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Setting the Stage for Training

In This Chapter

The term “training” is used to describe two separate and distinct concepts:

To teach Buddy to do something that you want him to do, but that he wouldn’t do on his own. For example, Buddy knows how to sit and sits on his own, but you want him to sit on command, something he doesn’t do on his own without training.

This concept is called action training. Action training relies mainly on using pleasant experiences, such as inducing your dog to sit with a treat. Teaching Buddy the commands “Sit,” “Down,” “Stand,” and “Come” are examples of action training.

To teach Buddy to stop doing something he would do on his own, which you don’t want him to do. For example, Buddy chases bicyclists, something he does on his own that you want him to stop.

This concept is called abstention training. Abstention training typically relies on unpleasant experiences. The dog learns to avoid the unpleasant experience by not chasing the bicyclist. For example, to teach Buddy not to pull on the leash, use a check. A check is a crisp snap on the leash with an immediate release of tension. In order to be effective, the leash must be loose before the check is made. Buddy can avoid the check by not pulling. Another example of an abstention exercise is the “Stay” command — don’t move.

The Quasi training of Cece

For more than 30 years, we’ve had a multidog household and at least one cat, and have witnessed the abstention training phenomenon countless times. Our current menagerie consists of three Standard Wirehaired Dachshunds, ranging in age from 2 to 16, two Labrador Retrievers, 2 and 6, an 8-year old Landseer Newfoundland, and Quasi, an 18-year old male cat who was left on our door step when he was 6 weeks old. Quasi is an expert at abstention training.
When we got our youngest Dachshund, Cece, she was 8 weeks old. Naturally, she was quite respectful of the older dogs, but treated Quasi as though he was a stuffed toy. Quasi, who had brought up a number of puppies, was amazingly tolerant of Cece. When Cece got too rough with him, he would growl and hiss, and hit her with his paw. When Cece didn’t get the message, Quasi finally let her have it — he hauled off, all claws extended, and swiped her across the nose. Cece screamed and jumped back in horror, her nose dripping with blood.
Was Cece psychologically scarred for life? Did Cece take offense? Did she go away and sulk? Did she hold a grudge against Quasi? Nothing of the kind. Cece didn’t hold any hard feelings; in fact, she gained a little more respect for Quasi. They still play together, and they sleep together. The only difference is that Cece discovered an important lesson — unacceptable behavior results in unpleasant experiences. Incidentally, all the other dogs received the same treatment at one point or another.


Dogs already know avoiding unpleasant experiences is to their advantage because that is how they deal with each other. The training begins with the mother dog. When the puppies reach about 6 weeks old, she begins the weaning process. At that point in time, the puppies have sharp little teeth, not very pleasant for the mother when she feeds them. She begins to growl at the puppies to communicate to them not to bite so hard. She snarls and snaps at those who ignore her growls until they stop. An offending puppy may scream to high heaven and roll over on its back, having learned its lesson. The mother dog usually follows the disagreeable experience by an agreeable one — by nuzzling the puppy.

This chapter focuses on the different models of dog training, from traditional training to operant conditioning and clicker training. Although the dog hasn’t changed, the approach to training him has been refined. We take you on a brief tour of the major training theories, their terminologies, and how they fit together.

Selecting a Training Model

There are many ways to train a dog, ranging from rather primitive to fairly sophisticated. Even technology has had its impact on dog training. For example, rather than fenced yards, people now have invisible fences, which contain dogs within their confines by means of an electrical shock.
The method, or combination of methods, you ultimately choose depends on which one works best for you and your dog. Our purpose in this chapter is to provide you with options so you can select one that suits your personality and needs, as well as those of your dog. To make the decision which approach is best for your dog, check out Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Mind.


Before you embark on your training program, consider what you want your dog to master and compare it to the task for which he was bred. Many people typically select their dogs based on appearance and without regard to breed-specific functions and behaviors. The results are frequently all too predictable — the cute little puppy becomes a grown dog and now no longer fits into the scheme of things.

