20100712

TEACHING BASIC COMMANDS - Entry #7 (Combining Commands)

July 25, 2009

As you and your dog continue to progress together in your basic training, you will need to begin combining some commands. For example, some puppies, when learning the "Down" command, might forget how to "Sit". This is often caused by mistakes made by you, the trainer. The natural progression is to use the command "Down" immediately after the "Sit" command. If you do this too often, your dog will start to anticipate your next command.

There are two ways you can prevent this from happening. First, keep practicing the individual commands, as well as the combined commands. Second, when combining commands, mix and match the commands that you use. In other words, instead of always asking for a "Down" after asking for a "Sit", sometimes ask your dog to "Shake" after a "Sit". You could also ask your dog for a "Down" first, and then ask for a "Sit".

If you ask your little guy for one command and he gives you another (you ask for "Sit" and he gives you a "Down"), don't reward him. Instead, lure him back into position for the command you gave. Then reward him.

Combining "Come" with "Sit" is a good way to avoid some potential problems. You don't want your dog to come running to you only to jump up on you with muddy paws. Or, even worse, snatch the treat out of your hand and run away. If you've been consistently working with your dog (practicing at least 15 minutes per day with one new command per week), he should reliably sit and/or come when called nearly every time. To combine these two commands, just follow these steps:
  • You should be in a standing position.
  • Say your dog's name followed by the command "Come". (Use the same technique you learned when first teaching the "Come" command.
  • Next, cue your puppy to sit with either the verbal command or the hand signal.
  • Reward the behavior by giving your puppy a treat.

Wait a few seconds before you give your pooch a treat. You want him to stay sitting in front of you until you tell him differently. It won't take long before your puppy will automatically sit each time he comes to you.

As discussed many times in this series, it is important to make the training fun for your dog. One way you can do this is by turning the training session into a game. Our dogs love to play hide and seek. We play this game by combining three basic commands - "Sit", "Stay" and "Come". First, I put the dogs in a "Sit-Stay" position. Then I will hide somewhere in the house. Once I find a hiding spot, I yell out the word "Come". The dogs will run around the house trying to find me. Once they succeed in finding me, I reward them with a treat. Be sure to keep the game challenging - hide in various parts of the house. The better your dogs become at the game, the more challenging your hiding place can be. Geisha, Sami & Ju-Ju absolutely love this game and never seem to tire of it.

As you can imagine, there are many advantages to combining and practicing commands. After all, practice makes perfect. Keep it up and pretty soon, you'll have another happy and well-mannered addition to your family.

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