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Imagine taking your best buddy, your dog, on vacation with you. You check into the hotel and make your way to your room. You are getting all settled in when there is knock at the door. You tell your pup to 'stay' and answer the door and speak with the hotel staff member about room service. You close the door again and tell him "OK" and he happily hops up from his bed and comes over to you. The next day you take him out on the town. You tell him to 'heel' as you weave your way through the crowds on the busy street. You toss him a small ball for a while in a fenced-in, dog-friendly area in a hip part of town, then you tell him to 'come' when you decide that it's time to go. You find a local coffee shop, sit outside, and enjoy the view as you sip your espresso. You tell your pup "Down" to keep him out of other people's way and he obediently relaxes into the position and enjoys the view with you. Later that night you return home with your buddy and enjoy snuggles with your pup in your hotel room while you watch an old classic movie on TV.
Training makes it so much easier to truly enjoy your Italian Greyhound. When your pup is well trained you can bring him to more places with you, enjoy him more in daily life, and feel less stressed out or afraid that he will escape, destroy something, or cause a nuisance. Training makes life with your dog better for both of you in almost every area.
The amount of time that it will take to teach your Italian Greyhound a command will depend on which command you are teaching, how often you practice the training, and your pup's individual speed of learning. Generally, you can expect most commands to take around six to twelve weeks for your dog to truly learn. You can often work on more than one command at a time though to speed up the training. You can do this by having 30 to 45-minute training session each day and practicing each new command for about ten to fifteen minutes during each session. The difficulty of the command will also depend on which command you are teaching. Some commands, like 'sit', are very simple and easy, while other commands, like 'handstand', are considerably more difficult.
If you use the 'Create the Behavior' method, then be careful to be gentle when you place your pup into a position or apply any form of pressure in order to encourage her to move into the position on her own. The idea is to gently show your pup what to do, not to roughly force her to do it. Because many Italian Greyhounds are sensitive by nature, also be sure to keep the training fun, positive, and rewarding, especially if you are using this method because it depends less on rewards than the other two methods and it can be more intimidating since it involves touch.
If you are using the 'Lure the Behavior' method, then once your pup will do the command without the lure, be sure to remove the treats from her sight, so that your pup is depending on your communication and not a bribery to do the command. Then after she does the command you can reward her with a treat from your pocket, a treat pouch, or from your hand behind your back.
The 'Capture the Behavior' method works best for teaching your pup to do something that she naturally does on her own but that is hard to physically show her how to do or to lure her into doing. Such behaviors might include: yawning, sneezing, shaking her body, or trying to talk to you. This method can also be used for more common behaviors too, such as: lying down, sitting down, standing up, and going to a bed or a crate.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats that your pup loves, something to place them into, such as a small plastic bag in your pocket or a treat pouch, a calm location, and any props or tools that are required to teach the specific command that you are training. You will also need good timing, a positive attitude, and consistency. If you are using the 'Lure the Behavior' method, your dog will need to be very motivated by food. If you are using the 'Capture the Behavior' method, then you will need attentiveness and patience. If you are using the 'Create the Behavior' method, you will need gentleness and your pup will need to be comfortable with being touched and handled.
The Lure the Behavior Method
Gather training tools
To begin, choose which command you would like to teach first. Grab some small, tasty treats, something to put them into, such as a small zip-lock bag or treat pouch, and any props or tools that you will need to teach your pup the command that you chose. Go to a calm location with your pup.
Use the treat to lure
When you are all set up, call your dog over, tell her the command, and then lure her into the position or into doing the behavior that you are training with your treat. For example, if you are teaching her to go through a thin tunnel, then place a line of treats on the floor in the tunnel and in front of the tunnel, and tell her "Through", then praise her whenever she attempts to go through the tunnel to get the treats. Replace any treats that she eats to encourage her to keep trying, until she can go through it.
As soon as your pup does the behavior or moves into the position that you are training, then praise her and give her a treat. For example, if you are teaching your pup "Down", then as soon as she lies down while following your treat to the floor, praise her and give her the treat that she was following.
