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Dog Training, 6 Commands Every Dog Should Know

By Sarah L Falkner

There are many training techniques and philosophies that claim to be the fastest, easiest or most affective way to train your dog. The one thing that every dog training technique seem to mirror is that positive reinforcement and reward is the most effective. The second thing that all training techniques have in common is that the first step is to teach the dog fundamental commands. These fundamental commands will be the foundation of communication between canine and human.

The first command you should teach is SIT. With a few slight differences, most advice about dog training agree. The easiest way to teach this command is to cause the desired outcome to occur without much effort. For very young puppies, hold their food bowl above and behind their head. Your puppy looks up, loses his balance, and sits. You reinforce by saying the command, SIT, then praise puppy and reward with a treat. Repeat this process during each meal time and with treats until he will SIT on command without a food stimulus. Older dogs have better balance so an extra step may need to be used. Some dog training techniques suggest using a leash with no slack to keep your dog still, then just using a treat held above and behind his head, command SIT. If your dog resists, use your forefinger and thumb to apply pressure just in front of his hip bone or slide your hand over rump and apply pressure as you tuck legs and tail under to cause him to SIT. As always, praise and treat for desired result Every other fundamental command will build on the success of the SIT Command.

The second command that you must train your dog is NO. This command demands consistency from you, as the trainer, and every member of the household. The NO command need to always be spoken in a sharp guttural tone and alone. Do not use with your dogs name, or in a panicked or high pitched tone that only comes naturally if you were to walk in and see your dog chewing your favorite pair of shoes. Your tone needs to be authoritative sharp and strong to relay your displeasure. Withhold attention as punishment. Consistency is the key to train your dog.

STAY is another command that every dog should know. Building on SIT, stand beside your dog with the leash taunt, held straight above his head. Incorporate hand signals and place your open palm in front of dog’s nose. Say STAY and move in front of your dog to block his forward movement. If he moves, repeat hand signal and STAY command. If he stays, move back next to him, make him hold his STAY for a few seconds, praise and treat. As with each dog training technique, continue to slowly increase increments of distance and hold time with each training lesson. An additional element when training your dog to STAY is the three D’s. Duration, Distraction, and Distance. As I just mentioned, it is important to slowly increase the increments of Duration and Distance but Distraction must be introduced to test your dogs understanding of this command. Be sure to add distraction while training your dog before the distance gets too long. Common distractions would be someone entering the training area with a toy, another dog walking by, etc.

DOWN command can be taught just after SIT is mastered. It is important to use only the word DOWN. Your dog does not understand variations such as Lay Down. You must be consistent in training your dog that DOWN only refers to laying down. If you want to teach your dog to get down off of your chair, train OFF as your command. To teach your dog to lay down, first command him to SIT. Using a treat, draw your dog into a laying down position by dragging the treat between his legs and moving it forward. When the desired position is reached, praise, and treat. As you train your dog each new command, be sure to combine each command so patterns do not develop and the action of each different command is rewarded when achieved. (SIT DOWN STAY), (SIT STAY COME), (SIT STAY DOWN)

Teaching your dog to HEEL makes walks in your neighborhood a pleasant experience. I am sure you have seen or experienced the owner that gets walked by their dog. The owner is fearful of each approaching human or animal because they have not been trained to HEEL. Your goal is that your dog will stay close to you on a walk. He will not pull you or become too hard to control with the distractions of other dogs or humans. Start from SIT, add ‘Let’s Walk’ so your dog knows what is expected after he has learned to HEEL. A good tip, exercise your dog with play before training to HEEL. Work out all excess energy and train your dog in a quiet distraction free area. Start at SIT, use your dogs name and command HEEL. If your dog does not stay with you and darts away, turn in the other direction and repeat command HEEL and dog’s name. Remember to always to praise and treat desired responses.

The last fundamental command that is a must while beginning to train your dog is the command COME. This command seems so easy, after all all dogs want to come to you, right? The problem with training your dog to COME is that owners do not use it often enough in daily interactions. Your dog will COME when you open the refrigerator door. The command needs to be reinforced by putting your dog in SIT and STAY, then by changing your location, command COME, and use your dog’s name. Praise and reward with each and every desired result. One very important point to remember is NEVER correct or discipline your dog for responding to the COME command. The reality is that when you need your dog to respond to COME the most is when his safety is at risk. Your dog has run out and could be in danger of street traffic,. COME returns your dog to the safety of your home. Your fear response will instinctively make you want to correct your dog for running out. Remain consistent with your training, praise and reward your dog.

This is a very brief overview of training techniques and sequences to use while training your dog the fundamental commands. Repetition will be required several times while training. The increase of distance and duration, as well as the introduction of distractions, will also require repetition. Patience and time will need to be devoted while training these commands. I think you will find that if you begin to train your dog with these fundamental commands, you will find the more technical training will be easier for both you and your dog.

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