Collies are sensitive dogs who enjoy earning rewards, and most seem to possess a stronger-than-average desire to please their humans. Like all dogs, however, Collies aren’t born knowing what they’re expected to do. You have to help your Collie do what’s right by teaching him how. Start with these basic cues for good behavior: sit, down, come, stay and loose-leash walking.
Sit: Show your Collie a treat, then raise it slightly above his nose. As he stretches up to get the treat, his rear will drop into sitting position. Click and reward. If your dog jumps instead of sitting, lure slower and less high. If your dog steps back instead of sitting, start with his rear in a corner.
After a few times, try the luring motion without a treat, and see if your Collie follows it. If he does, click or praise, and reward. If not, lure a few more times, then try again. The luring motion will become the hand signal for sit.
Begin to introduce your Collie to the verbal cue “sit” while luring or signaling. If your dog sits, reward. Dogs often comprehend hand signals before they remember verbal cues, so if you say “sit” and your dog just stares, follow the word with the hand signal to teach him that they mean the same thing.
Down: Ask your Collie to sit, and show him a treat, then slowly lower the treat to the ground, allowing your dog to nibble on the way down. When your dog lies down, reward him with the treat. If he follows part of the way then stands, lower the treat more slowly. Click, and give him the treat at the lowest point to which your dog will go without standing. Lure a little farther each time. When your Collie lies down, give him several treats while praising him with a phrase such as “good down!”
After successfully luring down several times, conceal the treat by pinching it between your thumb and the side of your forefinger. Straighten your other fingers so your hand is open and flat. Lower your hand. When your dog follows it down, reward him with the hidden treat. After several repetitions, try the hand signal without a treat. Click, and give your Collie a treat when he lies down.
Come: Pick a time when your dog is already coming toward you, and say, “Come!” Playfully back away so he hurries to catch you. Click as he starts to approach, and give him a treat when he reaches you. Do this 10 times a day at odd intervals. The hand signal for come is a beckoning gesture with one hand. Note: Never call your Collie to do things he dislikes; that punishes him for coming.
Stay: Have your Collie sit or lie down while you feed him 10 treats in quick succession, one after another. At first, feed him quickly, then gradually delay longer between treats. When your dog can wait five seconds, introduce the voice and hand signals for stay.
Hold your palm up in a traffic-stop gesture. As you signal, say “stay” in a calm voice. Show the hand for about one second, then take it away. Pause a moment, then give your Collie a treat. Gradually wait longer between the signal and reward. When the delay reaches 10 seconds, gradually add distance and distractions.
Loose-leash walking: Say “let’s go,” and start walking. If your Collie races ahead, stop when the leash goes taut. Stand still until the pulling stops, then proceed forward. If the pulling continues for more than three seconds, slowly back up. When your dog notices he’s losing ground, he’ll turn and look at you, which will cause the leash to slacken. Click, praise, then walk forward again.
Polite leash walking takes repetition. Your Collie eventually will understand that pulling activates your brakes, not your accelerator. Use the voice cue “walk” or “let’s go.” Save the word “heel” for the more precise left-side walking, which is used during obedience competitions.
Excerpt from the Popular Dogs Series magabook Collies with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Collies here.