Dog Training Question

Just inherited my son’s 6 mo old Autralian Heeler for a few weeks. He’s housebroken and comfortable spending time in his kennel. Never having trained a dog before, I have a couple “how to’s”…

  1. How do you get the dog to walk with you on a leash vs. having him pull you?

  2. How do you discourage a dog from doing something he shouldn’t (jumping on a sofa, chewing on patted plants, etc)?

  3. Is it really OK to leave a dog on a kennel for 4-5 hours? He sleeps in it all night.


This should probably go in IMHO. You’ll get different responses.

We used a choke chain to train our dog to heel. Mind, you don’t actually choke the dog, it’s more the noise that reminds them to slow down. I’ve seen people use choke chains the wrong way (as in, pulling to dog off their front paws) and it’s obvious they’ve never been people trained in how to use these properly. I would recommend getting actual in person advice for teaching how to heel. In my experience, it’s one of the tougher ones to teach.

Staying off furniture, etc. is done by being patient, consistent and using firm language. Everyone in the household has to react the same way and use the same or similar words to reprimand the dog. Generally it goes like this: dog jumps on couch, human takes dog by collar and pulls off the couch with a firm ‘NO’, give dog the stink eye. Dog jumps on couch, human takes dog by collar and pulls off the couch with a firm ‘NO’, give dog the stink eye. Repeat until the dog stays off the couch. It will happen, but it might take a bit. Don’t get mad, don’t get physical, just repeat until they get it.

Yes, they can stay in a kennel for 4 or 5 hours, with the caveat that they are getting enough exercise and bathroom breaks otherwise. With our fosters, we have them sleep in the kennel all night, up at 6 am, outside for pee, breakfast and free play, 45 minutes or more at the park, back at the house and in the kennel (with water) while we run errands for a few hours. They usually just go to sleep. Once home, free play until bed time. Never had a problem.

The easiest way I’ve found to make them stop pulling when walking is to have them carry a backpack. Autralian Heelers are working dogs and working dogs need to work. At 6 mos old he probably only needs a pound of weight in the backpack (one half liter of water in each pocket will do it) but the amount of weight varies with the dog’s weight. Put the backpack on him and go for a walk. Every dog I’ve tried it on immediately stops pulling. If he doesn’t, put him next to you and give a jingle or quick jerk of the leash if he starts getting the slightest bit ahead of you. The other advantage of the backpack is that he will get tired faster (think of how muck slower you walk if you are carrying 25 pounds.)

A couple of comments:

  • about staying off the couch; EmAnJ’s advice is right on. Immediate, consistent, calm correction is critical. If you ever see them on the couch and don’t correct it right away, or sometimes as ‘a special treat’ allow them to stay on the couch today, you will undo most of your training work.

  • Yelling is not good. And not effective. It makes the dog fearful, not obedient. Use a firm, ‘command’ voice, but not yelling hysterically.
    (Yelling is especially bad, it’s actually counter-productive with a barking dog. Dogs bark to give an alert; when the human members of their ‘pack’ join in by yelling too, it tells the dog that barking is the right thing to do in this situation. That reinforces the barking behavior, which is usually not what the owner wants. So the owner yells louder, and the dog helps out by barking even more. And neither understands why the other is getting frustrated.)

You have an adolescent dog with herding instincts. Oh Boy. Assuming a normal dog (no unusual problems) they are willing to learn but will want to herd everything that moves. You’ll need patience, consistency, and patience. Maybe this will help.

The first thing I would do is find a treat that the dog just loves. Bits of hotdog, chicken, or turkey about the size of a pencil eraser. Commercial liver or beef flavored treats work also but it’s important that the dog “can’t” resist them. Small sizes work better because if the dog eats it’s fill quickly, it will lose interest in training quickly.

Set aside 15 to 30 minutes for training. If the dog is too excited to listen, either you or someone else can run the dog before training starts but don’t exhaust the dog or they’ll be too tired to be trained.

Start the training time period with a special command. “Pumpernickel time” works for me. Doesn’t matter what the word is because dogs don’t speak English (or Australian). It only matters that you remember to use it consistantly. Dogs learn by association. Also finish your training time together with a special command. (I’ve seen police dogs trained to German, Polish, and Italian commands so it’s less likely that a perp could confuse the police dog.)

A choke chain is useful but not required, depending on the dogs determination to do something else. Assuming you want the dog to walk on your left, face the dog and form the choke chain into the letter “P” and slip it over the dogs head. The chain will release it’s hold easier if used this way. A sharp snap of the wrist will tighten the chain and let it go slack. The dog will associate the quick snap as being a “correction”.

