Training the Dobermann
Jay is a BIPDT (British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers), recognised worldwide as the highest standard for professional dog trainers and founded in 1974, many years before other schemes such as the KC Accredited Trainer scheme, the BIPDT is NVQ recognised.
I train through positive and enjoyable relationships with dogs with confident leadership which reduces conflict and anxiety. I do not fight with dogs, yank dogs off their feet, force down on puppies back ends to make them sit, shout at dogs or use harsh methods. The Dobermann is a dynamic, energetic breed and they need motivational enjoyable training, not dull, unimaginative, slow training.
I train my dogs with leadership, guidance and direction, not dominance, force and conflict, primarily based on the Volhard Motivational Method Training.
HOW TO TRAIN and TEACH THE BASICS
There is no ‘one way’ to train a Dobermann as all dogs are as different as their owners are from each other, so you should understand your dog in more depth to enjoy a true partnership with your dog.
Although owners love to blame their dogs problems on him or his breeding, the previous owners, the ‘bad experience’ they had at the park etc etc, in a nutshell most behavioural problems are down to lack of leadership and poor socialisation. You may have trained your dog just the same as you trained the last one, but if you didn’t consider his character (www.volhard.com character assessment test) which is totally different from your last dog, you will get different behaviour. Character comes from genetics (nature); behaviour from environment (nurture).
Convenient though it may be to blame puppy ‘ASBO’ for his unruly, aggressive, lead pulling, dog aggression and general ADHT, a breeder can place two puppies with identical characters in different homes and their behaviours will be totally different. The one raised with direction, leadership and guidance will, (unless nature has given him an unbalanced character defect) behave calmly and show focused learning without frustration. The other raised with either too much or too little discipline will be jumping up at people, not listening to instruction, chasing your feet, your hands, launching at the windows to get other dogs and/or biting/nipping people. If you want a well behaved dog, look at what you do to possibly cause the behaviour and question if it needs changing.
There is a modern belief that discipline is a bad word. A dog is not a human. If you treat a dog like a human and expect it to behave like a human, you are working against nature and you will create problems. Most common problems are:
Guards all the time – needs direction and management to tell him when it is a real and appropriate threat, not just a perceived one.
Jumps up biting the lead or chasing feet – high prey drive, needs channelling and boundaries to understand that behaviour is unacceptable.
Fails to recall – you’re more boring than the rabbit
Dog aggressive – constant barking or wanting to fight – lack of direction, possible fear and/or lack of socialisation.
Refuses to obey/listen – you bore them, over use their name/commands, nag or shout commands like they’re deaf – or you’re giving mixed signals so the dog totally avoids your confusion.
Most dogs are bored and lack any mental stimulation in their lives. This is as bad as not sending a child to school. No socialisation, no education, 1 hours’ exercise a day…..why get a dog?! Years ago the working abilities of the Dobermann were harnessed with good training clubs in most areas, but the majority of dogs are no longer trained correctly (if at all) and are left to mentally fester. Most owners just want well behaved, socially acceptable dogs but either don’t consider their dogs’ mental requirements, don’t care or just don’t know what options are available to them (see working page). When people enquire about puppies and I ask why they want a Dobe, some reply ‘because they are so intelligent’. I then ask what they are planning to ‘do’ with the dog and the silence is deafening. They like the look of the dog but haven’t considered what is underneath.
Dobermanns tend to ‘think too much’ for the average handler which is one reason the police tend not use Dobermanns, preferring the more biddable GSD. Dobes anticipate your next move and figure what they need to do for the situation. Dobes will excel in whatever field you wish to train them in, but their success depends on the quality of your training, understanding and empathy with them. Dogs learn behaviour from us. If we push them around, force them to do things or let them get away with things, they will behave accordingly.
