Tips for dog training

Hand feeding, a way to improve the contact keeping by the dog

The use of so-called hand feeding is a high guarantee for an improved human-dog relationship. For a sustainable success, however, it must be carried out in a strategically correct and targeted manner.

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  • No regular feeding, but only sporadic feeding.
  • The food must be carried on the body of the biped
  • Feeding according to the slot machine principle. This allows the dog a wide range of “winning possibilities” (feeding) from absenteeism to small winnings to the jackpot. Depending on how obedient the dog was, how quickly he carried out orders or how hard he tried to keep contact.
  • Mainly out-of-home relocation of feeding and thus a shift from a low stimulus environment (living area or garden) to stimulus-rich areas such as woods and fields on a drag line or without a leash
  • No food without a performance by the dog (coming on whistle or call, apport, leashing, contact by the dog etc.)
  • However, even with this type of dressing, sustainability can only be achieved through consistent, permanent application.

The most important core element of hand-feeding is the obligatory discontinuation of regular feeding. Regular feeding is a hindrance to success, because the dog is trained to have expectations at fixed feeding times. This means that the dog develops a feeling for the time of feeding and often demands the food by whimpering and running to the bowl. But not the dog should release us, but we the dog!

One should therefore spread the dog’s expectations throughout the day in order to achieve a fundamentally higher level of attention from the dog to humans, especially in situations of high irritation (weather, game). For this reason, food should be given at different times, in different places, in variable quantities and mainly outside. In this way we create increased expectation and dependence in the dog. The dog learns that it makes sense to keep contact and follow orders, because this becomes a “survival strategy” for him.

Hand feeding creates dependency and this is the basis for an approach that must start from the dog. In doing so, the person should use his chance for more attractiveness, sympathy and positive charisma towards the dog, i.e. not only feed the dog, but also show emotional joy towards the dog.

The food should be worn concealed on the body and before the food is given, special attention should be paid to eye contact by the dog. A good possibility is to hold the food in the hand until the dog turns its gaze away from the food and directs it to the person. This behaviour should be confirmed with a friendly “yeah” and then the dog should be fed. It is also possible to place the food in front of the dog at a distance and then, just as with hand feeding, after the dog has made eye contact with the food. In order to create and maintain a feeling of hunger in the dog, the daily ration of the food should be reduced to a third, because less food keeps the dog’s needs high as the body does not switch to energy saving mode.

The slot machine principle involves the unpredictability of the food portions. This means that missing profits increase expectations. In the beginning, you always confirm the dog with food, but as your dog becomes more confident in his learning, you should switch from regular to irregular confirmation with food. The emotional confirmation (joy and enthusiasm over sounds and physical contact) must always be felt by the dog, so that emotional praise replaces food praise later.

By shifting the feeding outside, we have the opportunity to be an antipole to the stimuli that the dog otherwise succumbs to.

If he sniffs e.g. intensively at a spot, he will stop this behaviour in expectation of food at the first whistle and come. To achieve such a result, one has to work in small steps. In the beginning, you reward every eye contact, even accidental, with short, physical and phonetic praise to increase the dog’s attention. If the dog keeps contact beyond that, you reinforce and reward this behaviour with a food gift. However, if the dog breaks off contact after a short praise, it will not receive any food. It is important that the dog always seeks contact with humans and moves towards them when praised! The dog must invest, it should always be a personal initiative of the dog to seek contact. It makes no educational sense to praise the dog with tempting sound signs and offering food. Then the dog is merely reactive and does not show the desired social initiative. The dog should want to establish and maintain contact! With increasing improvement of contact and obedience, the amount of food given should become less and less. The period of time between a gaze-oriented, social communication and the confirmation of the feed is getting longer and longer. Thus the social communication, which is important and desired for the future, is put in the foreground. The dog will bind itself more closely to its human, even when distracting external stimuli are present. By hand-feeding the human being succumbs to a basic attractiveness in the dog, which is essential for survival.