Pull training is simply stopping and holding your ground until the dog stops pulling. Wait patiently until there is slack in the lead. When Fido stops pulling, immediately say “leave it”, “good boy”, or “heel”, and give him/her a treat. Be consistent. Fido will associate not pulling with something good.

Make sure that everyone (the two legged kind) in your home understands that dogs aren’t allowed on the furniture or the dog will get confused by the conflicting comands. I approach the dog, say “off”, and point away from the couch. Help the dog down if it doesn’t get the idea. Be consistent.

I buy 5lb boxes of rawhides to keep dog busy. When a dog starts chewing on something I don’t want it chewing on, I approach the dog, say “drop it”, take that object away, and replace it with a rawhide. Every time. The dog learns to associate rawhide as something they can chew on.

Good luck

Thanks much.

I forgot something: it helps if you provide an ‘approved’ spot where the dog can go instead. like a doggie bed on the floor nearby, or even just a blanket or rug there. When you get the dog down from the couch, lead them to this spot to lie down, and praise them.

They’re getting on the couch because they want to be near you – that’s a good thing. Just give them a different nearby spot of their own.

Smart dogs like collies (personal bias here) will soon learn to distinguish the two-legged people, and understand that they aren’t allowed up on the couch when you are in the room, but it’s OK when only others are there. Not what you want them to learn!

Smart dogs will also learn that if they want to be given a new rawhide, grab something else and start chewing on it right in front of you. Again, not what you want them to learn! (That’s how pets begin to train their owners.)

Hahaha. Yes, dogs learn how to get what they want. I don’t mind getting them more rawhides when they let me know they want them. I learned a long time ago that in order to train a dog, you have to be smarter than the dog. Sometimes I have to settle for a tie.

I’m currently the go-fer for a Shiba Inu. He’s like owning a cat. He knows what I want him to do but if he doesn’t feel like doing it, well, he doesn’t feel like doing it. Try again in an hour or so and he’ll see if he can fit you into his schedule.

He’s also very manipulative. i’ve hung a string of sleigh bells on the back door. If the dogs need to go out, they shake the bells. The Shiba will scratch at the door and act like he want to be let out but it’s only a rouse to draw my Shepherd mix away from the better bed. Once the other dog appears at the back door, he circles around and jumps into the recently vacated warm spot.

Boy, is that accurate! :slight_smile:
And very well put.

When I was training my puppy to walk, I would put a small dog treat in my palm for him to see. Then, I’d curl my fingers around the treat, making a fist, and commence walking. He’d want to stay as close as possible to the treat – and that meant synchronizing himself to my gait and staying close to my heel. At intervals, mostly at cross-walks or stop signs, I’d give him the command to sit and while we were waiting for an opportunity to safely cross the street, I’d let him eat the treat.

Another treat went into my palm, and we’d walk another couple of blocks or so. Repeat. I put more and more time between the treats. A month after I began training him, he would stay at my side with no compulsion on my part, because that had become part of his routine.

If a scent overwhelms his curiosity, I’ll allow him to investigate, with the caveat that once the leash is no longer slack, he has to sit and wait for me to catch up with him before we continue. I trained that into his behavior through repetition, just like I did with the treat.

On related topic, I’d recommend skipping choke collars. They’re not effective. If your dog is really rambunctious, I’d recommend using an easy walk harness. It prevents the dog from pulling on the leash by constricting, much like a choke collar. However, it wraps around the dog’s front legs, preventing the it from moving them except in a really small, dainty way that looks adorable. Or you can try using a gentle leader, which is even more restrictive. It wraps around the animal’s snout and operates by keeping the animal’s head fixed by a lead to a location behind it. Meaning, it can only move so far ahead before all the slack has gone from the lead, and progressing further means getting his head twisted back behind him. You need to acclimate the dog before you take them for a walk. Most dogs hate having something on their snout, and so you need to coax them into accepting the gentle leader by offering them treats for cooperative behavior.

You can spray bitter apple on chewing hot spots you want protected (although I’m uncertain if the spray will harm plants, but dogs won’t usually chew on those, anyway). It was designed to keep dogs from chewing on themselves, but it can work for other things, too. Additionally, you can keep a spray-bottle filled with water nearby, just in case, so that if you catch him chewing on something off-limits, you can spritz him in the face. Command, “No!” and make sure that his chew toys are made available to him.

I had an additional command that I used whenever my puppy was being unruly, which followed the spritz. I said, “Corner!” and made him sit in the corner for five minutes. That worked pretty well.

That’s what we finally bought for one of our dogs last fall. He’s a 4yo fox terrier/pinscher mix and we had never managed to get him to stop pulling on the leash. He would strain non-stop and choke himself all the time, walking him was a huge bother.
His behavior change with that kind of head collar was very impressive, it happened right away and now you can walk him with him barely pulling.