Repeat luring your pup into the position or into doing the behavior that you are training. Do this until you can tell her the command, and before you have lured her into the position or into doing the behavior, she does it on her own.
When your pup can do the behavior or move into the position on her own when you tell her the command, then practice that command until she can do it every time. When she can do it every time in a calm location, then practice the command in gradually harder and harder locations to help her master it. Such locations much include your front yard, your neighborhood, a calm park, a busy park, a pet store, an outdoor farmers market, and other dog-friendly public locations.
The Capture the Behavior Method
Watch your pup
To begin, choose what command you would like to teach your dog first, preferably something that she does often on her own. Grab lots of small treats that your dog loves and something to place them into, such as a small plastic bag or a treat pouch. Let her go about her normal daily routine but watch her carefully.
Catch her in the act
As soon as you see your dog begin to move into the position or do the behavior that you are training, tell her the command for that behavior, and then quickly go over to her while praising her. When you arrive, give her a treat.
Rinse and repeat
Watch your pup carefully over the next several weeks and keep your treats close by, preferably in a pocket or a treat pouch attached to yourself. Whenever you see her do the behavior that you are teaching her, then tell her the command, go over to her while praising her, and then give her a treat. Repeat this until you have caught her doing the behavior at least thirty times.
After you have caught your girl doing the behavior at least thirty times, then call her over to you in a calm location, tell her the command, and then wait ten seconds to see if she will do the behavior. Repeat this up to ten times, until she does the behavior.
Try, try again
If Fifi does the behavior, then praise her and give her five treats, one at time, the first time that she does it. If she does not do the behavior, then go back to catching her doing it on her own, until you have caught her doing it at least ten more times. After the ten times, then test again whether or not she knows it, by calling her over to you and giving her the command again. Repeat catching her doing the behavior and periodically testing her, until she will do the behavior when you call her over and give her the command.
Practice makes perfect
Once Fifi can do the behavior that you are teaching her when you tell her the command, then practice that command until she can do it consistently. Continue to catch her doing the behavior on her own in addition to practicing the command, until she can do it consistently when you give her the command.
Take it on the road
When your dog will respond to your command consistently, then practice the command in gradually harder locations. Begin with easy locations first, such as your neighborhood or yard, and as she improves, gradually move onto harder locations, such as parks and other public places. For added reliability, also practice giving this command to her from farther and farther away, and have her do the command for longer and longer periods of time.
The Create the Behavior Method
Choose a command
To begin, choose what command you would like to teach your dog first. Grab lots of small treats that she loves and something to place them into, such as a small Ziploc bag or a treat pouch. Go to a calm location with her and get started.
Once you are all set up and ready to begin with your pup, gently show her how to do the behavior or move into the position that you are teaching her. While you are showing her, tell her the command for that behavior. For example, if you are teaching your pup to 'shake', then gently lift up her front paw while she is in the sitting position, and at the same time tell her "Shake", then praise her and give her a treat while you are holding her paw still.
Repeat showing your pup the behavior while telling her the command, and then praising her and rewarding her when she does the behavior or moves into the position. Do this until she will move into the position or do the behavior on her own when you tell her the command, before you have shown her.
Proof the command
When your dog will move into the position or do the behavior that you are teaching her when you tell her the command, before you have shown her what to do, then practice that command until she can do it consistently. If she is struggling at any point, then tell her the command and after seven seconds, if she has not done the command yet, then give her a hint by showing her how to do it again. Repeat this until she will do the command when you tell her to again, during the seven seconds, before you have given her a hint. After that, go back to just telling her the command, unless she begins to struggle again.
When Fifi can consistently do the command in a calm location when you tell her to, without needing to be shown what do to anymore, then start to practice that command in gradually harder and harder locations to help her generalize it and to master it. Start with easy locations first, such as your front yard, and gradually build up to harder locations, like busy parks, as she improves. For even better reliability you can also practice the command farther and farther away from her, to help her learn how to do it from a distance.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 04/30/2018, edited: 01/08/2021