Hold a treat in your clenched fist, with a small part exposed so your dog can see it but can’t get to it. Instead of standing a foot away, put your fist right up in his face, inches from his nose and eyes. This prevents your dog from coming forward, which you don’t want to occur, especially if you’re training him to obey “down” and “sit” commands. If he attempts to move forward, maintain the hand position, and you can even move closer to his nose to control how far forward he can move.
As soon as your puppy has obeyed you, let him have a nibble on the treat still hidden in your hand. If you have chosen a very appealing treat, you’ll now have an invisible string connecting your hand to your dog’s nose, letting you manoeuvre him into whatever position you want. In a way, it’s like having power steering but with your dog instead of your car. You also have full control over when you choose to reward him.
Never throw the treat. Your dog will stand up so he can grab it. You never want your puppy to believe he can break the “down” or “sit” commands.
When you hide the treat within your fist, it also stops your dog from grabbing your fingers. Sure, your dog will slobber and lick your hand until it’s drenched and feels horrible, but forget about that for the moment. You can easily wash your hands any time you wish. If your dog is “grabby,” tighten your fist and say “gentle!” or “easy!” and place the fist behind your back for a minute. Refuse to offer any part of the treat until your dog takes it softly. Your dog will quickly learn that grabbing doesn’t work.
Some owners prefer to cut treats into tiny pieces which can be harder to handle and locate if the pieces are scattered in your pocket. I prefer using a single bigger treat because it’s easier to handle, whether it’s in your pocket or hand. A stick of string cheese or half a hotdog will last for a 30 minute training session or sometimes even longer. Your dog will surprise you with the speed at which he learns what you’re trying to teach him.
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