A dog can be a wonderful companion with enormous affection for you and your family. His keen senses and alertness can provide you with much-needed protection, but it is important to remember that you must be prepared to care for your pet for the next twelve or more years. Like a child, it will depend on you, not only for its health and well-being, but also for dedicated training in order to become a friendly, well-mannered dog that is a pleasure for you and others. It must also be remembered that we do not live in a dogs world but that our dogs are the ones who must learn to live in a human world. It is therefore our responsibility to adequately prepare them for the unfamiliar environment in which we place them. Society does not punish a child for pulling a dogs tail but will punish the dog for biting that child.
Before a handler can train his dog, he must understand what is involved in the training process. He needs to understand what is required from him and the dog in each part of each of the different obedience exercises. He must be able to teach his dog what it is expected to know, help it as much as possible, and make it as easy as possible for the dog. He needs to know about positive reinforcement in order to get the targeted behaviour to recur and to reward good behaviour. Above all, he needs to know when and how much to praise and what to do when the dog is not performing a task it was taught.
All this he cannot learn during the relatively short time he spends each week with the instructor at the club. Six days a week he is alone at home with his dog and needs to continue to build on the training he received at the club. He needs to remember the sequence of training steps and how to break them up into the small component parts to be mastered by the dog. And when he becomes confused, he needs help or notes to refer to! This is what I had in mind when I decided to write these notes on basic dog obedience training.
There are many basic training methods from clicker training to the more traditional methods that can be used to train a dog for obedience work. The perfect training method does not exist; otherwise, we would all have had copies made and used on our dogs. No, we are all learning and improving. I have adopted an eclectic approach to dog training that is, I have, over many years, studied different training methods and selected from them what will work for most dogs. At times, however, I may use a combination of these methods, or I may shift from one method to another, depending on the training need or exercise.
What is very important to me is that the reader must not only know about the best methods of teaching dogs today but must understand why a dog behaves the way it does. Above all, it must be remembered that dog training must be fun for both dog and trainer. Most dog owners do not ask much of their dogs: they ask only that the dogs obey some basic commands and that they are well behaved at home and in public. That is why all dogs should, at least, do the Canine Good Citizen test.
I hope my notes will add to your knowledge of basic dog obedience training and that your trained dog will bring much joy to you and your family.
BA (SA), MEd (UFS) DCRT (US), HP (MT)