Putting Your Dachshund through Basic Training
- Understanding the benefits and purpose of obedience classes
- Teaching your pup the good-dog basics
- Giving leash lessons
- Addressing your training problems
- Remembering the importance of fun
After you’ve conquered the house rules (see Chapter Teaching Your Dachshund the House Rules), you can move on to more fun training activities. Personally, you need a dog that’s housetrained and doesn’t bite or destroy things, but your Dachshund needs stuff to do — a purpose in life. A dog that can sit, roll over, speak, lie down, and heel on cue feels like she has important work and loves displaying the tricks that impress family, friends, and neighbors. (Applause doesn’t hurt a Dachshund’s ego, after all.)
Considering Obedience Classes
Socialization is the process of teaching an animal about the social world humans live in: what all kinds of other people and animals are about. This process helps puppies become well-adjusted and confident, less likely to be fearful or aggressive, and able to make smart decisions about which people and animals are friendly and which are threats. Knowledge is power, and that’s exactly what socialization delivers to your Dachshund.
Puppy kindergarten describes classes for young puppies or dogs that have never had any obedience training. These classes focus on socialization, and you may also learn how to teach your puppy some basic skills. You may even get help with housetraining and other new-puppy problems you may be experiencing.
Finding a teacher
Continuing your work at home
The ideal situation is holding two training sessions each day, but even one 5- or 10-minute session per day (adult dogs usually can’t concentrate for much longer, and puppy sessions may be much shorter) goes a long way toward establishing a training ritual for you and your Dachshund. Make training just as important as brushing your teeth (and brushing your Dachshund’s teeth!). Do it every day; you won’t regret it.
Important Lessons for You and Your Puppy
For every lesson, be sure that you have a ready store of your dog’s food (taken from her daily allowance) or very small treats so you can immediately reinforce good behavior.
No matter how consistent and persistent you are in your training sessions, if you don’t make training fun for your Dachshund, you can forget the learning. A positive attitude, plenty of happy praise, and a sense of excitement are all essential elements to any Dachshund training session. If you have an old-fashioned notion of discipline, it’s time to get modern. The old adage “No pain, no gain” doesn’t serve you or your Dachshund well. The surest way to tell whether your Dachshund is having a blast is to consider whether you’re having a blast. If the training is fun for you, it’s probably fun for your Dachsie.
Getting a puppy’s attention
Some puppies will look you in the eye immediately — even hold your gaze for a few seconds before twisting around to see what else is going on that may be of interest. Others will look anywhere but your eyes.
• If she looks at you when you say her name, praise her and give her a treat.
• If she won’t look you in the eye, start making funny (nonthreatening) sounds.
Whistle, click your tongue, and say “Beep beep!” or “Toodleoodleoodle” or whatever other funny sound amuses you. (Remember, this should be fun for you, too.) Note: Don’t use your puppy’s name for this one yet. She probably hears it all the time, and you want to emit a new sound that will capture her attention.
As soon as she looks at you, smile happily, say “Good dog!” and give her a treat.
When she gives you her attention, be enthusiastic. Play with her joyfully, give her a treat, pet her gently — whatever she really loves.
If, in Step 2, you had to go with the second option — making funny sounds — continue with the rest of these steps.
Do this, for example: “[whistle] Hans!” or “Beep beep, Hans!” Continue to reward your dog enthusiastically every time she gives you her attention.
Continue to reward her whenever she gives you her full attention.
Another way you can get a dog’s attention is by showing her a treat and then holding it at arm’s length to your side. The dog will stare at your hand and the treat. The instant she looks you in the eye, give her the treat. This will establish great eye contact and command; your Dachshund is listening. What will you tell her to do next?
You can, of course, name your dog whatever you like. Short names (or short nicknames of long names) that are fun and easy to say are most effective for training, however. Peter, Max, Trixie, and Sport make better choices than Bartholomew, Zachariah, Veronica, and Mary Margaret (although Bart, Zach, Vicky, and Meg would all work well).
Wave a treat in the air, if necessary. If she comes without seeing the treat, give her one anyway to reward her.
Really heap it on — this is the big one. “Whatta good good good doggie! What a well-behaved perfect little puppy! She can come, yes she can!” Pet, kiss, play, and offer a treat — make it worth your Dachshund’s while.
4. Move back another 5 or 6 feet and try it again.
If your puppy follows you before you’ve said “Come,” say “Come” as she’s following you. “Come, Spot! Whatta good Spot! Come! Thatta girl! Come, Spot!”
Probably five times is the most you’ll get in at once. Work through the lesson again later. And again and again and again in the days after.
After your Dachshund understands “Sit” and “Wait” (see the following section), you can combine them with “Come.” Have your Dachshund sit, tell her to wait, and then walk away. Then say “[puppy’s name], Come!” Three cues for the price of one!
