- simple obedience training -
page discusses several things to consider when it comes
to training your Mastiff. You are given explanations about
what obedience training and training in general really is
all about. After the theoretical subjects, some commands
and exercises are explained in detail. You can try these
out, and with some patience you should be able to teach
your Mastiff all of them!
Training the Mastiff
aren't well known for their good results in obedience classes.
Neither are agility or tracking typical areas for the breed.
It is important for the owner of the dog to be aware of
these facts. You normally don't expect the same results
from a mastiff as you do from a Border Collie. This
is not because the mastiff is stupid or less intelligent
than other breeds. It's more a matter of different
personalities. The most common "problem" is to
make the Mastiff do things fast enough, not because he's
unable to move fast, but because he's so relaxed! "Mastiff
tempo" is a common word among Mastiff owners. There
are, however, examples on that Mastiffs have been excellent
obedience dogs. A project by professor Stanley Coren about
dogs' intelligence, states that the mastiff is not among
the most clever breeds at all, but science and the real
life can sometimes appear as two different things. The analysis
talks about three different dimensions of intelligence,
and is actually quite interesting. Whether we should put
a lot of trust in this analysis or not, is a good question,
but you can read more about it by visiting this address:
important to remember that the kind of intelligence we're
talking about is not necessarily the qualities we'd like
to find in our dog. Some of the high-ranked breeds also
have a rather "strong will" of their own, which
makes them harder to work with. The mastiff has qualities
that many people miss in their dog. He is very patient,
calm and actually quite affectionate. If you're looking
for a dog that can be an obedience champion, you might consider
a different breed than the mastiff, but if you're basically
looking for a good friend and a family dog which also can
watch over your house, car and children, you've found the
perfect dog! And of course - you can teach the mastiff lots
and lots of things, yes, even all the things that any other
dog can do. He is in my opinion a very intelligent dog in
his own special way, and can learn commands and tricks that
will make you feel proud about him! I have taught my mastiff
the basic commands and tricks that "normal" dogs
do without any kind of difficulties. My experience is that
my mastiff was easier to work with than i.e. my previous
Doberman bitch. It is interesting to see that the Doberman
conquered fifth place on the intelligence-list. Regular
everyday skills and house rules are under normal circumstances
rather easy to teach the mastiff. He has a natural wish
to please his owner, and tries as good as he can to meet
his demands. If you help him understand, I can see no reason
why the two of you shouldn't succeed. This natural will
to serve man, is a very important quality to posses in all
kinds of learning.
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reason to train your dog is that you want him to behave
in a special manner. Just as important is that you want
to teach him how he should NOT behave. These are two kinds
of training every dog owner should take seriously. If you
do not have a certain form of control over your mastiff's
behavior, both you and the dog will feel bad. You can't
blame the dog for breaking a rule he's never heard of. If
he eats up your Christmas tree, you will probably be quite
mad and start yelling at him. He will understand that you're
angry at him, but probably not why! If you teach the dog
what the words "Do not touch" mean, you can tell
him that the Christmas tree is a "Do not touch"-thing
before he eats it instead of afterwards. Quite clever, ehh?
- we shouldn't train our dog just for our own benefits.
Any dog, and especially the mastiff, loves to have a task
or a mission to accomplish. He likes to feel that he's doing
something useful, and that we appreciate what he's doing.
Does this sound familiar? When you're at work or at school,
you really like it when people tell you how clever you are.
Besides you like the feeling you get when you accomplish
something you've tried real hard to work out. The mastiff
isn't that different from us at this point! Through meaningful
training you can give your dog the feeling of being important,
clever and appreciated in the family. This is very good
for the dog's self esteem. If your mastiff feels this way,
it is also more likely that he will be able to learn new
and more advanced tricks and commands. He will also be more
mentally stabile. Just like you want him to be.
type of training is what we call "problem-solving".
This is activities you do with the dog, where he must use
his brain and choose between different possible solutions.
