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Lisa Nicolello

Obedience Training - Part I

A Six Part Series by Doreen Gray

General Reasons to Obedience Train Your Dog

Over the years people have come to me for training for a variety of reasons. The "boil down" of it all is because the average owner wants a dog they can spend time with and be proud of. It is a comparatively rare person who wishes to go on and compete.

A few of the advantages of training are:

  1. Take your dog with you anywhere with confidence.
  2. Having a true best friend.
  3. Recognition (people will notice you and your dog -- you will get the credit)
  4. Self confidence
AND FOR YOUR DOG ... ONE TRUE ADVANTAGE ... FREEDOM!! A trained dog is a companion, not a prisoner of a kennel or chain.

I believe the best place to train is an unfamiliar setting, a local (quiet) park, a deserted parking lot, or if he is used to the back yard, use the front. This will help the dog to look forward to your "special" place.

Use ONLY quality training supplies. You will permanently be set back if your "cheap" collar breaks during a correction.


  • Take it slow, your dog is smart, but he needs one word (two at the most) to begin with.
  • One person should be the primary trainer. It IS a good idea to have a second person to "run" a few drills now and then to challenge the dog.
  • Take your time!

I think the best command to start with is "walk on loose lead." This appears to be the most common problem. I only use a 15' lead to begin with. The dog must "earn" the right to use a 6' lead. I will pick a place that I can walk approximately 35-50' in any direction. Stand STILL until the dog’s mind wanders. As soon as he walks away you turn in the other direction and HURRY away. You need to walk the full distance (35-50'). It is extremely important NOT to look at the dog. He may try the "suck-up routine" if you do. IGNORE WHINING, CRYING, PULLING, FALLING ON THE GROUND (or any other "rouse"). Your entire goal is to get the distance with NO stopping. If the dog does not come, he will correct himself. This will eliminate "harsh" corrections. It will also free you from feeling guilty as the dog is the one doing the corrections.

You should continue with this pattern for about two weeks, working about 15-20 minute workouts. When you see the dog following you closely, stop at random times. This will determine the attention the dog is paying to you. If he does not stop, do NOT proceed! You will need to "take off" in the other direction. This will force the dog to pay attention!

ONLY when the dog ALWAYS stops and looks to you for directions is it fair to advance the training. DO NOT COMBINE THIS WITH ANY OTHER COMMANDS!

The purpose of the exercise is:

  1. It teaches the dog how to learn in a safe, non threatening way.
  2. You do NOT loose the confidence of the dog, he does his own corrections.
  3. You are teaching the dog leash respect. He will learn NEVER to pull.
  4. You are teaching him to pay attention.
  5. You are teaching the dog self control
  6. You are showing him that you are "head of his pack."
This will be the foundation of ALL other commands. GO SLOW! This is the most important time in your training, it is the foundation of all of your future work. Be fair and consistent.

At different, varying times "break the dog out" (stop training) just "visit" with your friend, in a soothing, calm manner.

CAUTION: Keep times varied, so dog doesn’t "break" himself out. This is NOT the time for play. ALWAYS break the dog out using the same command. This command should be used EVERY time you stop training. Never break a dog out unless he has just had a success. IF you do you will be rewarding him for failure and not for success. This will undermine your efforts.

I have used this training very successfully with older dogs (even a 9 year old Mastiff) and with puppies as young as 12 weeks. You must, however, use extreme caution with that young a dog. Be willing to adjust speeds to the dog.

Good luck and happy heeling!

(Doreen has had Mastiffs for eight years, Rottweilers for ten years and has spent the last six years training. She is licensed by the National Dog Trainers Association and has been teaching for the three years. Several articles on training have been written for the National Dog Trainers Newsletter. Her focus is on CGC, TDI and behavioral work, primarily with Mastiffs. Two of her Rotts are obedience titled).

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