Dobes react to a fine line between hard handling and over soft handling. They need to respect their owners but through leadership from owners, not from owners suppressing them. Correction response must be proportionate to the behaviour. If you view undesired behaviour on a scale of 1-10 and your dog is chasing a cat, his prey drive is up at level 9 or 10, so there is no discipline in you saying gently ‘leave it baby, be a good boy’ – at level 3 correction. Proportionate response is needed to snap him out of the undesired behaviour then bring him immediately back into ‘pack’ – his focus with you, to divert him from his errant behaviour. A hard voice – no need to shout (unless your dog is deaf!), is as harsh a punishment as a smack, so give a snap correction then immediately praise when he stops the undesired behaviour. This is not inconsistent training; it is switching the dog from prey to pack; rewarding his focus on you, not the cat – who is very grateful.
There is no technical solution. All the time people ask ‘how can I do x ?’ The answer is you just do it. If you lack the parenting skills and common sense to stop undesired behaviour in your children, if you act without authority in all you do, you are unlikely to succeed with a Dobe. Authority and confidence comes from within. We can give you the tools and appropriate methods to suit you, your dog for the undesired behaviour, but if you carry it out without confidence, your Dobe will see right through you. If you want to be respected and listened to by your dog when you’re out walking, then you must behave like a good leader in the home and not let them take an inch.
Our dogs know the boundaries and are therefore allowed privileges like being on the settee and upstairs when we allow. If they push the limits, we snap our fingers, raise our eyebrows and they get off! We don’t have to nag our dogs because they know the rules and consequences. We are neither soft nor hard, but we do give clear boundaries of acceptable behaviour and we do not reward undesired behaviour. Start as you mean to go on from day one.It’s a dog. Treat it like a dog not a little baby.
Dogs require pack structure and clear, calm, strong leadership. Dogs learn behaviour just as children do. If your household is run aggressively with shouting, lack of structure and physical or verbal violence towards the dogs or other family members, your dogs will reflect that and react accordingly. That is what you will have taught them and the way they think they should behave as it’s all they know.
The most difficult thing to teach an owner, is how to project a natural, calm authority. Dogs don’t need dominating or mollycoddling. There are very few truly dominant dogs, but many dogs assume the leadership role because no-one else has provided it to them. Weak people (especially those with a temper) cannot lead.
Reward calm behaviour. If you are going out for a walk and your dog is leaping around like a nutter, do not put his collar on until he is calm. Same for the lead; wait until he is calm. Same for going out of the door. Same for getting out of the car. Reward calm behaviour or you will teach him that being crazy and unstable gets results. If you are shouting, pushing him off you, shouting NO, naughty boy, STOP doing that, NO! you will inflame the situation. Stand still, say nothing, don’t react with shouting or constant commands. Stand up straight and calmly – regally, and watch him calm down. If you have ‘rough played’ with the dog, you will have created this problem, so don’t do it from the start! It is not natural for a pack leader to romp around on the floor with the other pack members. Senior pack members are very tolerant of baby dogs jumping on them, but when they (the adults) have had enough they get up and walk off.
Give EXERCISE, not meandering. Walk fast. This is a high energy breed so move it! Don’t slouch along, walk with purpose like a pack leader. Exercise him, don’t just wander along. That will build more frustration and will equal more pulling.
Communicate with your dog with your face, hands, body. The dog will respond to ‘less yap and chatter’ from you. Saying “sit” 10 times becomes ‘white noise’ – it goes over his head. Find alternatives to food reward. Become more self aware and more interesting to your dog using strong, calm leadership. Work smarter and harder.
Ensure your dog enjoys training. There is NO place for force. Trainers who use force don’t have the brains to figure another method. Keep an approachable, kind face, good eye contact and smile to reward the dog. Mean, unstable, violent trainers equal miserable dogs who do their tasks like robots and do not enjoy their lives.
Never train if you’re in a bad mood. Never train if you are in a rush. Always have a clear goal of what you want to achieve. Every time you become frustrated, you lose more respect in your dogs eyes. Ask a professional for help, and if any of them say Dobes are difficult, suggest they look at Dobes on our working page, then figure if it’s the breed, or the trainers lack of ability which holds them back!