Although most dogs can be trained to obey basic obedience commands, breed-specific traits determine the ease or difficulty. For example, both the Newfoundland and the Parson Russell Terrier can learn a “Down-Stay” command, but we suspect you’ll need a great deal more determination, patience, and time to teach this exercise to the Parson Russell Terrier than you will to the Newfoundland.
According to the 2003 statistics of the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Labrador Retriever was first in registrations, with almost three times the number of registrations as the second most popular breed, the Golden Retriever — 144,934 to 52,530. We’re not questioning that the Labrador is a fine breed — we have two ourselves. Labs tend to be healthy, are good with children, are easy to train, have an average protectiveness trait, and require little grooming. What prospective buyers frequently don’t consider, however, are the Lab’s activity level and exercise requirements, both of which are high. Moreover, as the name implies, a Labrador Retriever is a retriever, which means he likes to retrieve, anything and everything that isn’t nailed down and doesn’t necessarily belong to him.


An excellent resource for breed-specific behavior and traits is The Roger Caras Dog Book: A Complete Guide to Every AKC Breed, by Roger Caras and Alton Anderson (M. Evans & Co.), now in its third edition. For instance, the book shows how the Labrador is one of 24 breeds in the Sporting Group. For each breed, the book lists a scale from 1 to 10 of three characteristics: the amount of coat care required, the amount of exercise required, and the suitability for urban/apartment life. Thirteen breeds in this group are considered unsuitable for urban/apartment live. The remaining eleven breeds, which include the Labrador, are considered suitable, but only if the dog’s exercise requirements are being met. Another excellent source is Paws to Consider: Choosing the Right Dog for You and Your Family, by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson (Warner Books).

Looking back at a brief history of dogs

Dogs were originally bred for specific functions, such as guarding, herding, hauling, hunting, and so on. Before 1945, most dogs worked for a living, and many still do. The popularity as a household pet is a relatively recent phenomenon, fueled in part by the heroic exploits of the dogs used in World War II, as well as the fictional Rin Tin Tin and Lassie. The upshot of this popularity has been a demand for the “family” dog — easy to train, good with children, a little bit protective, and relatively quiet.

Traditional training

We use the term “traditional training” to describe the most widely used training method for the last 100 years. The first comprehensive written record of traditional training is based on the principle that unacceptable behaviors result in unpleasant consequences and acceptable behaviors result in pleasant consequences. Konrad Most, a German service dog trainer, developed this method in the early 1900s; he also wrote Training Dogs: A Manual. (Dogwise Publishing has republished Training Dogs: A Manual, and it’s available at His method was introduced in this country in the early 1920s, when several of Most’s students immigrated to the United States and became the teachers of future dog training instructors.
Most explains that training a dog consists of primary inducements and secondary inducements. Primary inducements result in the behavior you want to elicit from the dog, and secondary inducements are commands and signals. By pairing the two, you can condition the dog to respond solely to commands and signals, the ultimate goal of any training.
Primary inducements can be a pleasant or an unpleasant experience for the dog. Pleasant experiences are called rewards and consist of an object the dog will actively work for, such as food, an inviting body posture, verbal praise, or physical affection, such as petting, to induce the desired behavior. A common example is the owner who encourages his puppy to come to him by squatting down and opening his arms in an inviting fashion. Another example is to use a treat to induce the dog to sit.

Unpleasant experiences are called corrections and can be a check on the leash, a harsh tone of voice, a threatening body posture, or throwing something at the dog. In order to extinguish the undesired behavior, the correction must be sufficiently unpleasant for the dog so that he wants to avoid it and change his behavior. Moreover, you must administer the correction immediately before or during the undesired behavior. What constitutes an unpleasant experience varies from dog to dog and depends on his Personality Profile (see Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Mind). What is perceived as a sufficiently unpleasant experience to inhibit the unwanted behavior by one dog may be perceived as just an annoyance by another dog.

