Having a well-trained dog is not only important for safety on walks and a healthy family life. It’s an important part of having a healthy, happy relationship with our canine companion. Just a few, basic commands can make the difference between a stressful interaction and a calm, well-adjusted moment. Plus, the act of training our dog can help head off behavioral problems before they develop.
What's My Name
Whether our pup is called Toto, Fido, Rover, Benji or any other name in the bark book, they’ve got to know when we’re speaking directly to them. Sadly, there are dogs who don’t know their name. How can this be? Well, some dogs just think their name is, “No” or “Stop Barking!” Others simply never learn their name because they are rarely called and only ever hear their guardian’s commands.
Teaching our dog their name means we are reducing uncertainty when we call to them in situations where there are other dog guardians who may be using the same command. When we have multiple dogs with us, using our pup’s name before each command will help them know for certain who needs to sit and who needs to come. If a dog becomes lost, having a stranger call them by the name on their collar can provide at least one familiar sound during a frightening time.
Teaching our fur baby their name helps to shape their identity, and gives them a place in the family. It reduces uncertainty, brings us closer to each other while providing a tiny sense of security should they become separated from us.
Come or Here
The number one reason for this command is emergency recall. When our pup is near danger or is immediately needed by our side, we have to be able to reliably get them to return to us. Many of us keep our pup on leash and don’t think about the importance of the recall command, but its purpose is for unforeseen emergencies just as much as everyday good behavior.
Dogs can sometimes break free from their leash. A strong storm or natural disaster can occur that damages fencing. A friend or utility worker can accidentally leave a door or gate open. There might be a snake or potentially diseased animal in the yard, and a well-ingrained recall command will be stronger than his curiosity. Even at the dog park, there are dogs that need to concentrate on their own training without our pup as a distraction.
Being able to recall our canine companion in any of these situations is critical, but it’s for the scenarios we can’t think of that we really want to make sure we can bring our pooch back without hesitation.
Sit or Down
Both commands to sit and lay down, are important. But as far as the basics go, only one of these is essential when we are getting our fur babies set up with basic commands. A lot of trainers recommend teaching sit first because it can be an intermediary position that leads into the down position. We can do whatever is best for our pup. If he tends to lay down when we’re working on commands, that might be the best first position to teach.
Regardless of which one comes first, the point of teaching them to get into a position introduces body control. It helps them learn how to settle down and maintain a steady position, even while they are excited. It teaches them willpower and gives them a position they can feel comfortable relaxing into.
Sit and down are also important when we are around people who may not be comfortable around animals. People are much more likely to feel comfortable around an animal who is sitting or lying down, than one who is standing up and looking like he might pounce at any minute.
Leave it or Drop it
An important safety command, drop it isn’t just to get Mr. Fuzzy to drop the ball so we can throw it again. Dogs love to get into things, and roadkill can be one of the toughest new finds for a dog to part ways with. If our fur baby ‘critters’ (chases small animals like squirrels, bunnies, and birds), the leave it command can be a lifesaver. Not only will the small animal who took an ill-advised short-cut through the yard be saved, but our canine companion will remain free of exposure to any diseases or pests wildlife might carry.
Leave it is also useful when we drop something on the kitchen floor that our pooch might race to eat, but shouldn’t. Plus, we can use this versatile command to also reinforce the ‘anti-barking at the mailman’ rule and the ‘no jumping on the visitor’ rule.
Stay or Wait
Some people use sit to mean sit and stay, but having those commands separated can give us more power to communicate what we really want with our canines. The most basic version of stay or wait is to be able to walk away from our pup, confident in their understanding that they need to stay while we investigate something or retrieve a ball from a place pups shouldn’t explore with us.
A more advanced, and even more versatile version of the wait command, is to have our pup immediately stop, mid-recall command, and wait until it’s safe to return to our side. This is perfect for getting our pup to stop coming toward us when crossing the street is dangerous. Sometimes dogs wander too far from us because a gate or door is left open and they may want to run back to us, but don’t know to look both ways. It’s also useful for hiking and camping when wildlife might be between us and needs a chance to clear out before our pooch can make his way back to us. Whatever the reason, having the ability to get Fido to stay when needed is an essential command for every canine-guardian duo.
Heel or Stay Close
Many old-school trainers use the heel command to tell a leashed or unleashed dog that they need to remain right at our side while walking with us. It’s important for so many obvious reasons, but mostly because it ensures complete control of our pup while making our way along sidewalks and in crowds.
These days, many people have a lighter version of the strict heel command, stay close. This allows our pup to enjoy their walk a little more because they are on a loose leash, but will remain within three to five feet of us. They can stop and smell plants, fire hydrants, and mailboxes, an important olfactory activity for dog health, without ever tugging on the leash or losing step with us.
Some canine companions may work well with praise or playtime with their favorite toy, but treats are by far the most common way to get our pups to respond and work hard. The problem is, many treats are made with by-products or fillers that are hard on our pups digestive systems. Plus, many dogs will gain unnecessary weight on empty calories because we can sometimes be a little heavy on the treat rewards. EcoTreats Slow-Roasted Beef Liver Tips are all natural, grain-free, gluten-free, preservative- and additive-free treats that dogs love! And they are nutritious.
The Big Picture
There are so many fun and exciting ways to build a healthy, happy relationship with our dog, but learning names and basic commands are the first non-play activities we have with each other. Guardians and fur-babies who have strong basics together have also been scientifically known to have a stronger bond and a longer life.
And remember, commands are always more effective when we combine them with hand gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Add praise in a happy voice when they get it right, even when it’s the hundredth time. Use an open hand to indicate stay or wait. Use a hand the moves downward for sit or down. Adding these additional cues help our pup to understand what we want, even when we are out of vocal range or in loud areas with lots of distractions. What are your favorite commands? Any games or advice for new dog guardians about how they relationship build and teach their canine companion the basics? Let us know in the comments, or post to Facebook and Instagram, using #VetOrganics.