Here are two very important things to remember, so read up:
– Never go for one day without practicing “Come” a few times. Your goal is to have the sound of the word “Come” induce such a familiar and practiced response in your Dachshund that she obeys without even thinking about it.
– If you use food rewards for only one cue, “Come” should be the one. If you reward your Dachshund in a way that makes a big impression every single time she comes when you call her, she’ll be more likely to obey you every single time you call her.
Put it just close enough for her to see and smell it but not close enough for her to grab it.
How can she resist? She must try to follow it. But to do so, she has to raise her head, and to raise her head, she has to sit.
“Good sit! Whatta good dog!”
“Whatta good dog! Whatta good little Gretel!”
Eventually, your puppy will associate the action with the word, but don’t rush to get rid of the treat. Keep practicing for at least a couple of weeks, and if she doesn’t get it, keep using the lure for a while longer.
8. When she’s very familiar with the Sit cue, practice holding the sit.
In other words, after she’s in the sit, don’t give her the food immediately. Hold it over her head while you say “Wait” in a friendly and relaxed tone. Wait for two seconds to give her the treat.
Go from 2 seconds to 5, 10, 20, and 30 seconds, and then go for a minute. Vary the wait so she never knows how long it will be. Sit, wait, reward.
Later on down the road, when you want your Dachshund to sit for longer periods of time — say, while you get her dinner prepared or when you have to take a phone call — you can say “Sit, Wait” and then go about your business. When you give your pup a treat, you release her. You should also practice the extended stay by using “Down” rather than “Sit”; it will be more comfortable for your Dachshund. Find out how to teach “Down” later in this chapter.
For long sits, accompany the treat reward with a release cue, such as “Okay!” or “Go Play!” Eventually, you won’t even need the treat. Your Dachshund will be happy to sit and wait for you. Of course, she’ll always be happy to take a treat off your hands, too, so you needn’t abandon the treat if you enjoy offering it occasionally. Keep her guessing to keep her paying attention!
To follow it, she’ll have to stand up.
Heap on the praise. “Good stand! Whatta good Butch! Whatta good stand!”
What a well-behaved Dachshund you have!
Hold the new kibble just in front of your Dachshund’s nose.
If she follows it with her nose but doesn’t lie down, move it slightly away from her so that she has to lie down to reach it. If your Dachshund stands up to follow the kibble, moving out of the sit, take the treat away and start over with the “Sit” cue.
It may take a few tries for your Dachshund to figure out what you mean. Plus, some Dachsies just don’t like to lie down. They’d rather be up and at ’em. But when she gets it, make lying down super rewarding; if you do, even the most active Dachsie will probably be willing to do it . . . on occasion.
It may help to train for “Down” when your Dachshund is tired — like after a walk or play session.
Gradually extend the time between the down and the reward — the same procedure you use for the long sit (see “Teaching ‘Sit’” for details).
You can practice the long down during pauses on your daily walk, but don’t make your Dachshund lie down on hot pavement. Let her practice the “Down” cue on the grass.
Mastering the Leash
A collar is more likely to strain and even injure your Dachshund’s neck than a harness that fits around her shoulders and torso. A harness can give you more control over your puppy and may be more comfortable for your Dachshund. Check your local pet stores, online pet supply companies, and mail-order pet supply catalogs for available harnesses. (See Chapter Purchasing Your Dachshund Essentials for more on leashes, collars, and harnesses.)
The leash should hang loosely in front of you. Stand still. Don’t talk to or look at your Dachshund. She’ll probably pull a little, wander around a little, and sniff a little. Eventually, she’ll get bored. (If she doesn’t, move to a more boring location — say, the middle of a wide cement driveway.)
“Oh, joy!” your Dachshund thinks. “A walk! Hooray!” Off she dashes.
Stand perfectly still. Don’t look at or talk to your Dachshund. Don’t even say “No.” Just stop.
But this isn’t what your Dachshund expected. She thought you were going for a walk. What gives? “C’MON!” she’s thinking. Don’t budge. Finally, your Dachshund will give up and come back to you.
“Good dog! Let’s walk!” “Hooray!” She’ll lunge ahead again.
Remain dead still. Now your Dachshund may be getting pretty frustrated, but let her figure this one out. When she stays by your side, you move, and the two of you get to walk. Yippee! But when she pulls and lunges on the leash, you stop. No walk. Boring!
7. Keep at this stop-and-go routine until she gets it.
If she doesn’t get it today, she’ll get it soon. Every time she stays at your side, say “Walk” and then walk. That’s the big reward — one of the biggest in your Dachshund’s mind.
Here are a few more “Walk” tips:
– Never move when your Dachshund pulls on the leash, no matter how old and experienced she gets. Never make an exception. Even when she’s 10 years old, stop. Ignore her and don’t move until she’s back at your side in a mannerly way. As long as she stays at your side, the two of you can stroll as long as you like. But if you give a Dachshund an inch, she’ll drag you a mile.
