Adonai's Weimaraners

Mission Phase III: Training Tips

Mission Leader The National Council on Pet Overpopulation conducted a study from 1995 to 1996 to discover why dogs are surrendered to shelters. During the study they found that an astounding 96% of the dogs given up by their owners had NOT received any obedience training!! Think about it...millions of dogs are euthanized each year simply because their owners did not take the time to train them properly!!! That is why taking the time to train your dog is sooo vitally important. "Great dogs don't happen by accident." And just about every dog has that potential to be great! (Pat Miller - The Power of Positive Dog Training)

OK…so let's get down to the core of the mission. The basic outline we have for you here is general guidelines…what we have found worked to help us complete our mission. There are many terrific positive reinforcement training programs that are variations of the one we have outlined. Training programs that use harsh, or negative methods may get the job done...but in the process may harm your dog’s personality and the bond you two share, so positive training is a MUCH better route to take to achieve your goals. This outline is not intended to discourage anyone from signing up for obedience classes. In fact we greatly encourage anyone who brings home a puppy to complete formalized obedience classes with the puppy. These are just some basic supplemental ideas you can work on before you get the puppy in class, or ideas you can use to tailor your training course to fit the needs of your puppy.

Some tips before you start:
Party Dog *Training Attitude:
Remember that training should be a fun time for you and the puppy. If you are feeling stressed or grumpy, don't train until you are feeling better. Train with the puppy's tail wagging. If you feel yourself getting frustrated STOP! and restart training at another time.

Clock Dog *Time Limits:
Keep your training sessions short…5-10 minutes at first. You can increase the time as the puppy matures. Several short sessions a day is much better than one long session. Try to stop before the puppy gets bored or frustrated. want training time to be fun. Try to end every session on an upbeat note…with an easy exercise, and a lot of praise.

*Time Frame:
Even though Weimaraners can be trained at most any age, the optimal time to begin training a Weimaraner is between 2 and 4 months of age. This early training helps Weimaraners understand what is to be expected, before bad habits are learned.

Tool Dog * Training Tools:
There are a variety of opinions about reinforcers. Some trainers say no food reinforcers, others say to use them. Others say use conditioned reinforcers such as clickers, and others say use praise. And a very small minority may say to use physical punishment. We do not believe in using physical punishment. This breed is the type that can keep grudges, and physical punishment may actually make it harder to train a Weimaraner. In addition you can create a "hand shy" Weimaraner and seriously harm the puppies/dog personality and bond with you. You do not want a dog that does a behavior because he is scared or fearful of you! In cases when you are trying to get the Weimaraner to STOP a negative behavior, we recommend using a stern "NO", uh uh, oops or a shake can to distract the dog and then redirect him.

OK...back to reinforcers. I use to think clicker training was just another fad in dog where people were just trying to sell books and clickers until I read about a study done by Jean Donaldson in her excellent book "The Culture Clash". In this study she videotaped dogs enrolled in beginner obedience being trained by their owners. She also videotaped the same dogs being trained by highly skilled amateur trainers in order to discover what the differences were between "skilled trainers" and "novice trainers". What she discovered was the skilled trainers reinforced more often and they timed their reinforcements better so the dog was not confused about what behavior was being rewarded. At this point things just clicked with me (no pun intended). If the reinforcement is not given timely enough the dog will have no idea what behavior just got could think it was his yawn. The clicker method is a timely way to mark a behavior so the dog knows what behavior is being reinforced!

One word of caution about using treats though...use only small pieces of food. Cut down on his dinner and breakfast. You can use his actual food instead of treats if you are concerned about nutrition. Be careful that training does not end up giving you a fat dog!!!

Top Dog *Training the Clicker:
The clicker can actually be any distinct sound or word that is only used for training purposes. Just using "good boy" is not always a good idea because he will hear it outside of the training environment, and it will be confusing. "Good boy" can be used as a reinforcer though. I use a distinct mouth click. To start training your "clicker", simply use your click, and then reward (usually with a treat or a piece of his food). Do this several times until he associates the sound with reward. Once you have accomplished this you are ready to move on. Remember a click always means reward. Click and then reward. Initially the reward needs to come right after you click, but eventually there can be a short delay between click and reward. Timing is very important. Click as soon as the dog does the behavior. Clicking too soon or too late will confuse the dog.

Command Dog *Commands:
Have a set word or command for each behavior you want. Make sure every one working with your dog uses the same command to mean the same thing. Be careful you do not use the command for a different purpose. For example if you use the command "down" to mean "lie down" do NOT use the command "down" to tell the dog to get off the couch. You will need to say "off" or find a different word.

