Anyone Can Train Their Dog

By Art Hess

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We hear wonderful stories about dogs that know 250 words and the following week there will be a report of a dog that has mastered 500 words only to be upstaged by an African Gray parrot who knows and speaks this many and a bunch more.

I’m not here to suggest you and Buddy need to learn quite that many but you need to have about twenty words. Some are a combination of several words but for the most part it’s easier for the dog if we keep things short and easy to understand. Remember when we run off at the mouth, it’s more difficult for him to know for sure just what we want. The following list starts out in order of importance and then adds some that are used regularly but they all fall into an equally important sort (of) list.

NAME—if properly taught, the name eliminates the need for those extra words like, attention, look at me, etc.

NO comes in a variety of flavors from “Psst, hey don’t do that,” to something louder and more forceful, depending on the severity of the infraction.

SIT—is everyone’s favorite and introduced very early in the learning process. Sit is forever useful because a dog with his bum on the ground can’t jump up, lunge, sniff inappropriate places etc.

COME—is the next of the “no compromise” commands. If you’re only going to teach a few words, these first four are must do words.

This next group is pretty standard in most dog’s repertoire but not quite as important as the first four.

DOWN is obvious and is a great position to have the dog assume when you want him to relax or cool out and let the air out of tires.

STAY is self explanatory and I also teach WAIT at the same time. Their uses are somewhat different and I prefer WAIT if we want to literally wait briefly before resuming an activity whereas STAY to me is used to indicate a longer duration.

Go to your BED or some other place is extremely valuable in teaching the dog to relocate and sit down on his bed as opposed to continuing to perform some undesirable activity. Such as barking or begging.

HEEL or the less formal LET’S GO mean let’s go for a walk and the dog is to be beside the handler in the correct heeling position.

Coupled near the Heel category I have to include LEAVE IT and DROP IT. These are two more of the “no compromise “ commands.

These last few are useful but not up near the top of my list.

OFF. Most people put this one up near the top but I personally believe in teaching my dogs that jumping up is never an option so I almost never use the word off.

STAND is useful particularly for your groomer and sometimes at the vet.

JUMP or HUP are handy when loading the dog into the van.

BACK UP or GET BACK are pretty useful when working with big dogs even if it’s just to get them back from a door.

Some people teach SPEAK. I don’t, but I do teach QUIET.

The last two apply to starting and ending schooling sessions. I start with an enthusiastic, “ARE YOU READY?” and I use a release to tell the dog that we’re done. I use whatever is natural as long as I am consistent. I find myself usually using, “THAT’S IT. WE ARE DONE.”


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