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Teaching A Puppy The Fundamentals Of Obedience

Lyn Richards

Obedience training starts in the whelping box. You have to depend upon thebreeder from which you purchaseyour puppy to provide these basics. If you are well acquainted with thebreeder,you are more likely to be able topositively affect the early training of your puppy. You will also be betterableto make an educated choice ofpuppy, based on your knowledge of each individual pup in that litter.

Up to three weeks (21 days) of age, studies have shown that puppies areable toabsorb very little in the way ofeducation, they are unaware of much except mom, food and sleep. Eliminationisdone by reflex at this point. Thischanges between 21 and 28 days of life. Puppies begin to leave the blanketsandlook for a corner in which toeliminate. They become acutely aware of their environment, and are extremelysensitive to stimuli. In fact, anyexperiences at this stage, (to the negative or positive) will moreprofoundlyaffect the puppy than at any otherpoint in its life. This is where you and the breeder can help shape yourpuppy'smind and life.

Crate training and minor obedience training can actually begin at this age.Alarge wire crate (big enough to holdall the puppies) padded with blankets is introduced to the whelping box.Papersare layered on the floor aroundthe crate (as they were around the blankets at the beginning). As thepuppiesexplore and roam, they will chooseto sleep in the crate, and eliminate on the paper.

Puppies can be handled and stacked at four weeks, and it is great for themtobe socialized and handled startingat this point. When stacking, remove a puppy from the litter. Place the pupinposition, hold in position gently forjust a couple of seconds using the "stay" command quietly. Praise softly andrelease. Make it a fun, play kind ofthing. Calling the puppies as a group, clapping the hands and using a happyvoice, is an introduction to the"come" command. This is effective as a pre-training method if the puppiescan beinduced to come to the caller bya second party urging them forward gently, and if lots of praise is used.Theycan learn lots of basic skills at 4-6weeks, which will save the owner and handler (and also the pup) theheadachesand frustration that may occur, iftaught at a later age.

Great Danes are by nature a more laid back personality type, and arestubbornas well as gentle and sensitive.This must be considered when training a Dane puppy. While there areexceptions,the norm prevails and commonsense will serve to guide you. Bear in mind that Danes grow quickly, so itisvital that the puppy respect theauthority and dominance of the trainer/owner early on, as well as admire andlove him/her. This means thatpraise and consistency are vital ingredients in the training recipe. Thefollowing guidelines will help fosteradmiration, respect and love in your new obedience pup once you bring him home.

Basic Guidelines

Don't Use Punishment
Timing and Consistency
Rewards and Praise
Allow the pup to Think for Itself
Work for Short Periods
Use Repetition
Show Patience and Confidence
Keep it Simple
Talk to the Pup
Hands Off

Dont Use Punishment:

Punishment as a training aid does not foster the willingness to please andexcitement for work, which come withpositive reenforcement and treats. Any negative stimuli should be limited tousing the word "no" and blocking(using the hands) the puppy's negative actions. Hitting and physical abuseofany sort are unnecessary in a youngpup, and should not be used unless under the most extenuating circumstancesinan older dog.

Timing and Consistency:

Remember that timing is everything. Coordination of the trainers movementsandcorrections is directly related tothe ability of the puppy to comprehend the lesson he is being taught. It isimportant to make him understand thatthe corrections given are a direct result of his behavior, and will not takeplace if he does as the trainer wishes. Forexample, if a puppy is given the command "come" while in another roomchewing ona toy, he is unlikely torespond. If no one brings him to the trainer on the command "come" he willlearnthe word "come" is synonymouswith "ignore." On the other hand, the puppy is only told "come" undercontrolledcircumstances, while on leashand in the hands of the trainer. He is gently pulled towards the trainerwithpraise and learns that "come" alwaysmeans to approach the trainer, and that to do so brings praise.

Rewards and Praise:

Directly related to timing is praise. If when given the command "come" apuppyresponds with the correct actionand is not praised, he quickly loses enthusiasm and interest. Conversely,whengiven plenty of praise and caressesimmediately upon correct completion of a given command, he quickly learnsthatthe exercises are fun andprofitable. He also learns to duplicate the correct action quickly in ordertoreap his rewards faster. In this way,praise and treats strengthen the understanding and willingness of a pup torespond to a given command.

