Training Your Dog

The power of speech is the only limit to the possibilities of a dog’s education; for amiability, rare intelligence, powers of reasoning, and wonderful instincts are coupled with a devotion to and faithfulness for its master that prompt it to obey his every wish, and as a result the human race in all ages and under all conditions has looked upon the dog with a friendly eye, cultivated his companionship, and, by training, has adapted his powers and instincts to various uses. It is stated by authorities on agricultural subjects that without the trained collie, sheep raising in large sections of the Highlands of Scotland could not be profitably conducted. In the far north commercial connections and explorations are possible only through the hardihood of the Eskimo Huskie, and field sports without carefully broken dogs would prove tame and uninteresting and degenerate into mere butchery.

The education of the dog which is intended as a house pet or companion is fully as important as that of the breeds previously mentioned, for a carefully trained dog is a far more agreeable and useful companion than one which is allowed to grow up without proper attention to the development of his mental powers and instincts, and a man who loves dogs and has come into possession of a valuable puppy should no more think of neglecting its education than he would that of his children.


Under training a dog’s appearance improves and it acquires a knowing, keen, sagacious appearance that distinguishes it from the heavy, stupid expression and sleepy looks of one whose education has been neglected, and there is no excuse for a man or woman owning a dog which will not come when called, which barks at horses and strangers, climbs over you with muddy paws, kills chickens, tears up carpets and curtains, and conducts itself generally like a spoiled child, when by a little early training it could have been taught to come promptly at command, walk quietly at heel, lie down at a word, retrieve from land or water, guard any object that may be given it, go on errands, bring your slippers or paper, do little tricks that amuse its master and his friends, and conduct itself decorously and mannerly, so that every one will admire it.


A dog, like a child, must have a period of infancy, but do not defer its lessons until the period of youthfulness has passed. There is considerable difference in the time required for development in the various breeds. Small dogs are fully developed in less than one year, medium-sized dogs in from ten to eighteen months, while the St. Bernards and other large dogs require about two years to attain their full growth. Females usually develop faster and learn easier than males. The training of a high-spirited dog of one of the medium-sized varieties may be begun when it is four or five months old; that of one of the toy breeds should be started about a month or so earlier, and of a St. Bernard, Great Dane, or other large breed a couple of months later.

If you have come into posssession of a timid puppy, which is afraid of loud noises or new scenes, do not attempt to train him until he overcomes his nervousness. The best way to do this is to take your dog around with you to different places where there are loud noises. If the puppy is only a little fellow, pick him up in your arms and hold him, but do not talk to him or tell him too much. Dogs are very observing animals and pay a great deal of attention to your actions, and if you begin to pet a young or timid dog every time he hears a new noise, he will believe from your actions that there is really something to fear; if, however, you pay no attention to the noise, he will be impressed by your lack of concern and soon come to the conclusion that there is nothing to fear.


A young puppy, that is, one under four or five months of age, should never be whipped-a good scolding will answer the purpose better-and in talking to your dog do not confuse him by shouting or yelling at him, and, above all, do not give two or three different commands without giving him time to understand or obey any one of them. Always speak in your ordinary tone of voice and go about things coolly and rationally, remembering you have plenty of time and that what the puppy does not learn today may be inculcated tomorrow. Always use the same words in ordering a dog to do the same things. The importance of doing this cannot be too forcibly impressed upon all those who desire to attain success in training.

The whip should be used sparingly, and never even scold a dog, much less whip him, unless you are absolutely confident that the dog knows what he is being punished for. When you whip a dog, and it is seldom necessary to do so, apply the lash slowly and deliberately, with well-marked intervals between each stroke, and let the last stroke be the lightest, giving the dog plenty of time for reflection before continuing the walk or lesson, or allowing him to do anything else. Do not whip a dog and then get effusive; let him reason it out for himself and conduct yourself quietly, and your pupil will most likely crawl up to you. If then given a kindly word, or a pat on the head, he will go on with the work or lesson with a distinct remembrance of having been detected in the commission of fault and of being punished for committing it, and you will have retained his confidence and affection, which are absolutely necessary for success.

It is all very well to praise a dog after he has obeyed you, or has performed some trick, but never praise him while performing; keep quiet until he has finished and then bestow your favor.


All the lessons are rudimentary, short, gentle, and easy, and should be taught in a way that does not altogether check the pupil’s spirit of playfulness, although the trainer must be careful not to indulge too freely in play. The main consideration at first is to give the dog a slight idea of what control really is and to encourage a desire to please you; care, however, must be exercised that the lessons are not continued so long as to tire and disgust the pupil.

A puppy’s first lesson must be given when you are alone, as in no other way can you hope to hold his attention; ten minutes at a time is long enough for a lesson, repeated three or four times a day, and if there are any signs of tiring or disgust end the instruction sooner. The trainer will be obliged to exercise considerable judgment in deciding where the attention to the lesson ends and is succeeded by sulkiness. Inasmuch as the lessons should be carried on so as to interest the dog and with some regard to its pleasure, it is advisable to reward your pupil after each lesson with some tid-bit, such as a small piece of boiled liver.