"How can I solve this problem?" You can for instance
let him find a hidden object, move one thing to get to another,
or open a box with a tidbit in it. Find entertaining problem-solvers
for yourself. This is really fun and healthy for your mastiff!
He doesn't just need physical exercise. He also needs to
mentally activated. A dog is a fairly intelligent creature
with a brain capacity we should respect and work with.
last reason for training your mastiff is the one we often
seem to forget: Training is simply lots and lots of fun!
It's great for both you and the dog! A mastiff enjoying
himself while training with his master, can achieve incredible
things for a dog his size. Don't be to serious or "professional"
while training. This is actually meant to be fun! Laugh
and show a happy body language while learning him commands.
Make sure he connects the training with something he likes
to do. People who are still trying to force their dogs to
obey using physical power, just haven't got the point! This
is very basic in all forms of learning psychology. You can
make your mastiff obey you because he doesn't dare not to.
No problem. But then again, how much more great does it
make you and your dog feel if he obeys you simply because
he wants to? When you say "Down", he lays down
because he thinks of you as a trusted friend, a friend and
leader that he likes to please! This is worth thinking about
before you start training your mastiff. Remember that no
matter what happens, it is NEVER necessary to use physical
power, to beat or to yell at your dog. Even if you've found
excuses for this kind of behavior by talking about the "method
of the wolves", it is not to late to try it the gentle
way. You should be firm, but not violent or aggressive towards
the mastiff. The question comes down to this: What do you
want to be the foundation of your mastiffs obedience? Fear
or trust? Let's hope you choose "trust", for the
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with everything else in life, it is important to set goals
for the training of your mastiff. What do you want the dog
to do or not to do? It's a good thing to write down your
goals and hang them on the wall somewhere you can watch
them daily. This will help you fulfill your goals, and to
check whether you and your dog achieve what you're working
towards. Remember to part a goal into several part-goals.
If you want to teach the mastiff to get the mail (yes, he
can do it!), you must part this project into several different
exercises. It' s not enough to make the dog run and meet
the mailman. He should also grab the mail, and bring it
to you. He must not drop it on his way, neither must he
stop to do other things. In this example you might practice
the dog to do these different things separately, but in
the end you must put the different skills together to one
common task: Getting the mail from the mailman as you say
"Get the mail, Fido!". It can also be a good help
for the dog if you use a certain move with your hand or
body that he can relate to the event. Setting goals makes
the learning process more easy to follow up. It also gives
you a good feeling as you make a note and a date on your
list of goals that says "WE MADE IT!". Tell it
to yourself, your clever mastiff and everybody else that
might care to listen!
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Reward and punishment?
we talk about two kinds of rewards you can give your dog
when trying to teach him something. The first and most important
one is that we clearly make the dog understand that we appreciated
what he just did. The dog loves to succeed, and the feeling
he gets when the owner is pleased with him. This is the
best motivation a dog can have. Because of this, you shouldn't
tell your mastiff how great and clever he is all the time.
He doesn't need to hear how well he's doing for every move
he makes. Save these comments until the dog does something
as a result of a command you're giving. When he's learned
what the word "Sit" means, and he sits down when
you tell him to, you should reward him verbally. Don't tell
him he's a good boy simply because he sits down beside you
while you're reading the newspaper. If you use verbal rewarding
too much and in the wrong situations, the effect of this
kind of reward will not be half as good as it could be when
you're trying to learn the dog something new.
way of rewarding the dog is using food. Let's just call
this kind of food for tidbits. This can be effective, but
some obedience trainers strongly disagrees in "food
training". Some even say there is absolutely no reliabilty
in it. If you have something the dog find very tasty, he
will, however, do all he can to get the tidbit. Make sure
that your dog doesn't get to excited about the food, though.
