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Basic Dog Training
Basic dog training tips using positive reinforcement are followed by the use of crating for house-training, for safety, for convalescence, and for traveling.
First, some tips for "basic training" like a doggy boot camp followed by the wonderful usefulness of crates (since this article is about training your dog yourself)!
If you want some serious advice on dog training, check out Cesar Millan's book, Cesar's Way, by the fantastic trainer known as "The Dog Whisperer." He tells you how to create contented, balanced dogs through 1) exercise, 2) discipline, and 3) affection, in that order. You must become the pack leader.
Cesar does not use food rewards, but simply acts like the pack leader so the dog understands what is expected of him. A lot of this is "Attitude." Cesar uses "the walk" as his greatest training tool, and he also mixes ill-behaved dogs into his pack of 40 so they understand doggy manners.
Cesar can give a sound of disapproval (like "Shhhht") to stop an unwanted behavior. Some trainers use clicker training to reward good behavior: a click with a piece of food to begin with; then use the clicker only. A click is quicker than a food reward.
Once the dog understands what is not wanted, he will allow you to be the pack leader and you set the rules. A dog's behavior follows pack instinct. Dogs are not furry humans, and they do not think like humans.
Everything dogs do -- eat (the most dominant first), sleep (which dog gets the nicest spot), play (dominance/submissiveness is practiced), etc. -- is done in a hierarchy of leader and follower.
The human must always be the leader! It is a psychological dominance that the dog is willing to allow and follow because most do not want the responsibility of guarding and controlling everything around them. (You can see this when Cesar takes control and the dog happily obeys because "following" is less stressful. An Alpha can always be challenged and must be "on guard.")
Always exercise the dog before an "official" training period when you're focusing on a single command. Say "Sit" (press his back haunches into position if you must), and if he moves, say "Shhht" and approach facing him, and the dog will sit again. Repeat several times.
You can continue to train him with stay; follow me; no biting; get off the bed; stop barking. I have seen Cesar do this with recalcitrant dogs, dominant dogs, fearful dogs, aggressive dogs, etc. in 10 minutes.
Give the command; make the dog do the desired behavior; reinforce with a positive attitude of voice and behavior. Sometimes the dog must be leashed to elicit the wanted behavior the first time.
If you want the dog to follow you, pull the leash gently and use voice control of "Good dog" when he does it. To "Sit/Stay," hold the leash with the foot (while he is sitting) until he tries to move a couple times, stop him, and then slowly back away while repeating "Stay."
Control the food. A dog must be in a calm, submissive state before you give him his food. He must earn it. As leader, you should be able to move in on a toy or treat and take it; the dog should submit to you by allowing you to have control as the pack leader. That is how dogs think and live in their natural state.
Be firm; be consistent. You are constantly sending out signals whether you are in control or not. Tone is very important, but so is your demeanor.
Never use fear or a dominance technique like rolling a dog on its back to force submission. You might gain the upper hand for one session, but he will look for a chance to take over the dominant role. I've seen husbands do this, and the wives aren't strong enough to follow up, and the dog turns on the weaker females when the men are at work.
But during a rest period, a safe time-out, the dog needs his own place. Thus, the need for a crate.
Start using a crate when the dog is young and before you have a serious behavior problem or go to a professional trainer for help.
Some people have more problems with using a crate as a training tool than the dogs do. The point is to use crating appropriately from the beginning so a dog knows "his place" in times of need. Dogs are pack animals; crates are like dens to them.
The difference between crates and vari-kennels is: crates are open-wired, allow for better ventilation, and are usually collapsible; portable vari-kennels are solid plastic-type enclosures with a metal-mesh door and grated windows. Smaller ones often have handles.
Only the solid type kennels are airline approved for flight travel. You use cribs, playpens, and child restraints in cars to keep children safe and contained; pups and dogs need the same benefits. Some dogs have a preference; borrow one of each and try both.
Don't wait till you need the advantage of a crate before you teach your dog to be comfortable in one. Train them to enjoy their "den"; their "personal space."
Children should be taught to respect a dog's privacy when he is crated, just as a child's room is "his" off-limits area to other family members. Children should not be allowed to annoy or tease a crated dog.
Crates are invaluable tools for house-training. Dogs should go outside on a schedule. A dog wants to stay clean. Use that inherent trait in training him to keep his area clean and potty in an area with "bathroom" smells outdoors. (If you teach him to go on newspapers first, you'll have a longer, 2-step process that can be a bit confusing when he sees other papers lying around the house.)
Winter-time, new-puppy owners have a harder time house-training because of beginning with newspaper training. (Remember this with the idea of Christmas pups in cold weather climates.)
Leave the kennel/crate door open and place food and treats, water, a blanket - which could have some of the owner's smell on it - and other personal items inside for the dog to enjoy and explore. Some special toys/treats should be saved just for this training period. A crate comes to mean Good Times!
Two situations where crating is invaluable: in emergency disasters and with dogs with separation anxiety that do not become more panicky by crating. Any crate-phobic dog should not be kenneled. (That can apply to boarding kennels, too. Find a dependable pet sitter.)
Try gating off an area or one room for crate-phobic dogs: for containment, safety, a sense of security, and a smaller space for the dog to "guard" or be responsible for.
A dog can be crated when young children come to visit who are themselves afraid of dogs or who are too young to know proper dog treatment. Unless someone wants to teach child-dog interaction under adult supervision, safety comes first for dog and child.
Dogs may need to be crated while recovering from leg surgery or heart worm treatments, where activity needs to be minimized. Again, the crate should be like a convalescent room for the dog's recovery period; you can spoil them a bit with messy treats in the crate and save your carpets.
When introducing a dog into a home of multiple pets, dogs can be crated and allowed out to meet and interact with other pets only under supervision. Rotating the home pets and the new pets (or fosters) in the crate allows smells to intermingle and helps the residence animals accept the newcomer quicker.
When leaving a dog unsupervised during the first few weeks of getting acquainted, and while you are still learning its habits and eccentricities, crating keeps the dog safe from unsupervised exploration and unknown dangers. It also keeps the house intact.
Traveling is an overlooked area of dog safety. People allow their dogs to hang their heads out windows to get bullet-like objects in their faces and eyes. Others will let them ride in open trucks, swaying and falling unprotected, causing broken legs and avoidable injuries. Think ahead.
Nothing will prevent serious injury in a bad vehicular accident, but a solid kennel with a nice blanket, a toy, a bit of dry food, and a water bottle can make any trip a bit more pleasant for dogs who want to travel with their families. It might make it more pleasant for everyone so the dogs can be included for trips to grandma's house or to the lake or park, and not just trips to the vet's or groomer's offices.
Don't overuse crating! Then it is no longer a tool; it is imprisonment. Pups need to go out every couple hours for a potty break, which is also true for elderly dogs or dogs with urinary problems.
Don't use a crate if it's like torture for a claustrophobic dog. Never encase a dog for 8 or more hours a day without a potty break; try this with yourself and see how long you can go without a bathroom break. Again, a neighbor, friend, or reliable dog-sitter might help with visiting hours for bathroom breaks.
Crates can be wonderful dog habitats if used wisely, judiciously, and humanely.
Become the pack leader when you first acquire the dog, and you will have a friend for life.
Source: Self as a four-year dog rescuer
www.spca.org. Check site for use of "crates" for training and protection