Classical conditioning

Classical conditioning is a type of learning that results from the association or pairing of two stimuli. The best-known example is Ivan Pavlov’s experiment that involved ringing a bell before feeding his dogs. After a number of repetitions, the sound of the bell caused the dogs to salivate, even in the absence of food. By pairing the sound of the bell with the food, the dogs “learned” to salivate to the sound of the bell.
Every dog owner, in one way or another, has classically conditioned his dog. In our household, withdrawing a knife from the block causes several dogs to seemingly appear from nowhere. Based on prior experience, they know food is involved and that they have a good chance of getting a scrap or two. Although the dogs react to the knife, only the cat reacts to the sound of the electric can opener.

Operant conditioning

B.F. Skinner, the famous theoretical behaviorist, used the term operant conditioning to describe the effects of a trainer’s particular action on the future occurrence of an animal’s behavior. There are four quadrants to operant conditioning, and we show them in Table 2-1.

Table 2-1                       The Four Quadrants to Operant Conditioning

Quadrant 1) Positive reinforcement — following a behavior with something the dog perceives as pleasant will increase the behavior.
Quadrant 2) Negative punishment — following a behavior with removing something the dog perceives as pleasant will decrease the behavior.
Quadrant 3) Positive punishment — following a behavior with something the dog perceives as unpleasant will decrease the behavior
Quadrant 4) Negative reinforcement — following a behavior with removal of something the dog perceives as unpleasant will increase the behavior


If these four quadrants sound confusing to you, you aren’t alone. And, if you think that “negative punishment” is a redundancy and “positive punishment” is an oxymoron, you’re also not alone. Moreover, we have always considered the word “punishment” singularly inappropriate in the context of dog training. The general understanding of the word is “a penalty for wrongdoing,” but does a dog, untrained or trained, know he has done something wrong? An answer in the affirmative implies that a dog knows, in the moral sense, right from wrong, which is highly unlikely.

Having said all that, here are examples of the Four Quadrants:

Quadrant 1 positive reinforcement: When one of our Dachshunds, Diggy, was still quite young, she assumed the begging position by sitting up on her haunches. She did this spontaneously and on her own, without any coaxing on our part. Naturally, we thought it was cute, so we gave her a treat, which increased the behavior. We periodically reinforced the behavior with a treat, and now, 14 years later, she still offers this behavior in hopes of getting a treat.

Quadrant 2 negative punishment: You’re watching TV and your dog drops his ball in your lap hoping you’ll throw it. You get up and leave, which will decrease the behavior.

Quadrant 3 positive punishment: Your dog jumps on you to greet you and you spritz him with water, which will decrease the behavior.

Quadrant 4 negative reinforcement: You lift up on your dog’s collar until he sits, and then you release the collar, which will increase the behavior of sitting.

The bottom line for following the classics

So, what is the bottom line in all this information about traditional training and operant conditioning? It’s actually rather simple:
And just to help you keep all the training terminology straight, we provide Table 2-2 to combine it all into a neat, small package.

Table 2-2                      How Dog Training Terminology Fits Together

Traditional Training
Operant Conditioning
Anything the dog perceives as unpleasant, such as a yelling “no,” a harsh tone of voice, a threatening body posture, or throwing something at the dog.
An aversive, such as negative punishment or positive punishment.
An aversive is anything the dog perceives as unpleasant, such as a check on the training collar, yelling “no,” in a harsh tone of voice, a threatening body posture, or throwing something at the dog.
Anything the dog perceives as pleasant, such as anything the dog will actively work for, which can be a treat, a ball, a stick, praise, or physical affection in the form of petting.
Positive reinforcement, such as anything the dog will actively work for, which can be a treat, a ball, a stick, praise, or physical affection in the form of petting.