He's supposed to concentrate on the training, not the reward
in your hand! Always remember that you should give a verbal
reward first, and then the food-reward. You don't want to
give the impression that you're rewarding him for eating
the tidbit! Don't give your mastiff a reason to expect a
tidbit every time he does an exercise right. Sometimes he
gets it, sometimes he doesn't. Nevertheless he should
always get the verbal reward when doing something right.
what kind of reward you're using, the most important thing
to remember is that the dog should obey your command even
if he suspects you don't have any tidbit! You don't carry
food in your pockets, so what are you supposed to do if
you all of a sudden need to make a dog stay or come to you?
If the obedience depends on your supply of tidbits, you
can have an unpleasant problem to deal with! Start the training
from the beginning if this is the case!
opposite of reward is punishment. A golden rule says that
you shall never use any kind of physical punishment while
training. Beating or yelling is totally anti-learning, and
is for those who don't know any better or that simply like
to dominate other beings. A teacher that teaches his pupils
with a whip in his hand, will never get as clever children
as the teacher that makes the classes interesting, fun and
challenging. Humans and dogs feel the same way. The best
way to show your dog that you are dissatisfied with
his behavior, is to tell him so with a firm "No!",
lead him back to his position, and give him no verbal comments
beyond this. The mastiff wants your attention in a positive
way. If he doesn't get that, he understands perfectly well
that he didn't do what you expected him to. When he finally
makes it, and receives lots of praise (and some tidbits?),
he definitely will try to make you happy again the next
time he gets the chance. Yelling and beating is never the
proper solution no matter what kind of teaching you're dealing
with. Reward or no reward is the only learning psychology
you need with a normal mastiff.
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start with a couple of tricks that are fun to make your
dog perform in front of your friends!
can you make your mastiff wave with one of his front legs
when you ask him to? This is a nice trick that will charm
most people. The basic idea is to make him lift up his leg,
just like he does when he's begging. This is a natural behavior
for any dog, and is easy enough to teach him. If you you're
not sure about this basic move (begging), you'll find
more about this further down the page. It's a little bit
trickier to make him do this while you're let's say 10 feet
away from him! He also should repeat the move several times,
not just once. The further away you are from the dog, the
more it looks like he's really waving at you. You can teach
your mastiff this trick by following this step by step procedure
(and - remember the reward-stuff we talked about earlier!):
Make the dog sit. Stand in front of him and make him "beg"
with a leg.
Take one step backwards, and make him beg again, using
your usual command for this ("Beg!").
Tell him to stay, and move 3-4 feet backwards. Say "Beg!"
and "Wave!" followed by one another.
Repeat this until the dog lifts his leg while you're at
this distance without you helping him lift it up.
Say less and less "Beg!", and more and more
"Wave!" until he knows what beg means.
When he understand that "Wave!" means almost
the same as "Beg!", you can go on.
Increase the distance to the dog gradually. If he gets
up, say "No!" and lead him back in position.
these steps patiently, and don't spend more than 2-3 minutes
at a time with this exercise. Fun things tends to be less
fun if you do them over and over and over again. Remember
to give verbal rewards when the dog makes a progress, and
do not give any type of feedback except a firm "No!"
when he does an obvious mistake. You're on your way to get
a waving mastiff!
is also a charming exercise. I have taught three dogs of
different breeds this trick, but my mastiff has made the
most convincing roll! The exercise depends on that the dog
knows what "Down!" means. Take a look further
down if he doesn't. Be aware of that some dogs can
feel very uncomfortable being forced roll over. Begin carefully,
and don't force him! Remember this is meant to be fun for
the mastiff, too!
Make the mastiff lie down. Hold a tidbit in your hand.
The first times you need to help him roll. Say "Roll
over!" repeatedly while rolling.
When he's made the roll, reward him. First verbally, then
with the tidbit.
Try again several times. Each time try to make the dog
overtake more and more of the move.
When he starts to get the point, you can use one hand
to help, the other to make a rolling movement.
(PS! Dogs understand "double-commands" (words
+ body language) better than single-commands.
