Teaching Your Dog, The “Go-To” Commands
This is a wonderful command to teach your dog. When you have your dog well trained on this command. You will find yourself calling on it at most times to handle situations that otherwise would prove tricky or embarrassing.
Some examples of these situations are:
- When your dog is barking excessively, you only need to use the “go-to” command to direct him to another activity.
- When you get visitors coming to your place and instead of your dog jumping on them, you can issue the “go-to” command for him to go to his crate
- When you are having dinner and you don’t need the dog jumping around the table.
Always remember that you shouldn’t use the “go-to” command only when you don’t want your dog to do something else apart from what he is currently doing. This will make the command look like a punishment every time and this is something your dog won’t enjoy.
Integrate it with your play or feeding time activities and see how fast your dog gravitates to the command.
The steps below outline how best to train our dog on the go to command as easily as possible. Remember to start slow as usual, with each progress, other complexities can be added to the training.
The Nine-Step Guide:
First Step: Select a nice comfortable location for your dog to go to. This is going to be the first place you will be sending your dog for a while. Make the place as comfortable as can be ( Note that this place is different from his already existing favorite spot).
Second Step: Stand about one to two meters away from your chosen spot. Say the command “go to” the mat (Assuming you have put a mat there for your dog) and at the same time throw one of his favorite treats there. Your dog is likely to rush over to the mat and eat the treat. When he does this praise him lavishly.
Third Step: Now repeat the second step over and over again. This is for your dog to have the command ingrained in him. Now, remember that the treat is just to attract the dog to the spot, with time the command would be issued without the treats.
Fourth Step: As your dog gets more and more adept at obeying the “go-to” command, gradually increase the distance between you and the chosen spot. Be sure to keep on praising your dog for each successful act he carries out.
Fifth Step: Now, we assume that your dog has grasped the concept of the “go-to” command, it is time to change the function of your dog’s treat. Instead of using it to lure the dog to the spot, we would use it to reward the dog after going to the spot.
We do this by issuing the “go-to” mat command, this time instead of throwing the treat on the mat, we just point to it.
When our dog goes to the mat position, we can then go there give him the treat, and lavish him with praises. If the dog doesn’t get it, go back to the fourth step. Be patient in the change of steps until he gets it.
Sixth Step: Repeat the fifth step until your dog gets it, now you can start changing the position to send your dog to e.g. go to your crate, go to your bed, go to the room, etc. all the while pointing in the direction you want him to go to.
Do not rush the process, take one new spot at a time. With time your dog would get used to the “go-to” command with anywhere you want to send him. (Since you would be pointing in the direction).
Seventh Step: The seventh step is all about adding a distraction when issuing the command to your dog. It might be someone bouncing a ball around him while you issue the “go-to” crate command or putting a bowl of treats in his crate (which he sees) while issuing the “go-to” mat command.
Eight Step: Now, you may choose to add the other commands you have trained him in into the mix. This may be the “down” command or the “sit” command, depending on what you want him to do.
Ninth Step: Gradually withdraw the treat rewards, instead a pat on the head or just verbal praise should be enough. For me, it is always ok to surprise my dog from time to time. A little unexpected treat when a command he hasn’t received any treat for a long time is issued and obeyed.
This element of surprise always keeps him alert and ready to impress which in turn makes him trainable no minding his age.
As usual, make the training sessions fun for you and your dog, be patient with him, and always be consistent. Within a couple of weeks, you are sure to see some good results with the command.
Teaching Your Dog, The “Leave It” Command
This is another useful command. The “leave it” command comes in very handy especially with older dogs. There are situations that come up on a daily basis in which you would have to use this command to control the situation.
Imagine you are on a walk and your dog finds and tries to eat some animal droppings, or you catch him in a situation where he is mouthing your shoe.
The “leave it” command is perfect for such situations. The good thing about the “leave it” command is that it can be thought at any stage of your dog’s life.
Follow the steps below to guide you properly on how to teach your dog this command. The first thing to do is to develop a behavior to which you will attach the leave it command.
The Seven-Step Guide:
First Step: Sit down in front of your dog in an environment in which he is comfortable and free from any type of distraction.
Second Step: In one hand hold his favorite treat and in the other hand some plain treat.
