You may have trained the basic commands like sit and down, but it’s important to know a way to ask your dog to do something which may keep it out of trouble. There are three commands in particular which can help stop your dog doing something that could be dangerous for them.
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First On Our List: The Leave Command
This command is where you ask your dog to stop scavenging something potentially harmful, or just encourages your dog to walk past something and totally ignore it. The aim is to help your dog realize that even when they ignore something really interesting, something good happens anyway.
To teach the leave command, you start with a treat in a closed hand. Your dog will likely sniff at it. Keep your hand firmly closed. As soon as they turn away, give them the treat. Remember you are helping them realize that ignoring a particular stimulus results in something good happening. When they are ignoring it, label the behavior with a command word of your choice, and then reward. Repeat.
Your dog may offer a sit or down, that’s fine – you simply want them ignoring the treat. You can progress to offering a treat in an open hand or even placing the treat in front of them as they become more adept at ignoring. You will get to the stage where you can ask for the leave behavior, they perform and then you reward.
Trick Two: Emergency Stop
The second command that could potentially keep your dog out of trouble is the emergency stop. Before you train this, you need to have a pretty infallible recall. Encourage your dog to come towards you, you may just call their name. As they are coming towards you, throw a treat to their side or directly behind them, and they will stop to eat it. As they do, label the behavior with your chosen command word. Then release them. This could be using recall or a specific release word like “OK!” Repeat.
You want to get to the stage where you can ask for the behavior, they stop, you can release them, and then they get the reward when they get to you.
If you are out and about and you need them to stop where they are so they don’t get near an edge or run into a road, they will do so. The last thing you need is for them to rely on the treat as they stop. You may not be close enough to reward them at that moment, but you still need them to perform the behavior.
Trick Three: Stay
The last command that can keep your dog out of danger is stay. Here you may need your dog to wait somewhere for you to investigate ahead of them. Or if you need to ask them to stop, you can then quickly follow it by asking them to stay until the danger has passed or you have gotten to them.
To train the stay command, start with your dog in front of you in a sitting or lying down position. Hold your palm flat in front of them and ask them to stay. Reward after even just a couple of seconds. The aim is to increase the time between you asking them to stay and then rewarding them. If they are moving before you get a chance to reward them, reduce the time you wait to reward again. Start small with 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds, and move up as they become more adept at the command.
Once you have got a decent wait time, you can start moving one step away from them and asking for the same behavior. Then progress again to two steps, three steps and so on. If at any point your dog is no longer performing, revert to an earlier stage. You likely just moved on a little too quickly. Eventually you should be able to ask your dog to stay from a distance, and for an impressive length of time. Next you would introduce distractions in the form of other people and other dogs. You may even go back to short periods of time and being just one step in front of them when you first introduce distractions.
Small steps set your dog up to succeed!
When you are out and about, it’s handy to have a few commands that could potentially keep your dog out of danger. We hope you never need to use them, but they’re certainly one’s worth training! When you are out, always be sure to pick up your dog’s poop with biobased animal waste bags from The Original Poop Bags®! Shop the collection now.
John Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs, a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in animal welfare and behavior, and a recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.