• Nicola Smith

Top 7 Things to Train your Dog


man dog walking

Training can be lots of fun, but it can also be challenging to know the most important things to focus on. I often see that people with new dogs focus much of their time on training tricks such as shaking a paw, high five, or sitting pretty. These are cute tricks to show your friends and family, but before doing the cute tricks, we should be focusing on basic commands that can save your dog's life and you a lot of stress. I put together the seven most important training basics that every dog should be able to master before spending any time teaching your dog to roll over.

 


dog biting leash while on a dog walk

1. DROP IT


Teaching your dog to drop whatever they have in their mouth is an incredibly important command to teach. This can help prevent your dog from getting into trouble, such as chewing on things they shouldn't or picking up scraps while on a walk or in the house. Teaching this command has the potential to save your dog's life. I have had a few times where I have had to rush a dog home from a walk because I could not get them to drop what they picked up. I have had multiple dogs try to bite me when attempting to take something out of their mouth that they should not have. Dogs are scavengers, and unless they are trained not to, many are constantly scanning the ground for things they find exciting to pick up. "Drop it" was one of the first things I focused on with my 2-year-old Rottweiler Tyson. He could grab a steak off the ground, and if I say "drop it", he will drop it every time. There is nothing that your dog should not let go of when you ask it to.


HOW TO:

You can teach your dog to drop what is in their mouth by saying "drop it" and gently pushing downwards on your dog's lower jaw. Reward your dog with a treat when they let go. Do this over and over again, every day until it becomes effortless.

 

2. LEAVE IT

calm dog lyijg in sand with ball

"Leave it" is another important command to teach your dog, especially if you don't want them getting into something dangerous or destructive. Can you walk by chicken bones on the ground and say "leave it" and your dog listens? You should be able to! If your dog knows how to "leave it" you can avoid them getting to the point of picking up anything, which means you do not have to physically jolt them away or have them pick up something that could harm them!


HOW TO:

You can teach this by holding a treat in your hand and showing it to your dog. Once they start to focus on the treat, say "leave it" and cover the treat with your other hand. If your dog tries to grab the treat, gently push their head away and say "no". Once they stop trying to get the treat, give them a cue such as "good dog" and give them the treat.

 

cute puupy looking up to dog walker

3. WATCH ME


This command is helpful in training your dog not to run off or pull on the leash while off-leash or on-leash dog walking. It can help with reactivity or prevent them from running into something that could potentially harm them.


HOW TO:

You can teach it by standing in front of your dog with a treat and saying, "watch me". As soon as they focus on you, please give them the treat. Once your dog knows the command, start moving around and see if they will follow your movement with their eyes. If they do, give them a cue such as "good dog" and give them the treat.


 

4. LIE DOWN


The lie down command is another essential dog obedience command. This can come in handy when you need your dog to stay in one spot or settle down.


HOW TO:

You can teach this by holding a treat in front of your dog's nose and saying "down". As they lower their head to sniff the treat, slowly lower the treat to the ground. Once their belly is touching the ground, give them a cue such as "good dog" and give them the treat.

 

dog staying still in fresh grass looking happy

5. STAY


The stay command is one of the most important commands a dog can learn. This can help keep your dog safe in potentially dangerous situations, such as when you're crossing the street.


HOW TO:

You can teach this by asking your dog to sit. Once they're in the sitting position, say "stay" and take a step back. If they get up, gently push them back into the sitting position and say "stay". Once they stay in the sitting position for a few seconds, give them a cue such as "good dog" and give them the treat. Repeat this frequently and for longer durations each time.

 

6. COME

dog running through grass

One of the most important commands you can teach your dog is "come." Not only is this an essential obedience command, but it can be another lifesaver.

There are many situations in which you'll want your dog to come to you immediately, such as if he's getting too close to a busy road or if he's about to dig up your neighbor's flower garden. And in an emergency, being able to call your dog to you could mean the difference between life and death.


HOW TO:

Start by calling your dog's name in a happy, excited voice and then immediately offer a treat when he comes to you.

As your dog gets better at this, you can start adding in distractions, such as other people or animals walking by. The key is to make sure that you only give the treat when your dog comes to you immediately, without any hesitation. Make sure to keep your dog on a long leash if practicing this in an area not secured.

With a little patience and practice, they will get it!

 


dog on-leash

7. HEEL


If you're like most dog owners, you probably want your furry friend to walk calmly by your side when out on a leash. Heeling is not only safer for both of you, but it's also more pleasant for everyone around you. This is something that takes time and patience to learn and is far more important than any cute trick you can teach your pet.

Hiring an on-leash professional dog walker for daily walks could help with teaching good leash walking skills.


HOW TO TIPS:

- Use treats or a favorite toy as motivation. When first starting out, you'll need to use some sort of positive reinforcement to get your dog to follow your commands. Treats or a favorite toy work great for this.

- Start in a quiet area. When you're first teaching your dog to heel, it's best to start indoors or in a quiet area outside where there are few distractions.

- Use a short leash. When you're first training your dog, it's best to use a short leash to keep him close by. As he masters the heel command, you can gradually lengthen the leash.

- Be consistent. One of the most important things when teaching your dog anything is to be consistent with your commands and rewards. If you slip up one day, don't give up - just try again the next day.