My dogs make me laugh, keep me company, provide security, make sure I'm more active than I might otherwise be and overall are just fun to have around. My dogs are also well trained. Training is something that I make a part of my life with my dogs. Training doesn't happen only when we go outside, with leashes on, and practice our skills. Instead, training happens all the time. Don't think my dogs are robots, though. They are active, happy, involved members of my family. Training simply teaches (and reminds them of) the rules that I wish them to follow.
Many dog owners teach their dogs the basic obedience exercises, either at home or in a class, but just teaching these exercises doesn't make them work for you. Implementing the exercises, using them at home or in your life with your dog, is what makes them work. Here are some of the many ways I use the basic obedience exercises. Your household routine is going to be different, of course, but this will give you some ideas.
Sit for Attention
Dogs jump on people to get attention. Unfortunately, jumping on people can ruin clothes, scratch skin and knock people down. It's a bad and potentially dangerous habit.
So I teach my dogs to sit for attention. Sit is usually one of the first exercises people teach their dog, and it's an excellent exercise to teach self control. So practice the sit, having your dog sit for his meals and for treats. Then, when you're in a situation where you know your dog is apt to jump on you, ask him to sit first (before he jumps), and then keeping a hand on his collar to help him remain in the sitting position, praise and pet him. The sit becomes an alternative action for jumping.
When, one day, he dashes towards you and slides into a sit in front of you, smile at him, pet him and praise him.
Sit/Stay is More Self Control
The sit exercise begins to teach the concept of self control. I ask my dogs to sit and then remain in the sit until I tell them they are free to move; usually a few seconds to maybe a minute or so, while I remain close to them. However, if I'm going to walk away from them, I tell them, "Dogs, stay." Stay means they should remain in the sit (or alternatively the down) while I walk away and hold that position until I come back to release them. That puts the responsibility of this exercise on me; I cannot walk away and forget my dogs as it's my job to go back to them and release them.
I ask my dogs to sit and stay when I'm fixing their meals. This keeps them out of the kitchen and out from under foot. After I place their bowls on the floor, I go to them, praise and release them and then let them eat.
I also teach my dogs to sit and stay when doors to the outside world are opened. This prevents door dashing. I also ask them to sit and stay when I am ready to hook up leashes before going on a walk as this will prevent jumping, circling and other antics that might be okay with one dog but is not acceptable with three.
Think of sit/stay as a short period (from a few seconds to a minute or so) of self control when you need to move away from your dog and don't want your dog to follow you.
The primary difference between sit and down (when your dog is lying down on the floor or the ground) is time. In the sit (and sit/stay), your dog will hold it for up to a minute or so, not much more. If you want your dog to remain in one spot for longer than that, ask him to lie down and stay.
Obviously, your dog is more comfortable lying down for a longer period of time, but there is also a second reason for doing it this way. With practice, the position in which you ask your dog to stay will give him a clue as to what to expect. If you say, "Sweetie, sit. Stay," he'll learn, through practice, that you're only going to step away for a few seconds. However if you ask him to lie down and stay, he can sigh, relax and prepare to stay for a longer period of time.
I use the down/stay when I want the dogs to be calm and quiet. This works well during meals and keeps them away from the table while people are eating. When guests come over, if the dogs are doing a down/stay, they aren't annoying my guests. I foster kittens from the local shelter and new kittens are often frightened of the dogs so I'll ask the dogs to stay while the kittens get used to them.
Wait is a Temporary Hold
Whereas stay teaches your dog to hold still until you come back to him to release him, wait is a temporary hold. For example, before letting your dog jump in your car, ask him to sit and wait, then open the car door, spread out a blanket, and then tell your dog to jump in the car. You can do the same thing before asking your dog to jump out of the car. Tell him to wait, make sure his leash is hooked to his collar, and then invite him to jump out of the car.
The wait also works at home. Before letting him in the house from outside, ask him to wait while you towel off his paws, then invite him in. Ask him to wait at the gate while you wheel the trash cans out to the curb. There are lots of ways you can use the wait; just think of your normal routine with your dog and begin using it.
Wait is taught just like you taught the stay; however, with practice your dog will learn that it's generally of shorter duration and usually followed by an invitation to do something else.
I teach my dogs that the exercise leave it means, "Ignore that!" This is not the game of the biscuit on the paw where the dog is supposed to ignore the biscuit and then gets to eat it; instead, leave it means that is not yours and you cannot have it. I consider this a safety exercise as well as a training exercise that can prevent problem behaviors.
The leave it is wonderful for teaching the dog he cannot steal food off the kitchen table, the dining room table or any other place where food might be within reach. You can also teach your dog to ignore trash cans, cat food, the kitty litter box and even the cat. Use the leave it to teach your dog to ignore anything at home, out in public, on walks or at the local park that you don't want him to have no matter what the reason.
Make Your Training Fun
We're much like our dogs in that we're much more apt to do things that are rewarding or fun than we are to do things that aren't enjoyable. So as you begin to practice your dog's training and implement it more during your daily life with your dog, don't forget to make it fun. Smile at your dog, enjoy your time with him, don't forget to give him a belly rub and play with him while working with him.
If you find yourself getting upset, angry or short tempered, take a break. Breathe deeply and figure out why you're upset. Many dog owners get frustrated when the dog isn't cooperating, but why is he not doing what you want? Does he not understand? Break the training into smaller steps then and reintroduce it. Is your dog not paying attention? Get some better training treats, try using a toy, as a reward and motivator, and remember you have to be engaged with your dog during the training process too.
Keep the training fun for both you and your dog and the results will be more than you expect.
Ask for Help
If you find yourself stuck and you're getting frustrated, call a dog trainer for help. Sometimes a basic obedience group class is all that's needed, but if you and your dog are fighting each other rather than working together, a private one on one session with the trainer might be needed. Sometimes all that's needed is a different view of the problem or an alternative approach to teaching an exercise.