What You'll Need to Get Started

There are some general rules for teaching sit, down, and come commands: Use a buckle-type collar; give commands only when you can enforce them; never repeat commands; praise your puppy before releasing her from duty with a “chin-touch okay” (step forward as you gently touch her under jaw and say “okay” as an invitation to move).

Since dogs thrive on consistency, ideally one person should be the trainer. But if the puppy is a family pet, she can adapt to a multiple-trainer system and feel a special connection to everyone who works with her. If family members aren't committed to learning the proper skills, agreeing on rules, and working with the puppy, the person with the most interest should take responsibility.

You'll need the right equipment to train your puppy or dog. This includes a well-fitted collar, a 6-foot leather leash, and a 15-foot longe line. Additionally, when working toward off-leash control, you'll need a tab (a short nylon rope) and a 50-foot light line.


When you begin training, use the collar your dog wears around the house. It should be well made and properly fitted. If it's not, or if he doesn't wear a collar, start with a snug-fitting flat buckle-type collar. Consider switching to a slip collar, a prong collar, or a head halter if you've used the procedures recommended in this book but, because of his size or strength, you would like an extra measure of control.

  • Slip chain collars: When using this type of collar, take advantage of the quick slide-and-release action of a slip chain with flat, small links. It should be only ½ to 2 inches larger than the thickest part of your dog's skull so it will fit easily over her head when you put it on. Although collars this small can be difficult to slide on and off, snug collars deliver timelier corrections. This type also stays in place better when properly positioned — high on the neck, just behind the ears, with the rings just under the dog's right ear.

    So the slip collar will loosen after corrections, make sure the active ring (the one the leash attaches to) comes across the top of the right side of your dog's neck.

  • Nylon slip collars: Nylon slip collars offer the slide-and-release action of a chain, and deliver stronger corrections than buckle collars. As with any collar, the nylon slip should only be tightened momentarily while correcting; constant tension means the dog isn't being told when he's doing well and when he's doing poorly.

  • Prong collars: Strong or easily distractible dogs may benefit from the use of a prong or pinch collar. The prongs come in an array of sizes, from micro to extra large. The length is adjustable by removing or adding prongs. Since some brands of these collars can fall off without warning, when you're working in open areas, consider fitting your dog with a buckle or slip collar in addition to the prong, and attach your leash to both.

  • Cruelty or kindness isn't linked to whether a dog wears a prong collar, but rather to the way it is used. If you want to use one, have an experienced trainer show you how to properly fit and work with it.

    Some people think prong collars look like instruments of torture. If you're turned off by the appearance of the prong collar, look for another tool to aid you. However, it's actually a very humane tool when properly used. Ironically, some harsh trainers abhor them and some soft trainers embrace them.

    Leashes and Lines

    To teach commands and mannerly walking and to umbilical cord your dog, use a 6-foot leather, Beta, or Biothane leash (see examples at www.tackatack.com). Use a ¼-inch width for dogs up to 15 pounds; use a ½-inch width for dogs 16–45 pounds; use a ¾-inch width for dogs 46–75 pounds; and use a 1-inch width for dogs over 75 pounds.

    Many exercises, including sneakaway and advanced distance stays, are done on a 15-foot nylon cord called a longe line. Since many pet stores don't carry them, just go to a hardware store and buy a swivel snap and 15 feet of nylon cord — ¼-inch diameter for a medium-sized dog, and one-eighth-inch smaller or larger for small or large dogs, respectively. Tie the snap on one end and make a loop for your thumb on the other.

    The tab is a piece of ¼-inch diameter nylon rope, approximately 18 inches long. If your dog is tiny or giant, adjust the length and width. Tie the ends of the rope together, then slip the unknotted end through the ring of the collar and, finally, thread the knot through the loop. The knot will keep your hand from slipping off the tab as you enforce commands. But when you're not holding it, it will be dangling on your dog's chest, which means he may be thinking about mouthing it — in which case, you can't use it. So if he takes it in his mouth, tell him, “Drop it.” If necessary, enforce your command by saturating the tab with a chewing deterrent spray like Bitter Apple.

    When you're working with the tab and lightline, wear a form-fitted gardening glove to ensure a better grip and to prevent rope burn.

    The lightline is a 50-foot nylon cord. Use parachute cord for large dogs, Venetian blind cord for medium or small dogs, and nylon twine for tiny breeds. The lightline is tied to the tab and used as you make the transition to off-lead work.

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