The training of dogs and children is accomplished along the same general lines, as neither must be forced or crowded; interest must be stimulated by words of encouragement or rewards, and attention to the task at hand enforced by gentle and carefully gloved firmness. The first lesson should be so administered as to make it easier to inculcate the second, and a feeling of regard and confidence between teacher and pupil should be cultivated at all times.

In training dogs, the fact should always be borne in mind that a puppy which has lived in the world only five or six months has not had a very lengthy opportunity to gain knowledge of the world’s affairs, and its brain is as yet undeveloped. We do not expect any display of intelligence in a child five or six months old, and it is unreasonable to expect more of a dog of that age than you would of a child several times as old. Simply bear in mind that a puppy is anxious to please you, and as soon as his little, undeveloped, playful brain comprehends what you want he will do it. It may test your own patience and intelligence to make him understand your wishes, but perseverance and kindness will attain the desired result.

If your dog is kept in a kennel or on a chain, let him have a good run to loosen up his joints and work off some of his enthusiasm before you start in with his lessons.


This is the first lesson that should be taught a dog. Dogs are naturally clean animals, but puppies, like children, are thoughtless. It is an absolute necessity that dogs which are to be kept in the house should be clean in their habits; and any mistakes they may make after they are eight or ten weeks old should receive prompt attention and correction. Of course, a two-months-old puppy is too young to be whipped; if it makes a mistake call its attention to what it has done and then immediately put it out of the house, and in a few days it will probably under stand why it was put out. If this does not produce the desired effect, wait until you catch it in the act and rub its nose in the mess it has made, and after scolding it put it out of the house. A young puppy must never be punished unless caught in the act, if the proper effect is desired. An old, hardened offender may be switched, but the whip as a rule should be used sparingly, as there is always danger of confusing and cowing a dog.

In teaching dogs cleanliness, give them opportunities for emptying themselves. If not so provided with an opportunity, nature’s necessities will compel them to relieve themselves where they are kept, and it would be unreasonable to punish a dog for what it could not help. All dogs should be taken out-of-doors the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning, and during the day several times, as opportunities of this kind are absolutely necessary if they are to be kept in good health.


As a rule it does not take very long to train a dog to come to the whistle. Always use the same whistle, and it is advisable to blow it in a peculiar way, so that the pupil will learn to understand its meaning. You must be careful about punishing a dog for not obeying the whistle. A good way to teach a dog to obey promptly is to take him out for a run just before he has had his dinner, and when he is keen with hunger he will probably range away. When he is some distance away blow a sharp blast of the whistle, and, if necessary, call him in, and when he returns hand him a piece of meat. Repeat this several times during your walk, and after a repetition of this lesson for a few days he will appreciate the meaning of this call and return to you as soon as he hears the whistle. It is possible to elaborate upon this branch of his training and teach him to obey a series of blasts as: Stop, at one blast; drop, at two blasts; or come in, on three.

“Home,” or “Go home,” are words that every dog should understand and should be taught to obey. Begin by allowing the puppy to follow you only a short distance, fifty or sixty feet, then turn around and order him back home, if necessary advancing toward him threateningly, and he will most likely scamper back. The distance can be gradually increased until he will understand and obey the order, no matter how far away you may be from your residence.

“Kennel up” is a term that explains itself, and there is no difficulty in teaching a dog to go to his kennel when he hears it a few times and has been chased into his kennel with a light switch. If he sleeps in the house, the word basket or bed can be substituted for kennel.

“Quiet.” Dogs are prone to be noisy, and when they bark too often, or keep it up longer than neces-sary at the approach of a stranger or upon hearing a strange noise, they should be cautioned with the word quiet, repeated several times, and, if necessary, enforced with a switch.

“No” is the most useful word in the vocabulary of either dog or man, and your dog must be taught its meaning if he is to be a useful and pleasant companion. Whenever he does anything that you do not want him to do, say “no.” If he is out with you on the street and attempts to pick up any refuse, call out “no” sternly and order him to you; if he does not come, go to him and scold him and then lead him away. If he does not profit by your scolding, switch him and repeat the switching at every repetition of the act.

Some dogs are too friendly with every one they meet, and while you want your dog to be goodnatured and pleasant, you do not want him to mix promiscuously, as he will be apt to follow some stranger or be easily stolen. To teach one of these promiscuous mixers and chummy dogs to exercise more discretion in the way he makes up with people, have a few strangers chase him away. This will alarm him and he will hustle back to you for protection, and will soon develop more or less suspicion of strangers and give you more of his affection. This must be done carefully, because if he is chased back too often or is scared too much he will become a timid dog.