So now that you have picked up your pup, let’s discuss the Commands, Cues, Manners, and typical Problems we have gone through and how to address them. In a nutshell, Commands are directives given to a dog. These are mandatory and need to be used on a daily basis. You will hear the phrase among dog trainers, “do not give a command unless you are capable of holding them accountable.” Commands are not suggestions. Do not get laissez-faire with you commands; if you say it, they need to respond in kind. You should plan 2-3 sessions at 5-15 minutes a day to work through the below listed Commands. As bad manners and problems occur, address them at that moment. Do not wait to address when it is more convenient – do it now. (See Blog – Guilt VS Fear for more info on this). Cues are fun, so you can play with these throughout the day.
Remember, your dog will be most distracted when they first go home. It is not uncommon for a dog to seem like they are not paying attention to you, be distracted from you when they first get home, or even act like they didn’t learn anything; do not fret. Imagine taking your kid(s) to an amusement park, the rollercoasters whizzing by, the people laughing, the smell of cotton candy and funnel cakes in the air… and you want them to sit on the bench and make them study for their English test… at the park. Not a wise idea. If you wouldn’t expect that of your kid, then please remember that this is a dog and they need to have some adjustment time before you start formally working their obedience.
The Basic Commands
All Commands should be given without additional words. Dogs do not understand sentences; they recognize sounds and have associated those sounds with actions. Make sure that when you give a command, you require immediate compliance. Do not get aggressive with your dog; focus on being clear in voice, concise, and firm. Be fair. It is your job now to watch and understand your dog’s tells, their communications to you, and make an assessment of how to respond. It amazes me the number of people who shout sentences at their dogs and wonder why they look confused.
When working through these commands in the “formal sessions”, you will want to keep a rope slip lead on them at all times. Over time and consistent execution, you will want to start relying on the lead less and less. Your goal is to get to a point where you do not need the lead at all. When you first start with them, you’ll want to have a means to bring them to you or make them sit, and this is the purpose of the slip lead. Some people/trainers use choke chains or pinch collars and that’s fine; I personally am not a fan of them, as in my opinion there is too much of a possibility to hurt/maim by not using them appropriately.
Sit – Their rear goes down on command. The rear goes down immediately, not in a minute or when they feel like it.
Here – Dog comes to me by way of the shortest and quickest route. The dog should not stop and sniff, check other things out, or slowly trundle back. This command is a front finish command, meaning the dog comes immediately to me and sits directly in front of me (basically combines “here” with “sit” commands but specifies where the command terminates).
Heel – Dog walks with me, stride for stride. Their head must be within one foot of our knee, in any direction. OR dog stays by my side while standing still. You can move the dog from front finish to a side seated heel position by saying heel and giving a hand motion to that side once they have sat in front of you.
Kennel – This command is an “in to” and “on to” command. If given in front of their crate, they kennel into. If given in front of a tailgate, table, stand, or anything slightly elevated, they jump on to. If the table is too high, they will tell you. Be fair and assess if they are refusing out of fear or non-compliance.
Easy – Simply put, this is a cue that is intended to reward your dogs for calmness and gentle behavior. They should settle down when cued on this and their reward is praise and affection.
Quiet – When they are barking, this cue requires them to stop barking. Do not let them keep barking once you give the cue.
No – This Literally means “stop what you are doing and look at me”. It is preparatory in nature, and something always follows this cue. IE – “No, Here”, “No, Heel”, “No, Sit”. This cue is used when they are not following our commands directly. It also applies to manners and problems, as well. This cue does not mean “bad dog”. If you notice the dog putting their head down or tucking their tail on this cue, you may, in fact, be being too hard on them. Be fair – we are trying to build dogs who are happy and satisfied with their family.
Look – Dog stops and looks at me. The goal is to facilitate focus and eye contact. Make them want to keep eye contact with you.
Good – Their body should noticeably convulse/move with joy/happiness when given this cue. We use the cue “good” as a secondary reinforcer, to support appropriate responses to our commands. (See Blog about primary/secondary reinforcers)
OK – We use the Cue “ok” as a release command. They are now free to do what they will, but still must exercise good manners. Every obedience command must be released into something else. “Sit” to “here”, “here” to “heel”, and “sit”/”heel”/”kennel” to “ok” once finished.
The Taught Manners
No Jump – We use the preparatory cue of “No” then immediately follow it with “Jump”. The idea is they need to sit down and wait for us to pet and play. We cannot let them get to a point where they believe they gain our attention from jumping. Some think and purport that jumping is only dominance behavior; there are numerous studies out that show just the opposite. (See Blog on dominance behaviors)
Leave it – Food, trash, dead things, whatever, you just walked by something on the road and you want them to leave it alone. Command them to “leave it” when walking by. Follow with “good” once they have walked by.
Walk on a leash – They will know how to walk on a leash once completing the obedience course. They are to be a pleasure to walk and be free on leash, and not pulling. If they begin to pull, make this a formal obedience moment; give them the “heel” command and then once satisfied with their response give them the “ok” release, but remember, they cannot pull or lead you when walking freely on the lead.