If the dog refuses to give the behavior after a command or lure, wait. Do not repeatedly give the command or the dog will learn that he can get away with not obeying until the seventh or eighth or ninth… command. If the puppy still does not perform the behavior, put the food away and walk away for about a minute, or you can lure the dog into the behavior if you do not feel it is engrained enough. Many people also give hand signals with their commands. This way the dog will know a voice command as well as a hand signal. Have a release command such as "that's all" for when you are ready for the dog to stop performing the particular command you are working on.

Ok, keeping all this in mind…let's start with Preschool:
Crate Pup I. Preschool:

A. Crate Training

Crate training is best accomplished with a puppy. Older dogs are harder to crate train, but are NOT impossible to crate train. Let younger children know that the crate is not a playhouse for them, but a special place for the puppy. You can put the puppy's bed inside the crate, and add treats and toys to entice the puppy inside. You can even feed your puppy/dog in the crate. Start with short stays in the crate and gradually increase the time. Put the puppy in the crate when he is getting tired out. Let him take his naps in the crate. If the puppy howls and barks...don't reward the behavior by letting him out. Only let him out when he has been quiet for at least a minute. If you can't stand the noise, leave the house for a little while. Don't yell or scold him for the barking. Simply ignore it. Eventually he will learn that you will always come back, and you are not abandoning him. Don't weaken your resolve…remember you are helping the puppy in the long run.

Pee Pup B. Housetraining

Some diligent attention to your puppy can really pay off in the long run in terms of housetraining. You can also use the clicker to housebreak. Simply take him soon as he starts going click...when he is finished going potty...reward. He may eventually squat like he is going and not necessarily go, to get reward...this is ok. Still reward. He needs to get the idea that it is a very good thing to go outside. Make sure your puppy has solid history of being rewarded for going outside. Take him out very often initially. Puppies almost always need to eliminate after eating and after waking up from a nap. If you must do chores, confine him to the room you are in so you can keep a close eye on him. Try to take him out every 30-60 minutes while he is awake. If you cannot watch him in his crate temporarily. Unless he was initially raised in a cage such as puppies from a pet store, puppy mill, or a disreputable breeder, he will not want to eliminate in his sleeping area. Eventually you can start increasing the time to take him out.

If you do notice the puppy eliminating inside, make a loud noise (yell no, clap, use shake can, or use a rolled paper on the counter…) to distract him. Then immediately take him outside to finish eliminating…and again click and reward. Once he starts to get the idea you can gradually decrease the number of click and rewards...while varying the instances that get rewarded. (you can say good boy instead of click and reward). Eventually you can fade out click and reward all together and stop going outside with him every time, once he has mastered the concept. Keep in mind though most dogs do not become fully housetrained until 4-6 months of age or later.

If you find a puddle and did not see him make it…shame on you for not paying attention. It is NOT advisable to use physical punishment, or to rub his nose in "it". Just clean it up. Don't punish him belatedly. He has likely forgotten about it and would have no idea why he was being punished! This method I have outlined above takes a lot of work on your part while the puppy is awake, but in the long run we think it is quicker and more painless than most other methods!
School Pup II. Kindergarten

Lead Pup A. Lead Training

Lead training can begin shortly after the puppy is brought home. Attach a lead or a rope with a knot on the end to the puppy's collar (not a choke collar) and let him drag it around. Make sure you supervise him, as it will get caught on things. After he gets use to dragging the lead around you can proceed to pick the lead up and coax him to follow you with treats if necessary. If he is resistant…you can continue to coax, click and reward, or go back to letting him drag the lead around some more.

If your dog starts pulling you around…stop. Eventually the dog will turn and come back to you to figure out why you are not going anywhere. As soon as the leash is loose click and reward. If the lead does become taunt again, stop. Do not move or go anywhere until he comes back to you and the leash is loose again. Click and reward as soon as the leash is loose. Repeat this procedure until the dog gets the idea that pulling gets him nowhere. Initially this will take a lot of time, patience and treats! Periodically click and reward if the leash stays loose. Use an upbeat voice and praise him when he is doing well. Remember to keep lead training fun. This will make a big difference in your dog's attitude while on the lead. You eventually want your dog to be able to walk on the lead with his head and tail held high, a sign of confidence, without dragging you all over the place!

