Image via iStock.com/Dirima
By Victoria Schade
Going through basic dog training is an important step for pet parents and their dogs, particularly because some of the cues you learn together can be literal lifesavers. While obedience training helps to develop a common language and cement the bond between dog and handler, many dog training lessons also ensure your dogâ€™s safety.
Here are four basic dog training cues that might save your dogâ€™s life one day.
Why Sit Is an Important Safety Cue
Sit is the foundation of all safety behaviors. It can be used to keep your dog from harm by redirecting him if he is reactive around people or other dogs. It can also keep others safe if your dog has a tendency to jump on children or older people. Sit is a basic behavior that every dog should know.
How to Train a Dog to Sit
Sit is a straightforward cue to teach. Since your dog frequently assumes the position throughout the day, you can take advantage of it by â€ścapturingâ€ť him in the act. To train a dog to sit, simply say the word â€śsitâ€ť as your dog goes into the position, then follow up with a small treat.
Itâ€™ll take about ten to twenty repetitions before your dog makes the association between what heâ€™s doing and the word youâ€™re saying, but youâ€™ll soon be able to say â€śsitâ€ť and have your dog respond.
You can also lure your dog into position by using bite-sized, high-value?treats, like Stella & Chewyâ€™s Carnivore Crunch freeze-dried chicken treats.
Take a treat and hold it directly in front of your dogâ€™s nose so that he keeps all four paws are on the ground. Slowly move the treat back over your dogâ€™s forehead, between his eyes, so that his nose follows the movement of the treat. As your dogâ€™s nose goes up, his rump will go down, and the moment his rear hits the ground, give him his treat.
Repeat this luring process a few times, then stand still and wait for your dog to offer the position to you. Celebrate with praise and a treat when he does it! On the next attempt, wait for your dog to move into position, and say the word â€śsitâ€ť as he does it. Much like the captured sit, it should take several repetitions before your dog makes the connection between the word and the behavior.
Why Coming When Called Is an Important Safety Cue
Teaching your dog to come running to you can mean the difference between life and death. If your dog accidentally slips off his leash or manages to scale a fence, youâ€™ll need a well-trained recall to keep him safe.
â€śProofingâ€ť this cue, or getting it to the point where itâ€™s failsafe no matter the environment, takes time and dedication, but the peace of mind youâ€™ll have when your dog races back to your side far outweighs the effort.
How to Train Your Dog to Come When Called
To begin the foundation work of coming when called, find a training partner and grab a handful of soft, high-value treats, like Wellness Wellbites beef and turkey chewy dog treats. Make sure to select a recall word other than your dogâ€™s name, since you probably say your dogâ€™s name frequently. Words like â€ścomeâ€ť or â€śhereâ€ť work best.
Go to a quiet space in your home and call your dog to you by saying the chosen word once in an upbeat tone, then follow up with some encouraging hand clapping or kissy noises. When your dog gets to you, give him a treat, and praise him for his speedy response.
Take turns with your partner, calling him back and forth until heâ€™s responding confidently to the cue. Try it in other parts of your home in subsequent sessions, and when your dog is offering consistent, speedy responses, move outside to a safe space. Polish the behavior by practicing in new locations, like fenced-in parks and friendsâ€™ yards.
Why Stay Is an Important Safety Cue
Stay can mean the difference between a dog that waits patiently in your foyer while you sign for a package and a dog that darts out the front door into traffic. A strong stay cue keeps your dog safe by encouraging him to remain anchored in one spot, even when faced with distractions.
Stay is a complex behavior since it requires your dog to hold his position no matter whatâ€™s going on around him. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s important to set your dog up for success during the initial training by splitting the behavior into three parts, working on distance, duration and distraction separately.
How to Train a Dog to Stay
First get your dog used to the idea that youâ€™ll be moving away from him. Place your dog in a sit or down, say the word â€śstay,â€ť then take a small step away from your dog. Immediately come back and reward him with a meaty treat for remaining in place. Continue this process, stepping of in different directions, and then gradually add more distance between you and your dog.
The next step is adding duration. Youâ€™ll first get your dog comfortable with the fact that heâ€™ll have to remain in position for an extended period of time. Ask your dog to sit or lie down, say â€śstay,â€ť take a few steps away (but remain somewhat close), and then pause before you return. Give him a small treat when you get back to him.
Vary the amount of time you wait, sometimes making it easy by only staying away for a second or two, and on other attempts, wait a bit longer. (Always watch your dog to make sure heâ€™s not about to get up.)
Finally, work on distractions, or introducing â€śreal-lifeâ€ť aspects to the behavior. Put your dog in a â€śstay,â€ť then briefly focus on something else for a short period, like your stack of mail or dishes in your sink, then come back and reward your dog. Work up to more challenging distractions, like opening the front door or having children running by him.
Why Drop It Is an Important Safety Cue
Curious dogs can get into trouble when they pick up items like chicken bones or socks. A strong â€śdrop itâ€ť will keep your dog from ingesting the contraband and will keep you from paying an expensive veterinary bill. â€śDrop itâ€ť can be challenging to teach, since you might be competing with items that dogs love, like garbage, but steady practice will help create a â€śdrop itâ€ť cue thatâ€™s almost automatic.
How to Teach a Dog to Drop It
Itâ€™s important to start off â€śdrop itâ€ť training by using low-value items that your dog will happily release, and one of the easiest options is to use dog toys?Start the process with two toys of equal value. Throw one, and when your dog brings it back to you, offer him the other one by wiggling it in front of him.
When he opens his mouth to reach for the new toy, name the action by saying â€śdrop.â€ť Repeat the process until you can say â€śdropâ€ť and have your dog automatically release the toy when you ask.
You can also use treats to encourage your dog to drop items. When your dog has something in his mouth that youâ€™d like him to release, place a treat near his nose. Your dog will likely let go of the item in order to get the treat, so say â€śdropâ€ť when he opens his mouth, then give him the treat. Practice this step with a variety of items, until you can ask for the drop without having to put the treat in front of your dogâ€™s nose.