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With the kids heading back to school, and fresher weather on the way, it’s the perfect time to sharpen up your dog’s essential skills. A dog with basic obedience training will be easier to control, and more enjoyable to be around.

 What Makes A Good Dog

You can use the guidelines for the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test to get a basic idea of what a “good dog” really is – able to tolerate interactions with strangers and other dogs, able to walk on a leash without straining, and able to perform basic commands: sit, down, come and stay, and focus around mild distractions.

It’s easy to teach a dog to sit, lay down and come with the help of positive reinforcement.

It’s harder to teach the dog to perform those commands reliably, even around strangers and distractions.

Note that the AKC CGC guidelines allow a dog to be curious about strangers and startled by distractions. It’s normal for a dog to be mildly nervous when separated from their owner. These are reasonable expectations for a pet dog. Do not feel discouraged if your dog does not do everything perfectly.

It’s more important that you are eventually able to regain your dog’s focus. Your dog should not bark continuously or become overly agitated by things in their environment. Even if they do – any behavior can be modified with training, even if that means enlisting the help of a professional trainer.

Teaching Basic Commands

Your dog may already know how to “sit,” when you’re in your living room, but he might not be very responsible outside of the house.

If your dog’s basic commands are unreliable, try teaching them as though for the first time. You may want to teach your dog the universal hand signals for basic commands, too. Dogs actually respond better to visual cues than to verbal commands.

When teaching your dog to sit or lay down, lure them into the correct position with a treat. Do not push your dog down into position; many dogs do not like being handled this way, and may find training stressful with too much physical guidance. Once your dog sits, reward them. After a few repetitions, you can add the word to the action.

Socializing Your Dog

Socialization does not necessarily mean that your dog has to make friends with every other dog or person they meet. In fact, it’s perfectly normal for your dog to not enjoy making friends with all dogs. Avoid encouraging your dog to greet other dogs on-leash for more than a few moments. Dogs cannot escape a tense situation on-leash, and this often leads to fights.

Socializing your dog really means to expose them to different situations until they are comfortable being out of the house and in different environments.

Once you have practiced basic commands in your home, practice in a variety of different environments, starting with a quiet park and working your way up to a crowded, noisy area. There’s many places in Walnut Creek and Concord to socialize your dog.

Building Focus

It’s normal for your dog to sometimes get distracted by smells, sounds and sights when you go out on walks. They may even start barking at someone or something that gets their attention. You should be able to get your dog to refocus on you.

If you see something that will likely get your dog over-excited, it’s best to ask your dog to focus before they become too excited to listen to you. Practice a command like “watch me” to get your dog to make eye contact with you. Bring a high-value treat like shredded rotisserie chicken to make it easier to get your dog’s attention.

By being interesting, it’ll be easier to keep your dog’s attention. Vary your speed on walks – slow down, speed up, give your dog time to sniff.

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