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Sunday, May 13, 2007

How to train your Lab

Training is all about communication. Your Lab must understand what you want him to do. Only then will he be able to act as you command him to.

Communication has to be a two-way channel. Your dog has to concentrate and focus all his attention on what you are teaching him. You in turn, have to be considerate to your dog and standardize him on the following training commands.
  • 1 Words you will use as commands.
  • 2 Vocal modulation of your voice.
  • 3 Hand or head signals you will use.

Experts recommend that you first teach your dog using only voice commands. Once your Lab has completely mastered voice commands, you can start using hand signals for the same command along with the voice command. Soon your pet will start recognizing and responding to hand signals. And soon you will be able to get him to perform any trick using just hand signals.

The signals you use are entirely a matter of personal choice. As long as you establish a proper mode of understanding between you and your dog, there should be absolutely no problem.

Commonly used hand signals

However listed below are a few commonly used hand signals.
  • 1 Sit – Raise your index finger and point it downwards.
  • 2 Down – Raise your hand with the palm facing outwards and bring it down.
  • 3 Speak – Bring all 4 fingers of your hand to touch your thumb. Then spread out all the fingers at the same time. This action could be repeated a few times if you want your pooch to keep talking.

Let us go into the details of how to actually go about teaching your Lab to follow and learn the commands you want him to follow.

Sit
  • 1 Stand in front of your Lab and extend your right arm straight out in front of you 90 degrees to your body. Hold a treat that your doggie likes in your hand.
  • 2 Take the treat close to your dog’s nose and give him the voice command of "sit."
  • 3 Gradually raise the treat over his head. He will go down on his haunches as you do so.
  • 4 Do not give him his treat until he sits down completely.
  • 5 Repeat this exercise a few times
  • 6 This way he will associate your extending your arm out in front of you and bringing it down with the command "sit."

Down
  • 1 Ask your Lab to "sit."
  • 2 Bend your arm at the elbow with your palm facing downwards.
  • 3 Bring your palm slowly down to your side.
  • 4 Hold a treat for your pooch in the palm of your hand
  • 5 Lower your hand that is holding the treat down to the floor between the dog’s paws
  • 6 His nose will follow your hand that is holding the treat and he will get into the down position.
  • 7 Now you can release the treat to him.
  • 8 Practice this command until he masters it.

Come
  • 1 Stand a few feet away from your dog.
  • 2 Get his attention by calling out his name.
  • 3 Extend your arm towards the dog and then raise it towards you in a conventional ‘come’ gesture.
  • 4 At the same time use the voice signal of "come."
  • 5 Once he follows this command, give him a treat and plenty of praise.

Voice Modulation

As intelligent your Labrador Retriever may be, the fact remains that he does not really understand any human language. What he responds to is the sound of your voice and the kind of tone you use to talk to him. So to avoid confusing him you must standardize on using 3 types of tones, which are as follows.

Command Tone

This tone conveys authority and firmness. You must use this tone when you want your pooch to do something for you. This can include commands such as come, sit, down, heel, etc.

Praise Tone

This tone is used when you are sweet talking your dog or praising him. Endearing phrases such as good boy, sweetie, darling, etc. can be lavishly used.

Corrective Tone

This is used to correct untoward behavior. It must firmly convey that you will not tolerate bad behavior and this behavior must not be repeated. It is similar to the growl that a mother dog emits to
convey a message of warning when her puppy does not behave himself. Be consistent about the tone of your voice. Consistency will go a long way in ensuring that your dog clearly understands what you are trying to convey to him.

When you are teaching your dog a new trick, this is the sequence that you should ideally follow.
  • Command
  • Demonstrate
  • Praise

Once he has learned the trick, you can change the sequence as follows.
  • Command
  • Correct
  • Praise

To help you in your training endeavor with your Lab here are a few commonly used commands.
  • Article Search
  • Leave It
  • Bark
  • Narcotics / Dope
  • Bite Out
  • Come / Here Stand
  • Eat Food
  • Stand Still
  • Find Narcotics
  • Kennel / Crate
  • Go Inside
  • Good
  • Go Outside
  • Go Ahead
  • Heel
  • Sit
  • Jump
  • Go out
  • Let Go
  • Speak
  • No Don’t Do that OK
  • Retrieve
  • Fetch
  • Stay.
  • Down
  • Track
  • Guard

Training Tips

Besides words, here are some other useful training tips that will go a long way in making you a successful trainer and your dog a well trained canine citizen.
  • 1 Never be harsh to your Lab. Never hit him, whatever he might do.
  • 2 You must always be in a position to correct your dog before you start teaching him a new command.
  • 3 Whenever your dog reacts favorably to your correcting him, you must shower him with a lot of praise.
  • 4 Be very clear and consistent in the commands that you use. Never let your body language come into conflict with your verbal command.
  • 5 When correcting your dog, your timing should be apt. You must correct your dog soon after he makes a mistake. Otherwise he will not be able to correlate the correction with the incorrect act.
  • 6 Use your dog’s name every time you teach him something. It increases the sense of belonging that exists between you both.
  • 7 Do not use his name when you are saying “No” to him.
  • 8 The correction must be effective enough to ensure that your dog does not repeat it again.
  • 9 When you are teaching your dog to “Stay” you must increase the time you ask him to stay very gradually. You do not want a stressed out dog, do you?
  • 10 When teaching your dog to “heel,” remember to walk in squares. Do not walk in circles.
  • 11 Strive for perfection in whatever you undertake.
  • 12 Above all, be patient and consistent

