5 very useful obedience commands to teach your dog

5 very useful obedience commands to teach your dog

Those of us who own dogs, aren’t ashamed of showing the world how beautiful and cuddly they are and how much we love them. The things we are less enamoured with, however, don’t come out quite so easily. Being dragged down the street, having your carpet peed on again or your bin tipped over and rubbish strewn across the kitchen floor – these are activities we aren’t quite so proud of.

Everyone knows that the basics of dog obedience is sit, down, come etc but surprisingly few people actually have their dogs trained properly in these and other obedience commands.
Having a well-trained dog who listens to you and does as he’s told really allows you to experience the true joy and privilege that owning a dog can be. It opens up so many possibilities for both the dog and the owner, to do more things together, to explore new places and be exposed to a whole world of smells, sights and sounds. Having a dog you are able to take with you no matter where you go, leads to a much more enjoyable and fulfilling life for your furry friend.

Below is a list of actions that I feel everyone should try and teach their dog (over and above the basic obedience commands) as they personally make my life with my dog much easier and they allow me to enjoy having her around so much more:

  1. “In your bed!” – Variations include “Bed!” and/or “Go to bed!”. This command when taught properly can be used for so many different useful situations. When visitors arrive and it can get a bit chaotic at the front door, send the dog to his bed. When you’re trying to prepare dinner, clean the house or play with your child and the dog is getting under your feet, send the dog to his bed. When you and your dog are out visiting a friend’s house, if you’re out for a meal at a dog friendly pub or you’re anywhere else with your dog and need him to be calm and still, take a little blanket or mat with you and send the dog to his bed! In order to teach this command you need to have perfected the down and the stay command first. Use a treat to lure him onto his bed and then bring the treat straight down from his nose and drag it forward slowly so he follows the treat with his nose. His body should follow too and as soon as he is lying down release the treat and give him some verbal praise. Practice this a few times without giving any commands. Once he’s got the hang of it, you can link the command to the action and get him to ‘stay’. Remember to release him from his stay. Repeat at least 10 – 20 times throughout the day for a week or so and it should become engrained in his mind. You can drop the treats after a little while and switch to verbal praise. Make sure you practice this with all of his beds in the house or anything you will use when out and about for this purpose. I tend to point to the bed I am referring to when I send my dog to her bed (she has a couple).
  2. “Find it” – this command is great as it helps you to play more interesting games with your dog that can tap into his primal instincts and innate drives. Dogs love to use their noses and it’s great to encourage them to do so. It engages the brain, forces him to concentrate on something (the scent), it’s exciting and fun and he will get physical stimulation too from running around while trying to track the scent of the hidden article. You can hide treats or a toy or a ball – anything that will be motivational for him. It helps if he is already familiar with retrieving (like when you throw the ball for him and he brings it back) but this game satisfies a different instinct in him. Strat by having him sit and stay (or get someone to hold him). Show him a treat, then place it under a cushion or something easily movable, with him watching you do it. Then release him. He should use his nose (and a bit of memory) to find the treat and nudge the cushion out the way to get to the treat. Say “Find it!” as he finds the treat. You can slowly progress to harder-to-find places and eventually have him in another room where he can’t see you place the treat/s. You can progress to doing the exercise outside in the park, if his ‘stay’ and ‘recall’ is reliable enough to have him off lead. My dog loves this game and I get her to stay on one side of the field and hide her ball on the other side. It is extremely enjoyable for her – she is visibly proud of herself when she finds it and she gets the ball thrown and lots of verbal praise as her reward each time.
  3. “Touch” – this command is fairly easy to teach and can be really useful as a way to get your dogs attention. This can be helpful when training outside where there are many distractions or even to bring your dog in closer when you have called him to you. The idea is that he touches the palm of your hand on command and so he needs to be very close in order to do so. Start by holding a tiny piece of treat at the base between two fingers, and hold the hand out in front of the dog. (similar to the common hand signal for ‘stay’) When he naturally touches his nose on your hand to smell and get at the treat, say “Good boy!” and give him a treat using the other hand. Don’t let him eat the treat from between your fingers. Keep repeating a few times and then add the command “Touch!” as soon as his nose touches your hand. After a few more goes, if he seems to be getting the hang of it you can remove the treat from between your fingers (the smell will still be there). Practice often and in different environments with gradually increasing amounts of distraction.
  4. “Out!” – this command is very useful around the house and like the ‘go to bed’ command, it can help avoid your dog getting under your feet and potentially tripping you up. It is also good for teaching your dog to be relaxed and calm when not in your presence as the basic idea of the ‘out’ command is to send him out of whichever room you are currently in. Start by standing at the entry/exit to a room with your dog on the inside of the room you are in (preferably next to or behind you). Throw a treat out of the room and as the dog steps over the threshold, say “out!” (remember this is not a punishment). Stand at the door and block the dog from coming back into the room. You can use your body to block him or the door itself. The end result needs to have the door open with the dog not coming into the room until invited, so the door should not be closed to stop him re-entering. It can be closed to stop him stepping forward and then opened immediately again until the dog learns that he cannot step back inside of his own free will. It doesn’t matter what he does outside of the room so don’t ask him to sit or lie or stay or anything. When he does relax or walk away of his own accord, you can go further into the room and sit on the sofa or at the table for a short period of time (5 – 10 minutes) and then call him back into the room with you. Any attempts by him to re-enter the room within that time must be thwarted immediately and you need to send him out again. You can gradually extend the time to an hour or more, depending on your requirements. This command is great when you’re trying to clean a particular room in the house or you are playing on the floor with a young child and want some space.
  5. “Go toilet” – this command seems a little crazy at first but it is really useful when they get the hang of it. It can make those late night toilet trips to the garden or down the street, quick and to the point, it can be really helpful when you are about to go on a long car journey or you are going to leave your dog at home for a few hours and you want to make sure their bladder is empty before you do so. It’s really quite simple to teach and just involves patience and timing. It can be started from puppyhood or adulthood. Take a treat or toy with you when you go out to let your dog relieve itself – it’s easier to start off in the garden. As soon as the dog squats or raises a leg to pee, say “go toilet” or “hurry up” or whatever you choose your command to be. Give lots of praise and give him the treat immediately once he is finished. Keep repeating this every single time he pee’s so he begins to associate the sensation of peeing with the command. Be reasonable with using the command – it usually takes a few seconds before they actually go once they are conditioned to the command and I usually wait about 20 seconds after being outside before I give my dog the command. I also find it really useful when walking in town as I can lead her to an appropriate spot (such as the gutter or a tree on the pavement) to pee there instead of in the middle of the walkway.

Whatever tricks or commands you teach your dog, remember to have fun while doing it and to make sure your dog is having fun too. The more you teach your dog, the stronger the bond will become between the two of you and the more stimulation and fulfilment your dog will get out of his life.

So what’s stopping you!? Go forth and teach!

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