Co-authored by Chris Campbell, LVT
Dog training is useful for more than just tricks. You can protect your pooch from accidents, injuries and sticky situations by familiarizing him with the behaviors and manners you expect from him.
Every dog needs a strong training foundation before more complex responses and behaviors can be taught. In fact, teaching your dog the basic etiquette of "sit," "stay" and "lie down" is as important as teaching a child to say "please" and "thank you."
"Sit" and "lie down" are the base commands that should alert your dog to obey and await other instructions from you. As soon as he hears those words, his attention should be drawn away from any distractions and focus on you. "Stay" reinforces these commands so that your dog listens only to you and maintains his posture until you release him from it. This is especially helpful in stressful or exciting situations when your dog may be tempted to run off. Once Fido has mastered these commands, you can graduate him onto protective instructions for specific situations, such as the following:
- Sit in a doorway – Dogs tend to charge through doorways without a thought to what might be on the other side. Teaching your dog that he should always sit whenever he reaches a doorway will prevent him from running in front of an approaching car or tripping someone up. It will also make it easier for you to put on his leash and collar before going for a walk, so drill it into his head that you should always go in or out of the doorway before he does.
- Sit at a curb – Similar to sitting in a doorway, your pooch should learn to recognize a curb, stop and sit, without you having to give the verbal command. This will protect him from dashing into traffic and allow you to lead him across the street safely.
- "Wait" – There are many distractions in the great outdoors and if your dog starts chasing a scent, he may not realize situations where he should stop or sit. The "wait" command can give your dog pause and help bring his attention back to you, so that he does not interact with other people or animals passing by.
- Don't jump up – Jumping up on people can be dangerous not just for the people, who might get scratched or bruised, but also for your dog. Breeds that have elongated spines, like the Corgi, Dachshund, Basset Hound and others, should be taught never to jump up on furniture or people under any circumstances, as their backs are particularly delicate and jumping could cause serious damage.
- Come when called – In case your dog does manage to get out of the yard or escape when you are out for a walk, he should be taught to come to you when you call his name. This will not only save you the effort of running after him, but also provide some peace of mind that he will find you if you lose sight of him.
- "Drop it" and "leave it" – You will be particularly grateful that your dog understands these commands on that inevitable day when your dog finds something dead or nasty in the park and wants to eat it. Telling him to "leave it" can save him from ingesting something poisonous or filled with parasites, or that could get stuck in his throat. If you are too late to stop him from picking it up, at least "drop it" will prevent you from having to remove it from his mouth by hand.
If you have a big, strong dog, it is especially important to teach him the proper way to behave on a leash. Allowing him to pull you through the park or down the street at his pace could be dangerous for you, him as well as other pedestrians and their pets.
Many dogs are naturally reactive to all the activities around them when walking on a leash. Getting into a brawl with a cyclist, runner, skateboarder, car or other dogs could lead to painful vet bills, medical bills or lawsuits. Proper socialization training can help your pup overcome those reactive tendencies.
Train your dog in loose-leash walking techniques as early as possible. Young dogs are usually easier to manage and train, but with patience, older dogs can also be taught how to behave on walks. On straight paths, Fido should walk at your pace by your side and follow you smoothly around corners.
Treat or Prevent Separation Anxiety
Dogs that experience especially stressful separation anxiety can damage your furniture and home, causing injury to themselves in the process. Such dogs have been known to chew their way out of crates, shred armchairs and couches, or even jump through glass windowpanes. This behavior can cause your pet to sustain lacerations, damage his teeth or swallow harmful objects or toxic substances.
You can help prevent your dog from developing fear or separation anxiety by teaching him as a puppy to associate good things with you leaving the house. Create a safe space for your pup to feel secure in whenever you are away. A crate works well for this and you can encourage your pet to love the space by adding some of his favorite toys or treats. Don't make a fuss just before you leave, as this could make your dog more anxious.
Training Protects Your Dog
Many healthy, innocent dogs develop problem behavior or get into bad situations that lead them to be euthanized, simply because they were untrained. Hurting someone by jumping up out of excitement, barking excessively, messing in the house or injuring another pet are all issues that could be prevented with a little training.
Take the time to teach your dog the basic commands and training outlined here and not only will you be keeping Fido from getting into trouble, you will also be strengthening your bond with him.