Clicker training

Keller and Marian Breland created the foundation of the modern clicker training movement. In the mid-1940s, the Brelands were the first to apply clicker training to train dogs. The movement didn’t, however, become popular until the early 1990s when Karen Pryor and Gary Wilkes teamed up and began to give seminars on clicker training. Pryor is a retired dolphin trainer and author of Don’t Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training (Bantam). Although Don’t Shoot the Dog isn’t a “how-to” training book, it provides some general rules based on the concepts of operant conditioning for influencing behavior. Meanwhile, Wilkes is an animal behaviorist and since 1987 the foremost practitioner and teacher of clicker training. (For more information about Wilkes and clicker training, go to
Clicker training is based on the concepts of operant conditioning (see the section earlier in this chapter). The dog is first trained to associate the clicker sound with getting a treat, a pleasant experience. After the dog associates the click with getting a treat, the trainer has two options:

Option 1: The trainer can wait until the dog voluntarily offers the desired behavior on his own, such as sit. When the dog sits, the trainer clicks, marking the end of the behavior, and reinforces the behavior with a treat. This option works well with extroverted dogs that will offer a variety of behaviors in the hope that one of them will get them a treat. An introverted dog, on the other hand, may show little interest in the game. The “wait and see what happens” approach, depending on the dog, can be a lengthy process and extremely stressful for the dog — he may stop offering any behaviors and just lie down.

Option 2: The trainer doesn’t have the time or patience to wait for the desired behavior to happen, so he induces the behavior. Again, in the case of the Sit, the trainer uses a treat to get the dog to assume the sitting position, and when the dog sits, the trainer clicks, marking the end of the behavior, and gives the treat. Obviously, this approach is much more efficient than waiting for the dog to offer the desired behavior on his own.

After the dog consistently offers the behavior of sitting, for which he is rewarded with a click and a treat (Quadrant 1 — positive reinforcement), the trainer then adds a cue to the behavior, such as a command or signal, or both. The trainer waits until he thinks the dog is going to sit and says/signals “Sit.” When the dog does, the trainer clicks and treats.
Now that the dog understands the cue of “Sit,” the trainer eliminates the click and treat when the dog offers the behavior on his own (Quadrant 2 — negative punishment). If the trainer is looking for a different behavior, he may say “Wrong” or “Oops” to convey to the dog that he wants something else (Quadrant 3 — positive punishment, but actually a hybrid, meaning “Try again”).
With a clicker the trainer can mark the end of the desired behavior with greater accuracy than he can with verbal praise, which means clearer communication with the dog. Although the dog does all the work, clicker training requires keen powers of observation and split-second timing to mark the end of the desired behavior and plenty of patience.


The ultimate object of any training is to have your dog respond reliably to your commands. Ideally, he responds to the first command. Telling your dog to do something and have him ignore you is frustrating. Think of Buddy’s response in terms of choices. Do you want to teach Buddy to think he has a choice of responding to you? We don’t think so. We think you want a dog that understands, after you have trained him, that he has to do what you tell him.

Establishing Trust with Your Dog

Picture Buddy chasing a cat across the road. Your heart is in your mouth because you’re afraid he might get hit. When he finally returns, you’re angry and soundly scold him for chasing the cat and giving you such a scare. How does Buddy look at this situation? First, he chased the cat, which was fun. Then he came back to you and was reprimanded, which was no fun at all. What you wanted to teach him was not to chase the cat. What you actually taught him was that returning to you is unpleasant.


One of the commands you want your dog to master is to come when called. To be successful, remember this principle: Whenever your dog comes to you, be nice to him. Don’t do anything the dog perceives as unpleasant. If you want to give him a bath or a pill, don’t just call him to you. Instead, go get him or call him, and then first give him a cookie before the bath or pill.

No matter what he may have done, be pleasant and greet him with a kind word, a pat on the head, and a smile. Teach your dog to trust you by being a safe place for him. When he’s with you, follows you, or comes to you, make him feel wanted.
If you call him to you and then punish him, you undermine his trust in you. When your dog comes to you on his own and you punish him, he thinks he’s being punished for coming to you. You may ask though, “How can I be nice to my dog when he brings me the remains of one of my brand-new shoes, or when he wants to jump on me with muddy paws, or when I just discovered an unwanted present on the carpet?”
We can certainly empathize with these questions, having experienced the same and similar scenarios on many occasions. We know how utterly frustrating a dog’s behavior can be. What we have discovered and accepted is that at that moment in time the dog doesn’t understand that he did anything wrong. He only understands your anger — but not the reason for it. As difficult as it may be, you have to grin and bear it, lest you undermine the very relationship of mutual trust you’re trying to achieve through training. (Take a look at Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Mind for info on how to understand your dog’s mind and check out Chapter Housetraining for info on housetraining.)