Hand-feeding cannot be successful as a methodical jerking action or in short-term intervals. The aim of this method is to increase the social sympathy and the attractiveness of the human for the dog. In the beginning, success is usually quick, but it is important to know that in the beginning the dog’s focus is very much on the food. From this dependence on food, the social attractiveness of humans for the dog must first be developed. This process takes longer, so that with a too fast change to the domestic, normal feeding, the old, unwanted behaviour will return. Actually, there is nothing to be said against permanently replacing half of the feeding with hand-feeding.

Versatile aid Drag line

The following points can be worked out by using a towing line:

  • Call back
  • Increasing the claim to leadership
  • Distance control
  • Behaviour Cancellation
  • Focus diversion to the guide
  • Domestic control
  • Amplification of desired behavior

Recall training

The more the dog is outwardly oriented, the less he cares about the interests of the person “accompanying him”. Only one thing can induce the dog to turn back under these foresights: the reliable recall.

A recall built up exclusively by motivation is never reliable. A recall based on motivation is only successful if the external stimuli do not appear to be more important for the dog than running back to the handler. To enforce an obligatory and therefore reliable recall, the towing line in combination with hand feeding is a proven tool.

In a low-stimulus environment, the first exercise unit is carried out with a recall at short distance (3m). If the dog does not react immediately to the recall, for example because it has sniffed itself, the handler immediately gives a leash impulse. As soon as the dog shows a reaction such as looking around, a new recall is made. If the dog responds, it is praised and fed. The leash impulse should be an amplification of the sound signal. If the dog resists the recall after the impulse is given, the magic words consistency and continuity, which have proven themselves in dog training, come into their own. This means that the recall with impulse is carried out as long as the command is obeyed, but without becoming loud or aggressive. The perseverance of the leader is crucial for success, not effervescent emotions. The distance is increased slowly and only with increasing reliability. The towing line should never be neglected again after initially quick successes, because: 1 year towing line = 10 years of freedom

  • with every free run the dog is on the towing line
  • short training sessions are given with every walk
  • in case of sustainable success the towing line is not removed but shortened more and more
  • the recall must also be carried out in situations with little irritation, so that the dog does not learn that exciting situations arise, especially when recalling.
  • The towing line is not permanently held in the hand, only for enforcement during the recall. It is also possible to step on the leash, this also gives a leash impulse.

Improvement of handling and distance control

Apart from the possibilities of recall training, working with the towing line increases the general claim to leadership and distance control over the dog. The “anonymous” work with the leash impulse is of particular importance. With the anonymous impulse, the dog is only called back after the impulse has been given, when he looks around in irritation. Many dogs have been conditioned not to come back when one is here or does not come back because this command has not been consistently enforced and secured.

First of all, a new command for the recall should be introduced, e.g. “come back” after an anonymous leash impulse. In this training, the dog should learn to direct its attention to its owner in a self-dynamic way in case of an external stimulus. To do this, the handler must foresee or prepare a distracting situation for the dog. There is a sudden stop or an unforeseen change of direction and this always happens when the dog is offered a distracting ride. Due to the sudden irritation, the dog will orientate itself more often and more intensively towards the handler in order to avoid unpleasant signals. Every contact shown by the dog should of course be answered positively. Thus it comes in the course of the training to the fact that the dog looks around with a distraction first of all after its leader, so that this can call its dog then under praise. A dog trained on recall first of all deals with the distraction. A dog trained with anonymous riding has learned to turn first to its handler in case of distractions, because he combines distracting stimuli with inconvenience by specific exercises. He has learnt that he can avoid them if he turns immediately to his owner, because then praise and confirmation follows. A combination of recall and anonymous impulse makes sense.

