There are many commands that are useful in terms of making life easier and more enjoyable for you AND your dog……but if I had to choose only three they would be the following and why:
• Come when called – No real explanation necessary here. If your dog has not/does not learn to come when you call in EVERY situation then not only are you setting yourself up for GREAT frustration but also you are essentially putting your dog at risk of losing its life. No great imagination is needed to understand that the dog that runs/strays away from its owner may very well bolt into the street and into oncoming traffic and we ALL have heard the horror stories about that. Aside from that situation….what if your dog decides to take off and run toward another dog? Well, your dog’s intentions may be innocent (albeit totally unacceptable) but your dog may be oblivious to the warning signs the target dog may be throwing. Your dog may very well be wanting to “play” with the dog in his sights but THAT dog may very well have other intentions (anything from not being interested in your dog’s attention to considering ending your dog’s life for his transgressions.) Some dogs that one might run into out in the world may SEEM very well-behaved and certainly the owner may have understood how potentially dangerous their dog was and trained him to a “T” so that their dog seems to be the model citizen. But put into the horrendous situation of a dog charging into their space off leash and totally out of control?...........all training can very quickly go out the window and understandably so. In this day and age where off-leash exercise is essentially illegal except in fenced areas (dog parks mostly which are often a nightmare in themselves) it is no wonder that people get bit, dogs get hit by cars, dogs run away and disappear and people get sued for the transgressions of the dog in their charge. I personally think it very sad that our society has come to this where it concerns our beloved dogs but honestly I can’t really blame the powers that be for the leash laws. TOO many owners are irresponsible with the training (or rather lack of training) of their best friend…..their dog. So now we are faced with EVERYBODY having to be restrained on a leash to keep us ALL safe. So, even though it is not LEGAL for your dog to be off leash in the neighborhood….that should not keep you from training a VERY solid “COME” in all situations (from no distractions to high distractions.) Hence the long line work that we will stress in class over and over and over again. There is no other way to be “safe” (that is for YOUR dog as well as other people and dogs) in working on this command and there are very concise steps to achieving that illustrious rock solid “COME.” We will go over this again and again in class.
• Walking on a loose leash – This is actually one of the hardest things for owners to teach their dog. It is hard for the dog to learn and harder for the owner to learn. It really doesn’t matter what “tool” you use on your dog at this point (what collar or harness) the rule is still the same…….you are aiming toward ZERO tension on the leash as it is connected to the dog and you move along. Sounds easy doesn’t it? IT ISN’T…..and it takes a lot of work and following are the concepts involved to achieve this: your dog must be aware that you are even with them/care that you are with them, your dog must keep track of where YOU are going so they can follow without pulling you in another direction, and most importantly…you dog must NEVER get to where it wants to go IF it is pulling you (if it does so then it is being “rewarded” each and every time it succeeds and will continue that behavior…..remember DOGS DO WHAT WORKS!) Again we will use a combination of the long line and short leash to help your dog learn to walk on a loose leash. My rule of thumb is…when your dog is walking on a loose leash you essentially should be able to close your eyes and not even FEEL your dog on the leash (our minds can trick us when we aren’t being careful.) Of course we can’t walk around with our eyes closed without a disaster but on a straight path for a couple of steps try closing your eyes and see if you feel your dog (be careful you aren’t going to trip of course.) Another great way to START this concept is by standing still and doing nothing with your dog on leash next to you. You should start by asking that there be NO tension on the leash in that situation as well. The dog can move around but not PULL on you. You stop this by giving a tug when the leash is starting to tighten and praise and/or treat when it is loose. Sounds pretty easy doesn’t it? Try it…..it is pretty astounding how that can do wonders. After all if the dog has learned to pull against you when you are standing still how can you expect him to NOT pull when you start moving?
• Down-Stay – I can’t imagine raising a dog without a solid down-stay. It is so beneficial both to the dog as well as the humans in the home. Why do I say that? Down-stay teaches self-control which is the cornerstone of impulse control. It can keep a dog out of trouble without having to be confined. It can teach the dog to “calm” itself, which can benefit all facets of the dog’s life. It enables the owner to take the dog so many more places (outdoor eating/coffee establishments and over to a friend’s house to name only a couple). It also establishes and reinforces the owner as the benevolent leader, which is always advisable. In my opinion it is well worth the effort to teach it correctly and step by step (something we do in class).
In order to be fair and successful it is important to teach each new concept (each new command) in steps and move forward slowly as it is clear your dog understands.
Good Luck and Great Training!