For those of you growing up watching movies in the 80s, this may sound like the Karate Kid’s famous line where Mr. Miyagi is giving Daniel karate lessons, and he teaches him hand motions by saying, “Wax On, Wax Off.” However, I am not talking about the fine art of karate, this “On/Off” theory relates to training dogs. That’s right, it’s as simple as using some sort of command with pressure, showing the dog how to turn the pressure off, then rewarding the dog. Over time and repetition, you will find that simply the command, will get the compliance you are looking for!
Now if were that easy, there would be no dog trainers around, and “The Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan, would be making millions of dollars writing books or making many TV shows. So let me explain what I am talking about.
There are many types of discipline or “pressure” that can be used while training dogs. The one I want to begin with applies to on-leash obedience. Basic commands such as “heel,” “sit,” “stay,” “down,” “kennel,” and the most importantly, “come here,” can be taught with this pressure on, pressure off, theory.
To start with, make sure you use a 6-foot leash and choke chain so you teach the dog using short quick snaps with the leash. The important part is to have the choke chain on correctly, so when the snap with the leash is released, the weight of the snap swivel will release the tension. Ideally when your dog is trained, you should be able to walk with the two end rings on the choke chain touching.
Apply pressure during on-leash obedience with the choke chain.
The first few times you begin this, you will have to show the dog how to shut the pressure off. For example, if you are teaching the “sit” command, when snapping the leash, use the verbal command and continue snapping as you press down on the dog’s rear end. Make sure to repeat the command throughout this process. Once the dog sits, obviously stop the pressure and praise the dog quickly. It is important to use positive reinforcement so the dog understands that they have done something right. The amount of praise is also important. Too much may get a dog to get back up making you start the process all over, and too little may not build a dog’s confidence.
During the early phases of training, showing a dog how to shut the pressure off is the most important part of this theory. What I mean is that the command you are giving, along with the pressure being applied, will often confuse a dog. Remember there is a difference between confusion and refusing. Refusals are when the dog knows the command, however, and decides for some reason, it does not want to comply. Confusion is when the dog does not understand the command, and does not know what you expect. This means there has not been enough repetition or you have not shown the dog how to shut off the pressure properly. Step back and decide which it is. Only you the owner will know this.
It is important to show the dog how to shut the pressure off.
Demanding your dog comes back to you also begins with this pressure on, pressure off method with the use of a leash and choke chain. However, the leash turns into a check cord, which is simply a long rope, or long leash, which allows the dog to get farther away. The snapping of the cord stays the same where you give short quick correction with the “come” command followed by praise as the dog is making its way back to you. Again that praise is your way of showing the dog how to shut the pressure off and your enthusiasm on.
Now if you want the ultimate control of your dog, applying this theory to the use of a remote collar would come next. The main thing while introducing this is to have all your commands solid with the leash and choke chain. If you are at the point where you can simply say the command and your dog complies, then you know that they are solid. The electric collar can now be used and an “invisible” leash.
After time and repetition, simply the command will get results.
Proper introduction is the key, however. Make sure you allow your dog to wear the collar for at least a couple of weeks prior to actually using it. Don’t even take the transmitter with you so the temptation is not there. Once your dog is accustomed to the collar being part of your training session then begin to use it on a low setting. It is important to use it in conjunction with your snapping motion, so that the dog begins to realize that the electrical stimulus means the same as the snapping of the leash or check cord. Start to wean off the snapping with the leash/cord and start to incorporate just the remote collar. Continue using praise as your dog does well to show how to shut the stimulus off. This process should take about the same amount of time as the leash training normally from start to finish, which is four-to-six weeks.
The pressure on, pressure off theory is a very easy process to follow. Its effectiveness relies on your work and dedication to your dog along with dedication to making your dog comply. Do not give a command that you can not reinforce with some sort of correction or pressure. Also make sure you follow through with the command so your dog realizes that you are not asking it to do something, you are telling it.
If you follow these simple rules you will have a well-mannered dog in a matter of months, making your dog a much more enjoyable pet.
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Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and 15 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) In addition to training hundreds of hunting companions, he has trained dogs for premier pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota along with duck hunting lodges in Mississippi and Mexico. His experience also includes both hunting and guiding for upland and waterfowl game from Canada to South America. If you have any questions, Jason can be reached at 507-663-6143 or visit (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) He provides dog training tips twice a month.