Increase your dog’s concentration

Your Lab has to be focused in order to learn and sharpen his intelligence faculties. Once he is focused when you are teaching him, he will be an excellent student. You will enjoy teaching him newer and more challenging stuff. Concentration helps your doggie to understand the finer nuances of hand signals too. Here are some methods for helping your dog increase his powers of concentration.
  • 1 Call your pooch and ask him to sit in front of you.
  • 2 Look at him and say "focus."
  • 3 Initially he will not be comfortable and will look away from you.
  • 4 But keep coaxing him gently to look straight at you.
  • 5 With patience and persistence you will soon be able to get him
  • to focus and look straight at you without wavering.
  • 6 This is an excellent exercise to enhance his powers of concentration.

When he does respond positively in this manner hug him warmly, praise him, and make him feel on top of the world. Keep working on increasing the period for which your dog can remain focused.

Co-ordination skills

You can use the regular ‘throw ball and retrieve’ method to increase your Lab’s co-ordination skills. This will give him better control over his muscle movements and increase his overall dexterity in executing various tasks.
  • 1 First make your Lab sit in front of you.
  • 2 Hold a ball in your hand and offer it to your doggie.
  • 3 Encourage him to take the ball gently from your hand using his mouth.
  • 4 Take the ball from his mouth and repeat the same exercise again.
  • 5 Gradually increase the level of difficulty using the ball as bait.
  • 6 Let your dog sit and watch you while you take the ball and throw it at a distance.
  • 7 The natural instinct for a dog is to chase the ball as soon as it leaves your hand.
  • 8 When he is put through such exercises both his focus and coordination skills will increase.

Keep thinking of many such challenging exercises for your Lab. This clever animal will continue to rise to the occasion and will be the darling of all eyes.

Other training methods

Dog lovers all over the world are constantly innovating and thinking of newer and better methods to use to train their beloved dogs. After all, a dog is known to be man’s best friend and so man has to think of better methods of training him and keeping him happy and loved. Let us see what the other methods that people use are to train their pets.

1 Clicker Training

A clicker is a small plastic box that contains a metal spring inside which when pressed, makes a “click-click” noise. Karen Pryor, who is a well-known animal behaviorist, developed this technique.
It is a motivational method of training. In this method the trainer presses the clicker every time the animal does something correct. Clicker training reinforces desired behavior. Very soon your dog will associate the clicking sound with praise. It has proved to be an excellent training tool and you can use it for training your dog.
2 Eclectic Training
This method uses a combination of many training techniques to teach your dog. You combine different training techniques to make the best combination that will elicit the best performance from your pet.

3 Lure Training

This method uses toys and treats as lure to tempt dogs into doing what you want from them. It is an excellent training method for pups and timid dogs. However, you could try it for difficult or aggressive animals too! It is again a motivational training technique. It uses the ‘do as I ask and I give you a treat’ technique to teach.

4 Target wand training

In this method of training no force techniques are employed. Really good for benevolent and kindhearted souls!

5 Play training

This is again a motivational training technique. It incorporates a lot of fun and games in the teaching process.

6 Koehler Method

This method is not recommended as it uses compulsion and punishment. The emphasis of physical correction and discipline is very high.

Once voice commands, hand signals, and focus have become familiar to your Lab he will be the ideal candidate for learning newer and more complex tricks.

What are the best treats to use as rewards when training my Lab?

You can use the ever-popular dog biscuits or bits of liver and meat as tasty morsels that your Lab will enjoy munching on at odd hours. Do not overdo giving him snacks or treats in between his regular meals. Otherwise your doggie will go easy on his meals and start to rely on the treats instead.

I want to train my Lab myself. Which would be the best time of the day to train him?

Your dog will respond best to you when he feels the pangs of hunger in his tummy. So you need to schedule your time to impart training to him just before his regular mealtime. The little treats you offer him will spur him along to respond fast.

The promise of a huge meal at the end of the session will be a great incentive for him too. Of course there is absolutely no substitute for the patience, kindness, praise, and understanding that you can give your dog.

What are the advantages in teaching my Lab to perform tricks?

Trick training is a means of reinforcing positive behavior. Other advantages are as follows.

Your Lab gets a feeling of purpose.
  • He is able to exercise better self-control.
  • It increases his span of attention.
  • His faith and trust in you grows in intensity.
  • His channels of communication with you open up further.
  • He learns to recognize and respond to signals that you teach him.
  • He acknowledges you as his undisputed leader.

What kind of problems am I likely to encounter when I undertake to train my Lab?