Stand Pup III. The Stand (mainly for people why may want to show their puppy in the future)

Hold the puppy's head with your right hand around his muzzle or under his chin to keep him still. Place the feet with your left hand. When placing the feet, run your hand down his leg, (or along his back then down his leg for the rear legs) to the joint. Do not just grab a leg and pick it up to move it. While holding the joint, place the foot gently in its place. The toes should all face forward. Look at pictures of dogs that are "stacked" to get an idea where to place the feet. Remember to give the "stand" command while doing this, click and reward, and give the puppy lots of praise in a calm voice. After the feet are in place, gently stroke the underside of the puppy's tail in order to get him to hold it up. Slowly increase the time he is to stand. When he is standing consistently for you have someone else look at the puppy's teeth, and run their hands over his chest, back and rear. When he is proficient at doing this, work on stacking him while holding his collar rather than his muzzle.

Down Pup IV. The Down

This is lesson is accomplished when the Weimaraner is sitting. Take a treat in your hand. Place it between your thumb and the palm of your hand with the fingers outstretched. Put it down on the floor...the puppy will eventually lay down to get at the treat. Immediately click and reward. If the puppy will just not lie down you can lure him under your leg or a chair. Once he lays and reward. Repeat several times. Step 2: Puppy Push ups...with the treat in your hand in the same manner as step 1...raise and lower your hand so the puppy goes from a sit to a down to a sit... Say "sit" as he is sitting and "down" as he is lying down. Click and reward each position change. Step 3: Once he has mastered this try the pushups with the verbal cues without the and reward.

Recall Pup IV. The Recall

This exercise is difficult to teach, especially with a Weimaraner. This breed is often wise to when the command can and cannot be reinforced. Therefore, until the puppy is proficient at coming when called, never use the command while the puppy is off lead. When the puppy does come on the first command, click and reward and praise him profusely! If he does not come, give a tug and release on the lead and say come. Repeat this until he does come. (Remember not to get into a tug of war!) click praise reward him when he comes. Repeat this exercise on lead several times a day, and in several locations. If the puppy does get out free somewhere before he learns this command, don't be tempted to call him, and do not chase him. Often running the other way will bring the puppy running. If this does not work, opening the door of the house or the car will likely work.

After he seems to be trained to come…you may experience (hopefully not) a dog that will look you in the eye after you command him to come, and run the other way. Again don't chase him, and never punish him after he eventually comes. Otherwise he may associate "come" with punishment. Remember to never call your dog if you are going to do something to him he won't like (for example, give him a medicine he hates, or end his playtime.) Go and get him instead. The recall should always be associated with positive reinforcement for your dog.

Extended Down Pup V. The Down-Stay

Once your dog has mastered the down and come…you can add the down and stay. (Can also be taught with sit-stay). Simply tell him “down” (no click and reward or he will think he is done!) Then say “stay”. Back up some. If he moves say “uh uh” or “no” and the prompt him down again. Repeat. Once you back away and he stays say “come.” When he comes, click and reward. Start by short stays and short distances. Gradually increase the distance and the amount of time he is in a stay as he begins to understand the concept. You can also add a twist to this exercise by saying different words “apple” “banana” etc while he is in stay. He should not move until he hears the word “come.”

Sit Pup VI. The Sit

Notice we have put this command after several of the others. This is because this is a fairly easy command to teach a puppy. If you plan on showing your puppy we do not recommend teaching this command until your dog is proficient at the other commands. Otherwise your dog will sit whenever he feels unsure or frustrated in order to receive praise. This can be frustrating when teaching a puppy the stand.

To teach this command: Step 1 take a treat and make sure the puppy knows you have the treat. Place the treat in your hand palm up and hold the treat over the puppy's head. The puppy will eventually get tired of looking up and sit. As soon as he sits and reward. Do this several times. Once he has this mastered this you can add the command to sit. Say "Sit" as he is sitting. Repeat several times until he has mastered it. You can then start saying "sit" in order to elicit the behavior. And finally say "sit" without holding the lure over his head. Once he has mastered the previous steps you can reduce the click and rewards you give for the behavior to 20-50%.

What we have outlined here are just some basic techniques and ideas that we have learned throughout the years. Again, we encourage you to enroll your puppy in formalized puppy kindergarten and obedience classes. Also keep in mind that training a puppy or dog takes time and work, so don't get discouraged, make it fun and be consistent. The subject for your mission can be a real rascal at times. Good Luck!!

Phase I: Finding a Weimaraner Puppy
Phase II: Preparing for your puppy
Phase III: Training your puppy (or dog)
Phase IV: Handling Problem Behavior
Phase V: Grooming

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