Dogs are smart, social creatures that can develop lots of skills and learn to listen to your commands through a lifelong journey of dog training. Some skills are more useful and essential than others, however, so you have to know what to focus on first before you teach them a few more tricks. These essential skills ensure that your dog is well-behaved and can lay down the foundation for other skills.
Dog training is a lifelong journey, so whether you have a puppy or an older dog, they can learn these important skills with some effort and consistency. To train your dog effectively, you’ll have to be dedicated, patient, and consistent—and don’t forget to reward your dog with some positive reinforcement!
Dog Skill #1 – Sit
This is perhaps the most common command that dogs learn. Telling your dog to sit on your command is simple because dogs already know how to sit—you just have to associate the words with the action.
Having a lot of small treats in hand, a good first step to teaching your dog how to sit is to lure your dog with a treat. While your dog is standing, get them interested in a treat by holding it in front of their nose and slowly positioning it towards the back of their head. Your dog will naturally follow the treat, and their rear end will go down as their head goes up.
As your dog sits, give the treat and praise them. If your dog jumps instead of sits, don’t give them a treat and wait for them to sit before you give it. Once your dog has this behavior down, transition to hand signals and verbal cues, giving your dog consistent praises and small treats throughout the learning process.
Dog Skill #2 – Stay
Teaching your dog to sit is one thing, but getting them to stay is another. Teaching them to stay is great for keeping your dog in a safe position, stopping them from following you around. Remember the three Ds when teaching your dog how to stay: Distance, Duration, and Distraction.
With your dog in a sitting or lying position, hold out your hand and say “stay”. If your dog stays in position, give them a treat, and praise them. Have a release word like “ok”, “release”, or “free” to signal when it’s time for them to move. Once your dog gets the idea that she’ll be rewarded if she holds their position, you can increase the command’s effectiveness through the three Ds.
Increase your distance and the duration of them holding their position before you say your release word. To test them, you can also introduce distractions. Repeat your command if you feel like your dog is going to move.
Dog Skill #3 – Come
It can be rewarding to get your dog to come whenever they’re called. This can also keep them safe and get them out of dangerous or unwanted situations. Start in a quiet area, back away from your dog, and enthusiastically call them to “come”. Don’t repeat yourself and keep your body language open and relaxed. Luring them with treats can help.
Once your dog comes when called, reward them with treats and praises. Repeat this over multiple training sessions, increasing the distance for more reliability.
Having a dog is fulfilling and fun, and getting them to learn new skills can improve your friendship with them. Knowing the essential skills can help your dog open themself up for more skills, and these skills can also keep them out of trouble!
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