10-Minute Obedience: How to Effectively Train Your Dog in 10 Minutes a Day [Kindle Edition]


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Amy Dahl is a well-respected, highly experienced retriever trainer, who writes clearly, and treats readers as intelligent adults. 10-Minute Obedience is easy to read and use as a guide to training, partly because it has a strong structure. There are four parts, on puppies, obedience, manners and tackling behaviour problems. This is a very practical ‘how to’ book. There are explanations as to why some solutions are offered rather than others, but there’s no overload of theory or ‘philosophy’. Dahl also looks at training from the dog’s point of view, which helps us understand how to communicate better with our dogs.

‘10-Minute Obedience’ takes a reward-based, ‘hands-on’ approach to obedience training. A ‘hands-on’ approach has both advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is that ‘hands on’ methods can be part of a wider programme to teach your dog to accept being handled. However, before you try ‘hands-on training’, you do need to be able to handle dogs in ways that relax them, which means being able to read canine body language, so that you can tell whether your dog is relaxed, or stressed.  It takes time to develop these skills.

Teaching your dog to accept, and even enjoy being touched is important whether or not you use hands-on methods. It makes it easier to check your dog for ticks and other problems, and makes your dog safer for vets, groomers, and other people who need to touch your dog. Helen Zulch and Daniel Mills’ ‘Life Skills for Puppies’ (1) devotes a whole chapter to teaching a pup to enjoy touch. If you haven’t worked on this already with your dog, it’s essential to do so before using a ‘hands on’ training method. You can learn faster with the help of an experienced trainer who can give you feedback on what your body language is telling your dog, and point out messages that your dog is sending you that you may have missed.

There’s a lot of emphasis on using a longe line for the initial stages of formal training in 10-Minute Obedience’. A great advantage of longe-line training is that it makes you very aware of what you’re communicating to the dog, because you have to focus on what you’re saying and on your body language.  It’s also useful because the dog is reminded that you exist, and has no opportunity to develop bad habits, like chasing rabbits rather than coming when called! 

Obviously, if you want off-leash reliability, you need to practice recalls off-leash as well. Dahl recommends doing this right from the start with young pups in a safe space, before they start more formal training with a longe line. The longe line training provides a solid foundation on which to build more advanced off-leash work in a safe space, with off-leash work in the open as the ultimate goal.

One minor grumble, the recommended equipment is described very precisely, and I found it difficult to buy everything by mail order. However, it’s quite possible to improvise, for example using a long line rather than the recommended cotton webbing longe line.

 I tried the methods in the book on two adolescent sheepdogs, and found that they didn’t always behave as expected. One dog, for example, tended to lie down rather than sit, and it was easier to get him into a sit with a kibble lure, rather than moulding him. The other sat beautifully right from the start, with just a hand signal. Obviously, training is much easier if you start with a pup, because adolescents have already developed habits that can be difficult to change.  This book may also be more geared to retrievers than to sheepdogs, which tend to be more biddable than retrievers, but also tend to have their own little quirks.  I still found the book very useful, adapting it to each dog, rather than religiously following the text.

Formal obedience training is extremely useful. A timely ‘sit’ can help dogs stay out of trouble, and a solid ‘stay’ can be a life-saver. There are other books which give a broader view of foundation training. Leslie McDevitt’s  ‘Control Unleashed: The Puppy Program’ (2), for example, focuses on ‘paying attention’, including arousal regulation, an area dealt with in less depth in Dahl’s book. McDevitt focuses more on strengthening the relationship between dog and handler, as a basis for agility or obedience work. The strength of Dahl’s book is that it very clearly sets out a modern approach to hands-on obedience training, so the two books can complement one another nicely.

Review by Alison Lever 2015


1) Zulch, Helen and Daniel Mills, B. (2012) Life Skills for Puppies.  Hubble and Hattie, Dorset

2) McDevitt, Leslie (2015) Control Unleashed: The Puppy Program. Clean Rub Publications, South Hadley MA