Dogs are curious in nature and are eager to learn. Much like a child, a disciplined and well-mannered dog is a healthy dog! Training can stimulate a dog’s brain and challenge him mentally. It also encourages good behavior rather than punishing negative behavior, and is a great way for you and your pup to bond and communicate better. Learning a new trick can be a challenge, but is generally a lot of fun for both you and your dog. Once the more basic commands are achieved, many pet parents have some fun with their training, introducing tricks like “play dead” and “high five”. (See some of the most impressive tricks here).
While there are many kinds of tricks you can teach your dog, there are two in particular that could also help to keep your dog from danger in the future. Training is not just curbing bad behavior so that your dog is a more civil member of society… it’s also about the dog’s personal safety. Of all the commands you can teach your dog, these are the two that may be lifesavers:
Training your dog to return to you on command comes in hand in so many situations. For example, when you’re at the dog park and you see another dog getting a little frustrated with yours – calling your dog out of the situation is a great way to avoid a tussle and avoid injuries. Or, when your dog gets off the leash in a unfenced area or by a busy street. A dog that responds to this command is at a significantly lower risk of getting lost or injured than a dog that doesn’t. Here’s how you can teach your pup to come:
- If he’s brand new to the idea, or if he’s particularly hyper, you can first practice with a leash.
- Back away from him and then squat down to his level and tell him to “Come”
- If he does not walk toward you on his own, gently pull the leash toward you. When he gets to you, reward him with praise and a treat.
- Repeat until he begins to understand – you may have to have multiple practice sessions!
- Once he’s got it down on the leash, try the command without it (make sure you’re in an enclosed area)
- You can vary the distance between you and your dog to practice the command when you’re not in his direct line of vision
2. “Leave it”
Teaching your dog to drop or ignore things on command will also prove to be an important trick. If your dog were to get a hold of something that may be potentially poisonous to him (or if it’s just something really gross), it’s important you can communicate to him that he needs to spit it out. Again, a dog that knows how to respond to this command can be better protected against potentially harmful situations. Here’s how you can teach your pup to leave it:
- Have one treat in both hands
- Let your dog see one of the treats, then close your fist around it (keeping your other hand with the other treat behind your back)
- Tell him to “Leave it” – allow him to whine or paw at your hand, but ignore these behaviors
- Once he stops investigating your first hand, give him the treat from the other hand.
- Pro Tip: Watch his eyes – the best time to reward him is when he looks away from your closed fist
- Repeat this until he learns not to go for the first fist at all.
- Continue to practice, exposing the first treat more and more to your dog as he begins to understand (but be prepared to cover it in case he relapses and tries to take the first treat)
- For example, try placing the treat on the ground and covering it with your foot when necessary
- Remember to be patient with this command. It’s difficult even for us to ignore something we really want! Just be consistent and practice often — and don’t forget to give lots of praise!