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Dog Training For Dummies, 3rd Edition

Dog Training For Dummies, 3rd Edition

by Jack Volhard, Wendy Volhard
Dog Training For Dummies, 3rd Edition

Dog Training For Dummies, 3rd Edition

by Jack Volhard, Wendy Volhard


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Make training fun and effective

This friendly guide shows you how to select the right training method for your dog, based on his unique personality, to reach your desired goals. Whether you want to teach Buddy to sit or master retrieving, you'll get expert training tips and techniques for you and your dog — to ensure a mutually respectful relationship with your four-legged friend.

  • Concentrate on canines — discover why your dog acts the way she does, understand her nutritional needs, and ready yourself for the task of training your dog

  • Prep for your pup — prepare your home for your puppy's arrival, discover the importance of socialization, and get started on housetraining

  • Put your best paw forward — teach basic commands like Sit, Stay, and Down, and get the scoop on how to deal with doggie don'ts like chewing, digging, and excessive barking

  • Take training to the next level — get involved in organized dog activities and competitions, where you'll both show off impressive tricks like retrieving, figure 8s, and much more

Open the book and find:

  • Step-by-step instructions for teaching your dog basic commands

  • Helpful advice on crate training

  • Safe ways to address aggression and separation anxiety

  • Tips for teaching Buddy to behave himself around people and other dogs

  • Techniques to keep your senior dog feeling young

  • Health issues that can interfere with training

  • Experts to turn to for training help

Learn to:

  • Use positive reinforcement as an effective teaching tool

  • Select the gear you need for training success

  • Teach the basics including Sit, Stay, and Down

  • Eliminate unwanted behavior

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781119174394
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 07/28/2015
Series: For Dummies Books
Pages: 410
Sales rank: 380,106
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Jack and Wendy Volhard are internationally recognized for their contributions to dog training, health, and nutrition. At the heart of their teaching is the "Motivational Method," a unique approach to training that is aimed at people who value dogs first and foremost as pets and companions.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Setting the Stage for Training

In This Chapter

* What a well-trained dog means for you and your home

* What the mother dog teaches you about training

* When training is more than just saying no

* Who the trainer is—you or your dog

* What training method is most effective

A well-trained dog is a joy to have around. He is welcome almost anywhere because he behaves around people and around other dogs. He knows how to stay, and he comes when called. He is a pleasure to take for a walk, and he can be let loose for a romp in the park. He can be taken on trips and family outings. He is a member of the family in every sense of the word.

The most important benefit for your dog, we'll call him Buddy, is his own safety. A dog that listens and does what he is told rarely gets into trouble. Instead of being a slave to a leash or a line, a trained dog is truly a free dog—he can be trusted to come when called, not to chase a cat across the road, or not to try to retrieve a car.

As a gift to yourself and your dog, as well as your family and your friends and neighbors, train your dog. It will mean sanity for you, safety for your dog, and compliments from those you meet. Make him an ambassador of good will for all dogs.

Your dog has a life expectancy of 8 to 16 years. Now is the time to ensure that these years are mutually rewarding for you and your dog. Teach him to be the well-trained dog you want him to be. Believe us, it's well worth the investment.

Identifying a Well-Trained Dog

For more than 30 years, we have taught dog training classes, two-day seminars, and five-day training camps. We listen carefully when our students tell us what a well-trained dog should be. First and foremost, they say, he has to be housetrained, of course. After that, in order of importance, a well-trained dog is one who

  • Doesn't jump on people.

  • Doesn't beg at the table.

  • Doesn't bother guests.

  • Comes when called.

  • Doesn't pull on the leash.

Note that these requirements, with one exception, are expressed in the negative—that is, dog, don't do that. For purposes of training, you need to express these requirements in the positive so that you can teach your dog exactly what you expect of him. Here is what the new list of requirements for a well-trained dog looks like:

  • Sit when I tell you.

  • Go somewhere and chill out.

  • Lie down when I tell you and stay there.

  • Come when called.

  • Walk on a loose leash.

As you can see, the sit and down-stay commands are the building blocks for a well-trained dog; if Buddy knew nothing else, you could live with him. Of course, your Buddy might have some additional wrinkles that may need ironing out, some of which are more matters of management than training. He may enjoy landscaping, as do our Dachshunds, who delight in digging holes in the backyard and can do so with amazing speed and vigor. Unless you are willing to put up with what can become major excavation projects, the best defense is to expend this digging energy with plenty of exercise, training, and supervision.