Third Step: With the hand holding the plain treat, open it up sitting in front of your dog, don’t do anything. Your dog would try to reach out for the plain treat to eat it. Don’t allow this, just close your hand so that he can’t reach it. When he withdraws, just say yes and open up the favorite treats for him to eat. If he wants to insist on the plain treat, just sit in front of him and ignore him.
Fourth Step: After about ten seconds do the third step again, but this time when he does the correct thing, give him the favorite treat, say yes, and also scratch his head lovingly. If he is still fixated on the plain treat, just keep your fist closed and ignore him. Your dog might act puzzled a bit, but it is ok, the main thing here is that he keeps on trying to follow your lead.
Fifth Step: Repeat steps three and four till your dog gets to understand what you are doing correctly, don’t forget repetition and consistency are the main attributes needed for this, just drop the commands repeatedly until your dog gets it.
Sixth Step: By now your dog would have had a good idea about what you are trying to achieve. He understands the basic behavior that you want to attach to the “leave it” command. The next thing to do is to add the leave it command into the action.
As you extend the hand with the plain treat, issue the “leave it” command to your dog, as far as you have been following through with the steps above, your dog should instinctively withdraw from the hand you are extending. Follow through as usual by giving him the favorite treat and praising him.
The main goal of this step is to start associating the actions of the “leave it” command to the verbal command itself.
Seventh Step: At this stage, you should have practiced the sixth step well enough for your dog to follow through without treats. The next thing to do is to introduce some complexities or distractions for your dog. Follow the list below and add these distractions one at a time. Remember to take things slowly, your dog needs your love and patience more.
- Change your hand position, from standing in front of him you can change it to standing by his side, placing your hand close to the ground, etc.
- Let your dog make eye contact with you before giving the treats out.
- Leave the plain treat on the floor and create some distance between you and your dog, when he comes closer to the plain treat issue the “leave it” command, if he tries to still eat them use your foot to block it.
- Change the location of your training sessions.
- As your dog gets more adept at the command, increase the distance between the two of you while issuing the command.
- Take the training session to places where other humans and pets are interacting.
As you can see, learning the “leave it” command by your dog is something that is going to be very useful to you. The command is not difficult for our dogs to learn, as a general rule of thumb, try and make the leave it command more appealing and attractive to your dog. This way, he or she will take more pleasure heeding the command than disobeying it.
Teaching Your Dog, The “Stand” Command.
This command is good to have for situations like when you visit your vet doctor or when you are bathing your dog. It is also good if you need him to stay in a place for some time.
As usual, start in a familiar environment free from distractions and build on the training from there.
The Six-Step Guide.
The first step is to reward as many instances of the “stand” behavior as possible – through shaping it or simply letting it occur naturally.
To begin with, you should teach the “stand” command when your dog is in a sitting position and then from the laying down position.
First Step: Take a few of his favorite treats, this would be used to lure your dog into the standing position. The target would be your dog’s nose. Hold the treat some few inches from his nose, he will sniff on it, then slowly draw away from him. (We are assuming that your dog was sitting down or lying down before you started the training).
For now, you don’t need to say anything to your dog, just keep slowly drawing away as he follows you till, he stands up completely, then reward him with the treat and some praise.
If for some reason he does not follow your bait, persuade him with some verbal encouragement or physical push, he needs to understand at this stage what you expect when you put the treat close to his nose.
Second Step: Repeat the first step continuously until you start getting the desired results.
Third Step: In this step, we try to lure the dog without the treats, just start exactly as in the first step but with no treat in hand. Move your empty hands across his nose to get his attention and slowly direct him till he stands up, then praise him and give him the treats.
If he doesn’t want to follow your empty hand, encourage him any way you can till he gets up to follow you (don’t forget the treat immediately he stands up).
You should vary the way you disburse your treats at this stage, vary it every second or third time he follows the training successfully. This way you keep your dog guessing and his interest piqued in what you are doing.
Fourth Step: Once you see that your dog has a solid grip on the third step, you can now start using the verbal command. What you do is to say “stand” while using the hand signal to indicate that he should stand. Praise him well as soon as he gets into the stand position.
