Dogs and people are very different animals and dogs have some innocent but annoying tendencies—like jumping up to greet, barking, digging and chewing—that can make it downright difficult to live with them! To make the most of your relationship with your dog, you need to teach her some important skills that will help her live harmoniously in a human household. Learning how to train your dog will improve your life and hers, enhance the bond between you, and ensure her safety—and it can be a lot of fun.
What are some of the basic commands that should be taught and why?
- Watch (Focus) Getting your dog’s focus with a single word is very useful. You can distract him from enticing trash in the street, for example, or keep his eyes on you when walking past another dog. Plus, dogs that are rewarded for paying attention do it more. And attentive dogs are easier to train.
- Sit A great contender as one command she can do anywhere, anytime. It gives your dog a way to say, “Please,” and can become her default greeting, which stops her from jumping on people.
- Touch A useful foundation for many more advanced behaviors and gives you a way to capture your dog’s attention and direct his movements. For example, coming toward you to touch your hand is a great start on recall and touching someone’s hand is a nice alternative to jumping on them.
- Down A great command for dogs that need to learn to relax in one place for long periods of time. It is also excellent for jumpy dogs because jumping up from a down is harder than from a sit. Lying down can be helpful for big dogs by making them less intimidating when meeting children or people nervous around dogs.
- Stay When taught correctly, the “stay” is a hallmark of a well-mannered and safe dog. The “stay” command assumes that your dog will maintain her position (whether sitting, lying down or even standing) until you release her. Without this skill, all you’re technically asking when you say “sit” is that your dog touch the ground with her rear-end and spring right back up.
- Recall (Come when called) Your dog will come to you when it is truly important.
- Loose Leash Walking (Heel) To spare your arms—and your dog’s trachea. It is not fun or safe to have your dog take you for a walk, and pulling while wearing a collar can actually damage your dog’s throat. Since our dogs spend most of their time outside on-leash, training them to walk without pulling is better for everyone. Heel is particularly good when you have to walk your dog through a crowded area.
- Let’s Go Think of let’s go as an on-leash recall. Use it to get your dog moving again after she has paused to go to the bathroom or check out an interesting smell—without pulling on her leash. Recapture her attention from a distraction or to change direction—without having to tug her along.
- Leave-it Great for calling your dog away from things not intended for him, like appetizers set out on your coffee table or a baby’s toys or diaper, or things that are downright dangerous, like chicken bones left on the street or in the trash.
- Fetch A terrific exercise—and a tired dog is a better behaved and happier dog. It’s also an easy way to exercise your dog if your time or personal mobility is limited. Think of it as lawn-chair exercise: It can be done sitting down.
- Go To Mat Training a dog to go to a specific place is one of the most useful behaviors. What if instead of jumping around like a lunatic when the doorbell rings, your dog waits politely in a down position? Or, instead of circling the dinner table like a shark, your dog lies quietly in the other room?
- Stand Helpful during vet examinations. Also, learning this command will compel your dog to distinguish between sit and down, as in, learn the words. Adding another command into the mix forces dogs to pay better attention and stop guessing.
- Wait The wait command teaches your dog to pause or stop at the doorway until you give the all clear. Door-dashing is a favorite sport of most dogs. It is just so exiting to get to the other side. But in addition to being irritating to us, it can also be dangerous. Sometimes what is on the other side is a busy street.