Aborting behaviour by means of a towing line

The towing line can also effectively strengthen an unstable sound signal to stop the behaviour. Just like the recall, a line impulse is given to enforce the behavior termination. If the behaviour is predictable for the guide, the anonymous impulse should be given. In this way, the dog learns that he can avoid an unpleasant correction by first turning to his owner when he is tempted by external stimuli and thus being praised.

In the house, the short towing line can be a good corrective aid to prevent the dog from jumping on, running to the door or bringing objects or food to safety. The dog does not need to be touched directly when using the towing line for correction. The correction is made with the leash.

However, the drag line is not only a corrective but also a motivating aid. In this case it is used “braking”. This means that by braking gently, the dog’s path, e.g. during sweat work, should be made more difficult, but by no means prevented. The muscular energy to be expended by the dog runs parallel to the mental and instinctive energy. Success is always more effective and lasting than a simple one. This can be seen in the negative during the daily walk, when the dog hangs on the leash, pulls the “handler” behind him and is not corrected by him. The solution is to stop here, bring the dog into the seat and after eye contact by the dog with a clear body language, go off again. The dog must not be successful with his leash pull. He is motivated even more to pull by the constant pulling and the success associated with it. Defending encourages desire!

Rest exercise

  • Dog is leashed
  • Line is on the ground
  • Foot is on the line
  • Leash as a passive signal on the ground for calm.
  • Line is on the ground and the foot is on the line.
  • Important: If the dog makes a loud noise or pulls on the leash; do not ignore the dog; do not touch or talk to the dog.
  • Aim of the exercise: To encourage the dog to yield and rest

If this exercise is not possible with a nervous dog, the dog is brought out of the tension into the seat by the leash signal (pulling the leash vertically upwards). When the dog is sitting, the leash must immediately sag down loosely.

The dog should make the learning experience that a loose leash is correct and a taut leash is wrong.

Prevent jumping off

Some dogs try to evade the lead impulse to sit, they jump up or stand on their hind legs. In such cases a second leash is helpful. This is attached to the neck and lies on the ground. Before the dog tries to avoid the impulse to sit up, the leash is fixed to the ground with one foot. If the dog is too strong, one can also use a ground anchor to fix the leash.

sitting exercise with body and line signal

Hold the food in your hand, lead it upwards over the muzzle, the dog follows the hand with eyes and nose and gets into the sitting position. There is an immediate reward (when all runs are on the ground), if the dog ignores the command “sit”, pull the leash evenly upwards vertically; do not jerk! The person must be completely calm and emotionless towards the dog. The tension and the pull on the leash become uncomfortable for the dog, it avoids the pull in which it sits. At this moment the handler must let the leash hang loosely. The dog makes the experience that by his behaviour (sitting) he himself has caused the unpleasant pull on the leash to end. The dog learns that its yieldingness results in that of the handler; with a reward, this experience can be positively reinforced.

Place or discard

At the beginning the dog is motivated with a reward. As in the sitting exercise, the handler holds the food in his hand. The hand is now guided towards the ground. If the dog follows the hand and at the moment when he lies down on the ground, the command “lay down” or “place” is given. Now the reward is placed on the ground in front of the dog. The command “lay down” always occurs in connection with the body signal (flat hand towards the ground). If the dog has understood the command, but refuses to carry it out, it is brought over the leash into the lying position. This is done by the handler fixing the leash close to the dog’s head with his foot on the ground and then pulling the leash vertically upwards. This makes the pressure towards the ground so uncomfortable for the dog in the neck area that he gives way and lies down. As soon as the dog lies down, the leash is loosened and the dog is praised and rewarded.

When the dog is pulled over the leash to yield, the handler does not need to touch the dog directly when the dog is misbehaving. Thus the dog does not make any negative experiences about physical contact, but is trained anonymously, over the leash.

