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TRAINING A DOG

Any young dog can be trained to understand commands and to do simple tricks. When correctly trained, it is conditioned to respond to your commands, noises, or gestures.

Once an owner decides to train his puppy, however, he must be willing to stick with the job until the puppy learns the task. First, the owner should select a simple "call" name for the animal. The call name should be used frequently so the puppy can learn to recognize the sound of it.

A training session is best begun when the puppy is hungry because it is more alert at that time. Also, the owner can reinforce the dog's correct responses to commands with a dog biscuit or meat tidbit. The hungry dog is more apt to associate the correct performance of a task with a food reward.

To get the puppy into a collar at first, entice it to you by extending your open hands, pet it and say "good dog" (and include its name) when it comes, and finally slip the collar around its neck. Then attach a leash to the collar. If the puppy has confidence in you, it will walk along with you even though it is wearing the leash. A metal chain leash is usually best because the puppy will not be able to chew and play with it.

Wait until a puppy is at least six months old before trying to teach it tricks, but do teach it the meaning of "no" at an earlier age. The young dog must be corrected vocally each time it does something that you disapprove of. If you are consistent, it soon learns by your tone of voice what pleases you and what displeases you. Formal training sessions should entail no more than ten minutes of work at a time, and they should never tire the dog.

To teach the command "sit," keep the dog on your left side and pull up on its leash with your right hand while gently but firmly pushing its hindquarters to the floor. While doing this, say the command "sit" with authority. Reinforce its correct actions with a tidbit.

To teach the command "stay," work with the puppy after it has learned to sit. While it is sitting, raise your palm to the dog and order it to "stay." It will probably try to get up, so tell it "no." Whenever it remains in the sitting position after you have given the "stay" command, reward the dog with a tidbit.

More effort might be needed to teach the command "come." When the dog has learned to stay, command it to "come" and call it by name. When it comes to you, lavish the dog with praise and give it a snack. A very stubborn dog might have to be pulled with a cord tied around its collar while the command is given. If this is necessary, be firm but accompany the command with a friendly hand gesture. Many tugs may be necessary until the reluctant dog learns the meaning of "come." Do not be impatient with a puppy when teaching it simple tricks, and never get angry. If the training sessions are not going well, break them off and resume them later in the day or even on another day. In addition, give praise and tidbits to the dog only when they are earned.

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Dog Shows

When their dogs are effectively trained, owners of purebred, pedigreed dogs may enter them in shows sponsored by local kennel clubs, under the auspices of the American Kennel Club (AKC). Winners are awarded points based on how well they conform to breed standards. Five points is the top mark a dog can win in any single show. To gain the coveted title "Champion," a dog must have accumulated 15 points in a series of shows, with at least two major wins (three points or more). Dog shows are usually called bench shows because the dogs wait in raised stalls or benches before being judged in the show ring. Obedience trials may be held separately or as part of a larger show. These trials test how well dogs can perform various tasks. The top mark in obedience trials is 200 points. Field trials judge the hunting abilities of sporting dogs and hounds in realistic outdoor settings. Such skills as tracking, pointing, flushing, and retrieving are tested in these trials.

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