New year, new dog

What’s on your list of New Year’s resolutions? If you own a dog, I’ll bet one of those resolutions runs along the lines of “Make Fido behave better.” Maybe your dog is well-behaved in general but needs improvement in one area or another (don’t we all).

man walking with his dogThis month I’ll go through a few basic commands every dog should know, and recommend a few books that will provide more detailing training information.

First and foremost, however, you must teach yourself a valuable skill, and that is “patience.” All dogs can be trained well; some learn faster than others. Never give up or get impatient or angry with your dog. Keep training sessions short – between 15 and 30 minutes per day.

The first basic command is “heel” – telling the dog to walk at your side. Train on a walk down the sidewalk, or pick a spot in the park and walk in circles. Use a secure collar and leash. Hold the end of the leash tightly in your right hand, and guide the leash with your left.

With the dog on your left side, step forward with your right foot and give the command “heel.” Tug or lightly snap the leash in the direction you want to go. Your dog should walk calmly next to you, his shoulders and neck aligned with your leg.

Whenever he achieves this position, praise your dog. If he pulls away or hangs back, don’t yell or say “no,” or get angry; tug him back into position and give praise when he reaches it. If he really doesn’t want to heel, stop walking, bring him back into position, and start again.

Recommended book: The American Kennel Club Dog Care & Training, Second Edition (Hungry Minds Inc., $16.99).

Originally published Jan. 7, 2008