Perhaps you’ve adopted a new dog or you’ve decided that your beloved canine companion could use some additional training. Either way, it’s always a good idea to revisit the basics of dog training to build a foundation upon which other commands can be taught.
Why Is It Important To Train Your Dog?
It doesn’t matter if you have a tiny Chihuahua or a massive Great Dane, every dog should be trained to understand and obey basic commands.
There are many reasons why every dog owner needs to train their dog.
Training helps to build the bond between dog and owner. This can help you, the owner, to understand your dog and their unique needs. It can also help your dog learn to communicate with you better.
Training makes the world a safer place for both humans and dogs. For example, an untrained dog may not respond to an owner calling “Come!” if they are loose. If the dog tries to cross a busy road, they could be hit by a car.
Although many dogs do not mean to hurt the humans they interact with, dogs without manners can unintentionally cause great harm. In many cases, elderly men and women report breaking a bone because they fell when a large dog jumped on them or tripped them. It’s understood that the dog didn’t mean to hurt them, however, with proper training, a situation similar to this one can be avoided.
Being able to expose dogs to social situations that involve other people and animals can help to build their confidence and stimulate their minds. It can also help them to learn how to behave in certain social situations.
It may even mean that they will be welcome in friends and loved one’s homes if you go on vacation!
Training is mentally stimulating for a dog and if the training is reward-based, it can be a very positive experience. It can also help to prevent boredom in your dog which in turn may prevent unwanted behaviors.
The Basic Commands To Teach Your Dog
The following are the basic commands that every dog should know:
Also known as a recall, every owner dreams of a dog that comes each time it’s called. But how do you teach this command that can literally be a lifesaver?
Come should be the first command that’s taught to any dog. Typically, it’s best to begin teaching this command inside, where there are few distractions. The first thing that should be noted is that you should be consistent with the word you choose (ex. Come or Here). Avoid using the dog’s name – their name should not be the command word.
To start teaching this command, do the following:
1. Begin in a quiet room without distractions.
2. Choose a location to stand or sit in.
3. Hold up a training treat and ask your dog to come in an excited and happy voice. Do not move from your chosen spot.
4. If your dog comes all the way to you, reward them generously with the treat! While rewarding, verbally praise and pet them – let them know they’ve done a great job!
5. If they fail to come the first time, try again! Feel free to pat your leg and become excited, just do your best to not move towards them. It’s important that they learn to come all the way to you.
Once you feel your dog has mastered the command in the initial room, begin to test them throughout the house. Call them when they’re in a different room and can’t see you. Repeat the process of rewarding them each time they successfully come to you.
After your dog has a firm understanding of how to come while inside, it’s time to go outside! If you have a fenced-in yard to practice in, great! If not, consider purchasing an extra-long lead that can be tethered to a post or stair rail. Horse leads are also a good option.
Don’t be surprised if your dog seems to completely forget the command entirely once you go outside. The world can be a very distracting place for your dog! Patience and consistency are key. Once you’re comfortable issuing the command in your own yard, you might want to practice in other outdoor areas, provided you can contain your pet safely.
You may never have the need to practice the command while off-leash and that’s OK.
Nose up and butt down! Dogs are very comfortable sitting but how do you teach them how to do it on command? Here’s how:
1. Grab your dog’s favorite treat and get their attention.
2. Hold the treat above their nose and continue to move it back (towards the back of their head) so their face has to look up in order to follow the treat. This means the only way they can get the treat is to either sit or jump.
3. If your dog jumps, take the treat away and gently discourage them from jumping.
4. Repeat the sit command. Move the treat once again just above and behind their nose.
5. If they sit, praise them wildly and reward them!
Just like with the come command, it’s important to repeat this commend in many locations so your dog will sit reliably when asked in any situation.
Down is simply an extension of sit (ha, as if dog training is easy)! Once your dog understands sit you can move forward with down.
1. Place your dog in the sit position.
2. Hold a treat in front of their nose. Issue the down command.
3. Move the treat down to the floor. Encourage them to follow with their front legs instead of standing up.
4. If they stand, do not give them a reward. Ask them to sit and try again.
5. If they lay down, reward them!
Stay can be one of the most difficult commands to teach a dog simply because most dogs don’t like to stay put! It’s best to start in a place where your dog can lie down comfortably to make the experience as positive as possible.
Start with very small increments of time – just a few seconds.
1. Ask your dog to lie down.
2. Tell them to stay.
3. After a few moments, reward them!
4. Slowly increase the number of seconds you require them to stay still. Then begin to add distance between you and your dog by asking them to stay and moving away from them. If they successfully stay, walk back and reward them!
The ultimate goal is to have your dog stay in the place you put them even if they can’t see you.
When the heel command is issued, your dog is supposed to walk calmly beside you without pulling on the leash (or off-leash). Here are the steps to follow when teaching your dog to heel:
1. Choose a side – you’ll want your dog to heel on either your right or left side.
2. Grab your pup’s favorite treat and show it to them. Hold the treat in the hand that’s on the same side that you would like them to heel on.
3. Give the heel command and walk forward a few steps. If they stay calmly at your side, focused on the treat, reward them.
4. Continue this process, slowly increasing the distance walked. After several positive attempts, try the command without a treat in your hand (you can have it in the opposite hang or a pocket).
5. If your dog walks ahead of you during training, stop, reverse direction for a few steps, and repeat the command. Encourage them to return to your side.
As with all commands, it’s best to begin this process inside and then to move outside. Be sure to walk in many directions and to even do figure eights so that your dog knows to follow your movement.
Things To Keep In Mind While Training
Remember, it’s normal to become frustrated during training. You should only train for short periods of time – a bored and annoyed dog will not learn well (nor will an upset owner)! If you find yourself losing your temper, it’s time to stop.
Additionally, remember that treats can be very high calorie. Obesity can cause serious health problems in our canine friends. Be aware of how much you’re giving your dog and adjust their meals accordingly. Or, consider low-calorie rewards, like small pieces of carrot.