After a while, don't repeat "Roll over!" as
many times as before. Let the dog think before repeating
If he still doesn't get the point, you can use one
hand to help him roll again, as a reminder.
If he really doesn't get the point at this stage, you
have to start from the beginning again, or wait a few
It's important that the dog doesn't get up. Say "No!",
and command him to lie down again.
work on this exercise for more than 2-3 minutes at a
time. Give rewards at any sign of progress. The dog's
motivation is of course dependent on your ability to
make this a fun event for your mastiff. If you're in
a good mood, and the dog notices, he will be more interested
and motivated. If he still seems to be engaged after
2-3 minutes there's no need to stop. When he learns
the basic idea in rolling over, all you have to
do is to make some adjustments. Don't be totally satisfied
until the trick can be exercised while you're standing
in front of your mastiff, commanding him to lay down,
and then to roll over. A even more great variant of
this trick, is to teach the dog to roll over from standing
position. He then has to understand that he first has
to lay down, and then roll over as a result of the one
command "Roll over!". Soon people can watch
the rolling giant, and have a good laugh!
for some more basic, but utterly useful exercises..
Many other familiar exercises are simply more advanced
versions of, or simply combinations of these. You will
need your dog to understand these commands in an every
day situation. Remember that it's not very clever to
teach a child to ride a bike before it can walk. The
mastiff also needs to have some basic skills before
he can move on to more advanced stuff.
teach your dog to respond to the "Sit!"-command
by saying the word, and at the same time pushing down
the dog's rump. If the mastiff is too strong (which
he is if he simply doesn't want to sit!), you can use
one arm to force him bend his knees (put your arm behind
his knees), and push down the rump with the other.When
he's almost sitting, start rewarding him verbally, so
that he understands that it's the moment he sits down
that is the correct reaction, not the fact that he is
sitting! Then give him a tidbit. Repeat until
the dog sits without your physical help. Tidbits are
very helpful here!
the same principles as with "Sit!". Use both
your hands, and drag the dog's forelegs forwards and
down. This way he has to lay down. Say "Down!"
repeatedly while doing this. It can be a good help to
start this exercise from a sitting position. That's
both easier and more comfortable for a dog the size
of a mastiff. When he's down you need to reward him.
Don't let him get up until you say he can. Repeat the
exercise, and use less and less physical help. You can
also use a certain move with your hand, that indicates
that the dog should lay down. Finally you should be
able to make him obey after only one command. Don't
let him get used to that he might wait until you've
given the command three or four times. This indicates
that he knows the first few times aren't so important,
but if you keep on saying it, well alright, then he
knows he has to obey after all...
the dog knows the commands "Sit!" and "Down!"
you can start teaching him the very useful "Stay!".
Start with telling your dog to sit. When he does, say
"Stay!", and take a couple of steps away from
him, while holding an open hand towards him. If he gets
up, say "No!", and lead him back in position.
Repeat "Stay!", and repeat your move. Stand
still a few seconds and go back to the dog. Do not give
any kind of reward until you're back by his side. Increase
the distance between you and your mastiff to develop
the usefulness of the exercise. Increase the time it
takes until you walk back to him.
is very important to know in everyday life. It can actually
save your dog's life! You must be able to stop him from
running out on a road, and to stop him in strange situations
where you meet other people or animals. The dog is supposed
to stand still and wait until you arrive and release
him from the command. Don't make yourself regret that
you never took the time to teach your mastiff the "Stay!"-command!
can combine this exercise with the "Stay!"-command.
As the dog is commanded to stay, and you're at a certain
distance from him, you command "Come!", firmly
but with a positive accent in your voice. If he doesn't
understand what you're getting at, and remains in the
stay position, just repeat "Come!" a couple
of times while making a movement that makes the dog
want to come to you. Tell him in a very convincing way
how clever he has been when he does what you want, and
repeat the exercise a couple of times. After a few days
you can develop this principle. To start with you might
find out that your Mastiff needs stronger stimula than
just words and body language! You could use a tidbit
to tempt him, but not every time. Sometimes he gets
the food, sometimes he doesn't. The more he understands
of what you want from him, the less tidbits are necessary.