Stop and go to stop pulling on the leash

With the sitting exercise you have the possibility to stop the dog regularly and consistently when he pulls. As soon as the leash begins to tighten, the dog is brought into the seat and, after eye contact, is asked to follow with a clear gesture. Initially, the dog may receive a seat signal every few meters to bring him out of the leash tension. The aim of the exercise is to get the dog out of the tension again and again, because pressure creates counter-pressure. Under no circumstances should the dog have more success with the leash tension. A further effective means is the change of direction. If the dog overtakes you, you change into the opposite direction. At the beginning the dog receives a reward for an independently executed seat. You can also reward the dog for eye contact in the beginning.

Approaching – Leashing

These exercises are to be secured with the field leash at the beginning, so that the dog can be influenced at any time. Place the dog in a sitting position at a short distance in the staying position; remove with the staying gesture backwards, i.e. with eye contact to the dog. Crouch down and with arms outstretched call the dog in a friendly manner or whistle a double whistle when the dog is close to the handler, move one arm vertically upwards (body signal for sitting) and let the dog sit.


At the beginning you should practice the “Stay until I come for you”.

The dog is brought into the seat or put down on an object with its neck and leash attached. With a blocking gesture (arm stretched downwards with open, blocking hand in the direction of the dog) the handler moves backwards away from the dog. If the dog remains, the handler returns and rewards the dog. If he does not stay, he is returned to the object without eye contact on the leash and the exercise begins again.

Stay until I call you

The dog sits or lies without a leash and is retrieved. Outside you should secure the dog on the field leash at the beginning, so that you can fetch him in any case.

Exercise: Before the daily feeding, the handler sets up the full bowl at some distance from the dog and walks between the dog and the bowl with a blocking gesture. The dog has to wait until he is sent to the bowl after eye contact with the handler by a “forward”.

Remain it follows a task

The dog sits or lies on the ground next to the leash; a task follows e.g. retrieve

Exercise: The dog sits, a retriever is laid out and the dog is sent to retrieve after eye contact. The leash symbolises the point to which the dog should return.

Stay until I pick you up

The dog sits or lies next to the leash and an object of the handler, e.g. jacket or rucksack. From this position the dog is always picked up by the handler.

Exercise: The dog must not leave the object on its own. The handler moves away from the dog and always returns there to pick up the dog. The handler initially moves backwards and away from the dog in sight of the dog, later out of sight of the dog. A further increase is the distraction of the dog by humans or dogs while waiting.

All leading-exercises should be practiced at different places. If the exercises with little distraction are well executed by the dog, one should choose a location with a little more distraction.

The way to the apport

If one has not taught the dog to joyfully pick up and carry from puppy legs, one often cannot avoid a “forced report”.

Important: The guide must be very calm and unemotional during the exercises! Under no circumstances should you work under time pressure. Between the retrieval exercises, the dog should be loosened up by loosening up exercises and short play or tobe units. It is important to have a positive end for the dog with a task that he performs well and gladly! It is advisable to do several short exercise units (5-10 minutes in the morning and evening) as a single long exercise unit,

Take and hold

The apport is started by opening the catch for the dog with the command “apport” and placing the retriever inside. The muzzle of the dog is opened by reaching over the muzzle with the left hand and opening it by increased pressure of the fingers on the lips. Once the dog has opened the muzzle, the retriever is placed in the muzzle with the command “apport” with the right hand. It is extremely important to make sure that the dog’s left hand is not trapped between the retriever and the teeth! Now the right hand should slide under the dog’s lower jaw, the left hand presses from above, so that he has to tolerate the retriever in the muzzle for a short time. This is done with the command “hold tight”. In the beginning most dogs defend themselves violently against the hand and the apportel in the muzzle. Therefore, the duration of the holding of the apportel must be short and be done with much praise. Over time, the dog will tolerate the apportel in the muzzle for longer and longer.

In the end, the dog should independently reach for the apportel at the command “apport” and hold it until the command “off” is given.

The exercises for holding and later carrying the apportel can be very well integrated into daily walks!

