Basic Dog Obedience Training for Search and Rescue

K9 Training Search and Rescue

Dog Obedience Training

Dog obedience training can seem like a daunting task. So many books, articles, and websites can make this seem like an impossible goal, but it's really not.

Although there are a million and one different techniques on training a puppy, I've written this page to make it as simple as possible, yet cover the important aspects. Not all dogs learn by the same methods, so it's important to keep an open mind and have a back up method just in case.

Keep in mind that these are the basic commands your dog will need to become a Search and Rescue K9.

It's important to understand how to communicate with your dog. Unfortunately, they speak a different language than you, so how do you communicate with them? Body language, voice, and specific words are the key.

Puppies have no idea what correct behavior is. It's much easier to positively reinforce good behavior, than to try and correct a half a million bad ones.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of dog obedience training, one of the first things you need to teach your dog is to "wait". You never want your dog to run out of the house when you open the door, or jump out of the car, until you tell him it's ok to go. Why? Safety first! He may have his heart set on the neighbor's cat across the street, and won't see that car speeding down the road. You should always be the first one out the door, not your dog.

Basic Dog Obedience Training Commands

How do I teach my K9 to sit on command?
Hold your dog's favorite treat over his nose, and move it slowly back over his head. He should naturally sit as he watches the treat with his eyes. Give him the sit command, and as soon as he sits, praise him and reward him with the treat. If he needs some help sitting, apply gentle pressure on his hind end. This will put him in the sit position. Again, reward and praise him. The more you practice, the quicker he will learn.

How do I teach my dog to lie down on command?
Starting in the sitting position, move the treat slowly down to your puppy's front paws, and say "down". If your puppy doesn't go down all the way, gently put pressure on his back end, while sliding the treat between his paws. As soon as he lays down, praise him. Practice this a few times a day. Eventually you won't need the treats anymore.

K9 Training Search and Rescue

Many of the Urban Search and Rescue dogs are taught to lie down and bark when they find a victim under the rubble.

How do I teach my K9 to stay on command?
Teaching your K9 to stay on command just takes a little patience. With your dog sitting or laying down, tell him to "stay". Facing him, use the palm of your hand as a visual sign. Take a step or two away. If he stays, reward him. Do this a few times a day. Every few days, step farther away, and make him stay longer.

Be careful not to reward him if he starts to get up. Just start the process over. It may take a few tries, but they catch on fast, especially when their favorite reward awaits them!

Dog Obedience Training Tip
What is the difference between wait and stay?
Knowing when to use the "wait" or "stay" command is quite important. It can lead to much confusion with your dog if you aren't using them consistently and correctly.

The "wait" command should be used if there is going to be an action command given afterward. For example, if you want him to "wait", then tell him to "come", you should use the "wait" command.
The "stay" command is used to keep him in a position (sit, down, etc.) for a period of time.

K9 Search and Rescue Training

Dog Obedience Training

How do I teach my K9 to come on command?
This is a very important command. You may need to call your dog back to you if he is putting himself in danger, or just to get him back on the leash after a good run.

Start out in the "wait" position, walk a short distance away from him so he can see you. With much excitement and treat or toy in hand, ask him to "come". Give him lots of praise and reward him with the treat or toy.

Dog Obedience Training Tip
A common mistake many of us make when the dog won't come is to punish him by immediately placing him on the leash, or in the backyard fence. The problem with this is he starts to relate the bad discipline with him coming, so he farther disobeys. Ask him to "come" and then let him play again. Do this a few times, rewarding each time he comes when called. Eventually he won't relate coming to discipline, but rather, getting a reward.

Teaching your dog to Heel.
This command simply teaches your dog to walk beside you without having him on the leash. Most trainers teach the dog to heel on the left side, but if you're left handed, then have the dog heel on your right side.

Simply put an eight to ten foot lead on your dog. With the lead held tightly in your right hand and loosely with your left, (opposite if you're left handed) tell him to "heel" and start walking.

When your dog steps out in front of you a few steps, say nothing. Instead, turn in the opposite direction and start backtracking. Within a step or two, he will hit the end of the leash and turn to see you are heading the other way. He will quickly catch up. When he does, say "heel" and praise him. Again, when he walks ahead, say nothing, but turn, give him a quick pop and start back the other direction. Tell him to "heel" when he is next to you, and praise him highly.

Teaching the Leave It command.
Unfortunately this command is often left out by many owners. As a K9 Search and Rescue handler, you will definitely want to teach this command, especially for the dog's safety.

With your reward in one hand, have your dog sitting. Place a treat out in front of him, and step away. As he starts after the treat, in a stern voice, tell him to "leave it!". If he ignores you and takes the treat anyway, show him his reward, but don't give it to him. Sit him back down and start over again.

Eventually, he will understand that if he takes the forbidden treat, he doesn't get the one in your hand. When you tell him to "leave it!" and he listens, immediately reward him by saying "Yes!" and give him the treat in your hand. Repeat this process. After he gets the hang of this, you can begin to use this command anywhere. Remember to reward him by telling him "Yes!" each time.

Dog Obedience Training Tip
It's important to keep in mind that each dog will learn at a different pace. Not all of them will learn from a specific method. You may have to develop your own methods to see what works best for your K9.

Dog obedience training is an ongoing effort. Once a command is taught, it will be used throughout his life. Remember to always reward good behavior and the time spent training will leave it's own rewards for you.

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