The best gift that you can give your beloved canine companion is a good basic education. A well-behaved companion is more pleasant to spend time with, more likely to be welcome in public spaces such as parks, walking trails and doggie daycare and less likely to annoy neighbors or landlords. Teaching a few basic commands, such as ‘Come’, ‘Sit’, ‘Down’ and ‘Stay’, will make life easier for both owner and pet.
While you will need to devote some time specifically to teaching each command, practice can be integrated into your regular daily routine. When your dog exhibits an undesirable behavior, such as jumping up on guests, you can redirect him with a command to perform a more acceptable behavior such as ‘Sit’ or ‘Down’.
You will not need a lot of specialized equipment to get started, just a few treats, a collar and leash, and of course your dog. Use something small but tasty such as a cut up hot dog or cat treats. Be sure to use a reward that your dog really likes. If you have a dog that is not interested in food rewards, you can use a special toy instead. Be sure to keep your training sessions positive, if you find yourself becoming frustrated, stop and try again later.
‘Come’ is the first thing that you will want to teach a new dog or puppy. In order to teach ‘Come’ you will need a long leash or piece of rope. Attach the rope to your dog’s collar. Let the dog relax for a few minutes and say ‘Come’ in a happy voice and offer a treat. If the dog comes, give him the treat and praise him. If he hesitates, use the leash or rope to gently guide the dog to you, reward and praise him. With repetition, your dog should learn to reliably come when called. Never call your dog to you in order to punish him and do not chase your dog if he runs from you. Use a leash until you are sure that your dog understands the command. Off-leash practice should be done in a safe fenced area at first.
‘Sit’ is the next command you will work on. In order to teach ‘Sit’, you will need to get your dog’s attention with a treat. Go ahead and give him a small piece just so he knows what you have. Then hold another piece in your closed hand, let him sniff it and say ‘Sit’ in a clear, calm voice. As you do this, move the treat backwards over his head while pushing his rear legs gently under him to guide him into a sitting position. As soon as he sits, open your hand and allow him to eat the treat. Release him with a command such as OK. Praise him enthusiastically for any effort at first. As the training progresses, you can raise the standard and require a ‘correct’ position (butt on the floor, no slouching, etc.) and require a longer sit before releasing him.
Once your dog is able to perform a consistent ‘Sit’, you will want to introduce ‘Down’. In order to teach ‘Down’, you will start with your dog in a sitting position, hold a treat in your closed hand and lower your hand to the ground while moving the dog’s front legs forward with your other hand to guide him into the correct position. As soon as he is down, give him the treat and praise him. After a few repetitions, you should be able to get him to lie down without starting in a sitting position.
After you are comfortable with ‘Sit’ and ‘Down’ you can work on ‘Stay’. In order to teach ‘Stay’, have your dog sit facing you, say ‘Stay’ and back up one step. If your dog gets up to follow you, put him back in the sitting position and start again. Be sure to release him and give a reward. When he stays successfully, you can gradually increase the time and distance until you are able to leave the room and he will stay until released.
Once the basic commands have been mastered, you can move on to more complex tricks, or simply enjoy your well-behaved companion.
If you need assistance in your pet’s training call your local dog training in Fallston MD!