Dog training: Sample rules leaders can use during training classes

Explore suggestions for rules to use with handlers in 4-H basic dog training classes.

Dog training takes a lot of patience and hard work – being a leader who trains others to train their dogs is even more difficult. Many times the Head Trainer would probably like to just take the dog for a time and work through its issue only to return it to the owner ready for the next step. However, this easy way out would not accomplish the overall goal of having an individual who can train and work with their own dogs. The following rules could be applied to your classes to help you be more successful in training others how to train their dogs.

Sample rules Leaders may want to hand out to handlers who take their class:

  • Do not be late for class. Time is limited and tardy entrances cause distractions for the other handlers and dogs.
  • Come preparedfor class and be ready before entering. This includes taking your dog for a bathroom break before entering.
  • Make sure your dog is groomed and clean. This means nails done, coat clean, brushed and free of fleas, debris, etc.
  • Do not feed your dog within four hours of coming to class. This will keep the dog from having accidents and will also help if you are going to use treats for reward or training.
  • Clean up any mess made by your dog without being told, including messes made outside.
  • Come with a good attitude and patience.
  • Do not come with expectations of socializing with friends during class unless instructed by your Leader.
  • Take a break with your dog on the sideline if you or your dog is losing patience with each other. Finish the command and until you both feel better and then join back in.
  • Don’t be reminded to pay attention to the instructor – this takes away from class time.
  • If you have an idea please share it with the class or instructor. Class should always be fun and new and your ideas may help the Leader to provide this.
  • If you miss more than two classes you will be asked not to return for the rest of the 8 week course.
  • Do not bring a sick dog to class. Instead, leaver your dog at home and come by yourself to class to learn from observation.
  • Please do not come to class if you are sick, but be sure to call the instructor.
  • Be sure to practice at least 15 minutes 3 times a week in- between classes. This is all it will take for most dogs and handlers to learn each week’s lessons, yet still keep the dog’s interest.
  • The handler is the primary caregiver of the dog. The handler should be the primary one that gives treats, feeds, waters, takes the dog out to potty, grooms and takes the dog for walks even at home.
  • The handler should be the only one doing the training. If certain manners are expected at home and others need to uphold those manners, be sure they are using the same one word commands that the trainer does. For example: If the dog is jumping on guests, then a common two-command response would be “No, leave it.” However, If someone in the home is using “down” then that interferes with the “down” command used during training which means to actually lie down.
  • Never end practice sessions on a bad note. If frustrations get high, you should back up to the previous step and when the dog performs it, praise the dog and quit until both you and your dog’s patience have returned.
  • If the dog seems to be forgetting the exercise, go back to the beginning and start over.
  • Remember: all dogs learn at a different speed, so don’t get upset if yours seem slower.
  • Remember: all people learn at different speeds and in different ways. Don’t get discouraged, and if you don’t understand something have the leader try to explain it in a different way or have them borrow your dog and show you.
  • If possible, allow the dog to sleep in your room in a crate or next to the bed. This is great for bonding.
  • Make sure that you play with your dog after every training session.
  • Never give a command more than once. If the dog does not respond you should move to the correction step. For example if the dog does not sit when told to sit, you should pull up on the dog’s collar and push down on its rump at the same time. This will cause the dog to sit and then you should praise the dog.

Trainers could come up with a dozen more rules for their class but I have found these rules to be a good starting point for my classes. Trainers should adjust the rules to be appropriate for their audience taking into consideration the audience’s age and the age of the dogs.

Now that you have a starting point for your class rules, you are ready to move on to setting up your first training class. For more information on the items the handler and trainer needs to bring to class, or how to structure a class, see the following Michigan State University Extension articles:

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