Why Obedience Train your Dog

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Why Obedience Train your Dog?

There is a saying, “If a dog is old enough to go to a home, it is old enough to learn.” When puppy arrives on your doorstep he can already do lots of things. He knows how to sit, stand and lie down, run, jump and bark and also how to eliminate amongst others. This he can do without our help. Our task then is to teach him to do those things and more, on command. When I say so! We also need to teach him the rules and routines of our home – what is allowed and what is not allowed.

However, since I speak English, I need to teach my puppy – English as a second language. It is through the language that I speak that I am going to be able to interact with my new dog. The essence of dog obedience training then is to get my dog to UNDERSTAND HUMAN LANGUAGE – to give meaning to human sounds.

Obedience training is not simply about teaching your dog different tricks. It is about getting your dog to understand and reacting to what you want him to do. When I ask my dog, “Where’s the ball?” and “Fetch the ball” or “Go fetch the ball” I can see from his reaction that he has understood and sets off looking for the ball.

By teaching your dog the meaning of the words and rules (vocabulary) of your language, you are in fact educating your dog. This is done in much the same way as a child is taught through repetition and patience. It is in the interaction, language learning, that your dog, not only will see you as a leader, but you are at the same time teaching your dog to become a follower. All dogs love to follow confident leaders.

A trained (educated) dog is a good dog because he has become a true companion. He knows what to do and what NOT to do. Educated dogs are happy, smart and confident and their teacher is the person that they respect and look up to and will protect with their lives. When dogs learn to listen to you and are rewarded for good behaviour, you will at the same time earn their respect. These are some of the benefits you will gain by teaching them to understand your language.

How to teach words to your dog

It is done in much the same way as a child is taught words through gestures and pointing at objects. We know that the facial expression, tone of voice, and gestures of the speaker help a baby to understand the meaning of what is being said. To learn the dog must also be shown what he is expected to do. That is why we first capture a position before the introduction of the word such as “Sit.” Food is to a dog as money is to a people. That’s why we use food to first gain the sitting position followed by the “Sit” word.


In Clicker training we use a little instrument (a clicker) that produces a neutral sound to accurately “mark” a dog’s behaviour. In that training exercise the dog is guided, not forced, into the desired behaviour. The trainer will click the moment the pup’s butt touches the ground, praise him and then treat. The Click is the short way of saying “good dog” and tells the dog exactly what behaviour is being rewarded.

Without a clicker we use “Yes” as a marker much the same way as the clicker is used. “Yes” tells the dog, you did the right thing and continue what you are doing. The human voice can produce a great variety of very pleasant “yes” sounds, all to encourage the dog to continue the good behaviour. The body must take on a more submissive, friendly stance.


The very first word I always teach a dog is his/her name. When you call a dog by his name he must pay attention and look at you otherwise you cannot teach him anything. Thus, a dog’s name means, “Pay attention.” If he does not look at you, clap your hands and say, “Hey, I’m talking to you.” And reward with “Yes” and a treat as soon as his brown eyes look at you.

Level 1

Start indoors with puppy off leash (1) close to you. Then (2) 5-6 steps away and (3) further and further away.

Name” – clap – she looks at you – “Yes” in a friendly voice and offer a treat. Repeat often at each level.

Level 2 Repeat as above but now one or more persons must be near as a distraction.

Lever 3 As before but now the exercise is conducted outdoors.


No, is a fairly meaningless word to a dog until it has been taught properly. At the club I prefer to link the word “No” to a task such as “Sit.” So if a dog breaks a Sit-stay, I will correct it with a “No Sit” command.

However, in the house the word No can be used to mean, “Stop doing what you are doing” while your body posture is now more ridged und upright and you have a more stern look. Dogs will soon connect the body position to the “No” sound. It is also not necessary to shout “No.”

To draw attention to the “No” word at home you need, at first, to connect it to something that the dog will remember. Hitting the kitchen counter with a fly swat as you say, “No” in a quick, sharp tone will have your dog paying attention. Shaking a tin with coins or rocks or using a water pistol can be used to draw attention to that sound/ word that says, Stop-it. A collar shake or time-out could work for you. I love to play-act by leaning over the dog and pretend to be cross saying, “Don’t ever do it again and blah, blah.” When the dog stops doing what was wrong, remember to again praise correct behaviour with a “Yes.”

There is no point in trying to stop a dog from doing something wrong by using a “No” command and then not following through and making sure that you actually succeed in putting a stop to that behaviour. Be consistent.

“No” is not a request, it’s a command. “Stop doing what you are doing,”

Don’t chase him if he runs away or call him to punish him. Remember, you never scold a dog when he comes to you no matter how bad he has been. Go to where he is digging or barking and scold him there.

Other “No” meaning words

There are a number of words that you may have been using that also mean No.

Bah a barking sound similar to the sound a mommy dog uses to stop her puppy from being naughty. Bad, Huh or Ah-ah sound, Leave or leave it. Stop it/that. Don’t touch.

What will allow these words to have the same effect as No is the tone of voice. It is how you use these alternatives that will make them have the same meaning as No, to the dog.

Everyone in the family must be encouraged to use the same words

To be continued.

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