Punishment after the fact is cruel and inhumane. Even if the dog’s behavior changes as a result of being punished, it changes in spite of it and not because of it. The answer lies in prevention and training. Prevention means providing the dog with plenty of outlets for his energies in the form of exercise, play, and training. It also means not putting the dog in a position where he can get at your brand-new pair of shoes. Training means teaching your dog to sit on command so that he doesn’t jump on you (see Chapter The Utility Dog Title for training basics).

Being consistent with commands and tone of voice

If there is any magic to training your dog, it’s consistency. Your dog can’t understand “sometimes,” “maybe,” “perhaps,” or “only on Sundays.” He can and does understand “yes” and “no.” For example, you confuse your dog when you encourage him to jump up on you while you’re wearing old clothes but then get angry with him when he joyfully plants muddy paws on your best suit.
Here’s another example: Bill loved to wrestle with Brandy, his Golden Retriever. Then one day, when Grandma came to visit, Brandy flattened her. Bill was angry, and Brandy was confused — she thought roughhousing was a wonderful way to show affection. After all, that’s what Bill had taught her.
Sometimes dogs pick up consistent cues from unexpected sources. For example, before leaving for work, Wendy always put Heidi in her crate. It wasn’t long before Heidi went into her crate on her own when Wendy was about to leave. “What a clever puppy,” thought Wendy, “She knows that I’m going to work.”
Dogs often give the appearance of being able to read your mind. What happens in actuality is that by observing you and studying your habits, they learn to anticipate your actions. Because they communicate with each other through body language, they quickly become experts at reading yours.
What Heidi observed was that immediately before leaving for work, Wendy invariably put on her makeup and then crated her. Heidi’s cue to go into her crate was seeing Wendy putting on her makeup.
Then one evening, before dinner guests were to arrive, Wendy started “putting on her face.” When Heidi immediately went into her crate, Wendy realized the dog hadn’t been reading her mind, but had learned the routine through observation. (See Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Mind.)


Consistency in training means handling your dog in a predictable and uniform manner. If more than one person is in the household, everyone needs to handle the dog in the same way. Otherwise, the dog becomes confused and unreliable in his responses.

So does this mean that you can never permit your puppy to jump up on you? Not at all. But you have to teach him that he may only do so when you tell him it’s okay. But beware: Training a dog to make this distinction is more difficult than training him not to jump up at all. The more black and white you can make it, the easier it will be for Buddy to understand what you want.

Outlasting your dog — be persistent

Training your dog is a question of who is more persistent — you or your dog. Some things he can master quickly; others will take more time. If several tries don’t bring success, be patient, remain calm, and try again.
How quickly your dog will learn a particular command depends on the extent to which the behavior you’re trying to teach him is in harmony with the function for which he was bred. For example, a Labrador Retriever, bred to retrieve game birds on land and in the water, will readily learn how to fetch a stick or a ball on command. On the other hand, an Afghan Hound, bred as a coursing hound that pursues its quarry by sight, may take many repetitions before he understands the command to fetch and then responds to it each and every time. A Shetland Sheepdog, bred to herd and guard livestock, will learn to walk on a loose leash more quickly than a Beagle, bred to hunt hares.

Knowing to avoid “no”


As of right now, eliminate the word “no” from your training vocabulary. All too often, no is the only command a dog hears, and he’s expected to figure out what it means. There is no exercise or command in training called “no.” Avoid negative communications with your dog because they undermine the relationship you’re trying to build. Don’t use your dog’s name as a reprimand. Don’t nag your dog by repeatedly using his name without telling him what you want him to do.

At one of our training camps, one of the participants wore a T-shirt depicting a dog greeting another dog with “Hi. My name is ‘No, No. Bad Dog.’ What’s yours?”


