When you own a dog, you start with the best intentions.
You want to train your dog correctly, so he knows every command possible.
Although that may not be possible, three safety commands should top your list — especially if you live in a busy city.
Starting with these safety commands will help you protect your dog, and they may make the difference between life and death if you need to stop your dog from doing something dangerous.
Before we move on to the commands, be sure that you have established a successful recall command. By this, we mean, your dog regularly returns to you when called, even with distractions present.
Fundamental safety commands: Recall
To train a successful recall, start with your dog in front of you and lure him with a treat. Walk backward and call his name, followed by “come!”
Repeat regularly. You can then ask a helper to hold your dog’s collar and increase the distance he must travel to get to you.
Once your dog has mastered this command, you can add in distractions; other people, toys, and then other dogs.
Once you have a successful recall, you can progress to other commands.
To teach your dog an emergency stop, you call your dog to you. As they are traveling, throw a treat directly behind them or to the side.
They will stop to eat it. As they do, label the behavior. Repeat several times.
Progress to asking them to stop when you throw the treat. You can then work on a release command, so call your dog’s name again, with “yes, OK, or Come!” Then you reward them when he gets to you.
This is a crucial safety command. You need your dog to listen to you and respond appropriately in an emergency.
If you have trained your dog to do the sit or down command, you can add that to the “stop!” For example, “Max, Stop, Sit!” or “Max, Stop, Down!”
This allows you to get your dog, or wait for the danger to pass before you release him.
This is an excellent command to teach those scavenging pups!
If you are walking in densely populated areas, you may come across discarded food. Not only could it be moldy, but it also could just be food that is toxic to your dog.
By teaching the leave it command, you stand a chance of stopping your dog from eating it.
Start with a treat in your hand. Let your dog sniff it.
Wait until they stop paying attention or turn away.
Then give the dog the treat. You want the dog to learn that even when they ignore the good thing, something good happens anyway. Repeat.
As your dog ignores the treat, label the behavior. Repeat. You can progress to having a treat in an open hand or on the floor to test your dog’s response.
If you are moving around the city with your dog, you may be on trains or walking through parks to get to other roads.
Quite often, when we walk out of the door at home, it signals something interesting, like going for a walk. Our dogs then associate doors with good things happening so they can get super-excited about lunging through them. That’s why we need to teach the wait command.
Start at home by your door and ask your dog to sit by the door.
Go to touch the handle. Continue to open the door, providing your dog remains calm and seated. If he moves, shut the door or move away from it and ask your dog to sit again.
When he is performing the behavior you want, encourage it, by saying “yes!” and give a small treat reward.
You label the wait behavior when the door is fully open, and your dog waits patiently to go through.
When at home, practice it with different doors and practice when you head out; you want the skill to be transferrable. This is a great command when you are getting off the train or if you are heading out of your own home!
The power of training
You may want to teach your dog a range of commands, not only for obedience but as a want to keep their mind active and stimulated.
If you live in a city, certain commands would be at the top of the list for your dog’s safety.
Once you’ve got a basic recall, sit and down mastered, move on to the stop, leave it, and wait commands. You never know when you may need them, but you’ll be thankful you have them!
John Woods is the founder and director of All Things Dogs, a graduate in animal behavior and welfare, and a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. He founded All Things Dogs in 2018 to educate 40 million pet parents on how to care for their dogs using force-free positive reinforcement training methods.