Dog training tricks teach a pair of terriers to stay and walk in a heel

Georgie and Hamilton are a pair of Terriers who live in Hidden Hills, CA. I worked with them a few months ago; building up their confidence and teaching them to stop getting over excited and listen to their guardian. Their family asked me to come back for a dog obedience training session to teach the dogs to stay and train the dog to heel with a loose leash.

The last time I worked with this great looking pair of Terrier mixes, their confidence levels were not as high as I would have liked them to be. Hamilton was clearly more confident than Georgie who wouldn’t approach or let me touch her when I started our first session.

This time around, the dog’s behavior told me that the guardian had put in some good work that paid off big time as you can see in the following video.

This is a great example of how quickly dogs can bounce back or recover from problems. By taking over the leadership role, enforcing rules and boundaries and incorporating the right structure, Georgie and Hamilton’s guardian helped them feel less responsible which dramatically decreased their stress and anxiety.

Now that the dog’s behavior was much improved, we were ready to tackle some more advanced dog training. First up I wanted to show the guardian how to train a dog to stay.

Most people don’t train their dogs to stay or when they do, they train the dog to stay as long as they keep saying “stay, stay, staaaay.” But if you have to remind the dog every three seconds, it really isn’t staying is it.

I have found the secret to training a dog to stay is to break it down into three sections; duration, distance and then distraction. Only when the dog has mastered the previous step should you move onto the next one.

I handed the guardian a handful of treats and walked her through the exercise with Georgie.

A couple fo notes on the guardian’s above video. When offering the treat, she needs to keep her hand orientated with her pinkie closest to the floor to avoid blocking the dog’s view of her. The pinkie should be tucked into a ball, but be the closest finger to the floor when delivering the treat.

For this first practice session, it was OK for Georgie to be off to the side, but I prefer to have the dog sitting directly in front of me (between my knees).

I also try to wait for the dog to look back up at my face before offering the treat if the dog happens to look away. Its ok for the dog to look away as eventually we will want the dog to sit with we move out of its line of vision.

One last tip I spotted during the session that you can see in the above video. The guardian consistency moved her hand over the dog’s head too fast and too far when using it to put her into a sit. While it worked, the movement is more effective when we keep our hand within a few inches of the dog’s head and move about half the speed the guardian was using. Any time a dog stops tracking the treat with their eyes, the human needs to bring their hand back to keep the dog engaged.

The guardian will need to practice the stay with both dogs (at first separately, but eventually together if desired) until she can get them to sit and stay for up to 5 minutes before moving on to the next step, distance.

I find it most effective to practice this session multiple times a day in short training sprints. By gradually building up the duration the dog is expected to stay, we can put it in a position to succeed.

Once the dog can sit and stay for duration, the guardian will be able to put the dogs into a sit, then move a step away before coming back, giving it a treat and then moving back again or giving the dog a break or release command.

Its ok to practice stay over and over in one sitting without a realize word. But when the exercise is over, the guardian needs to ALWAYS give the dog a command to signal the exercise is over. This way the dog learns that it cannot auto release.

Next up was training the dog to heel. We separated the dogs and I demonstrated with Hamilton.

This is another exercise that takes a lot of repetition in short dog training sessions. As referenced in the above video, this leash training is done sans leash as dogs have something called an opposition reflex. By eliminating the leash at the start (and practicing in a calm quiet setting without any distractions) we can eliminate any pulling and instead focus exclusively on rewarding the dog for moving towards us in the heel position.

Rewarding the dog is the first step in training a dog to heel. As I explained in the above video, the guardian will need to reward any movement towards her at first, then start adding in additional steps. Again the additional steps need to be added in progressively. If either dog stops after adding too many steps, backing up and practicing the previous step a few more times is the trick.

Once both dogs are accustomed to walking a few steps towards and next to their guardian (5-8), then the guardian will be ready for the next step of loose leash training.

This step gets the dog walking closer to us and in the proper heel position. Remember, always start out small and build in steps at your dog’s speed before adding more advanced techniques or positions.

Its awkward to walk holding the treat on your seam as I demonstrated in the above video, but its only temporary. The guardian will need to gradually increase the number of steps (adding only one extra a time) each practice session, but only when the dog can consistently walk the previous number of steps 5 or more times in a row.

Its going to take a month or more of practice at these two dog training exercises before they become second nature for the guardian and dogs. The more the guardians practices each day, the faster the dogs will progress. Once the dogs have the exercises down cold, I asked the guardian to contact me to schedule a final session to add in the last steps of both dog obedience training exercises / skills.

ROADMAP to SUCCESS

  • Practice the Stay exercise at least 2 times a day with each dog (more is better).
  • Increase duration progressively. Start at 2 seconds, then 4, then 6, then 10 and so on. Keep starting at 2 seconds until you are confident in response then start increasing the starting duration.
  • Remember its ok for the dog to look away. Try to wait for dog to loo at your face before giving the treat.
  • Use a small hand motion to stop the dog if it starts to get up.
  • Always end on a good repetition and stop if you or the dog starts to get frustrated.
  • ALWAYS give the dog a “break,” “release,” or other command to signify the stay exercise is over.
  • Get to 5 minutes of the dog staying right in front of the guardian before starting to work on distance.
  • Practice the first step of training the dogs to heel with the dogs separately.
  • Move to the second heel training exercise only after each dog comes and walks in the heel five times in a row.
  • Remember its ok for the dogs to learn and progress at different speeds.
  • Slow down upswinging hand motion and keep hand within a few inches of the dog when putting them into a sit.
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