Ten-Week Training Recipe

The recipe described in this section is a ten-week plan for the successful teaching of the obedience commands as described in chapter 7. Perform three workouts per day, approximately twenty minutes per workout (no less than fifteen minutes). Allow at least one hour of rest between workouts. There should be thirty total workouts in a two-week period.

Sometimes learning new things can be stressful, especially at first when not only are the concepts new, but the methods of teaching are new as well. Some nervous-personality dogs will be especially stressed. Dogs sometimes refuse food during the early stages of training. If this happens, freeze the program wherever you are and simply repeat the skills you are working on until the dog relaxes and begins to accept treats again. This process may require three or four workouts but it is worthwhile to develop your dog’s positive attitude towards obedience.

Weeks One and Two

1. Teach HEEL command. Repeat a series of three to five circles, seven times (total of thirty to thirty-five repetitions). Perform a series of five four-step HEELS four times (total of twenty repetitions).

2. Teach SIT command. Teach BREAK command. Place your dog in a SIT, pause, and release with BREAK. Repeat this series five times. Repeat the series four times (twenty total repetitions).

3. Work on a series of one exercise and move to another exercise (e.g., work on one series of HEEL circles, then a series of SIT and BREAK, and finally a series of four-step HEELS). Dogs need repetition of one skill to learn but bore easily without variety.

Weeks Three and Four

4. Begin reinforcing the HEEL command. Test the HEEL command with tests one through three described above.

5. Reinforce SIT and BREAK. Begin teaching position holding for time with SIT (have your dog hold SIT from between five and ten seconds). Begin teaching position holding for patience with SIT.

6. Begin teaching the DOWN command. Repeat the baiting exercise three times using food. Repeat the series twice per workout in the first week and three times per workout in the second week.

Weeks Five and Six

Your workouts may become more stressful for both you and your dog as you wean away from the teaching phase and enter the more difficult reinforcing phase. If you find any particular test or distraction too hard for your mutual skill level, stop the exercise, continue to practice the skills and repeat the particular test a few days later.

While the length and frequency of workouts have not changed since week one, the workouts are becoming less predictable and require a good understanding of diversity to make them as useful as they can be.

7. Continue reinforcing and testing the HEEL, SIT, and BREAK commands. Continue to practice the SIT and BREAK exercise. Begin to use distractions with HEEL and SIT as described in the distraction section above.

8. Extend the concept of position holding: Begin body movement with the DOWN command. Build patience by extending the SIT to between thirty seconds and one minute. Test SIT position holding with tests one and two described above. Repeat each test until your dog “passes” three consecutive times.

9. Begin reinforcing the DOWN command. Start during week five by removing both the food and the shoulder help. During week six begin reinforcing without any bodily assistance. You may reintroduce food but not to bait your dog. Only deliver the food reward after your dog has successfully completed the DOWN command.

Weeks Seven and Eight

10. Reinforce and test the HEEL command. Continue to reinforce the SIT and BREAK exercise. Reinforce DOWN at the side. On one of every three workouts, add distractions to your basic commands. Proof DOWN with the “DOWN from a stand” exercise.

11. Extend the concept of position holding. Do five repetitions of the 20/20 exercise throughout the workout.

12. Begin combining concepts by teaching DOWN and SIT from your front and testing motion SIT and motion DOWN. Begin teaching PLACE.

13. Begin teaching the COME command. Repeat the backwards walk three times. Keep a close monitoring of the position-holding skills. The large amount of body language employed to teach this command sometimes causes position holding to suffer.

Weeks Nine, Ten, and Beyond

14. Reinforce PLACE and the COME command. Always practice a short leash recall to reinforce the final finish position. Repeat no less than ten times per workout. Use food for nearly 100 percent of the repetitions. Of all the commands, COME is the least-practiced command and the command most needed. Begin extending the COME command as described in the teaching and reinforcing section.

15. Reinforce and test all obedience commands, including HEEL, SIT, DOWN, position holding (as a concept), SITS, and DOWNS from your front. Motion SIT and DOWN, PLACE, and COME. Practice all commands equally, working each command as little as one or as many as five repetitions per series. Avoid creating patterns.

Make exercises targeted towards your practical obedience applications in chapters 8 and 9 part of your formal training workouts. Make sure distraction training comprises at least one out of every three obedience practice workouts.