Basic Obedience/Manners

Teaching Obedience the Fun Way

Trainers: Mary Anne Bentley, Pam Sikora, Valerie Sloan, Kim Sargent, and Bille Wickre.

This course is intended for dogs five months or older and their families. You are welcome to bring any members of your family who are interested in training your dog. Children are welcome!  In this course we strive to develop a well-behaved family member, not a champion in the obedience ring. Our techniques are all positive or reward based. Rewards can be food, toys, petting, or a cheery “good dog.” Because treats get fast responses, we will start using treats as rewards. You will slowly move away from treats as your dog and you learn new behaviors. Teaching is not a one-way process. You will be learning from your dog as you teach him or her. Be aware of your own opportunities for learning. Please ask questions any time.

Every week you need: PATIENCE and a sense of humor! Plus a buckle or martingale collar, a 6-foot long dog leash, yummy treats that your dog likes, a toy or two. If you are using another kind of collar or harness, please remove it when you are in class. You may want a “bait” or treat bag to keep your treats handy and your pockets less messy. They are available at most pet stores and many on-line sources. We have some you may borrow to test out.

Week 1: The Myth of Dominance or How to be a Kinder, Gentler Leader

Introductions, Foundations for Obedience: “Sit restraint,” Name Game, Bridge word, release word.

New Behaviors: Watch, Recall, Sit.

Week 2:  Animal Well-being. Worms and fleas and ticks. Oh, my!

Every week we will review. Foundation work: Sit restraint, Impulse control, responding to the leash.

New Behaviors: Stand, Down, Walking on lead.

Trick:  Doggie push-ups (Sit, down, stand, repeat)

Week 3:  Review, Foundation work: Impulse control, Back away.

New Behaviors:  Maintain sits, stands, and downs—that is, Stay.

Trick: Roll over or crawl.

If we have time:  Books, toys, and training devices we love!

Week 4:  Review, Foundation work: Sit restraint, Impulse control, back away.

New Behavior:  Leave It, Longer Stay.

Rehearse walking on lead

Games: Rally/agility

Week 5:  Review, Foundation work: Sit restraint, responding to the leash, back away.

New behaviors:  “Go to” probably with a tunnel. We will be working the old behaviors at increasingly difficult levels and asking your dogs to respond in slightly more stressful situation. For example, we will ask them to remain sitting while a trainer or another member of the class walks up to you and greets you.

Tricks/Games:  TBA

We often take photos of the dogs in week 5, so be sure your dog is wearing his or her prettiest smile.


We will have a fun-filled day of games designed to let your dogs demonstrate all the wonderful things they have learned.

Your final exam assignment is to teach your dog a trick that he or she will perform for us in class.


Bridge or bridge word: a word or other signal that tells your dog that a reward is coming. Think of Pavlov’s dog—when the dog heard the bell it salivated because it associated the bell with food. Bell=food. Bell is a bridge. Also called a Memory Marker or secondary reinforcer. When you say the word, you must always follow with a reward.

Cue: the word or other signal that tells the dog what you want it to do. Cues must be clear and consistent in all situations and with every trainer!  Sometimes called a command.

Dominance: an outmoded way of thinking about hierarchy in the animal world. Animal science has moved on from that theory and now understands that relationships between wolves and other animals is much more complex that a simple hierarchy. We’d be happy to discuss this further outside of class and to recommend some great reading.

Reward or reinforcer:  anything that your dog likes and that is meaningful to the dog—NO MATTER how you feel about it!  Can be food, petting, toys, play….Also called a primary reinforcer.

Release word: a word or other signal that tells your dog that it is okay to go back to just doing what it wants—it is no longer under cue or command. Like an “At ease” in the military. All trainers must use the same word. Don’t let your dog decide when he or she is done paying attention to you.


  • A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Be sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise for its body and mind. Challenge your dog’s mind.
  • Control the environment. If you can find an environmental solution, use it.
  • No creature can learn when it is stressed, tired or afraid. That’s why we start the class with exercises that are designed to calm both your dog and you. At home train your dog when you are both in a good frame of mind, not when you are exhausted or frustrated from a too busy day.
  • Train your dog regularly. Most dogs will learn better in short sessions, 10 to 15 minutes 2 or 3 times a day. Build it into your routine.
  • Don’t confuse your dog. Everyone in the family must be consistent with rules, terms, and training strategies.
  • Don’t bore your dog or ruin the commands you have taught him or her by repeating them over and over until they become meaningless. Be especially cautious about this with your dog’s name.
  • The leash is a tool. Do not become dependent on it to control your dog. Your relationship with the dog will be your control. We will nag you constantly to stop depending on the leash.
  • Remember to enjoy your dog.

The most important tools for working with any dog are patience and consistency. Essential to any dog: regular exercise, consistent training and also training right after some exercise will increase success. Training sessions should be short and frequent, maybe only ten minutes, a bit longer if things are going well. Always end on a positive note—ask your dog to do something it already knows how to do so you can praise him and then end the training session. CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE FOR LEARNING FOR YOU AND YOUR DOG.