We’re excited and honoured to feature South Africa’s second largest independent animal welfare organisation on PetlifeSA for one year, starting July 2019.
5 ESSENTIAL COMMANDS WORTH TEACHING YOUR DOG
Just because your beloved dog is balanced, happy and healthy doesn’t mean he or she is obedient.
Luckily, with a few basic tricks, you can manage certain unfavourable behaviours that you’re experiencing or that can creep in later. There are of course classes available or you can train your dog yourself. Both options are fun and work well with the right attitude and effort.
It’s important to know that besides going for walks and just playing, dogs also actually enjoy and can really benefit from training.
You might have guessed it, but teaching your dog to sit is not only easy, but also a great foundation for other tricks.
Here’s how to go about it:
- Grab a delicious, but healthy and safe treat and let your dog smell it.
- Once you have his or her attention, keep it by moving your hand upwards. Your dog should follow this movement which should result in his or her bottom lowering to the ground.
- If the sitting position is reached, it’s time to say, “Sit,” and reward the action with the treat and by showing love and joy.
The next part is important: you need to keep repeating and practising, every day.
Once the trick is mastered, keep bringing it into routines, for example before feeding, walking and even before guests arrive.
This calming technique, if done correctly, can improve many situations.
This one is not always easy to master, but you will find it very useful.
With this simple command you can keep your dog safe, whether he or she is going after a person, object or another animal; somehow gets off the leash; or slips away because of a door or gate that was accidentally left open.
Here’s how to teach the “come” command:
- Grab his/her leash and harness (adjusted to a snug, but comfortable fit) and put it on.
- Drop to your dog’s level then say, “Come,” as you gently tug the leash.
- Treat your dog with a snack and show love as soon as your dog reaches you.
Practice this a few times. If you feel the command has sunken in, choose a safe and enclosed area and then remove the leash.
Continue practising like this.
For this one it helps to start off very relaxed and create a positive environment.
This will help all dogs, because once “down” the dog is in a submissive position (so they might not like it or feel safe, especially dogs that get anxious).
- First you’ll need a treat that smells great. Place it in your hand and close your fist.
- Bring your fist in for a good sniff then slowly drop the same fist to the floor. This should result in your dog following.
- Now slide your hand along the floor, away from your dog, which will hopefully cause the head to follow and body to lower until in “down” position.
- Now say, “Down,” give the treat and express love and joy.
Be sure to keep repeating and practising daily.
Your dog will probably try to lunge forward or come up to sitting position a few times, but don’t give in.
Rather say, “No,” and retract your hand. Stay patient and don’t force your dog into any position by, for instance, pushing or pressing.
Just keep encouraging and remember he or she is working hard too.
For this command to work, your dog needs to have the whole “sit” thing down.
Here’s what to do:
- Start with asking your dog to “Sit.”
- Next, make a clear “Stay” gesture with your open palm.
- Slowly step backwards, just a few steps. If your dog remains in place it’s time for a treat and encouragement.
- After a few practice rounds, increase the distance and reward obedient behaviour, every time, even if he or she only stays for a couple of seconds.
This is not the easiest trick in the book, so be patient with your dog.
Self-control can be difficult to master. Dogs that are easily distracted and full of energy could take a little longer to obey, but this is normal.
5. LEAVE IT
Another tricky one, but important to master because it can keep your dog from harm. Dogs have an amazing sense of smell which could lead to eating things that are bad for them or even dangerous.
Here you want to replace the intriguing object that’s caught their attention with something better, basically rewarding your dog for leaving the first item alone.
- You’ll need two treats, one for each hand, kept secure in fists.
- Present your dog with fist number one and say the words, “Leave it.”
- Your dog might try to access the treat, but ignore any licking, sniffing, pawing and barking.
- As soon as he or she stops trying, it’s time for fist number two: give the remaining treat.
- Repeat all these steps until the command, “Leave it” starts working.
- Carry on practising, but make your dog work a little bit harder: only give the treat once your dog has moved away and looks up at you.
Got it? Good! Ready to take it a step further?
Once you’re sure the command has been mastered, grab two treats: one should be regular, the other great, especially the smell!
- Step 1: Say “Leave it,” and put the regular treat on the floor and place your hand over it.
- Once your dog gets over it, and looks you in the face, remove the treat. Now reward the obedience with the great treat and don’t forget to show affection right away.
- After enough practice, put the regular treat on the floor without fully covering it, but rather just keep your hand hovering above it. With each successful try, move your hand higher (further from the treat) until there’s approximately a 15 cm gap.
- The next phase involves you following the routine, but while standing up! If your dog makes a move to get the regular treat, simply cover it with your foot. Keep practising!
Every new command should be treated as that: new. There should be no rush, but rather buckets of patience and love.
Learning something new will take time and if it’s too difficult rather focus on the easier stuff for a while to build confidence again.
Now, have fun keeping your dog entertained and safe with these handy commands and don’t stop practising.