Training a dog has its fair share of problems. If your dog is stubborn and willful you will have to exercise extra care and tact in handling him. During the initial phases of disobedience he will pay no heed to your commands. And that can be quite irritating and trying on your patience.

He will test your limits of physical endurance as well by tugging at his leash. His excited nature and over enthusiasm can also test the strength of your arms as those sturdy sinews of his pull and tug you in various directions.

How do I need to prepare myself in terms of training gear before I take up the responsibility of training my Lab?

Getting ready for training your pup does not call for much preparation. Just make sure you wear comfortable clothing and sensible shoes. You should be able to run, bend, or squat on the floor with ease.

Is it correct to use a tight leash when training my Lab?

No it is not correct to use a tight leash on a domestic animal. A tight leash just makes an animal more aggressive in nature. The tightness of the leash has an emotional effect on the dog. Once your Lab is familiar with the basic obedience commands, you can loosen his leash.

How do I ensure that my Lab will not bite others?

The best way to ensure this is to give your Lab sufficient opportunity to socialize with different kinds of people. This way he will not see each and everyone he meets as a potential threat and will not give in to the basic instincts of self defense and biting.

How can I stop my Lab from barking incessantly and for no apparent reason?

You must teach your Lab a whole horde of new tricks. Keep his mind occupied. Soon he will forget to bark for no reason at all. If you catch him barking, just call him and keep him engaged in some games or new tricks. Once his mind is gainfully employed, you will not be subject to unnecessary barking. Remember not to reward him if he stops barking. It might give him the wrong message that if he barks, he will be rewarded with a treat!

I want my Lab to be happy always because I simply love her. How do I make sure this happens?

Labs are dogs that were used for hunting and retrieving game. So they are used to walking and running long distances. So you must provide your Lab with plenty of outdoor exercise. An overweight, sloppy Lab who gets no or very little exercise will not be a happy dog.

How will I be able to recognize the fact that my Lab is happy?

A happy Lab will have his lovely ‘otter’ tail wagging nineteen to the dozen. His eyes will be bright and alert. His ears will be perked up in rapt attention. And the lovely thing about a happy and healthy Lab is that when he is happy you get the impression that he is smiling!

_ I am looking forward to training my new Lab. I am just a little worried about what I should do in case I encounter behavioral aberrations.

It is definitely better to be safe than sorry. You must be armed with the knowledge of what to do in case your Lab does show signs of behavioral abnormalities. The first thing to do is to arm yourself with knowledge about how to deal with behavioral problems. You can gather such information from books on animal behavior, a local kennel club, or breeding center.

You can tackle small and minor problems with the information that you glean from books. However, if the problem still persists and you find it going beyond your scope of knowledge, then consult an animal behaviorist. Of course make sure you contact the right person. In order to so, you must check out his references and credentials, too. The right person with qualities of patience and care will be able to handle behavioral problems of timidity, aggressiveness, excessive barking, howling, and so on.

I have just started training my Lab and it is really fun. But how should I ensure that he does not get bored of the training program?

Variety is the spice of life. So vary your training program. Do not keep the program the same everyday. Routines do tend to get rather boring. So after you have given him instructions such as sit, stand, down, and so on; involve him in fun and games too. Play games such as hide and seek or ball with him and watch him perk up and respond with enthusiasm to you.

My dog loves being taken for walks. But my problem is that he tends to pull on his leash when we go for walks. How do I prevent him from doing this?

This is a very important lesson to be taught by you and learned by your dog. For this you must clearly establish yourself as leader in the eyes of your pet. First make sure you teach him a few basic commands such as sit, stand, heel, and so on. Then teach him to understand the meaning of the word "walk." He will grow to love this word. As a prelude to the word "walk" make him sit still while you hook him on his leash. Initially make him walk a short distance and then ask him to sit. When he obeys, you must praise him. When you start walking again and you find him tugging at the leash ask him to go "easy." If he tries to move, do not give in. Just stand in the same place. He will soon realize his mistake and stop pulling.

Soon you and your Lab will be able to go for comfortable walks without any tussles over pulling on the leash.

7 comments:

Trella Bradley said...

My 2.5 yr old black lab can be acting normal and then something clicks and he gets a pillow or anything free and runs in circles, won't drop it, have to try and catch him. Why does he do this?

Nithin varghese said...

My 9 months old lab eats unnecessary food items without my permission.Is it good to beat him? What shall I do?

MaternalBint said...

NEVER EVER hit your puppy or dog, it will teach him to be fearful of humans.

MaternalBint said...

NEVER EVER hit your puppy or dog, it will teach him to be fearful of humans.

christine LOVEGROVE said...

i agree hitting your dog is just wrong.

ViKiShi said...

I got a new lab of 1 month, is it right time to start his training?

Shona-Louise said...

I have recently given a home to a 1 year old lab and it is obvious that he hasn't been trained by his previous owner. I have got training items that will help him to heel but he barks at people regardless of how far they are and he is resistant to being away from us at all. we cannot leave the house without him which is a pain as we do not have a car and need to go places that are not within walking distance. what should we do?