Repeat the process over and over again with the verbal stand command. This can be done anytime throughout the day. This would help to build a connection between the verbal command and the action expected in your dog’s mind.
Fifth Step: Now, it’s time to drop the hands signal and depend wholly on the verbal command. Say the “stand” command and watch, your dog should make moves to stand(if you have followed through on the previous steps properly).
By now, your dog would have linked the action to the verbal cue and should stand on hearing the command. If for any reason he does not stand up, then you should go back to the fourth step and repeat until he gets it.
Sixth Step: When your dog has mastered responding to the verbal stand command properly, the next thing to do is to introduce some complexity to the command. Change location, provide some distraction, or involve someone else in the process. Whatever you do, just take it one step at a time, and as usual, be patient.
Teaching Your Dog The “Fetch” Command.
This is a very popular command which everyone likes to teach their dogs. The act of chasing, catching, and bringing back a target plays into a dog’s natural hunting instinct.
Another good thing about the fetch command is that this is something you can do together with your dog as an actual game. It has also been known to strengthen the bond between dog parents and their dogs.
Most dogs love chasing a target, even more, they love bringing back their catch to you. But as with most dogs, this act in its raw state can lead to frustration in most dog parents as the dog is doing things the way they like and not structured the way you would want it.
Teaching your dog, the “fetch” command the right way takes a few steps as outlined below. Your dog will learn to pick interest in the object you choose, chase after it when thrown, get it and bring it back to you (probably drop it at your feet), without much hesitation.
The Five-Step Guide
We start with a simple fun game between us and our dog. Find a room or an environment in which your dog would be relaxed and comfortable. Take one of his favorite toys in one hand and a tasty treat in another hand.
Now throw the toy a little distance from your dog, he would likely pounce on the toy and try to start playing with it. Encourage him to do so if he doesn’t go for the toy.
Once he gets the toy, praise him, take the toy from him and give him some treats instantly.
Some dogs won’t let go of their toy willingly, that’s ok, just dangle the treat in front of him and he would likely let go of the toy and gulp down the treat.
You can play this game in five minutes interval a couple of times each day till your dog understands the concept.
The second step is to incorporate a release command while taking the toy from him. As you take the toy from your dog’s mouth or if he drops it at your feet, say thank you and give him the treats and praises.
Just as with the first step, repeat the second step multiple times. This is to help your dog to build a connection between the release command and the thank you.
After repetition multiple times, we expect that your dog should be dropping the toy at your feet on hearing the release command.
At this stage, your aim is to increase the distance at which the dog will retrieve the toy for you. The expectation is that your dog would continue to go after the toy and bring it back to you.
Continue with the normal verbal cue to release the toy and successive reward.
If he doesn’t return with the toy as expected, don’t create any ruckus about it, just stay calm and ignore whatever he does, it should sink in for your dog that if he does not retrieve the toy as expected, the game stops automatically and there is no reward or praise associated with this.
Now you need to mix up things a bit, it is time to introduce other variables for your dog. A change of environment, change of toy (maybe a ball or frisbee), or involving another person in the game.
Don’t forget, the reward should only be given for successful command completion.
The four steps above basically builds up the behavior expected from your dog. You can just add the “fetch” command as you throw the ball or toy. By now, your dog is already conditioned to chase and retrieve the object for you.
Gradually do away with treats till you only give him praises for completion of the command. The game in itself should be enough reward (and exercise) for your dog.
Congratulations, you have followed this guide to the end, and (hopefully), your dog is performing some of the basic commands effectively.
You should be ready from here to start teaching your dog more complex commands and tricks. Keep in mind that using positive reinforcement is the best way to teach your dog anything.
Abused dogs or dogs that have been trained with scare tactics don’t really understand why they do what they do and this miscommunication can be dangerous when the dog gets very confused.
Positive reinforcement, patience, and lots of love are all that is needed to teach your dog anything and bring out the best in them.
Hi, I am Charles Nwankwo Editor-in-Chief, Mydoggything.com. Gleaning from Professional Dog Trainers, behaviorist, Registered Veterinarians, and Breeders. We are passionate about making dog care easy for you. My job is to make sure that you get the best-updated dog care information to understand and take care of your dog or dogs.