How to Train a Doberman to Listen to You

Medium
1-6 Months
General

Introduction

Have you ever been to the park and seen a Doberman Pinscher walk along the path with his owner? The owner stops and quietly tells the dog to 'sit', and the dog obeys. A couple of minutes later, the owner tells the dog to 'heel', and the two walk out onto a field. The owner then begins to play fetch with his dog, commanding the dog to 'fetch' the ball and 'drop it' into his hand. Another dog walks by and the Doberman takes an interest, but quickly turns back toward the owner when his owner tells him to 'leave it' or 'come'. Perhaps the dog that you saw was not a Doberman, but it still made you wish that your dog would listened that well nonetheless.

When your dog listens to you well, it can make life with your dog so enjoyable and less stressful. It makes it easier to live with your dog, and not to feel like you are constantly having to repeat yourself and tell your dog "No". It makes it easier to bring your dog to more places with you, and to trust him and to give him more freedom. It can also improve your relationship with your dog, by removing frustration, increasing communication, and increasing trust and respect, for both you and your dog.

Defining Tasks

Teaching your dog to listen to you is an ongoing process. You should begin to see improvement within one month, but expect listening to continue to improve more as your dog learns more commands, better self-control, trust in you, and respect for you, in the coming months. Some dogs are more compliant than others. How well your dog listens can depend a lot on your dog's own natural temperament. Because of this, your dog might simply need for you to be more consistent and to teach him commands to improve communication between you both, or your dog might require lots of consistency and structure throughout his entire life, in order to continue to listen.

Your dog might be ignoring your commands for a number of reasons. It is easy to get into the habit of simply telling your dog "No", with telling him what he should be doing instead. Many owners expect their dogs to stop doing a behavior simply because they have told him "No" before, without communicating to him what to do instead. Rather than constantly just telling your dog "No", you can work on teaching him commands that you can use to communicate instructions to him with instead. For example, if your dog is begging for your food, rather than simply telling him "No", and letting him guess which part of his behavior is wrong, instead you can tell your dog "Out", which means leave the area, or "Place" which means go to a certain location. Teaching your dog commands will improve your communication with your dog, and also make it clearer to him what he did wrong if he chooses to disobey your commands at times, and receives a consequence.

Another reason your dog might be ignoring you is a lack of consistency on your part. Once you teach your dog what various commands mean and practice those commands enough for your dog to be capable of doing them, then it is important to be consistent when you interact with your dog. If you tell your dog to do something, you must be willing to make sure that he does it. Otherwise, he will learn that you do not really mean what you say and obedience is optional. It is also important to keep rules the same for your dog. If you have a rule that you expect for your dog to follow, do not allow him to break that rule just because the person or location or other factor is different. Being inconsistent with rules can confuse your dog and make it hard for him to please you. If you want your dog to be allowed to do something at certain times but not at others, then teach your dog a command for that action, and only allow your dog to do that action if he has been given the command for it. For example, if you do not want your dog to get onto the couch unless he is invited, then teach him the 'on' or 'up' command, and only allow him on your couch when you have told him "Up".

Another reason that your dog might be ignoring you is a lack of respect. In order to gain your dog's respect, you must be consistent with your rules and commands, but you may also need to reestablish respect by having your dog work for everything in his life for a time, or by regularly training him throughout the week. Having your dog work for you to gain the things that he wants is an effective way to reestablish respect, without having to get physically confrontational with your dog. To prevent disrespect, it is also important to not reward poor behavior from your dog by giving into his demands and to utilize fair consequences that will not physically harm your dog or cause other temperament or behavioral problems. What those consequences are, often depend on the situation and the specific dog. The consequence should clearly communicate what your dog did wrong so that he can learn. It should be fair, non-damaging, timely, and effective. The consequence should also be something that your dog can choose to avoid by obeying. If the consequence is not working, do not automatically increase the frequency or intensity of it, but consider a more effective alternative instead.

Getting Started

To get started you will need lots of tasty treats. If your dog is very food motivated, then you can also use your dog's own kibble as treats. You will also need a resource that will teach you how to teach your dog various obedience commands. One resource is Wag! Walking's Training Resource page, where you might have found this article. There you can also find articles on how to teach specific obedience commands. Other good options are to hire a trainer in your area, to work one-on-one with you and your dog, or to attend a local Obedience class with your dog. With all of the methods, you will need clear communication, patience, perseverance, and consistency.