Another favorite pastime of some dogs is raiding the garbage. Prevention is the cure here: Put the garbage where your dog can't get to it.

One of our Dachshunds learned to open the refrigerator by yanking on the towel we kept draped through the door handle and to help himself to anything he could reach. Prevention was the answer. We removed the towel.

What is an untrained dog?

The untrained dog has few privileges. When guests come, he is locked away because he is too unruly. When the family sits down to eat, he is locked up or put outside because he begs at the table. He is never allowed off leash because he runs away and stays out for hours at a time. Nobody wants to take him for a walk because he pulls, and he never gets to go on family outings because he is such a nuisance.

Dogs are social animals, and one of the cruelest forms of punishment is to deprive them of the opportunity to interact with members of the family on a regular basis. Isolating a dog from contact with humans is inhumane. Spending quality time with your dog by training him will make him the beloved pet he deserves to be.

Defining Training

We use the term training to describe two different concepts:

• To teach Buddy to do something that you want him to do, but that he would not 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 will not do on his own without training.

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

We call this action training and abstention training:

Action training: To teach your dog to do something that you want him to do, which he would not do on his own. For action training, you mainly use positive reinforcement, such as a treat or lots of praise. A simple definition of positive reinforcement is any response together with a given action that makes the response likely to occur again. For example, you call your dog, and when he comes to you, you reward him with a treat. Giving your dog a treat after he has responded to the come command increases the likelihood that he'll respond again.

Abstention training: To teach your dog to stop doing something he would do on his own, which you don't want him to do. For abstention training, you may have to use negative reinforcement, such as a check on the leash. A simple definition of negative reinforcement is an action the dog perceives as unpleasant that is performed immediately before or during a behavior and that the dog can avoid by stopping the behavior. For example, your dog is pulling on the leash, and you check him.

A check is a tug on the leash, followed by an immediate release of tension on the leash, that is an unpleasant experience for the dog but one he can avoid by not pulling (see Figure 1-1). The mother dog uses a similar approach when teaching her puppies to stop doing something they'd do on their own but that she doesn't want them to do. For example, when the puppies are 6 to 7 weeks old, she begins to wean them. At this age the puppies now have their baby teeth, which can be quite painful to the mother when they feed. When the mother dog wants them to stop what they're doing, she snarls or growls or snaps at them. The puppies perceive her action as an unpleasant experience and stop whatever they're doing. The check is based on the same principle.


The commands sit, down, stand, and come all involve action training and are the fundamentals for not only the well-trained pet but also any further training. Teaching your dog to heel—that is, walk on your left side and pay strict attention to you, as in competitive events or when you need absolute control—is also action training. The stay command is an example of abstention training; you are teaching Buddy not to leave.

The object of any training is to have your dog respond reliably to your command. Ideally, he responds on the first command. There is nothing more frustrating than telling your dog to do something only to be ignored. It is especially annoying when somebody is watching or you are trying to show off. Male dogs in particular have that favorite trick of absolutely having to lift a leg just one more time, and sometimes several times, before they deign to acknowledge our presence.

Think of it in terms of choices. Do you want 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, no ifs or buts.

Selecting a Training Model

Basically, three training models exist, each with varying degrees of effectiveness. Table 1-1 offers a quick look at these models.

Table 1-1 Training Methods and How Effective They Are

  Method     Effectiveness     Stress

No-No     The dog is always wrong—he is punished unless he can figure out on his own by trial and error what you want.     Takes a long time and sometimes the dog doesn't get it, depending on what the dog is expected to learn.     Extremely high, to the point where the dog may give up trying altogether.  

Yes-Yes     The dog is always right—he is rewarded for every correct response but still has to learn on his own what is expected.     Takes a considerable amount of patience and time.     Can be high, depending on the dog.  

Yes-No   The dog knows immediately whether he is right or wrong.     Very fast.     Very little.  

The No-No model is the least desirable of the three. Imagine trying to learn a new skill, and the only instruction you receive is a reprimand when you do something wrong. The stress level would be incredible, and it wouldn't take long before you gave up in disgust.

On the face of it, the Yes-Yes model looks quite appealing. After all, how much can go wrong when every correct response is rewarded? Actually, quite a bit—when you consider that there are still no instructions of any kind and that the subject, be it a person or a dog, has to figure out how to get the reward. For a sensitive person or dog, such uncertainty can be very stressful, and the higher the level of stress, the slower the rate of learning. Moreover, with this model, it's difficult to set the parameters of what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable behavior.

The drawback of both the No-No and Yes-Yes models is that they tend to be excessively slow in getting the point across to the subject in comparison to the Yes-No model.

