I own several small dogs that are well behaved. Okay, maybe not always, but enough that I’ve had people ask me for dog training tips! Having a dog that responds to commands is always preferable, no matter the situation. As I write this, I can immediately recall a situation where my dog got off its leash, and only a well-timed command prevented it from running onto the street from the sidewalk!
I wanted to start out by discussing how I first taught them commands when I got them. I’ll help you with voice and hand commands. Finally, I’ll talk about what I do now with my dogs to make sure they retain their training.
Let’s focus on teaching dogs commands first. Normally, the best way to teach your dog commands is at 6 to 7 months of age. I don’t recommend doing anything before then simply because your pup is going to be way too small and full of energy. Of course, if you have an older dog, you won’t have any real issue. It might take a few more tries to get them to follow your commands, but rest assured that the whole “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” isn’t exactly true.
One other thing I want to mention is that your dog already views you as the “alpha” of the pack, so keep this in consideration!
The two important tools you’ll need at your disposal to ensure correct training are these:
You’re probably not surprised to hear that you need treats to get your dog to do what you want. You may, however, be surprised to see me mention patience as the other important tool. Never, ever, get mad at your dog or physically assault if it doesn’t listen to you. To your dog, you’re their entire world. Don’t give them confidence or people issues by hurting them! Neither party gains anything from what you’ll do. Okay, we’ve lingered long enough at this point.
When it comes to teaching commands, you need to be doing all the following:
This one is pretty self explanatory. If you’re using a voice command, use the exact same wording for the command. This leads into:
-Keep It Simple
Saying “stay” or “sit” or “roll over” is about all you should be saying. Don’t make commands too complex, or both you and or dog are going to get frustrated
-Keep Your Dog Excited
This is supposed to be fun! You’re getting to spend time with your furry friend, you should always try to enjoy it. That way, they will too. Make it seem like playtime. Reward them with treats or their favorite toy.
Voice and Hand Signals
There is a time and place for Voice Signals, and there is a time and place for Hand Signals. If you’re planning on being in a large park that doesn’t have leashes, you might want to use Hand Signals so your dog can see you from far away. Voice is normally more useful in an immediate situation.
For hand signals, write down what you want your dog to do for each command. As I mentioned above, STAY CONSISTENT. I can’t think of anything more important.
The key to having your dog understand both is when you first start training it, use both at the same time. Once it starts to understand the voice and hand at the same time, you can start alternating to see if it still understands. However, once you start using one or the other, you need to keep practicing both with your dog. Otherwise, it’s going to forget everything!
After all that hard work, your dog has finally learned some useful commands! Of course, as you might imagine, it never stops there. It’s not like riding a bicycle where they remember forever. You need to always stay consistent. My personal recommendation is to, time to time, reward them with a treat if they follow your command. It can be a treat that’s not as good as the original ones you gave it. That way, you’ll save money on these “gourmet” treats that most owners give their dogs at the start. It’s okay, I’ve been there too!
Now that you have all this in mind, start learning 5 basic dog commands. You'll find you're quite well prepared now!