– After your Dachshund has learned to stay by your side on walks, you can throw in a few curves — literally. Walk in an arc to the right and to the left, walk backward, walk in a circle, walk in a zigzag. See how well she can learn to tune in to your movements — even anticipate them. If, at any time, she makes a wrong move or puts any tension in that leash, always stop.
When your Dachshund has figured out the game, the “Walk” cue can become great fun — kind of like a challenging guessing game (and Dachsies love a challenge). It can also serve as an excellent foundation for more advanced obedience work, including the fun and creative freestyle competition (for more on freestyle, see Chapter Advanced Training and Competing for Fun).
– After your Dachshund has mastered the “Walk” cue, you can pick up the pace and change the cue to “Run.” But don’t run too fast or for very long with your Dachshund. Because their legs are so short, Dachshunds have to work twice as hard as other dogs to keep up with you.
If your Dachshund keeps moving, stand completely still and ignore her, just like you do when teaching the “Walk” cue in the previous section.
Troubleshooting 101: Conquering Training Problems
If you’re really having problems, go to obedience class or just give your trainer a call (see the earlier section “Considering Obedience Classes”). Many trainers will even come to your house to conduct training sessions for your dog and for you, too! You’ll soon be back on track.
– Your Dachshund won’t listen. Don’t be impatient with training. Go back to Lesson #1 — getting your dog’s attention. If you don’t have your Dachshund’s attention, you can’t get anything else done. Don’t proceed until she learns that when she hears her name, something fun and good will come from your direction. Move up slowly from there.
You can always go back to square one. And remember, your Dachshund won’t listen to anything you have to say if you say it like you’re extremely annoyed or bored. But if you have something fun to say? Something great? Something so exciting that no Dachshund would ever want to miss out on it? Now you’re talking. (And your Dachshund is listening!)
– Your Dachshund won’t follow the lure. Impatience on your part may be the culprit. You hold the treat in front of your Dachshund and raise it up. Your Dachshund looks up, sits halfway, and then stands. Do you say, “Close enough!” and give her the treat? Sitting halfway isn’t close enough, however, and you’ve just rewarded your Dachshund for doing something incorrectly. Don’t give her a treat, not even once, unless she does something the way she’s supposed to. If she doesn’t get it on the first few tries, try again tomorrow. And the next day. Some Dachshunds are slower to learn, but yours really does want that treat, so keep trying until she understands.
Another reason for not following the lure could be that your Dachshund just isn’t very hungry right now. It may help to train her before her meal, when she’s hungrier; the treat will be a more interesting motivation then.
– Your Dachshund has a very short attention span. Of course she does, especially if she’s a puppy. Have you ever met a human toddler? You get the point. Don’t worry if your training sessions are effective for no longer than a couple minutes at first. A few tries at “Come,” a play break, and one or two “Sits” makes for a perfectly respectable training session for a young puppy.
– Your Dachshund refuses to come. Try training in an area with fewer distractions. You have to be the most exciting thing around for “Come” to work. If your backyard has many other yards, dogs, and wildlife in view, forget it. You can practice “Come” in the bathroom (put the trash away) or other relatively empty room, with no other people or pets around. Also, try training before a meal when your Dachshund may be hungrier or just after a nap when your Dachshund may be more alert and well-rested.
If you’re really having a hard time with this cue, don’t use the word “Come” unless your puppy is on a leash so you can slowly and gently pull him toward you. Then give him a treat. This tactic will keep your puppy from getting confused about what exactly you mean by Come.
– Kibble treats aren’t good enough. Different Dachshunds are food-motivated to varying degrees. If pieces of your Dachshund’s regular kibble just aren’t motivation enough, try healthy, homemade or store-bought treats broken into small bits. Or try small pieces of healthy people food, like baby carrots, blueberries, oat cereal circles, or, for the Dachshund that needs an extra push, very small slivers of cooked poultry or meat (avoid processed meat like hot dogs and lunchmeat) or low-fat shredded cheese.
– You keep getting angry. Puppies can be so frustrating. If you can’t keep your cool, though, training simply won’t work. Anger will only hurt your relationship with your Dachshund. Try training at a different time of day, when you’ll be in a better mood. Also, maybe your training sessions are too long. Start with sessions that are only a couple minutes long. How irritated can you get in two minutes? If you’re still having problems, you may need to get to the root of your irritation. If something else is bothering you, don’t take out your human troubles on your innocent, if rambunctious, little Dachshund.
Recognizing the Importance of Play
Although Dachshunds can be stubborn, the way around their hardheadedness isn’t through intimidation or violence. Manipulate with charm and teach with joy, and you’ll soon convince your Dachshund that doing what you say is what she wants more than anything else. With a little patience and a sense of humor, you can do it. And your Dachshund can’t wait for you to try!
by Eve Adamson