Training Your Collie (and most other dogs for that matter)
There are so many different styles and ways to train in the world that it can get a little confusing, especially for the novice trainer. But this is because there are so many different kinds of dogs and people in the world. What works for one person and their dog may not work for another. The same is true of trainers. Use your judgment and do what is best for you and your dog. Because collies are such sensitive dogs by nature, you will find that the average collie does not take well to harsh, heavy handed, overly corrective methods of training. They will essentially "shut down" when a trainer becomes to aggressive with them and it is not uncommon for a collie trained extensively with such methods to almost appear neurotic and on edge, nervous and unhappy that they can never do the right thing to please their person. They will try everything they know and in the process make their human more unhappy and usually (unfortunately) more corrective thus continuing to worsen an already poor relationship. Your collie wants to please you so use methods that encourage him to do so, not force him simply because he has to.
How Do We Train? The training method that I am offering to you is puppy and dog friendly because it is based on positive motivation and reward. Positive motivation and reward training is one of the gentlest, non-aggressive, non-forceful, most humane ways to train a dog. It is the method I was trained with and my mom's first choice with all of our clients. However, because she is knowledgeable in many different training methods she can give different suggestions if the method she asks everyone in class to try first doesn't work for that dog at all or just that one command. Each individual command should be introduced and worked on until your dog is proficient in the home first than you can begin to ask him or her to do the command outside.
What Do We Need? I recommend having a leash on your dog's collar so he can't just ignore you and walk away. Please try to work with your dog's regular ID collar first before assuming your collie needs anything else around his neck. And remember, positive motivation means training with fun, encouragement, lots of praise and heaps of patience. The reward part of your training will ALWAYS include your happy verbal praise every time, all the time. NO EXCEPTIONS. Because the breed, as a general rule, is so drawn to human companionship and so in need of acknowledgment, you, in time, will find your collie fairly shivers with delight at your every whispered request. Try to use regular tones of voice. There is no need to shout a command at your collie. The next three rewards can be chosen per your collie's personality. Physical praise, such as a pat on the neck or scratching the ears or chest, can be a very potent reward for a lot of collies that need a lot of contact from their human. A favorite toy is a great reward for those that love their toys more than anything else in the world. And finally, the initial favorite of most dogs, is the treat reward. The training program I will be outlining uses treats for many parts of shaping (or luring), catching and rewarding the actions you want. I suggest soft, small and smelly. Soft treats are better for training because they can be eaten quicker than biscuits. The sooner the dog is done eating, the sooner he's looking at you for the next one. The faster he's looking up for the next one, the sooner you can have him do the command again. The sooner he does the command again, the more practice he gets. The more practice he gets, the faster he learns. Your treats need to be barely big enough for a taste. Remember that to different size dogs that means different things. Great Danes may need a marble size treat while Chihuahuas seem to get barely a crumb. And smelly is for his attention when he's distracted. If there just happens to be a dog around just when you ask your hungry collie to sit outside for the second time in his life, he may forego checking out the other dog with better effort.
When And How Long Do We Train? Keep your training sessions short and sweet and no longer than 10 - 15 minutes at a time but have as many sessions as you can throughout the day so your collie quickly comes to understand that training and responding doesn't just happen after dinner time. He/she could be called upon at any time to do something. Watching TV and a commercial comes on? Great! Have your collie do a quick sit or two. Is he standing at the back door waiting to go out? Perfect! Ask him to do a down before you open that door. (And don't open it until he does his down!) Even if he didn't do particularly well during the practice, praise him when he tries and always end on a good note so he will look forward to the next session.
Have every thing together?
Now lets get training!
The lessons below should be taken as slowly as you find necessary for you and your dog. The average dog can usually handle a new lesson every week but go at your own pace. Don't forget to continue to practice the old commands even in a session in which you are teaching something new. Throwing in a command that he already knows gives you another opportunity to praise him even if everything else was terrible!
* Lessons 1-5 have been updated... Lesson 6 will be updated shortly! *
(NOTE: Being a male myself, I will refer to the dog in each lesson as "him" or "he" just because its easier for me and all of the commands will be written as for the left side where ever it is specified that the dog should be at the owner's side. Those that wish to use the right side for placement of their dog need simply switch the hands mentioned in the instructions. )
Disclaimer: While the lessons here have been used and proven effective with many types and kinds of dogs, this site can not be held responsible for any incidents occurring during the training of a dog using the methods described in this site. Readers make a choice with whether or not to use the suggestions contained herein at their own discretion and risk. If there is any question of safety with your dog then it is up to the owner to seek personal help either by the trainer, vet or canine behaviorist of their choice.
SAFETY FIRST, ALWAYS!