toward. If you find that your puppy is repeatedly breaking the stay, then you are going too fast-slow down and work on one thing at a time. Always end on a positive note with your puppy during when wrapping up your training sessions.
DOWN: The down cue is hands down one of the most difficult commands to teach your pup. The down position represents submission and dogs instinctively feel vulnerable in this position. Lying down is a position your puppy naturally assumes to show subservience to a dominant animal; therefore, lying down on cue is contrary to your pup’s instincts. In order to be successful with teaching this command, you will have to assume and maintain leadership. You do not have to be mean, but you will have to be assertive and extremely persistent.
- Start with your pup sitting next to you on your left. Kneel down in front of him and place your lure (toy or treat) in front of your pup. Lower your hand directly under his nose and have your puppy target on it, and then praise when he does. Repeat this exercise, gradually lowering your hand with the treat each time until the target touches the ground, then say “Down.” Your puppy will lower his shoulders more each time he targets the treat. The goal is for him to touch his tummy to the ground, once he does praise and reward him.
- If your puppy does not respond to the lure, you’ll need both hands to place your puppy. Again start with him in the sitting position to your left. Kneel down in front of him and place your left hand just behind his shoulders and your right hand just behind his front legs. Say “Down” while pressing gently on his shoulders; at the same time, scoop his front legs out until he is lying down. Pet his back for a few seconds reassuring him to relax and stay in this position. Then praise and reward him.
- Build on the successes, not the failures. Always reinforce your approval with praise and reward. First be successful at one step, then two, and so on until your goal is reached. Also, remember to make your dog perform without rewards at times so that he does not become too dependent on completing a command only when he is offered a treat or his favorite toy. Eventually, you will want your puppy to have the capability and drive to perform any command given without offering him a treat: Keep your pup performing by keeping him guessing.
Now that you have an idea of what the 5 Basic Commands are and how to teach these commands it is important that you are successful at teaching your pup each one of these cues. Training mistakes are common, but can be avoided if you know what you are doing. Therefore, I have provided 6 steps of training to help you avoid making those mistakes, so you and your puppy can have a pleasant and rewarding training journey.
1.Don’t Punish. It is not wise or effective to use punishment either physical or verbal when teaching your puppy something new. This can not only damage your relationship with your puppy, but it can also ruin his confidence in you as his leader and himself. You never want your pup to fear you, instead you want him to comply with your requests because he wants to.
2.Be Realistic. Keep in mind dogs do not understand our language. Therefore, most training problems are a result of miscommunication between the trainer and the pup. If the puppy does not understand the cue given then he will not be able to perform that cue. Once, your puppy truly understands the cue then you can expect the him to perform and can judiciously apply some negative reinforcement if needed-negative reinforcement can be withholding the treat and praise.
3.Reward. If you do not reward your puppy’s efforts when he deserves them, you will not get good results. It would be no different than you not being paid for your work, you might not complete your work each day.
4.Consistency. Do not send mixed messages. It is imperative that your command be clear and consistent for your puppy to be successful when learning these commands. You cannot allow your puppy to jump on you one day because you are in your blue jeans with nowhere to go and then come New Year’s Eve when you are dressed your finest expect your puppy to understand why he cannot jump on you. Ignoring his bad behavior one day and then addressing it another is not fair to your puppy.
5.Be Clear the First Time. Often your puppy will not comply because he doesn’t understand the cue in the context it was given, and repeating it just turns it into a word he hears rather than a word he reacts to. The worst thing you can do is to repeat the cue when he is not complying, instead take into consideration what distraction may be interfering with your dog performing the cue-perhaps the environment is different from the one he learned the cue in, such as being at the park or pet store rather than your kitchen.
6.Don’t Assume. Just because your puppy performed the cue does not mean he has the cue down pat. If he is having trouble learning a cue, go back to the basics. He needs to practice until he can complete the cue perfectly each time. Even though you do something well once it does not mean you automatically know how to do it regularly, this is not different for your puppy.