Training Your Aussie

(reprinted with the author's permission)



It’s never too early to start training your Aussie.  This is a smart breed and they will form bad habits if left to their own devices.   Keeping those sharp minds busy is a great way to build a bond, and help you raise the dog of your dreams.  It is highly recommended to use positive training methods such as clicker training, or other reward based training.  Force based training undermines the trust you are trying to build.   Dogs learn better when they aren't afraid of making a mistake and getting a harsh correction.   You can permanently damage your dog by using overly harsh methods, including yanking them around on a choke chain.   It's been proven over and over again that dogs and other animals (and people) learn better when they aren't always worried about a correction.   There are many good resources to learn about positive training methods.  
It’s never too soon.   Start the day you get your puppy.    Incorporate "manners" training from day one.  If you don't want an adult dog that jumps on people, don't reward your puppy for doing it.   If you don't want the dog on the furniture, don't allow the puppy to get on the furniture.   If you don't want your dog biting heels, don't reward it in a puppy.   Think about what you want and don't want your adult dog to do, and plan out a training program to fit that.   Make sure all family members understand and agree, as it's very confusing and unfair to a puppy to have different people wanting different things from it.    Rough play is discouraged as it can create a very obnoxious adult.  Many men like to play this way.  Instead, urge them to channel that desire into fun training games like fetch or tug (where the game stops when YOU say.)  Tug may not be a great game if there are small children in the family.

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You can start teaching simple things like sit, making it a game.   Use a small treat and hold it above the puppy's head, moving it toward its rump.   Most puppies automatically go into a sit position.  As it does, say "sit" and then give the treat.   Training can be that simple.   Teaching a good sit can be so useful, as it's incompatible with jumping up, dashing out a door or gate, and other unsafe behaviors.   Ask your dogs to sit for treats, for their meals, or before going through the door.   Start teaching manners training when they are quite young.   This means day to day manners you want around the house, not "formal" obedience.   That can come later if the owner desires.

If you can find a reward based puppy class, you can start once your puppy has had its second set of shots.  It's a GREAT way to start on socializing and building a bond with your puppy and setting him up for a great future with you.   This breed, more than many, really needs extra socializing starting at an early age.  Just be careful not to take your very young new puppy out and about in places he could pick up disease.    By the time the puppy has had the second set of shots, he can start doing more and more out in public.

Often times when you are sure your dog or puppy knows what you want, but he seems to choose not to obey, it's not that he is being willfully disobedient, but often that he is stressed.   If you see signs such as flicking the tongue out quickly, licking the lips, yawning, turning the head away and even trying to avoid you, then you have a clear sign your dog is stressed by the training methods or sessions.    It may be your body language is too strong or your methods are too harsh.    A stressed dog doesn't learn well except to learn that training is unpleasant.   If you see your dog getting to this point, take a deep breath and try something he enjoys doing (such as playing ball or another game that he will excel at), or even stop entirely.   Re-evaluate your methods and handling of the puppy, and you may want to keep sessions shorter until the puppy is more mature.  Many have short attention spans and will shut down past a certain point.

Remember, the goal of training is not just to have a better behaved dog but to build the bond between dog and owner.   Anything that comes between that is counter-productive.

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One fun and effective way to teach a puppy to come is to play "catch" with the puppy.   Have two people sit or kneel a reasonable distance apart.   Also have a stash of yummy treats.   Start with the puppy with one person, and have the other person call the puppy in a happy voice.   If the puppy runs to the other person, reward him with a treat.   Turn the puppy around and have the other person call, and once the puppy comes, give a treat.   After the puppy is doing this reliably, start to add the command "COME".   Don't use it before or you will confuse the puppy.  Teach the behavior first and then add the verbal cue, rather than the other way around.   Also, don't use the chosen command if you don't think you will be able to get the puppy to come, or he learns he can choose whether he wants to come or not.  The idea is to make it so fun and so rewarding, that he does it without thinking.   ANOTHER BIG THING TO REMEMBER IS NEVER CALL THE PUPPY TO COME FOR SOMETHING HE CONSIDERS "BAD", SUCH AS A BATH (if he hates baths. )   He will learn to weigh his options, in that come=good or come = something bad.   It is terrible to see a loose dog with an owner screaming come, and once they catch the dog they punish it.   No one can blame the dog for not coming when called! 

If you can think of fun ways to teach basic commands to your dog, you both will find training to be far more rewarding!