You don't want to carry food in your pockets for the
rest of your life to be able to make your Mastiff come
to you. Use food just in the starting phase, and stop
using it gradually until it's not needed anymore.
your dog obey you when he's busy thinking of other things
as well! "Come!" is not as easy as the sit
/ come procedure, but is nevertheless very important.
Train with your mastiff under many different circumstances:
In a city environment, together with other people
and dogs, and when it's just the two of you. You will
need the "Come!"-command just about every
day during the dog's life! Your patience in the learning
process will bear fruits!
a mastiff pulls the leash while you walk him, you probably
won't be able to relax very much. He is so strong that
anyone would consider this as a problem. Therefore you
have to teach him to walk on your left side, head even
with your knee. Start teaching him this while he still
is a puppy. If he outwalks you or pulls the leash, simply
say "No!", and stop. Say "Heel!"
and wait. Don't give up until he's back in position.
Start walking again, pull back with a sharp jerk if
he lunges ahead while saying "No!", stop walking
and command "Heel!". In five minutes you probably
won't get very fare, but this is the way to prevent
a really tremendous future problem from occurring. You
simply HAVE TO teach your mastiff to heel.
is a fun agility-like exercise. Teaching the mastiff
to jump over an obstacle can be both fun and useful.
A heavy breed like this isn't very fond of jumping,
but he is fully capable of learning to do it on command.
The secret is to start with real low obstacles. A few
inches will be enough the first times. As long as the
dog is aware of that he's supposed to jump (walk?) over
whatever you put in front of him, you're on the right
track. If you reward him for doing so, he'll find it
worthwhile. Place the mastiff in front of the obstacle
and command "Jump!". Help him moving in the
right direction by dragging in the collar. Let him get
plenty of verbal rewards! This is fun, remember? Repeat
until he jumps/walks over by himself when you command
him to do so. Gradually increase the height of the obstacle.
important to be aware of the physical weaknesses of
the mastiff breed when it comes to this kind of training.
Do not teach a young mastiff to jump over high obstacles.
It is crucial that his muscles are warmed up, and that
he is in normal good physical shape, even if he is fully
grown. This is the heaviest breed in the world, a fact
that might lead to certain health-problems if the owner
doesn't bother to take it seriously.
the dog to shake your hand is not especially useful,
but is still a charming thing to do. Dogs do this movement
naturally to beg for things, and this makes it quite
easy for us to teach him doing it on command. Have a
tidbit in your hand. Tell your mastiff to sit. Say "Shake
hands!", and wait. Grab one of his forelegs, and
repeat "Shake hands!" while lifting the leg
up and down. Reward him. Don't let the dog get up. Say
"No!", "Sit!" and then "Shake
hands!" again. If there is no reaction, help him
lift the foreleg again, and repeat until he does it
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is not meant to be a full fledged obedience program.
Nevertheless it should give both the beginner and the
more experienced some thoughts about what training a
mastiff is all about. If you're planning on doing some
more advanced obedience-stuff with your mastiff, I suggest
you take contact with the local dog club about obedience
classes, agility and tracking. All these three activities
are recommended for the mastiff, but the agility part
will never be more than just for fun. Don't plan on
becoming the local obedience-master either. The social
life and the activities in them selves should be enough
motivation to join the club. If you're looking for a
dog club or an obedience class in the US, the American
Kennel Club might be able to tell you who to contact.
You can reach them at www.akc.org
The Norwegian Kennel Club can help you if you're living
in Scandinavia ( www.nkk.no
). Most countries have a national dog or kennel club
that keeps track of different dog activities.
Contact the club in your country to get the information
you're looking for.
luck with your Mastiff!
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