Published: 19 September 2017

If you need to train your dog to have a new behaviour, try this easy six step method, courtesy of K9 magazine. An obedient dog means you're less likely to find yourselves in unexpected or out of control situations and, therefore, less likely to have accidents. However, to feel truly prepared in an emergency, join us on our First Aid for Dogs course; we've dates coming up in Sussex, the Midlands, Surrey and London.

If you're training a new behaviour, you can follow this simple six-step method. Depending on the dog and other circumstances, a good trainer will vary his training method when he decides that a particular training challenge needs either a little more or less. When you have used the method enough to know it well, you can add your own personal touch as needed.

  1. Get the desired behaviour.
  2. Mark the desired behaviour.
  3. Reward the desired behaviour.
  4. Repeat the behaviour until it happens consistently.
  5. Add the verbal cue as your dog does the behaviour to associate the word with the appropriate response.
  6. Use the verbal cue to elicit the desired behaviour on command/at will.

You first get the behaviour by capturing, shaping, or luring it. You mark the behaviour with the click, or some other reward marker that your dog has already learned means that the reward is coming. Reward the behaviour by following the click with his favourite treat or, in some cases, with a favourite toy or other desirable reward, such as swimming or going outside.

Repeat the behaviour until your pet is offering it easily before you add the verbal cue, so that he will associate the word with the correct behaviour response. For instance, by saying "Sit" as he does it, you are telling him that the name of the behaviour he is doing is Sit. If you ask him to do it before he's offering the behaviour easily, you risk teaching him that the word sit means "stand there and look at me," or worse, "sniff the ground and pull on the leash."

After your dog has heard the word at least a half-dozen times during the behaviour, depending on how quickly he seems to learn, then you can say the word first to elicit the behaviour. Be sure that his attention is focused on you so that he actually hears the word, and keep your body position the same as it was when you were getting the behaviour before. If you had been doing the “Sit” while you were standing and you suddenly start asking for it while you are sitting, he won't understand that it's the same thing.

Give him a few seconds to respond. When he sits, click! and reward. If he doesn't sit, use the minimum amount of assistance necessary (through body language or a lure, not through physical assistance) to get the behaviour, and repeat the exercise. If you find that he will only respond if you help him, start to minimize the amount of help you give until he is sitting for the verbal cue without any help from you.

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