D ear Old Trainer: We need help with our miniature pinschers. Lil Bit is 2, Blackie 1, and Buttons 7 months. They bark at anyone who walks by. We tell them no, but they continue. We take them out for walks, they do the same. They escape out the door and won’t come back until they want to. Please help!
Dear Marilyn: Young dogs are like young kids. Let a bunch of first-graders do whatever they want and they will run and scream all day. It’s a lot of fun to run wild, and your pack won’t change until you train them to behave.
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To do that, start with “sit,” the foundation of all training. Work one dog at a time. Stand in front of Lil Bit, and say “sit.” Give him a few seconds, then press down with one hand where his tail meets his body and lift his chin with the other. Love on him as soon as he sits. Repeat it over and over.
Work for 5 to 10 minutes, then put him up and bring out another. Hold several sessions a day with each dog. After two days add a hand signal – point toward the ground as you say sit.
After four days, add two commands you teach at the same time. While Lil Bit is sitting, take a step back and say “stay.” Use a hand signal – a traffic cop holding up a hand to stop traffic – as you say stay. He will want to move toward you, but hold him back with one hand to keep him in the sit position.
Add “come,” the third command, while you are still working on “stay.” When Lil Bit stays for even a few seconds, say “come,” while you extend your hand, palm up, and motion him forward with your fingers.
When he comes to you, pet and praise him. Practice these three commands over and over. Work until each dog has it down, then practice with all three together.
You now have verbal control over the pack, so move on to the barking. Your goal is not dogs that never bark, but that the dogs that bark when giving a warning or having fun and then stop. Allow only one bark, then look them in the eye and say “no.” Don’t yell, just say “no” in a normal voice.
If a dog barks again, grasp his muzzle in your hand and say “no.” If he refrains for even a few seconds, pet and praise him. Repeat the lesson each time he barks more than once, and pet him each time he refrains.
If they do not respond after a few sessions, add a rolled-up newspaper to the exercise. Slap it against your thigh, making as much noise as possible, order them to sit, and tell them no. You may even have to touch one on the muzzle with the paper when you say no, but it won’t take long until he understands.
Be patient, but relentless. Repeat the exercise every time a dog barks. If you show them you will not accept it, they will quit doing it.
And remember, the important part of training is the love you give your dogs after they obey the command.