Leash training and obedience for puppies
by Susan Strickland
Training your new puppy can start as soon as you get the pup home. Even at eight weeks of age he can start to learn many of the skills he will need as an adult, and just as importantly, can begin to enjoy learning. These basic skills include:
In addition to these basics, the pup must learn that you are
his benevolent leader, and as such, are above him in the pecking
Corgis are so cute, soft, and cuddly that people often overlook the fact that they can be strong willed dogs who may try to take over the top spot in their new home, if they find that no one else has a firm hold on the position.
In their early history in Wales, Corgis, and their ancestors, had numerous jobs on the farms. In addition to being playmates for the children on the farm, they were cattle drovers. They also herded flocks of geese, hunted and kept the farm free of vermin, alerted the farmer to intruders, and perhaps even hunted live birds along the Welsh coastline. All of these skills required a dog that was bold and brave, without being at all cowardly or shy. “Bold yet kindly” is still part of the breed standard today.
If you don’t have a fenced yard, and your new puppy is not yet leash broken, I would like to suggest an alternative to walking the pup on a leash to go to the bathroom. Purchase an exercise pen at least 24 inches tall and no more than 30 inches tall (the best height). This will give you a place to put the pup when you take him outside. The pen is small enough for him to explore the area quickly, so he will do his duty faster. Also, he won’t be distracted by his new collar, and a leash that’s wiggling in the air in front of him, pulling at him, and making him mildly crazy.
Now you can take your time with the leash training. The first thing to do is get him a narrow quick-release buckle collar, preferably adjustable in size, so it will grow with him for a while. Put the collar on him and let him get used to it over several days.
When he stops scratching at it, and trying to rub it off, put your hand under the collar, and pull gently while petting him. When he accepts this little bit of tugging without objection, you’re ready to attach the leash.
You can let him drag the leash while he’s in the same room
with you. He’ll get used to the weight of it on his neck,
and when he steps on it, will get the feel of suddenly being stopped
by the leash. Then take him outside and, keeping the leash slack,
follow him around the yard.
Occasionally, get him to follow you. Tiny little treats, like bits of hot dog or cheese, can usually entice a Corgi pup to come toward you as you kneel down at the end of the leash. Once he finds out that yummy delicacies and hugs lie in your direction, he’ll start following you and forget about the leash.
If you have a very dramatic little fellow, he may throw a bit
of a hissy fit at the end of the leash, in which case you may have
to give him a tug toward you, praise like crazy when he moves in
your direction, and reward with lots of hugs, kisses, and cookies
when he comes all the way to you.
More and more, encourage him to go in the direction that you choose. If at some point you hit an impasse, with a puppy who just sits, and won’t move for any amount of goodies, you will have to insist. Don’t pull and drag the pup, but give tugs and release the pressure. Tug and release, and tug and release, until he comes over to you, and then hug him and get excited, telling him in an exuberant tone how clever he is. Corgis are very subject to flattery.
Most puppies will grab just about everything with their little razor sharp teeth. This includes your clothing, your shoelaces, and your fingers. And for a Corgi pup, anything that moves is an even more exciting prize. They also want to play with you the same way they played with their siblings, by wrestling, growling, and biting. It’s natural for them to play this way. It doesn’t mean they’re aggressive, only that they’re puppies.
At eight to ten weeks of age, a Corgi pup is too young to understand why you’re displeased when he’s chewing on you. With these baby puppies, directing their attention to some more appropriate plaything, like a soft toy, squeaky, or old towel with a knot in it, is more useful than discipline they can’t understand.
Another way to get the puppy’s mind off nipping is to pick
him up with one hand under his chest, and the other holding the
loose skin on the back of his neck. Pups seem to settle down when
their feet are off the floor. If he’s really intent on nipping,
isn’t easily distracted, and grabs too hard, the best thing
to do is to make a sudden exclamation of pain (just say “OW”)
and grab the loose skin on the back of his neck and give it a little
As the pup gets to be ten to twelve weeks old, you’ll be able to make it more clear to him that nipping is something he doesn’t do to the boss in the family – you. Dogs, no matter what their size or breed all see the dogs and humans in their world the same way, as part of their pack. You are part of their pack. Everyone in their pack is either above them or below them in the pecking order. You are either above or below them in this system.
There are very specific rules governing a pecking order. At the top of the pecking order is the boss, or what I like to call “the big dog”. Big has nothing to do with size, only position in the pack. No one bites the big dog! No one steals food from the big dog, and no one pushes him out of the way and runs out the door ahead of him. Dogs understand these rules.
Puppies, who haven’t figured out who the boss is yet, learn quickly, when they bite the boss dog, and he grabs the offending youngster by the neck, head, or muzzle, and holds him down, firmly and quietly, until the pup understands his error. You, as top dog in your household pack, must do the same training with an offending puppy; as soon as he reaches an age when he can comprehend the information you’re giving him. This is normally between ten and twelve weeks of age.
Assess your pup's temperament:
The range of temperament types in Corgis is considerable, everything from extremely sensitive and submissive to quite pushy and dominant. All can make wonderful pets, but the ones on the pushy end of the spectrum need to learn who is in charge at an early age.
Even those dogs who try to take over the top dog spot, are quite
content to be lower in the pecking order. They are actually happier
and more contented once they know you’ve filled that place
in the order of things.
And how do you become the benevolent leader? When you bring home your eight week old baby, you’ll be able to see what sort of temperament he has. If he is not doing any biting, and is lying down or rolling over when you pet him, he is a submissive type who will accept you as the boss from the beginning. A submissive pup should be petted under the chin, and encouraged to jump up to be petted. His ego should be bolstered at every opportunity. Teach him simple commands, so he can do things that make him feel successful.
