The K9 Companion class began as an entry level training course for dogs that are 6 months or older. The concepts, however, can be used for all ages of dogs including puppies. The class introduces you to reward-based training techniques that will help you communicate to your dog a basic vocabulary of commands and will strengthen the bond you have with your dog to help make him or her a better house companion. Please review all the weeks because information in latter weeks make be useful immediately. Certainly there are various sequences in which the exercises may be taught and you should do what works best for you and your K9 Companion.

Be Careful What You Teach!

We train dogs every moment we interact with them whether we intend to or not! So look at what your dog is doing and consider whether you might have inadvertently reinforced him for doing the things he’s does that you don’t like. If so, you can reverse the cycle.

Any behavior that is positively reinforced (meaning the dog gets something he likes whether its food, toys, praise or going out the door) will tend to occur again. When you ask your dog to sit and he does, you give him a treat and so it’s more likely that he’ll sit in the future. When your dog pulls you down the street when you’re on a walk and you let him pull, you are positively reinforcing the pulling because your dog is getting what he wants (to go on a walk). If you walk your dog regularly, each time you’re reinforcing the pulling and that act of pulling has very quickly become a very strong reinforced behavior.

The sooner you can teach your dog a behavior, the less likely it is that the wrong behavior has been reinforced. If you’ve never walked your dog on a leash, for instance, the pulling behavior is probably not very strong. However, if you walk him 2 times a day, he has been used to pulling for a long time and it will be harder to change the behavior. Think of YOUR daily habits and how hard old ones are to change.

So here’s how to start. Have your dog on leash and stand still with leash either around your waist (hands off) or clamped to your stomach so you can’t pull back. If your dog pulls, do nothing. As soon as he looks back at you or lets the lead go slack, say "YES" and immediately walk forward. Stop again as soon as the leash tightens. At first, you’ll find that you have to stop often. But most dogs figure out quickly that in order to get what they want, they’ll have to do it your way. We call this method "Be a Tree," and that’s how you should act. Just firm and solid and unmoving until you feel slack on the leash and go forward. If your dog has pulled you on lots of walks, it will take longer than if your dog was never on a walk. Consistency and patience will accomplish your goal….along with lots of treats and praise!

So, reverse the cycle! Don’t punish him – just stop reinforcing him, while at the same time reinforcing something else that you DO like! Pretty soon the old behavior will be extinguished for lack of reinforcement and there will be a new, acceptable behavior with a strong reinforcement history in its place……and you’ll be able to WALK your dog!!