Training your dog or cat is important for maintaining a happy and healthy household. Not only does it improve your pets' behavior in a variety of ways but it reinforces the bond that you have with your dog or cat.
The following info will provide tips and basic training methods that can help you have the perfect relationship with your pet. Be sure to check back from time to time as I will be adding information regularly.
The ‘Come’ Command
The ‘Come’ command can often be difficult to teach because, well, let’s face it, if you want your dog to come to you it is usually because he is going somewhere or doing something he is not supposed to. Dogs that are out of reach may pretend they don’t hear you or may simply feel that what they are doing is more interesting than what you have in mind.
When you begin teaching the ‘come’ command, you will need a long lead of about 20 – 30 feet so that you can reel him in once you give the command and he won’t be able to go the other way. You can begin indoors if you like since you will start with short distances and increase as your dog improves.
NOTE: Your dog must already know the ‘sit’ & ‘stay’ commands in order to learn the come command.
- Have your dogs sit and stay at one end of the room while you walk to the other end. If this is too far, start with just a few feet between you.
- With a lot of enthusiasm in your voice, say your dog’s name, and then ‘Come!’ If it helps, you can squat low and hold your arms open. The idea is to always make what you have/are doing sound way better than what is going on by him.
- If your dog doesn’t immediately come when you give the command, give a quick tug on the leash to get him started. You may even have to pull him all the way over to you, but remember to always sound happy and give lots of praise as he is moving toward you. Once he reaches you lavish him with praise and give a treat.
- Repeat this process until he comes on his own as soon as you give the command. Once he masters this command in the house, increase the challenge by trying it from across the yard.
- Once your dog has mastered the ‘come’ command in the yard, increase the challenge again by adding distractions. Ask a friend to walk by or stand on the sidelines, plant toys or treats in certain areas. You may need to use the lead at first for this but it is invaluable to be able to get your dog to come to you regardless of the distractions.
NOTE: People tend to yell “Come!” when their dogs have done something wrong. Try to avoid yelling and sounding negative when calling your dog to you because he will associate the word ‘come’ with punishment and avoid coming to you at all. As a rule of thumb, call your dog to you only when you are happy, and go to him when you are giving discipline.
If your dog has learned to run away from you when you approach to discipline him (many dog owners know this canine tactic well), use a command like ‘drop it’ or ‘leave it’ to get him to stop what he is doing first, then change to a happy tone of voice and call him to you with the ‘come’ command. Good luck!
The Down Command
The Down Command is the second most important thing to teach your dog after training him to sit.
Teaching your dog the down command may take a couple of weeks of practice because it is a little more difficult as it requires him to contain his energy and concentrate, but it is definitely worth the effort. Once he masters it, you can use the down command to give him a break during walks or playtime, and it can help stop problem behaviors like barking as it is difficult for a dog to bark when they are lying down.
- With you dog sitting in front of you, hold a treat in front of his nose.
- Tell him ‘down’ as you simultaneously lower the treat to the ground at a slight diagonal away from him, or a kind of down and out motion. As his nose follows the treat, he will automatically end up in the down position.
- Once he is lying down, give him the treat and praise him.
The Drop It Command
Given the variety of things that dogs will pick up with their mouths, many of which are unsavory or even dangerous, the ‘Drop It’ command is something that all dogs should know well. Many people use other verbal cues such as ‘out’, or ‘leave it’, for the same command but since I have doggy daycare and board dogs in my home, I use those for other purposes which I will cover in a separate article. You may use which ever verbal cue comes naturally to you as long as you are consistent.
- Give your dog a toy, something that she likes and will gladly hold in her mouth.
- Once she’s got a hold of it, show her a treat and hold it under her nose. The theory here is that the treat will be more interesting that the toy and she will drop the toy to get the treat. As soon as she opens her mouth to drop the toy, say ‘Drop it,’ and give her the treat.
- Practice this several times a day until she’ll drop the toy on command without getting a treat.
NOTE: If your dog is one of those rare canines that are not very driven by treats, try using something else to entice her to drop the toy. Sometimes just using a different toy can do the trick. Some may have to resort to chicken or beef or some other food that is considered a delicacy in the dog world.
The Easy / Take It Nice Command
The Easy / Take It Nice Command can ensure that you still have some fingers left when giving your dog a treat or a toy. Eager dogs can sometimes forget that there are human fingers behind what they want, so the The Easy / Take It Nice Command is something that every dog should learn.
- With your dog sitting in front of you, offer him a treat and firmly, but not angrily, say either "Easy," "Nice," or "Take It Nice."
- If your dog tries to grab the treat, pull your hand out of reach, and then offer it again. After a few tries, your dog should realize that he has to move more carefully if he is going to get what he wants. When he gently reaches for the treat, hand it over and praise him.
NOTE: The choice of command is yours but as with any dog training, be consistent. Use a word command that comes naturally to you because using several different commands for the same thing will only confuse your dog. Remember, set him up for success.
The Sit Command
The Sit Command is probably the most important thing that you can teach your dog or cat. Yes, you can teach a cat to sit on command. The sit command is also the easiest command to teach.
When you teach your dog to sit on command, you are also teaching them that it is time to be respectful and wait for instructions. Having your dog sit is one of the best ways to make him calm down when he is being too rowdy. Most dogs can learn to sit in just a few lessons.
- Stand facing your dog as he stands facing you. Hold a treat in front of his face and wait until he begins to use his nose to sniff.
- Once he is focused on the treat, say "sit" while moving the treat in an upward direction over his face. His nose will follow the treat up and his rear end will automatically go down. The moment his bottom touches the ground, reward him with the treat and praise.
Practice the sit command for about 15 minutes at a time. It is important to do all dog training lessons in short intervals so you don't overwhelm your dog. Remember, you want it to be fun and rewarding. Once your dog has mastered 'sit,' then you can move on to 'stay' and the more complicated commands. Good luck and Happy Training!
FOR CATS: You can use the same method to teach your cat to sit. If your cat does not go for treats, try some boiled chicken pieces or tuna flakes.
Another method is to place your cat on stool with a small seat. Gently push down on her rear end while saying 'sit.' If she doesn't put her rear end down quickly, move a bit closer to her and try again. She will have to lift her head higher to see you and her rear will autimatically go down. Again, the moment her rump hits the seat, praise, praise, praise!
The Stay Command
The Stay Command is one of the harder commands to teach a dog because it requires the dog to remain still in one place while you move away. Since dogs are pack animals with super-sensitive sniffers, either their desire to be with their people or their noses often distracts them.
The trick to teaching the stay command is to remain as close to your dog as possible in the beginning and gradually increase the distance between you as your dog does better.
- With your dog either sitting or lying down, put your palm a few inches in front of his face and say “stay.”
- After giving the command, move back one step and then quickly come closer before your dog has a chance to move. Give him a treat and praise.
- Once he stays for that distance on his own, increase the distance to two steps, and so on.
NOTE: Do not attempt to teach this command on a slippery surface because your dog’s feet may slide out from under him and force him to move. Set him up for success by practicing on a carpet or in the yard.
Also, do not say his name before giving the command. Hearing their names can get them excited and make it harder to sit still.