Pick up and carry

These exercises are to be secured at the beginning with the field leash, so that the dog can be influenced at any time. When the dog grabs the retriever with the command “apport”, the retriever is held at a greater and greater distance from the dog and closer and closer to the ground. At the end, the apportel is about 1 m in front of the dog, the handler stands behind the apportel, looking towards the dog. The dog is on a leash. With the command “apport” the handler moves backwards so that the dog receives a leash impulse in the direction of the apportel. The dog should thus learn to pick up quickly. When the dog has picked up the apportel, the handler takes a step towards his dog and brings him into the sitting position. The handler must not tolerate the dog dropping the apportel. Carrying is practised in conjunction with leash handling. In order to strengthen the carrying and to promote a quick pick-up, the apport should be practiced at the beginning on the field line and later with the dog running free on the return track. First of all, drop a retriever line visible to the dog and walk a little further. Then you send the dog to the apport. Later the dog must not see the dropping and is sent to the apport with increasing distances. An old purse, a glove, the leash or other objects can be used as a retrieval object. When the dog has picked up the object, the handler will move away in the opposite direction, so the dog will hurry to follow and bring it as quickly as possible.

Trill to the Down

With the whistle the dog should immediately move into the lying position. This command must result in an abrupt termination of behaviour! In addition, the sound command “halt or down” can be called. The body signal is the arm raised vertically above the head with the flat hand upwards.

Exercises: The trill is always given with the command to halt or down. When the dog lies down on the trill from the standing or sitting position, one can start to practice the trill from the movement. The dog runs on the leash “by foot” next to the handler. The leash must sag. Now the trill follows. At the same moment the handler steps on the leash, so that the dog must go down suddenly. This exercise takes place until the dog lies down on its own when the trill sounds. Then the dog is put down opposite the handler at a distance of about 15m. The dog is at the field leash. In the middle between handler and dog is a ground anchor, by which the field line is fixed. The dog is retrieved and brought to a halt halfway by means of the whistle. If the dog does not react, the handler now has the possibility to stop the dog with the field line. If a helper is available, he can also stand behind the dog and hold the field line. Then it is the task of the helper to stop the dog as soon as the trill sounds. If the dog obeys the whistle, it is very important to give this command even if there is no reason to do so. The dog should not learn that it is always only “in an emergency” to be trilled down. This would quickly result in the dog first of all groaning around before laying down.

Training on the water

The same applies to water work; starting early is half the battle. As soon as the water temperatures allow it, the puppy should get to know this element. Even if it only serves as a cooling-down for him at the beginning or he gets his food in it if he is very averse to it. Later his prey instinct will make him go into the water. Another possibility is to go into the water with the puppy himself or to send an old dog trusted by the puppy into the water with him.

Also the stimulation deficiency is a good tool, especially for dogs that have problems with water in their youth. One can take away the shyness of the water from the dog by the prey instinct. If the dog then preys in the water via the stimulus fishing rod, he will have a positive experience with the water.

Apport from the water

Important for the apport from the water is the reliable apport on land. Only then can you start working in the water.

In the first step the dog must accept the water.
With the command “search ahead” he is sent by the handler
As soon as he has accepted the water, an apportel is thrown over the dog, in front of him into the water.
The dog must move away from the handler when the retriever is thrown so that it links the swimming out with making prey. In the course of the training, one should wait longer and longer until the apportel is thrown or work with an assistant who hides on the other bank and throws the apportel from there. When the dog picks up the retriever in the water, the handler must give the command for the apport.

  • When the dog has gripped the apportel, the handler should clap his hands encouragingly and praise the dog.
  • Initially the dog does not have to sit down to give the apport. It is more important to ensure that the dog keeps the apport in the catch and does not shake until after the apport has been handed out.
  • In the course of the training, the dog learns with the command “hold tight and sit” that it must not shake before it has spent. If the dog has this obedience, one should let him fetch over more and more distances with dripping wet fur.
  • Also the holding must take longer with time.