If your dog is becoming even more badly behaved at club, leave the club. It is the wrong environment for you and your dog where frustration is the norm and poor trainers will do more harm than good. Neither humans nor dogs can learn under stress. Remove stress, train in the home, then once the behaviour is embedded, step by step take it outside, then down the road, then in the park. If you see your dog is becoming stressed, stop.
Don’t train if the dog isn’t 100% fit or feeling good. As with all training, if your dog ‘forgets’ what you ask him, go back to basics.
Don’t use compulsion (force) when training unless you are at a very proficient level of training with an adult who fully understands consequences and correction given calmly. You will build up resistance leading to frustration.
Keep training short and sweet. 2 minute sessions a day is quite sufficient. Dobes are fast workers, fast learners with high energy. Train quickly and with interest. Train in ‘modules’ then when the desired behaviour is embedded (4 weeks later if you have trained daily), string the exercises together. If you rush things before the exercise is 100% solid, you will break the confidence, introduce avoidance and teach your dog to make errors. Don’t train the same exercise more than three times and if the dog succeeds at the second attempt, leave it there for the day. Train the same exercise for very short periods but for at least a month before then training the exercise in the garden, then in the front garden, then in the street etc.
Don’t be unreasonable and ask your dog to sit or lie down etc when there are too many distractions. If you haven’t trained it 100% solid and your dog ignores you when you’re in training class, go back to basics as above.
If using toys, don’t leave the best toy lying around. Toys need to retain their appeal. Anything too easily on offer is of little attraction.
If using food, tailor the right level of reward – liver is ‘too exciting’ to be used in normal training. Use Edam cheese cut into small dice and ready cooked cocktail sausages. Keep food reward to small pieces.
If using a toy, a couple of old (preferably clean) socks inside other socks is a good cheap toy to hold onto. Move onto a small hessian sack rolled and tied into a manageable size. Toys = higher prey value than food, so you’ll need to be ready to cope with higher drive – faster working, more focus on the object and with you.
Praise promptly – use a clicker, or say ‘yes’ and reward. Dogs work in the moment. It is imperative that you reward instantly.
If your dog doesn’t want to work close to you or is constantly trying to get away, question why? Why are you so unappealing that your dog wants to be away from you?! Maybe you are boring and there is a much more exciting life away from you, or your dog feels he should be protecting you (you may be weak and he’s assumed the role of pack leader), you may be nagging him to death, you may have called him so often when he doesn’t come, that he associates his name with doing exactly what he wants, or you may be using a threatening posture – leaning towards your dog. If your voice says come here but your body says go away, it’s not surprising the dog the dog avoids you.
Correct delivery of food is important. Keep your hand closed over the reward until the dog is in the required position. Delivery must be instantaneous when desired behaviour is achieved. Leave it too long and the dog will move – he’s trying to figure out what he needs to do to get the reward, so doesn’t learn to do what you want. Stand up straight and don’t lean over your dog.
Read Dog Training for Dummies – don’t think you’re ‘above’ the book because of the title. It will change your views on training and give you a great understanding of dog behaviour and how to manipulate and channel drives.
//reminder LEAD work If you keep a tight lead the dog will naturally resist. If you fight your dog, expect him to fight back. Walking speed is important. Dogs need a purpose and a reason for walking, but most people walk far too slowly. Go out with a very brisk walk and a straight back to exercise your dog, not just to take a meander along. The picture right, shows the problem most people encounter. This was young Lincoln at one of our training days, and he has become used to walking like this. Not only will this type of walking damage your back, but it teaches the dog that when he pulls, he gets where he is going. Consider the new puppy out for his first walk on the lead. What does everyone do? They follow their puppy and think – ah, how cute, look how keen he is to venture out. He pulls to go to smell the bushes and soon learns wherever he goes they follow, so on day he learns that pulling gets him places. Now the problem is that you have taught him to pull!
