Dogs are usually people pleasers, and will do many things to get a praise or a treat. This makes it easy to teach them a few basic commands that will make living with them a lot easier and could help avoid some dangerous situations.
You should be teaching your dog only when both of you are in a good and learning mood. Make sure you have a plan before you start teaching your dog commands. Prepare words and gestures you want to use and be consistent; changing the word or a gesture in a command can confuse your dog. And of course prepare tasty treats – they are the best motivators!
If your dog is not responding to the training, you should not keep repeating a command. This will only confuse your dog. If the learning session is not going well, take a break. Think about what you could be doing wrong, or what could be confusing your dog. Don’t be shy to ask for help. Talk to other dog owners and veterinarians to hear what works for other dogs. Many dogs, just as humans, learn and respond differently.
How and when should you start?
It is never too late to start teaching your dog if you are both willing to put in some effort.
Start slow, learning for 1 to 2 minutes is great for a puppy. Five minutes could already be too long for them. Older dogs can concentrate better, but even they can’t keep up for more than 15 minutes. It’s best to have a few short learning sessions in a day. If you have an energetic puppy you should first play and relieve some of the energy.
The ideal time for a learning session is little before their meal, or shortly after your dog wakes up.
You should carefully pick the location for training. For starters, you should choose a wider, quiet space where they can learn without distractions. When you dog has already learned these commands, you should start training in a location with a few distractions, and then in a location with many distractions like in a park or in a street. You should advance slowly and be sure your dog is ready to move on to the location with distractions.
This is one of the fist things your dog should learn. Never use this command to call your dog to receive a punishment. This is also one of the easiest commands to tackle. You should start your learning session before a meal, when your dog is hungry and ready to eat.
You should squat at a small distance from your puppy. Show your dog a bowl with food and call his name. When he starts moving towards you say “Come!”. When he gets to you, pet him and then give him food.
You should repeat this couple times a day in between the meals, using tasty treats. In just a few days, he will gladly come when he hears a command “Come!”.
A shy or an older dog will not come to you easily. If you have difficulties, use a leash to make sure he always listens to your command. Don’t use a leash to pull your dog to you, only to get his attention. He should always come to you willingly and be rewarded for it.
You can teach your puppy to sit as easily as to come. If you can’t lure him to sit with a treat, use your hand to hold his collar while setting his paws in a sitting position with your other hand. Say “Sit!” and give him a treat. You should praise verbally as well.
Face your dog with a treat in a hand and say “Sit!”. When your dog comes close to you, put the hand with a treat above his head. He will follow the treat with his eyes and naturally sit in order to see it better. When you see your dog getting into a sitting position, say “Sit!”
After he sits, give him a treat. Gradually start standing next to your dog when giving the command, and alternate between praises and treats as a reward for sitting.
If your dog has already learned to come and sit, the next step is learning to stay. You can use commands such as “Wait”, “Place” or “Stay”. This command can be useful in keeping your dog safe. Remember, if your dog does not respond to the command don’t say “No!” you should use this word only for a serious situations. Instead, you could say “Wrong!”.
“Stay” is just a prolonged “Sit” command. Your verbal command should be followed with a hand gesture – face the palm of your hand toward your dog.
Tell him to sit, don’t stand too close and make sure he is looking at you. When he sits, show him the palm of your hand and say “Stay!”. Move a few steps away; if your dog moves towards you, repeat from the start. You should gradually increase the distance, and at the end you should be able to give a command from afar, and have him obey.
Once your dog has learned to sit on command, you can teach him to lay.
When your dog sits, kneel beside him and put a treat under his nose. Slowly move the treat forward and to the floor. He should slowly lay down following the treat. When he starts to follow say “Lay” or “Down”. Make sure you keep the treat in your hand and give it away only after he completely lays down. You should repeat this until your dog lays down without the treat after hearing the command only.