Because you are a busy, results-oriented person, this book shows you how to use the Yes-No method to train Buddy. The main advantage of the Yes-No method is that there's no guesswork involved for the dog. He knows immediately what it is you want. For example, when introducing your dog to the sit command, you can use a treat to coax him into a sit. As soon as he responds, he gets the treat; if he doesn't respond, he doesn't get the treat. It'll take only a few repetitions before your dog has figured out how to get the treat. You can also show him what you want him to do by physically placing him into a sit and then giving him a treat and telling him what a clever boy he is (see Chapter 4 for more info on basic training).

The following sections cover a few ground rules for applying the Yes-No model.

Establish trust with your dog

Picture Buddy chasing a cat across the road. Your heart is in your mouth because you are afraid he might get run over. When he finally returns, you are angry and soundly scold him for chasing the cat and giving you such a scare.

Here is how Buddy looks at this situation: First, he chased the cat, which was lots of 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 coming to you can be unpleasant.


One of the commands you want your dog to learn is to come when called. To be successful, remember this principle: Whenever your dog comes to you, be nice to him. Put another way, don't do anything he 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; 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 is 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 is being punished for coming to you.

You may ask, "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 a number of occasions ourselves. We know how utterly frustrating a dog's behavior can be. What we have learned and what we have had to accept is that at that moment in time, the dog does not understand that he did anything wrong. He only understands our anger—but not the why of it. Hard as it may be, you have to grin and bear it, lest you undermine the very relationship of mutual trust you are trying to achieve through training. (Take a look at Chapter 2 for info on how to understand your dog's mind and check out Chapter 10 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 does not jump on you (see Chapter 4 for training basics).

Be consistent with commands and tone

If there is any magic to training, it is consistency. Your dog cannot understand sometimes, maybe, perhaps, or only on Sundays. He can and does understand yes and no. Here's an 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.


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, or yes and no, that you can make it, the easier it will be for Buddy to understand what you want.

Outlast your dog—be persistent

Training your dog is a question of who is more persistent—you or your dog. Some things he will learn 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 who 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 lead more quickly than a Beagle, bred to hunt hares. A Newfoundland, with its relaxed temperament, will learn the down-stay more quickly than the lively Wirehaired Fox Terrier. You get the idea. (Check out Chapter 8 for info about breed-specific behaviors.)

Know 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 is expected to figure out what it means. There is no exercise or command in training called "no." Avoid negative communications with your dog; they undermine the relationship you are 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 what you want him to do.

At one of our recent 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."

The dogs are sick of it and have no interest or desire in learning what the owners want them to do.

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 importantly, 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.


Excerpted from DOG TRAINING FOR DUMMIES by Jack and Wendy Volhard. Copyright © 2001 by IDG Books Worldwide, Inc.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents


Part I: Setting the Stage for Successful Training.

Chapter 1: Dog Training: The Key to Your Dog’s Safety and Your Sanity.

Chapter 2: Canine Psychology 101: Getting to Know Your Dog.

Chapter 3: Developing Training Savvy.

Chapter 4: Understanding the Vital Role Nutrition and Health Play in Training.

Chapter 5: Gearing Up for Training Success.

Part II: Performing Puppy Preliminaries.

Chapter 6: Surviving Your Puppy’s Growth Periods.

Chapter 7: Starting Puppy on the Right Paw.

Chapter 8: Honing In on Housetraining.

Part III: Tackling Training Basics.

Chapter 9: Mastering Some Fundamentals: Sit, Down, Stay, and Leave It.

Chapter 10: Canine Cruise Control: Walking on Leash and Coming When Called.

Chapter 11: Dealing with Common Doggie Don'ts.

Part IV: Taking Training to the Next Level.

Chapter 12: Participating in AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy and Canine Good Citizen Programs.

Chapter 13: Training for Fun and Competition.

Chapter 14: Completing the Companion Dog Title.

Chapter 15: Retrieving.

Part V: Dealing with Special Situations.

Chapter 16: Addressing Aggression.

Chapter 17: Helping Your Hound Handle Special Situations.

Chapter 18: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: Keeping Your Senior Young.

Chapter 19: Supplementing Your Training Efforts with Expert Help.

Part VI: The Part of Tens.

Chapter 20: Ten Training Traps and How to Avoid Them.

Chapter 21: Ten Fun and Exciting Sporting Activities.

Chapter 22: Ten Reasons Dogs Do What They Do.

Chapter 23: Ten Tricks for Fun and Games.


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