Begin to focus on the way in which you communicate with Buddy. Does he perceive the interaction as positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant, friendly or unfriendly? How many times do you use the word “no,” and how many times do you say “Good dog” when interacting with your dog? Our experience during more than 30 years of teaching has been that by the time we see the dogs, most have been no’ed to death. Everything the dog does brings forth a stern “Don’t do this,” “Don’t do that,” or “No, bad dog.” Negative communications from you have a negative effect on your dog’s motivation to work for you. 

In dealing with your dog, ask yourself, “What exactly do I want Buddy to do or not to do?” Use a do command whenever possible so that you can praise your dog instead of reprimanding him. You’ll notice a direct relationship between your dog’s willingness to cooperate and your attitude. Get out of the blaming habit of assuming that Buddy’s failure to respond is his fault. Your dog only does what comes naturally. More important, your dog’s conduct is a direct reflection of your training. Train Buddy — in a positive way — what you expect from him, and more than likely he’ll enthusiastically go along with the program.
Does this mean you can never use the “no” word? In an emergency, you do what you have to do. But, remember, only in dire need.

Repeating commands

In training, use your dog’s name once before a command to get his attention, for example, “Buddy, come.” The quickest way to teach your dog to ignore you is to use his name repeatedly and with changing inflections of your voice.


Get into the habit of giving a command once and in a normal tone of voice — a dog’s hearing is 80 times better than yours. Repeating commands teaches your dog that he can ignore you, and changes in inflections from pleas to threats don’t help, either. Our experience has been that most people are unaware of how many times they repeat a command. Give the command and if your dog doesn’t respond, reinforce the command or show him exactly what it is you want him to do.

Taking charge

Dogs are pack animals, and a pack consists of followers and one leader. The leader is in charge and dictates what happens when.
From Buddy’s perspective, a pack leader’s Bill of Rights looks something like this:
In a multidog household, we often see the leader of the dog pack exercise these rights on a daily basis. Does Buddy exercise any of these rights with you?
You and your family are now Buddy’s pack, and someone has to be in charge — so become the leader. The principles of democracy don’t apply to pack animals. Your dog needs someone he can respect and look up to for direction and guidance. You may just want to be friends, partners, or peers with your dog. You can be all of those, but for your dog’s well being, you must be in charge. In today’s complicated world, you can’t rely on him to make the decisions.


Few dogs actively seek leadership and most are perfectly content for you to assume the role, so long as you do. But you must do so, or even the meekest of dogs will take over. Remember, it’s not a matter of choice. For his safety and your peace of mind, you have to be the one in charge.

How do you know which of you is in charge? Here are a few signs to watch for:

– Does Buddy get on the furniture and then growl at you when you tell him to get off?

– Does Buddy demand attention from you, which you then give?

– Does Buddy ignore you when you want him to move out of the way, when he is in front of a door or cupboard?

– Does Buddy dash through doorways ahead of you?

If the answer to two or more of these questions is “yes,” you need to become pack leader, and we show how to do that in a positive and nonconfrontational way. The next section explains how.

Being in charge with Buddy

Debbie didn’t think much about the “being in charge” theory. She wanted to be pals with Thor, her Labrador Retriever. After all, he had always listened to her before and had never given her any trouble. She changed her mind when one day Thor made the decision, “Now I will chase the cat across the road,” just as a car was coming. She realized that if she wanted Thor to be around for a while, he had to learn that she was in charge and that she made the decisions.

Assuming Your Role as Pack Leader

Remaining in place, in either the Sit or Down position, is one of the most important exercises you can teach your dog. Aside from its practical value, this exercise has important psychological implications.
One way a dog exerts his leadership over a subordinate dog is by restricting the movement of the subordinate, or keeping him in his place. We remember an amusing incident involving our Yorkshire Terrier, Angus. Friends had come to visit and brought their 6-month-old Doberman, Blue. Things went fine with the two dogs until we noticed that Blue was sitting in a corner with Angus lying in front of him a few feet away. Every time Blue tried to move, Angus would lift his lip, and Blue shrank back into the corner. It seems Angus had exploited the “home-field advantage” and convinced Blue that he was in charge.


Teaching your dog to stay still at your command is at the top of the list of critical exercises. Not only can you keep Buddy out from underfoot, but you also reinforce in his mind that you are the one in charge — you are the pack leader.

