I have created my own philosophy in obedience. (Although I am sure I just reinvented the wheel.) When teaching people in my club, I have found this to be the best way to explain what I need from them. This obedience theory is good for all three phases: obedience, tracking, and protection. I will address obedience in this article. There are many good and great obedience trainers that use a myriad of different methods. Take which one works for you and your dog. It is much easier if you are personally comfortable with the formula you use in training. Important note before beginning obedience: each handler and dog are different. When mentioned never do ‘such and such’ or always do ‘such and such’, remember for some dog somewhere it might be appropriate. It is important to divide obedience routines into safe zones. Make each piece perfect then put them together in a test. If the test works only combine whole routine on trial day. If teste ball between your legs.
Progression of recall:
- Run not very far for puppies flailing arms and making noise. Call them while moving and maybe roll on ground when they catch you. Keep moving to keep interest. Try using a ball or bitewurst if possible. Have the person holding your puppy let go when you say, ‘here’. Over time you will use less enticement through body movement or reward.
- Run farther with the same enthusiasm as for the puppies. Stop and turn and say “here”. Have the person let go when you say “here”. Throw toy behind you so puppy doesn’t slow down.
- As a dog becomes better, pause more before you say the “here” command to create suspense in the dog thereby creating drive for you.
- One of the last things to throw in every once and awhile is to run directly at dog after you say “here” with toy in front of you. Back up when dog gets to you. (Prelude to courage test) This stage doesn’t have to be done. Only if it works. Again, all trainers have different ideas about obedience, but the type of obedience that can hold up under good protection drives can not start until the dog has great grips. (1 year to 1 1/2 years) IF you see the bite deteriorate then stop obedience. IF obedience is not making a difference, or even better, if bitework has improved, it is time to continue.
First exercise is the sit. I personally don’t imprint the sit or down because I need it to be a very serious exercise. I find that these two exercises become very fast and correct and incredibly sure with no beginning imprinting. Some imprint everything. Imprinting is where through motivation only, you teach an exercise. You physically place or help or bribe a dog into the sit position and give them a reward. The idea is that they sit when told because they expect a reward. Whether you imprint or not when you start the sit you correct up until the dog sits. The quicker and more precise the correction the quicker the dog understands safe zone. If the sit isn’t a safe place he won’t want to get there and if the unsafe place isn’t that uncomfortable he won’t want to get there either. Everything that isn’t a quick sit is unsafe.
It is important to understand bribe versus reward. We train initially with the bribe: If you do this you can get this. The dog sees the treat and responds to the bribe. The end result needed is the reward: The dog does everything in hopes of a reward at the end. A reward that he doesn’t see or smell. When the dog can sit for a reward under any distraction then you can go onto the sitting fuss.
Again you bribe the dog into the position you want by a toy or food, when they are in the position you release them with bride. When the dog understands what the sitting fuss means, you put the bribe away and ask for the safezone ‘fuss’. If they don’t go to the safe zone, fuss, a correction comes because they are out of safe zone. Soon as you have a perfect sitting fuss under distraction you move on to the walking fuss. THE IMPORTANT THING HERE IS WE ONLY BRIBE THE DOG TO IMPRINT HIM TO UNDERSTAND THE POSITION WE WANT. IT IS NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY TO DO THIS, BUT IT IS A NICE TRANSITION FOR THE DOG. AFTER A FEW BRIBES YOU MUST GO TO REWARD ONLY TRAINING.
An excellent way to tell if your bribing a dog is if the dog will not work unless the toy is insight or within smelling range you are bribing. As long as your fanny pack is there or the food or ball is in your pocket, or you trick them with a kerchief around the neck or your fist with a hidden ball or moving your mouth to spit food you are bribing. You might notice a dog losing interest in a few minutes because his bribe hasn’t been shown to him yet. The reward is given when the dog pleases you.
Practical hints for most teams:
- Ever wonder why when you take off the lead your dog doesn’t pay attention? He respects the leash not you. Only practice with lead off when completely finished.
- Never recall a dog off a long down or sit.
- Never give a command to fuss or sit and then walk off dragging the dog with you without releasing the dog or giving him another command.
- Never use same commands at home or let spouse or child use the commands.
- When paying attention to the instructor never stop paying attention to what the dog is doing.
- When practicing a routine do the sit before the down. You can do as many sits as you like and then to a down. If you do a down or a stand don’t do a sit afterwards. This helps the dog relate to a pattern.
Picture what the perfect exercise would be in your mind. Everything your dog does outside that picture is unsafe and everything he does correctly is very safe.