How to correct it?
Firstly, never pitch your weight against your dog like this example right. Don’t teach him he is stronger than you by pulling and heaving his weight against you.Pitching your weight against the dog is unpleasant, unacceptable and teaches your dog that he’s stronger. In fact you will be helping him build up his muscles to become even stronger against you.
Dobermanns tend to walk slightly ahead due to their guarding nature, but when the lead is on, the dog should walk to heel with a loose lead. Put the lead in your right hand and ‘anchor’ it not tightly, at your belly. Stand up straight and then when the dog pulls, use your left hand to slide down the lead and check – to ‘put the brake on’. You’ll find by ‘anchoring’ the lead you will have a lot more strength and won’t end up like I am pictured right. Before you begin walking, get some eye contact and ‘connect’ with your dog. This is not a question of what collar or headcollar or harness to use. This is about leadership and giving a strong correction, walking with a relaxed lead and walking forward only when the lead is relaxed. If he pulls, you stop, ‘check’ back (don’t haul back), wait until he returns to your side, then continue on a relaxed lead when he is at your side. Engage and praise him when he returns. Let him figure it out that walking with a relaxed lead following you, is pleasant. Checking is not pulling or heaving. It’s a quick check with an immediate release – for those who are riders, it’s a ‘half halt’. The aim is not to yank the dog off his feet, but to give a quick correction with an immediate release.
If you stand still, he has no option but to return to you to go forward again. The moment he returns to your side, praise him and walk on. Break it up with some sits, circle lefts (to build pack) etc. 5 good paces of heelwork is a great start.
Leads and collars are there for security only. Leads aren’t there to let the dog to pull. He should have learned to walk at your side with a loose relaxed lead without pulling. If another dog approaches and you tighten the lead so the dogs head becomes raised, the other dog will perceive your dog as aggressive and respond accordingly, so relax your arm and allow a loose lead with a check if and when necessary.
What is often noticeable is that when handler and dogs are stationary, those people who have dogs which pull, keep a tension on the lead all the time instead of relaxing. Imagine if you permanently had a strong line around your neck; the first thing you would want to do is to escape.
This is how not to do it. The more you pull, the more the dog will pitch his weight against you. He is a quadruped and will win. Use the half-check properly by checking and then immediately releasing. Repeat as necessary.
A useful trick is to stand up straight, loop the lead around the dogs forechest dropping down onto his legs. This way he can’t pull against it and you need minimal effort to check him back. Remember to engage with your dog when he returns to you and ask him to initiate eye contact.
Different leads/collars uses and misuses:
Solid/full collar – if the dog pulls, the result will be you and dog pitching strength against each other
Choke – offers control through force as with all collars, dangerous if misused. Literally chokes. Possibility of misdirected aggression if in a dog squabble – as seen at a recent Ch show where handler choked her dog to pull him away – he bit her to get free.
½ choke collar – leather/fabric with chain used correctly – relax and squeeze/check only when dog pulls – one of the best, however, if you allow the dog to pull or rest against the collar, you may as well use a solid collar.
Headcollar (Halti/Dogmatic) – lots of different varieties offer great control. Caution not to allow the noseband to ride up into the dogs eyes, and extra caution not to allow the dog to get in front because when you pull back, the dog’s head will be pulled sideways causing neck problems. Dogmatic is a better option as it uses the martingale principle on a horse’s bridle. Also take caution with a defensive dog who may feel more defensive with something around his head especially if it pulls his eyes closed.
Harness – good all ‘round option – don’t allow dog to pitch against you, but controlling the whole front is a powerful way to exert control.
Pinch collar – looks barbaric but is actually considerably kinder if used correctly – than yanking the dog off it’s feet. Pinch action all ‘round neck (try it on your arm before deciding), gives top control and direction with minimal effort. Like using spurs on a horse, used very lightly means you don’t have to kick the horse’s side, but you do have to have kind hands.