Allow the Pup to Think for Itself:

Allow a pup the chance to act on its own before forcing or usingcorrections.Guiding a pup is more confidencebuilding than using force. When a puppy realizes that the trainer will dothework for him, he has no motivationto perform a given task on his own. Given the choice between being hauledaroundon the end of a leash andgetting a treat at the end, or having to pay attention and work for a fewminutes, then getting praised, a puppyalmost always chooses the lazy way. Let him work for the rewards and heacceptsit as a job he must do. As thepup progresses, he becomes more sure of himself when he does not have to"lean"on the trainer.

Work for Short Periods:

This is pretty self explanatory. Puppies have very short attention spans.Keeping sessions short (10 minutes) anddoing them frequently (2-3 time daily) ensures that the trainer will havethefull attention of the pup, and that thedog will not grow bored. Again, working for short periods will be rewarding,too.


This works hand in hand with working for short periods of time. Do anexercisefor as many times as it takes to getit right, or close to right. Once you get it right, STOP. A puppy will learnthat doing an exercise correctly andquickly will be a reward in and of itself, because it will not have to keepdoing the exercise over.

Patience and Confidence:

Training a pup requires patience and confidence. Puppies know when thetraineris sure of himself and what he isdoing, the information travels down the leash to the pup as easily aselectricity down a wire. Lack of confidencecan be overcome by the trainer practicing and working on his own, but willdeterfrom the pups ability to learn ifnot dealt with. Patience is not as easily learned, but if not usedconsistently,impatience will cause fear and lack ofconfidence in the puppy.

Keep it Simple:

Doing easy exercises one at a time is a much simpler concept for a puppythanlearning a whole exercise in onesitting. The sit-stay for example, is not taught all at once, but brokendowninto its component parts. First a pupmust learn to sit reliably, on its own, then the trainer can add movementawayfrom the pup. Once that part islearned, the trainer can make the distance between himself and the pupgreaterand greater. Then he can add timeaway from the pup as a factor. Eventually, the pup learns that no matter howfarand how long the trainer isgone, he must stay in the position originally placed, until he is released.

Talk to the Pup:

A constant flow of happy chatter from the trainer to the puppy insures thatthepuppy is paying attention. Praisewords along with corrections can be given, and the pup will learn to watchthetrainer and listen for changes ofcommand given with tone of voice. In this way the pup also learns to watchthetrainers face, a great beginning forattention training.

Hands Off:

One sure way to defeat your training ideal, is to constantly touch a puppywhileworking. This does not apply tothe first 12 weeks of life. At this time in his life a pup needs reassuranceandcuddles, these are necessary to buildtrust and love. Once a pup has started to learn commands, withholding sometouching will help the trainingprocess. If the trainer corrects a puppy who keeps leaving a sit-stay byusinghis hands to encircle the body andreplace, the pup associates touching as positive reenforcement tomisbehavior(Cool! If I move, so and so touchesme). Instead, use the leash to replace the puppy into a sit with minimal useofthe hands. During training, use thehands only to praise and pat at the end of the exercise. In the same waywhen adog comes to the trainer andnudges for pats and attention while relaxing, take this opportunity to trainbriefly. The trainer must ask the pup to"sit", or "down" or any other command to reenforce his training, then begenerous with hugs and pats once thedesired exercise is completed. This serves to build the rapport betweentrainerand pup and further strengthendiscipline.

Please bear in mind that I write these articles from personal experience,andfrom observations I have made whileworking and training. I have written this article as a tool that you may usetohelp your own training program,and to embellish what you have already found to work for you. I am a strongbeliever in NOT using punishmentfor training (ie: Ear Pinching) except in extreme cases. This does not meanitmay not work for someone else and Iwill not criticize its use, only give you examples of what I find asalternatechoices to try first. Nothing is written instone and I would not attempt to be the first to tell you otherwise.

Danes have the potential to be great at Tracking, Agility, Fly Ball,Obedienceand Breed Champions too! In futurearticles I will try to present information to help you make your Dane thebesthe can be! Till the next time, keepthose training session short and happy!

Contact Lyn Richards About Lyn Richards

Copyright© Lyn Richards
Obedience Train Your Dane!
Worldwide pager
3020 Brown Ave #10, Manchester, NH 03103

Published with permission of the author.


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