The Obedience Method

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Step
1
Teach name
To begin, if your dog does not already know his name, teach him his name. While you are doing this, reward him every time that he responds to his name, until he will consistently look at you when you say his name.
Step
2
Set aside time
Once your dog knows his name, spend time every day teaching your dog a command. Work on each command until he will respond to that command. Commands can include: 'Heel', 'Sit', 'Down', 'Come', 'Place', 'Watch', 'Out', 'Stay', and any other tricks or commands that you would like for your dog to learn. You can either spend thirty minutes each day training your dog, or spend only five or ten minutes, multiple times a day, or train for just a couple of minutes every time that you interact with your dog. You can also train all three ways.
Step
3
Change locations
As your dog learns the meaning of different commands, begin to practice those commands in new locations. When your dog has mastered doing the command in a new location, then move onto another location and practice there. Do this so that your dog will learn to generalize the command, and will listen to the command everywhere you go.
Step
4
Add distractions
When your dog will obey your command in many different locations, then practice around different types of distractions. Work on practicing around each distraction from a distance or in smaller numbers first, and then gradually get closer and increase the number as your dog improves. For instance, if your dog is distracted around other dogs, then practice a command around one other dog at the park, who is a hundred feet away. As your dog improves around dogs, then gradually get closer to the other dog, then practice around two other dogs. Increase the number of dogs and decrease the distance as your dog's obedience to you improves.
Step
5
Add distance
When your dog is able to listen to your commands in different locations and around distractions, then practice teaching your dog how to obey your commands when he is farther away. To do this, you might need the help of an assistant or a long leash. The long leash will allow you to reel your dog in when he does not come, or to tether your dog to a fixed object, to keep him farther away from you while you practice. Practice with your dog in front of you at first, and gradually add distance between you and your dog as he improves. Do this until he will listen to your command from dozens or even hundreds of feet away.
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The Consistency Method

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Step
1
Teach
To begin, spend time teaching your dog the meaning of various words and commands, so that you can effectively communicate to him what you want him to do. Teach him not only common obedience commands, such as 'sit' and 'down', but also commands that stop specific unwanted behaviors that he is doing. For instance, if your dog is barking, then teach him 'quiet'. If your dog is being pushy, then teach him 'out'. If your dog is taking your belongings, then teach him 'leave it' and 'drop'. If your dog is being possessive of the furniture or jumping on you, then teach him 'off'.
Step
2
Follow through
After your dog has learned the commands, anytime that you give him a command to do, ensure that he obeys it. You can do this by: going over to him and then bringing him back to where you commanded him from, standing in front of him to block his view from something until he complies, keeping his leash tight enough that he cannot wander away until he complies, not giving him something that he wants until he complies, or showing him how to do the command again. Be creative, and make sure that he understands what is being asked of him. If you are confident that he understands and is capable, but simply does not wish to obey, then follow through and insist that he obey the command. If your dog has ever shown any form of aggression, then do not do this on your own, instead find an experienced trainer in your area to help you.
Step
3
Reward attention
Reward your dog anytime that he pays attention to you and looks for direction from you without being asked, especially in the presence of other distractions. For example, if your dog is hiking with you off-leash and he periodically runs back to you to "check in" without being called, then praise him and offer him a treat, before letting him run ahead again. If you and your dog come across another dog while out on a walk and your dog chooses to look at you for direction, rather than barking or pulling toward the dog, then praise your dog and offer him a treat.
Step
4
Follow house rules
Decide what is allowed and not allowed in your home, and in general, and then be careful to maintain those rules in all circumstances and locations, unless you have taught your dog a specific exception that you indicate to your dog by giving him a command. For example, if jumping on people is not allowed in your house, then do not let your dog jump on certain people while playing, unless you have taught your dog the 'up' command and have told him to jump right then using "Up". If your dog has not been told 'up', do not allow him to jump up, even if it is on the same person that usually plays with him. If your dog is not allowed on your couch, then do not let your dog to get onto your couch because only your son is sitting there. Be consistent, so that your dog will understand what is expected of him.
Step
5
Discipline
If your dog fully understands a command, is capable of doing the command, and you are consistently enforcing the command, but your dog simply chooses not to obey, then utilize fair consequences in order to make the chosen, inappropriate behavior less desirable. When utilizing discipline, the discipline should be something that will not do any true physical harm to your dog, will not lead to other bad behaviors or temperament problems, such as aggression, and will be directly linked to your dog's inappropriate behavior, and not delayed. For example, if your dog is barking for attention at the dinner table, and is choosing to ignore your "quiet" command, then remove your dog from the room, so that he looses all attention and opportunity to beg.
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The Working Method

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Step
1
Teach commands
To begin, teach your dog a few obedience commands, including 'heel', 'sit', 'down', 'drop' and any other commands that you wish to teach. Choose commands that are simple and will not annoy you with frequent use. For example, do not teach 'speak' for this.
Step
2
Work for petting
When your dog at least knows the 'heel', 'sit', 'down', and 'drop' commands, then whenever you wish to pet your dog, give him a command to do for you first. When he complies you can show him affection. Do not pet your dog if he initiates the petting, especially if he is nudging you, barking at you, whining, or doing anything else demanding.
Step
3
Work for food
Anytime that you give your dog any food, including his own kibble, have him do something for you, such as 'sit', and do not let him have the food until you have told him "OK".
Step
4
Work for toys
Whenever you play with your dog, play only games that do not involve a power struggle and can include structure. For instance, do not play Tug of War, but instead play Fetch, and when you play, have your dog 'sit' before you throw the ball, and 'drop' the ball when he returns to you. If your dog does not know how to play Fetch then start by teaching him.
Step
5
Work for walks
Anytime that you take your dog on a walk, require him to work for movement forward. To do this, teach him the 'heel' command, and only move forward if he is staying beside you in the 'heel' position and not pulling.
Step
6
Work for other things
Anytime that your dog desires to do anything, including come into your space, go outside, go meet another dog,, or anything else that he considers rewarding, have him do something for you first to earn your permission.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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