NB You can try every type of collar and lead, but if the dog is still pulling you need to question why. Dogs will pull even on the pinch collar if your leadership is in question, if your walk is too slow, if he is in high defense or prey or if you originally taught him to pull by pitching your weight against him and heaving him back, so sort that out rather than just relying on the tools.
Leads should be leather – nylon will cut your hands if dog pulls, chain will crush your hand if dog pulls, however, never wrap the lead around the hand – this morning a rescue dog owner had her finger broken when her dog pulled.
HOW TO TEACH
SIT Teach your puppy/dog to sit: Using a treat or toy, stand up straight in front of your dog and just out of reach, take the food over the back of the head. If your hand is too high or if you are leaning forward (putting the dog into defence), the dog may just walk backwards. Try seeing how your body language moves the dog. Lean (your torso) back, holding food at your waist and the dog will come into you. Lean over slightly and watch him back off as much. You may gently touch the puppy’s back end but never push; you can hurt the back end and will introduce resistance.
Recall: Teach your puppy/dog to recall from an early age by making much of them on their return. An unenthusiastic ‘good boy’ verbal reward with a little pat is wholly insufficient in comparison with chasing the rabbit they had the scent or sight of so don’t be surprised if he doesn’t bother coming back. Llose your inhibitions and be joyful about the dog returning to you! Practice in the garden. Don’t try to get a smart sit presentation in front of you until after 1 year old, as you just want to embed the fact that coming back to you is the best thing ever. Module your training and link them together later, otherwise you will put inhibition in on the recall and mess that up!
LIE DOWN Teach your puppy to lie down: From a sit (easiest) with the dog on your left, kneel on the floor with food in your right hand to the right of your right leg. Show him the food ‘through’ your leg and he will crawl through your leg to get the food. You may have to very gently remind his bum to go down by touching it (never push on a puppy’s body – by doing so you introduce compulsion instead of willing behaviour and secondly it can damage soft baby ligaments). The moment he does lie down, repeat ‘down, good boy, down’ in a soft praising voice and gently stroke – not patting which is too exciting. After a number of days you should be able to take the leg away. Alternatively you can use your left arm over like a tunnel. You have to get your arm quite low down – same principle that he has to crawl under it.
Mary-Beth & Patrick Culhane’s puppy ‘Talis’, was hit by a car, and following light surgery later needed his dressing changed regularly. Having practiced the ‘flat’ exercise, Mary-Beth instructed Talis to stay flat and still for 15 minutes while his wound was cleaned and dressing changed without having sedated him. ‘Tricks’ for want of a better word, have applications in every day situations, and are also enjoyable for dogs to have something new to learn which they thrive on, enabling them to feel good about achieving something new for you. Histabraq was trained on silent (visual/hand signal) commands as all our dogs are. Train your pup to lie FLAT right. Following on from puppy lying down, tip the pups back end over slightly until she is lying on her hip – see Katja Henriksen and Bailey below. In order to prevent the pup bracing herself to stop herself being tipped, tuck the opposite hind leg under her first. Note that Katja continues to feed Bailey all the way through to keep her focus. When she is then relaxed in that position, slowly and calmly tuck her opposite front leg under her and gently roll her over. Ensure the food reward is high value and feed continually whilst tipping to take their mind off. Repeat ‘flat’ and stroke whilst feeding. If she struggles, stop and find a different game to teach but the ‘flat’ is worth pursuing.
Use food to embed the required behaviour in your dog and use food reward for many months before withdrawing it. It takes 28 days for the muscle memory, and brain memory to ‘fix’ an action to command in the dogs’ mind. Some months later on, the intermittent removal of food reward keeps the dog wondering how to win the reward. Learn about clicker training as an alternative to constant feeding, but there is no reason why you can’t continue to use food motivation in training. I wouldn’t work for nothing, so why should the dog?