Old Trainer: My Adopted Dog Is Tough to Train, What Should I Do?

How to teach Stormy, a dog in Kansas, the sit-stay-come sequence, the perfect foundation for all further training. Once Stormy learns those three commands she is a trained dog and it’s time to learn the next two commands, “freeze” and “easy “

“Freeze” is taught while on the daily walk, one of the best times for training because dogs are so alert and happy.

I used “hold” for this command for years, but switched to freeze because it has a sharper consonant sound and the easier dogs differentiate sounds the faster they learn.

While walking Stormy—on an expandable leash of course, leave short leashes to the stolid folks of the dog show world—say the command “freeze,” and give a soft tug on the leash until she comes to a complete halt. Once she does, brag on her and pet her as you repeat the word. Repeat the exercise 5 or 6 times, one right after the other, walk for a while, then, when she least expects it, come back to it again.

This is an easy command for dogs to learn and one of the most important you will ever teach. It gives you voice control of your dog and allows you to do a lot of things off leash (run with her for instance) that you can only do with a dog who is under complete voice control.

It can also be the difference between life and death. No matter how far away Stormy is — on leash or off — you have total control if she knows the command and obeys in an instant.

“Easy” is also taught while Stormy is on-leash and is the command you use to tell her to slow down and quit pulling on the leash. Excess pulling against the leash is one of the three most common dog problems — constant barking and jumping up on people are the other two — and teaching this command puts an end to it.

If Stormy starts to pull, say “easy,” hit your thigh with a rolled-up newspaper — making as much noise as you can — give a tug on the leash, but keep walking. When she looks back, repeat the command, and tug the leash again. If she stops pulling, even for a few seconds, praise her and brag on her.

The tug on the leash and the newspaper noise breaks her concentration on the bad habit, the praise tells her she’s doing what the leader wants her to do. Use the same training cadence as “freeze,” do it several times, one right after the other, walk for a while, then come back to it off and on throughout the walk.

This is harder for dogs to learn than “freeze” because you are breaking an existing bad habit—the pulling—as well as teaching a command, so be relentless.

If she continues to ignore the command, put her in the sit position, give her a lecture, then resume training. Keep it up until she obeys the five commands every time, then continue to practice them every day, on every walk

Sit-stay-come, freeze, and easy are part of Direct Training—show the dog what you want her to do, practice till she learns it. Next column we’ll discuss Indirect and Reverse methods and how easy training becomes when you add those two to your routine