How I Train Dogs: A Letter I Wrote Back in 1997 Reveals My Training Techniques To A Dog Trainer On The East Coast. Part III of III

Hand Signals. Hand Signals I teach by linking the hand signals with the verbal commands I have already taught. So what you do is, give the new command and THEN the old command, and then go and enforce the behavior.

For instance, if I wanted to teach the dog to sit with the hand signal, I’d start by reaching out to my right (the new command) then say sit… and then with my other hand pop up on the leash. I usually do these for sit, down, and come. Heel usually isn’t necessary.

Advanced Handling Techniques. Basically this is where I put anything that any specific problems that the individual client may be having that needs more work on. On how to use your body language to get the most results with your dog, or anything else that might fall into that category. For example, using your left leg, which will guide the dog more, when you start heeling. And leaning slightly forward as you start, with more of a briskness in your step, than you’d normally take. Drop or Down on Recall. I usually teach this with two handlers. I’ll hold the dog on the long line and then have the owner put the dog on a sit next to me.

Next, I’ll make the owner walk 50 feet off and then call the dog and right before the dog hits the end of the 30 foot line, the owner yells out the down command… so the dog immediately gets a pop… and sometimes the owner may have to walk toward the dog to actually make him go down. You can repeat this in different areas and in different places, and then you can go back and incorporate the hand signal with the down as well.

Send the client home to practice this on their own time by teaching them to tie the end of a long line to a post, or a tree. Have the dog in a sit stay, or a down stay next to the post or tree and then have the owner walk off. So if you are using a 30 foot line, have the owner walk off to about 50 feet away from the dog. Call the dog, and right before the dog hits end of the line, give the command… the dog gets the correction and goes down. But you want to make sure you have them vary the length of the long line. So sometimes tie it off at 15 feet, and sometimes tie it off at 20 feet… so that the dog never associates one specific length.

Development of Perfect Attention: If you have done competition heeling, then you know what I am talking about here. You’re teaching the hot dog trick (dropping small pieces of hot dog from your face level… and then gradually from your mouth, to focus attention on your face. Eventually, you link a command like ‘watch me’ or ‘look’, and then can start proofing the dog with distractions, once he understands, and still looks away. And then you start to incorporate motion) Or you can teach them how to use the Halti or the Promise Leader.

Again, if you’ve had experience with competition training, this should be a piece of cake. Recall with Wrap Around Finish. I teach the dog to sit front, and then I teach the wrap around finish by stepping back with my right leg, bringing the dog around.

As the dog passes behind me, from the right side of my body to the left side of the body, I’ll pass my leash off to my left hand, pivot my shoulders so that they are now facing the dog on the left side behind me, step forward… and as I step forward, repeat the command, “heel” and make the dog come in to the sit position in the heel. With enough repetitions the dog is going to pick this up and start becoming conditioned to wrap around you when you say, “heel”. [For the inexperienced, this is something you really need to SEE a few times.]