Personal Training of my Best Friend

I was around Big Dogs all my life. My father had three at one time: 2 Black Shepherds (also called Italian Shepherd, or in Europe, Groendal); and one German Shepherd.

Later on in life (late 70’s), as a young adult, I was given as a gift, a puppy German Shepherd. I named him Rocky. Rocky was trained by me, at a Police Dog training facility. Needless to say he and I both learned a lot. Lucky for me, Rocky was born and raised in France, because the day he bit off the back of the arm of the colleague of my then fiancee, had it been in the US, I would have been dragged to jail, paid a heavy fine, and Rocky would have been put down.
My fiancee’s colleague was a dog trainer himself and owned a few dogs, he understood, although he misread the dog’s intent, after he thought teasing him from outside the car Rocky was in and enough time had passed, and he looked calm. But when she opened the door…

10 years ago, my step daughter had saved and adopted a crossbreed dog from the pound. He is, I was told, a cross of German Shepherd / Rottweiler, but he really is a Black Mouth Cur. His name is Tony. I recall Tony was about 2 and 1/2 months the day she visited with him. He was very cute, but very disobedient, And erratic. As I was playing with him, she asked me if I wanted him because she and her husband weren’t sure they could raise him well.  So, I adopted Tony, my faithful partner as of this day.

Tony had already very bad habits, unlike Rocky that I trained just after taken from his mother. Tony chewed on furniture, shoes, and other garments. Tony kept wanting to climb on sofas and beds (he was used to sleep with them). Tony had no house training whatsoever. Tony loved to dig in the house flower pots, and spread the dirt all over.

My training and punishing tool is a softly rolled up news paper, as it makes a popping sound. It scares the puppy and doesn’t hurt him.
After 2 months, Tony was house trained, behaved himself, and already knew how to walk on a leash. We had walks twice daily (morning and evening), to the point that as soon as Tony would hear me pick-up his leash and chocker chain, he’d run over to me. Yes, I’d say for any dog, any size, a choker chain is necessary. The chain links must be big enough to exert a ratcheting action (3/4 inch long for a large dog). No spikes or anything like that is advisable, just a choker chain. Within 3 months, the leash was only there for safety, and let dangling while walking, he was already understanding the basic commands: Walk; Stop; Sit. A Month later, he was familiar with: Slow Down; Run; Back-Off; and another that was my own choosing, for ease of understanding and safety, since I wanted to be the only one for this command. I chose a French command: ‘Aux Pieds’, which means come to my left, and sit at my feet, facing the same direction as I am.

How I trained Tony and Rocky not to bite.

Puppies have very sharp smaller teeth like razor blades. As they grow older, their teeth round off. It happened with both of them, they broke my skin and I bled. It is an opportunity to stop them from ever doing it again.
In the case of Rocky, he never bit me ever again, but since he was trained to attack he did bite on command or to defend someone.
Tony was born and raised in the US, and having a dog capable of attacking is a big NO NO to me. I don’t have a walled property to defend, but I do have a lot of neighbors. So Tony never bit anyone, nor would he. Unless, someone attacked us or broke into HIS home? I suspect he would then. But any other situation has never made him want to bite anyone. His bark is fierce, but once he notices the person conversing with me he shuts up, or shuts up when told to stop.
So, the puppy bites you, most of the time a scratch or a pin prick. You bleed. Yell at him, and Spread the blood all over his nose and face, and let it cake, and leave it for a few hours. In disgust, he will hide him self the time being. After 2 hours, tell him it’s OK, and wash him up. That’s it, they will never bite you again.
Through my hole life, I’ve only gotten bitten by others dogs twice. In both cases the pocket size dogs displayed fear, and therefore thought they were defending themselves against a dangerous animal. So, my advice pay attention, beware of small dogs.

A few months Later, Tony understood: Lay Down; or Down (when urgent); Come Here; Stay; Don’t touch it; Bad Dog; Good Boy; Go to the Bad Dog’s Room; Paw; Up (for stand up)… I am sure I forgot how much more he knew then, but I’ll make a thorough list of all he understands, as not all are commands.

Command List he responds and acts upon:

  • Aux Pieds (my personal command)
  • Be a Good Boy. Used when an interaction with another dog, or with people, to tell him to behave.
  • Backoff. He will move backwards.
  • Bad Dog !
  • Come On ! (playful version)
  • Come Here (order, request)
  • Come Here! NOW! (Very urgent and angry request)
  • Don’t Touch it ! Very handy, food on table (although this was followed with the paper pop), or anything I want him to stay away from (snakes, and other animals)
  • Don’t Jump (people don’t like it, but I do). I have always used Jump as a negative, as I never really trained him to jump, unlike Rocky who could jump or go over a 10 foot fence.
  • Don’t Push (His weight varies between 100 to 110 pounds)
  • Down
  • Get (used with other nouns). Get away from the table! Get out of the kitchen! Get out! (mostly my personal room he is not allowed in)
  • Go to the Bad Dog’s Room (I picked the laundry room. Lights off if he was very bad)
  • Good Boy. Reward, appreciation for an action or behavior.
  • Hurry Up! (when I let him out in the back yard for a quick relief)
  • Have you been a Good Boy? (to check if he did anything wrong in my absence. It will be followed by a happy paw giving, or he will walk to the laundry room on his own.)
  • Inside (A call to tell him to come in, usually preceded by his name: ‘Tony! Inside!’
  • In Your Bed. (at night time mostly, to let him know lights out)
  • Lay Down
  • Let’s Go (meaning We go somewhere) Usually the noise of the chain on the leash.
  • Move! Sometimes he just lazies around in the middle of the path.
  • NO
  • NO Bitting. Almost never used anymore.
  • Paw
  • Roll Over (He got that after a few years)
  • Run
  • Sit
  • Slow Down
  • Stay (he will stay in place for a few minutes or the duration of an activity he sees, no more than that, unlike Rocky who could stay for hours without me present)
  • Up (from a down or sit position) Or when tapping on the gate of my pick-up to go for a ride.
  • Walk
  • Want to go out side?
  • What’s that? (when I want to peek his attention about something)
  • What are you doing? Depending on the intonation, playful or show me what you are doing.
  • Who’s There? (when I want him extra attentive to activity around the house)

Also, Tony responds to my whistle. He can read my moods, and knows what to do accordingly. I am sure as of this article, I am forgetting something he understands.

The training process is ongoing

First and foremost, when training your dog, you must be VERY consistent. Any hesitation during training will be hesitation for your friend. Be firm when giving a command, be happy and reward them when they reach a new accomplishment. Small snack rewards are a must during the early stages of the training. Later, they will just be happy if you are, and there will be licks and show of affection from both sides. Your mood must be exaggerated at first (be an actor), and later they will read your every change of mood.

I do not pretend to be a trainer, that is why I will not go into details and steps to follow. However, upon request, I’ll gladly oblige.

Small footnote:  Dogs do NOT understand spoken languages, they do however understand tone of voices and enjoy when you speak to them, they enjoy the flow of your voice and will often give out their own expressions of what they sense.
Fact: A Dog will have the same character as his owner, unless untrained, in which case he’ll form his own habit and rules.

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