Teaching your dog commands not only makes life with your dog more enjoyable, but it can help keep your dog safe too.
While all training is an excellent way to bond with your dog, we’ve chosen the following dog commands to a) keep your dog away from danger and b) ensure that they become a welcome and included member of the family.
Why train your dog?
Apart from being a fun way to bond with your dog, teaching your dog basic good manners can ensure that both you and your dog are welcome at more places.
Well-behaved dogs are much more likely to be included in everyday activities including greeting visitors, going for on leash walks and having the freedom to run off leash.
Not only that, but training provides a mental workout for your dog, giving them much needed mental stimulation. Learning something new is both tiring and rewarding, and it offers an alternative to physical exercise if you want a happy and sleepy dog at the end of the day!
How dogs learn
Dogs learn in two main ways. The first is by the direct consequences of their actions and the second is by association.
So, what does this mean and how can we use it to help teach our dogs?
Commonly referred to as operant conditioning in dog training circles it simply means that a dog will repeat behaviors that they find rewarding.
So, if a dog sits and gets a treat, they are more likely to do it again. Training your dog using treats or toys, if they prefer is a quick and straightforward way to get your dog to perform on command.
Know as classical conditioning; dogs learn to predict certain activities based on what comes before. For example, picking up a leash predicts a walk. Opening a cupboard predicts food etc.
Both types of learning can create wanted and unwanted behaviors so it’s vital that you think about what you want to teach your dog.
If you don’t want your dog to beg, don’t give them food from your plate for example. Likewise, if you want your dog to be comfortable in the car make sure the first few times you take them out for a ride you go somewhere fun rather than the vet for instance.
Just like us when we learn something new, we get much more out of the experience if it’s fun and we stop before we get frustrated.
Learning any new skill is difficult, and it won’t serve either you or your dog if you lose patience. Nor will the training be successful if your dog gets too tired to focus. If you begin to get irritated or start to think your dog is stubborn, stop the training session and pick it up again another time.
It’s important that training is a positive experience for your dog. Using a reward, whether it’s food or a toy is by far the fastest and best way to get your dog excited about learning.
Keep training sessions short and adjust your training expectations to your dog. Dogs learn at different speeds, so it’s important not to judge your dog based on the capabilities of another dog.
To get the most out of your dog and ensure a positive experience for both of you, we’ve gathered some training tips that will help keep you on track.
- Be patient
- Reward often and generously when your dog performs well
- Keep the sessions It’s tiring to learn something new
- Be consistent. Don’t use variations on a theme. If you want your dog to sit, for example, don’t ask them to sit, sit down, etc. Likewise, if you want your dog to come when called decide on one word rather than a range of come, come here, here, get here, etc
- Don’t expect too much of your dog. Start with short sessions and build up. Pushing your dog too hard can result in a stressed and overtired
- Start training any new command in a quiet place with few distractions and build from there
- Play as you train. Many dogs find play highly rewarding so include it in your training sessions – it can be particularly useful in training a good recall.
- Never punish your dog
- Remember the three D’s of training: distance, duration, and distraction and slowly build on each
Dog Commands: 7 essential skills
We’ve chosen the following commands as we think they are the basis for a well-behaved dog that will be welcome anywhere.
However, the list of things that you can teach your dog is almost limitless. How about teaching your dog to fly? Although we don’t recommend you try this at home, it’s just a reminder never to underestimate your dog!
Teaching your dog to come when called is vital. Not only can it save your dog’s life, but it means they get to have fun off leash without becoming an irritant to other people and dogs.
Recall is the one dog command that you absolutely should reward heavily and often. There are so many exciting things that act as distractions for your dog that you need to have outstanding rewards to compete.
While learning this command can be challenging for your dog, it can equally be a challenge for you. NEVER punish your dog no matter how long it takes for your dog to come back to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re embarrassed, angry, frustrated or just plain freezing as soon as your dog is on its way back, celebrate their return.
Why am I stressing this? Your dog needs to understand that coming back to you is the best decision they’ve ever made. If you get this command right both you and your dog are in for a lifetime of off-leash adventures.
‘Leave it’ is another valuable skill to teach your dog. Most dogs are opportunistic eaters and don’t mind getting some extra calories out on the street.
Although in the majority of cases this doesn’t pose too much of an issue. Some foods are poisonous to dogs so teaching your dog a solid ‘leave it’ not only protects them from accidental poisoning, but it also saves you from a hefty vet bill.
Like the recall command, this skill needs some serious reinforcement. If you expect your dog to leave a half-eaten burger on the sidewalk, they need to know that they’re going to get something even better!
The ‘leave it’ command isn’t only good for food though. You can use it in other situations like walking your dog past other animals, people, open doors, etc.
This is another useful skill to teach your dog. Unlike ‘leave it’ that gives your dog the option to avoid an object before it gets picked up, the ‘drop it’ skill enables you to relieve your dog of something once it is in their mouth.
Not only can this skill prevent your dog from ingesting something they shouldn’t it’s also an invaluable aid to stop your dog from chewing your possessions.
If you teach it alongside ‘take it’ your dog can learn how to carry things for you without the items coming to harm.
Getting your dog to ‘wait’ is such a useful command, with so many benefits. Not only does it help teach your dog self-control https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/plus2sd/201604/neurobiology-self-control-in-dogs , but it also goes a long way to keep your dog safe.
The ‘wait’ cue is useful in multiple situations such as opening your front door, before crossing a busy road or before letting your dog out of your car.
Although the ‘wait’ cue is similar to the stay command, it’s not the same, so it’s worth teaching both.
Consider the ‘wait’ cue as more of a pause than a full stop. Usually, you will be with or next to your dog when you give the command, and as soon you give the okay your dog can move with you or perform their next action.
If you teach your dog a solid ‘stay,’ it’s another potential life-saving command. Having your dog stay in one spot until you release them, helps prevent many accidents.
What if you have a road traffic collision for example and your dog gets loose? A ‘stay’ can prevent them from running into traffic.
The ‘stay’ cue is also one of the most useful cues you can use when you take your dog out in public or into a friend’s house.
Not only does it prevent your dog from getting under people’s feet, but it allows you to keep an eye on dog and human interactions and prevents undue stress on your dog.
Think of the ‘stay’ cue as a full stop. A well taught ‘stay’ means that your dog won’t move until you release them.
Loose leash walking
Although many people will disagree, we think it’s much more important to teach your dog to walk nicely on lead rather than training them to a formal ’heel’ command.
Dogs that are easy to walk are much more likely to be taken out regularly. Not only is this important for their physical needs, but it also offers your dog mental stimulation, socialization and a further chance to bond with you.
An easy to walk dog is a joy. While there is effort involved in getting your dog to walk beside you, it’s worth it in the end.
Stop jumping up
Although I’m a huge dog-lover, I must admit this is one thing I hate. Especially if a dog jumps up at me with muddy paws or sharp nails.
Luckily my dog has never been a jumper which is good news as he’s thirty-five kilos. But many are, and it’s one behavior that’s bound you get you uninvited from social situations and stop your friends from coming over.
Teaching your dog not to jump needs consistency and determination. But it’s well worth the effort as a dog that greets visitors politely is likely to get more attention and future invites.
Dog commands conclusion
Teaching your dog these seven cues will ensure a well-mannered dog that you can take anywhere. Of course, dog commands such as sit, down and stand among others are incredibly useful too. But we’ve chosen skills that we think have the most significant impact on the quality of life for both you and your dog.
But don’t stop here. Your dog will enjoy learning something new no matter how old they are or how many dog commands they already know.