obedience training

Obedience Training is one of the best things you can do for your dog or puppy... and yourself. Obedience training doesn't solve all behavior problems, but it is the foundation for solving just about any problem. Training opens up a line of communication between you and your dog. Effective communication is necessary to instruct your dog about what you want her to do. You can teach her anything from 'stay' (don't bolt out the door) to 'sit' (don't jump up on the visitors) to 'off' (don't chew the furniture).

Dogs are social animals and without proper training, they will behave like animals. They will soil your house, destroy your belongings, bark excessively, dig holes in your yard, fight other dogs and even bite you. Nearly all behavior problems are perfectly normal canine activities that occur at the wrong time or place or are directed at the wrong thing. For example, the dog will eliminate on the carpet instead of outside; the dog will bark all night long instead of just when a stranger is prowling around outside; or the dog will chew furniture instead of his own toys. The key to preventing or treating behavior problems is learning to teach the dog to redirect his natural behavior to outlets that are acceptable in the domestic setting.

Obedience training is also an easy way to establish the social hierarchy. When your dog obeys a simple request of 'come here, sit,' she is showing compliance and respect for you. It is NOT necessary to establish yourself as top dog or leader of the pack by using extreme measures such as the so-called alpha roll-over. You CAN teach your dog her subordinate role by teaching her to show submission to you in a paw raise (shake hands), roll over or hand lick (give a kiss). Most dogs love performing these tricks (obedience commands) for you which also pleasantly acknowledge that you are in charge.

Our dogs become masters at reading us. If you are using a method you are not comfortable with, your dog's learning will be hampered, as s/he will likely be distracted by your own distress and confusion. I hope this article can be a springboard for further learning through the resources and web sites offered at the end.

Consider what you want to accomplish with obedience training.
We're training our dogs all the time.
Would our cairns find it funny the method that seems to work best was  discovered in experiments with rats?
Give some thought to the cairn temperament.
Choosing an Obedience Instructor.
Basic principles of obedience training
The basics:


This is one of those questions you should always ask yourself, regardless if this is your first dog or if you've trained several. Some people want to train so their dog can accompany them as companions and will be welcome back.

For years, this was my only goal in training and is still my main goal. Some people want to train with the intention of competing in AKC Obedience Trials.

Others want to train mainly in the hopes of avoiding behavior problems.

Knowing your primary motivation for training will guide you through the process of finding a trainer, what exercises you choose to train your dog, and can assist you in handling the inevitable problems that crop up during the training process


Make sure your dog is looking at you before giving a command. I often say the dog's name before the command. (This is not allowed in all exercises during an obedience trial so if you're interested in competing, check into which exercises allow using the dog's name before the command and limit using your dog's name to those exercises.)
Say the command once only. You are teaching your dog to ignore you when you repeat commands.
Use a tone of voice that is light and just loud enough to be heard over other distractions.
Praise lavishly for good behavior. You should be spending more time praising than correcting, in all areas of your dog's life.
Use a light lead and collar. You do not have to use a choker collar with most of the motivational methods of training but if you choose a choker collar, it should be as long as the circumference of the neck plus 2 inches (3 inches for a larger breed). The choker collar should be placed on the dog so the ring you're attaching the lead to is connected to the half of the collar that passes through the other ring and over the top of the dog's neck. I use a 1/4" six foot leather lead and a nylon choker.
Avoid repeating the same exercise more than a few times during home training sessions and vary the order of exercises.
Try to end each exercise when the dog is doing well, even if it is only a small success. Then go on to the next exercise. Keep the sessions light and lively.
Home training sessions should be kept short, about 10 minutes, and held 3-4 times a week.
Many trainers make the mistake of overworking their dogs. I've found an occasional week off from class and an occasional week with only one or two practice sessions increases exuberance and interest.
.When you encounter a problem with your dog making mistakes. Assume the dog does not understand what you want, not that the dog is rebellious or stupid. Stop, get feedback from your obedience instructor and analyze what is happening.
Have you tried to teach the dog too fast? Go back and start teaching the exercise from the beginning.
Have you been absolutely consistent?
Are you giving conflicting signals, such as stepping out to the left with your left foot as you start a right turn which drives your dog away from you when you want him to stay in close, or bellowing commands on the recall but expecting your dog to come to you exuberantly?
Are you particularly tired or stressed today? Try to avoid training when you're feeling stressed or tired. You will be less able to handle frustrations and will subtly give different cues which would confuse even a well trained dog, much less a dog in training.
Is your dog stressed, tired, or not feeling well? Make a habit of assessing for this before a session. Either postpone the session till the dog has had a chance to rest or cancel it, even if it means going late to, missing or leaving a class.
If the method you are using to teach a particular exercise isn't working after a reasonable period, about 3 sessions, and you have analyzed what you are doing, you need to try a different method. (This is where a good obedience instructor is your greatest resource.) Remember that successful training is communicating to your dog what your want him or her to do in a way your dog can understand. Don't make the mistake of doing more of the same thing and expecting different results. Failure is just as demoralizing for your dog as it is for you. I've found it helpful to take a week off between switching methods and concentrating on other exercises in the interim.
Choose a treat your dog really likes, doesn't get at any other time than during training sessions, and is small enough to be eaten in a few moments. I prefer to use healthy treats when possible but many people use bits of hot dogs. I've used Bil Jac Liver Treats, bits of broccoli or carrot, and Charlie Bear Treats with good success. Most motivational methods recommend training when your dog is hungry, even skipping dinner before an evening class. When I've tried training before dinner or skipping dinner, my cairn has been too focused on wanting the food, has had difficulty settling down and has become disgusted with me supplying only small amounts at a time. I've had good success with feeding a light dinner or training 3-5 hours after breakfast. Experiment to find what works best for you and your dog.
Begin skipping a few times of rewarding the dog with the treat when you are fairly certain the dog has learned the command, often around the third or fourth training session. You can skip one time of giving a treat out of five times initially, then slowly decrease the number of times you give the treat to giving it only once at the close of some training sessions, more in others.
This is done slowly over a period of months. Be sure to use other forms of praise in place of the treat reward.