So, following on from my article Get Started Training Your Dog, I thought the next logical step would be to walk you through five basic commands to begin training your dog. These commands will all utilise the clicker I talked about in the last article and requires your dog to be "tuned" to the clicker. In other words, he/she will associate the clicker sound with positive outcomes. As with all dog training, keep sessions short and try to end on a high note: No more than 15 minutes of training at a time, and ending with something your dog is comfortable with. My article regarding the Top 10 Most Intelligent Dog Breeds can help you estimate how long it should take your pet to learn the command. So, without further ado, let's begin!
The most basic command of all, and one every owner and their dog should have in their arsenal from as early an age as possible. This is possibly the simplest command you can teach your dog, so it is a good place to start with training.
- The first step is to get your dog's attention, get him over to your feet, click your clicker and give him a treat. This just jogs their memory about the clicker and gets them focused on you.
- Next, get a treat out and let them see it, now slowly move the treat backwards and over their head, forcing them to look upwards. If you dog tries to snatch the treat, pull away and give them a stern "No".
- As you move the treat over their head they should look upwards to keep their eye on it, and automatically their backsides should start to go into a sitting position. If this works, as they end up in the sitting position say your command, "Sit". Then click your clicker, give them a treat and make a big fuss.
- Repeat this until your dog will sit on just your spoken command, without the need for moving the treat backwards.
Note: For some dogs the movement of the treat won't work as well as others, to move the process along you can give your dog's back a gentle push towards the ground.
There we have it, your first command in the bag, that wasn't so difficult was it?
2. Lie Down
Now, following on from the "Sit" command, we want our furry friend to lie down on command. To reiterate, try to keep yours and the dog's focus on one command at a time, don't try to teach them this command until they've got "Sit" down to a tee.
- Get your dog's attention, the same as with the "Sit" command, and any other command as a matter of fact.
- Use your "Sit" command to get your dog in the sitting position, now get on your knees and down to his level.
- Get a treat out and let them see it, we will start with the treat right in front of their face and slowly move it away from them and towards the floor. This should bring their nose towards the floor, almost until it is touching.
- As their face is close to the floor, keeping the treat close to the floor move it away from their face. your dog's legs front legs should move forwards in order to keep his face close to the treat, and therefore force him into a lying position.
- As your pet gets into the correct position, say "Lie Down" or "Lie/Lay", click and give them the treat.
- Again, repeat until just the spoken command is necessary, this may take a little longer than "Sit".
Note: The first time for this can be tricky, if you need a helping hand, as you're moving the treat away from their face near the floor you can pick up his front legs and stretch them out. This gives your dog the initial idea of what to do.
With the two most basic commands, "Sit" and "Lie Down" in the bag, we can move onto some slightly more difficult ones. "Stay" is a great command for teaching your dog discipline and self control. You can use it as a bit of a party trick as well to show off, by getting your trusty canine companion to stay, and then throwing treats or toys around the room whilst they sit there patiently, then you can release them to find the treats.
- As always, get your pet's attention.
- Use your "Sit" command to get them in the sitting position.
- Now get a treat out, hold it up and move very slowly backwards and away from your dog, repeating "Stay". We need to start off with very short distances here.
- If your dog stays where he is, move back towards him, click and give the treat, along with fuss as always.
- If they try to follow you, say "No" and take them back to where they were and try again until they get the idea.
- As your dog becomes better at this you can move further away from them and wait longer before going back to them, in order to increase their concentration and attention span.
- In order to do the little party trick I mentioned above, you should be right beside your dog. As you will know, they are easily excited, and when excited they forget things. So starting off throwing things around for them and getting them to stay might take a bit of practise. What you should do first time is hold onto them to stop them running after whatever you've thrown, whilst using your "Stay" command, then when they seem calm enough let go of them and use a release word, such as "Away".
This is actually a fairly easy command to teach your dog, and is pretty useless really, but it's a nice command to have and it's fun! So why not teach them it, it's easy and fun!
- The usual, get your pet's focus on you.
- Use your "Sit" command to get them in the sitting position.
- Hold your hand out just in front of the dog's front legs, with your hand facing upwards and cupped.
- Hold onto one of your dog's legs, lift it to your outstretched cupped hand and place it in their, saying "Paw" in the process. Click and treat.
- Do this a few times, and before long they will know how to do it themselves.
See, how simple was that!? It's a bit more difficult trying to get them to give you a certain paw, because they tend to become dominant with one paw and always try to use that. The way I did it was by using my right hand to get his left paw, then using my left hand slightly towards his right leg, and every time he tried to use his left paw I would move my hand away and repeat. Eventually they try to use their other paw in order to get their treat.
Again, this is just a bit of a party trick command to teach your dog. It's also much more difficult than the previous commands. So, let's get started!
- You know the drill by now, get their focus and attention.
- Use your "Sit" and "Lie Down" commands to get your dog in the lying position.
- Now, get a treat out, hold it in front of his face and move it slowly in a circular fashion, your dog's head should try to follow the treat.
- If all goes well, their head should be following the treat, and their body will follow their head, and he should start to roll.
- More often than not, they will need a bit of help. As they get into this half rolling position, have a glamorous assistant (anyone will do really) push your dog over so they do a full roll. When completed, click and treat, and make a giant fuss!
- Repeat this until your dog realises what to do by itself, without the need for glamorous assistants pushing them over!
That last command will take a bit more time than the rest, like tortoises and turtles, a dog's natural position isn't on their backs. They also won't want to take their eye off the treat. But with patience and a fair amount of practise, it's a great little trick to have!
I hope you enjoyed reading, and the instructions are detailed enough for you. I will leave you with a few small words of advice: Have fun! Don't get stressed with your pet because it's taking longer than expected, it needs to be fun for them too otherwise they won't be interested. If the dog senses you are in a good mood, they will already be happy and much easier to train. But they will also sense a bad mood, which makes them unhappy. Remember, positive feedback is always more helpful than negative feedback in a dog's brain. This is why, when toilet training, we shouldn't be shouting at them for accidents, but we should be praising them when they get it right! The same is true for all behaviours. Good luck!