Using the same principle, we have successfully taught countless dog owners to become pack leader in a nonviolent and nonconfrontational way. Start the leadership exercises as soon as you get your dog. If your dog is a puppy, your job will be that much easier than if you acquired an older dog — a puppy is more readily physically handled than a grown dog. To accomplish this task, you need to learn to place your dog into a Sit and a Down. The technical term for placing your dog in the Sit or Down position is called modeling — you show the dog what you want him to do.

Placing your dog in a Sit and Down

For the Sit, with Buddy on your left, kneel next to him, both of you facing in the same direction. If Buddy is a small dog, you can put him on a table for these exercises. Take these steps:

1. Place your right hand against his chest and your left hand on top of his shoulders.
2. Run your left hand over his back, all the way down to his knees, and with equal pressure of both hands and without saying anything, collapse him into a Sit.
3. Keep your hands in place to the count of five and verbally praise Buddy, saying “good dog.”
4. Then release him with “Okay.”
This is a leadership exercise and its purpose isn’t to teach Buddy the “Sit” command. To teach him to respond to the “Sit” command, see Chapter Mastering Basic Training.
For the Down, take the following steps:
1. With Buddy sitting on your left, kneel next to him, both of you facing in the same direction.
2. Reaching over his back, place your left hand behind his left foreleg; place the right hand behind the right foreleg.
3. Keep your thumbs up so as not to squeeze Buddy’s legs, something he may not like and may cause him to resist.
4. Lift Buddy into the begging position and without saying anything, lower him to the ground. (See Figure 2-1.)
5. Keep your hands in place to the count of five and verbally praise him.
6. Then release him with “Okay.”
This is a leadership exercise and its purpose isn’t to teach Buddy the “Down” command. To teach him to respond to the “Down” command, see Chapter Mastering Basic Training.
Figure 2-1: Lifting your dog to the begging position.
The Long Sit and Down exercise: A recipe for leadership


The purpose of the Long Sit and Down exercise is to teach Buddy in a nonviolent way that you are his pack leader. For this reason, it’s the foundation of all further training. Training your dog is next to impossible unless he accepts you as the one in charge. It takes four weeks of practice to get the Long Sit and Down established as a routine, but as soon as you have it, it can go a long way toward helping you establish your role as pack leader. Here’s what to do:

Week 1: Five times during the course of a week, practice the Long Down exercise for 30 minutes at a time as follows:

1. Sit on the floor beside your dog.

2. Without saying anything, place him in the Down position. (See Figure 2-2.)

3. If he gets up, put him back without saying anything.

4. Keep your hands off when he is down.

5. Stay still.

6. After 30 minutes, release him. 

Figure 2-2: Gently lowering your dog to the Down position.

As a general rule, the greater a dog’s leadership aspirations, the more frequently he will try to get up and the more important this exercise becomes. Just remain calm and each time he tries to get up, replace him in the Down position.


If your dog is particularly bouncy, put him on leash and sit on a chair and the leash so your hands are free to put him back.

Some dogs immediately concede that you’re the pack leader, while others need some convincing. If your dog is in the latter group, your, as well as his, first experience with the Long Down will be the hardest. As he catches on to the idea and gradually (if not grudgingly) accepts you as pack leader, each successive repetition will be that much easier.

Practice the Long Down under the following conditions:

  • When your dog is tired
  • After he has been exercised
  • When interruptions are unlikely
  • When you aren’t tired

If the situation allows it, you can watch television or read, so long as you don’t move.

Week 2: On alternate days, practice three 30-minute Downs and 10-minute Sits while you sit in a chair next to your dog.

Week 3: On alternate days, practice three 30-minute Downs and 10-minute Sits while you sit across the room from your dog.

Week 4: On alternate days, practice three 30-minute Downs and 10-minute Sits while you move about the room but in sight of your dog.

After week 4, practice a Long Down and a Long Sit at least once a month.
We guarantee you that if you follow this regimen that your dog will unconditionally accept you as pack leader.
by Jack and Wendy Volhard
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