Creating a happier life for your and your dog with 5 basic commands

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Year of the Dog! Learning Commands

By ACS Bookshop UK on February 28, 2018 in Pets | comments

Create a Happy Life with your Dog with these Five Basic Commands!!

So, the year 2018 brings us the Chinese Year of the dog. The dog is an intelligent, loyal animal and across many countries, lives the life as one of human’s best friends. In the United Kingdom, the dog overtook the cat as the most popular pet kept in households in the year 2017. In society we keep dogs for many reasons including; as pets, companions, guard dogs, search and rescue, sight dogs, police assistance and much more.

Pet dogs can bring companionship and happiness to their owners, and it is important we train them correctly so life can be enjoyed together. Basic manners go a long way, and without this, life can be very difficult. Nobody truly enjoys a dog jumping all over them to greet them, or barking excessively to say “hello”, and sometimes to some people this can be quite intimidating. Dogs who pull excessively on the lead can not only be quite stressful to walk but could also pull a person over.

 

Basic Manners

Teaching a dog basic manners can make life much easier and much more enjoyable. It is never too late to start teaching these commands whether the dog is young or old. 
So, the five training commands which will help teach basic manners are:

  • Sit
  • Lie down 
  • Stay
  • Recall
  • Walk to heal 

It is important when training a dog to never use harsh techniques, or equipment which can cause pain. These can incidentally create fearful dogs which mistrust their owners, and can push towards aggressions and anxieties. So, how do we teach these commands?

 

Sit 

The ‘sit’ command is probably one of the easiest to teach, and is usually one of the first commands taught. No physical contact between human and dog is necessary, and the use of a lure is the best method.

  • Sit, or stand, in front of the dog which is in standing position. Hold a titbit/treat just above the dogs’ nose and just out of its reach.
  • As the dog is looking up and pulls slightly up, the hindquarters will go down towards the ground. At this very point say “sit”.
  • When the dogs hind quarters fully touch the ground and is sitting, reinforce with the treat and provide lots of praise. 

Only reinforce once the dog is sitting properly. Dogs can pick up very quickly if they receive praise for only half sitting!!

 

Lie Down, or Down

Again, this is another simple command to teach.

  • Whilst kneeling, or placing yourself low to the ground, ask your dog to “sit”. 
  • Hold the treat in front of the dogs nose and lower it slowly to ground level and the dog should be lured to the ground.
  • When dog is lured down and his sternum is resting on the ground, say “down” then reinforce with the treat. Provide lots of praise.

Remember, lure slowly, not quickly, as this would only confuse the dog.

 

Stay

This third basic command can take a lot of patience on the owner or trainers behalf. It works best in an open environment and initially with no distractions. An enclosed garden is most useful. 

  • Ask the dog to sit. Take one step away from the dog whilst holding your hand up and command “stay”. 
  • At that very instant, come back to the dog and praise for staying. 
  • Ensure dog is sitting, this time take two steps away from the dog, holding hand up and command “stay”. Immediately, return to the dog, praise and treat. In the case the dog moved position, go back to step one. 
  • Repeat the above steps, but each time gradually taken a few more steps away from the dog.

If the dog moves at any point, then do not praise and ask the dog to sit. Go back to the number of steps that your dog remained staying at, i.e. you do not always need to go back to just one step away. If your dog is doing well, then try getting him to stay whilst you walk a circle around him. Always return to your dog to reinforce the behaviour, i.e. praise/treat.

 

Recall (Come)

This command is very important especially if you hope to walk your dog off the lead. If you walk near roads, busy areas or farmland then it vital your dog is under control and listens to your recall command. You can initially work with your dog on a long leash, or in an enclosed area.

There are two different, although similar, methods to train this command and it will help to use both.

 

Method One
  • Firstly, if your dog understands ‘stay’ and will sit with you a couple of meters away, then begin with this. 
  • Once you are a few meters away allow your dog to look at you. At this point, crouch down and command “come”. Do this command in a high pitch, positive, encouraging, fun voice. When the dog comes towards you reinforce immediately with a treat and provide lots of praise. 
Method Two
  • While walking the dog, ensure a very long lead is used in a suitable place. Move a little away from your dog. 
  • Call your dog’s name so he looks at you, crouch lower to ground then command “come”, again in a fun and encouraging voice. 
  • Immediately reinforce with the treat and lots of praise.

Using both methods will ensure your dog becomes highly successful at recall. It may take a lot of tries but always be positive and never punish for not returning.

 

Walk to Heal 

There are so many methods to teach a dog to walk nicely on the lead and it will greatly depend on the dog itself as to which method works best. It is worth noting to never use choke chains as these can only cause damage to the trachea. To initially teach the ‘heel’ command:

  • Ensure you have plenty nice, smelly treats. Something your dog will be focused on and can eat quickly, i.e. nothing chewy. Small chunks of liver works well, or chicken. 
  • Start with the dog next to you on the lead and one treat in your free hand. Take a step forward and lure with the treat.
  • As the dog steps forward with you, command “heel” and raise the treat to around waist level, depending on the dogs’ size. 
  • Take three to four steps and the dog should be focused on the food, then reward and praise. 
  • Keep doing this, gradually increasing the amount and speed of the paces. 

Ensure you reinforce, i.e. treat, at the correct time and ensure the lead is kept slack. If the lead is tight then you will be reinforcing that it is OK for the lead to be tight. Also position the treat correctly to ensure the dog is not pulling forward for the treat or lagging behind. With young pups, praise and a positive voice can be enough rather as treat.

So, if your dog doesn’t know these five basic manner commands, then get teaching!! 

Remember, patience is the key. Always keep training fun and positive for both you and your dog. Train for short periods of time, but keep training sessions frequent. Ensure timing of any reinforcement is correct. Once the dog has fully learned the command, then only reinforce with a treat every second or third time to eventually phase out the treats. Always praise for the desirable behaviour and ignore the undesirable behaviours.

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to know more about dog training, then checkout our Dog Psychology and Training course;  or our Dog Owners short course;  or our Caring for Dogs eBook.

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