If, on the other hand, your young puppy acts as though nothing scares him, and he’s on the mouthy side, it wouldn’t hurt to give him gentle clues that you’re the boss. When he bites, distract him with a better item to chew on, or, if he’s insistent, he may need an exclamation of “ouch”, and a squeeze of some loose skin, probably on the back of his neck. When petting the mouthy puppy, pet him on the top of his head, back of his neck, and down his back. This manner of petting him is a show of dominance as well as keeping your hand out of reach.
Another way to establish dominance with the assertive pup is to push the puppy straight down to the floor with your hand on the back of his neck. Use your other hand to keep his rear end down if necessary. Hold him down, with his chin on the floor, until he stops squirming, and then let him go. This is also what I would do if a puppy got crabby with me, for ANY reason. An older pup being insistent on nipping, would get a good squeeze of his loose skin on the back or neck, and have this skin held firmly as he was pushed down.
Another method of discouraging nipping is squirting the pup with
a water bottle with a pistol grip sprayer on it. Some dogs don’t
care to be spritzed this way, and will stop biting, and you can
then go on playing with them. This method only works if he’s
offended by being sprayed.
In spite of the fact that dominance plays a large role in much biting and nipping, especially in older pups, puppies also nip just because it’s fun. The worst thing you can do if a pup nips, is to squeal and lift your hands up just out of his reach, and wave them over his head. If he sees this behavior, he will feel that the next logical part of the game would be for him to try to jump up and grab at them. It has to be clear to the pup that biting is not a game, and an exclamation of pain and a squeeze of loose skin usually gets the point across.
Making games for himself that he finds to be fun, and trying to become the master of his little universe, are natural behaviors for any puppy, and have nothing to do with being aggressive. He’s only trying to find his place in the family, his pack.
Going to his crate:
Puppies learn to love their crates during the housebreaking process, as they are put in them for meals, naps, bedtime, and other quiet times. Feeding the pup in the crate gives him a warm feeling towards his little den. When I’m first teaching pups to go in their crates, I throw a small treat in, and they rush in after it. In other words, I bribe them to go in.
Later, I encourage them to go in, and then throw the treat in
as a reward. As they get older and offer to go in the crate without
encouragement, I start to reward them more randomly, and less frequently.
Leave the door to the crate open when he’s not locked in, so he can go in for a nap whenever he feels like it. You’ll also find that if he eats in the crate, he’ll start to go into the crate while you’re mixing his dinner.
I very rarely see a Corgi who objects to being in his crate. But if he cries, whines, or barks when crated, tell him to be quiet, and if necessary you can try the water bottle spritzing technique. Or you could tap the side of the crate with your hand, or a plastic bottle with a couple of coins in it.
Make sure he doesn’t have a good reason for complaining, such as needing to go to the bathroom. Remember, if he discovers that you will let him out of the crate every time he makes noise, he has just trained you to let him out. It’s often a good thing that you can’t hear him when you put him in the crate and go to the store. By the time you get home, he'll be quiet and contented in his den.
SIT and DOWN
The commands “sit” and “down” are two basic obedience commands that you can start to teach your puppy while he is still very young. He doesn’t need to be leash broken yet, or even house broken. And he’ll get the added benefits of starting to learn how to learn, and of starting to pay attention to the things you say to him. Both of these commands are easiest taught with food rewards when the puppy is still a baby.
Tell the pup to sit. Hold a small treat just above his head, and move it back slightly towards his rear. When he sits, give him the reward, and praise him verbally.
For the down, hold the treat in your hand and move it down to the floor between the pup’s front legs. You can push down on the pup’s withers if necessary, and let him have the treat only when he is down all the way.
He won’t hold either of these positions for long. Initially he will probably pop up immediately after he eats his reward. As he gets a little older and has a bit more self control, make him wait a little longer for the treat, or hold him in the sit or down a bit longer after he eats it.
One of the most useful commands you will teach your puppy, or adult dog, is the one that gets him to release something he has in his mouth, or tells him not to pick it up in the first place. Puppies are always grabbing things that you don’t want them to have, and they often are unwilling to give up their prize.
Teaching them to let go of things is best done before they’ve got something harmful to them, or valuable to you. A very effective way to do this is to play tug of war with the pup, and when he gets involved in the game, hold the item very still and say “leave it”. Use a soft toy, or old towel or sock with a knot in it.
If the pup doesn’t let go, don’t pull, but squeeze one of his feet with your free hand. When he lets go to see what’s happening to his foot, praise him, and then give him back his toy to play with.
Then do the whole routine again!
Do this a few times each day, until he will instantly let go when he hears “leave it”. Make a huge fuss over him when he lets go on command! (Act excited and exclaim “Yay! Yippee! Good Boy!!) You can then also start using the command when you see him about to pick something up. Then grab it yourself, or ask him to let go of it, if he ignored the original “leave it” command.
The misgivings that people have about teaching dogs to play tug of war are based on the fear that if the dog wins this game, you are teaching him that he is dominant. But by teaching to let go on command, you are the one in charge of the game, and you are the dominant player.
Teaching obedience and establishing dominance are two separate issues. But training always goes more smoothly when the dog understands his place in the pecking order. Dogs love the one above them in this order better than anyone else, and they are happy when you occupy the top spot. Once you are in control, you can train the dog without conflict, enjoy his wonderful Corgi antics fully, and spoil him as much as you want.
Susan Strickland, Honeyfox Corgis ©2005[This article appears at www.honeyfoxcorgis.com and is reprinted with permission of the Author, Susan Strickland, All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reproduced in whole or part by any means without permission of the Author, Susan Strickland, firstname.lastname@example.org ]
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