Today we are going to talk about the essential, the main, the inevitable! I am talking about the basic indications to teach your dog, from the basics “sit, down, don’t move, recall” to the more technical but indispensable “in the basket” or “you leave”.
I will present to you what, for me, are the six main indications that your dog must know to adapt to life in society and thus make the cohabitation dog/human a success.
The rules for successful learning
First of all, it is important to remember a few “rules” so that the various training sessions you will set up will go as smoothly as possible:
Rule #1: you must be diligent, consistent and regular in the education of your pet. You must not take this lightly because the less goodwill you put into it now, the more complicated the following will be, and your dog will become more of a constraint than a pleasant pet.
Rule #2: don’t make the learning lessons too long, respect your dog’s learning rhythm, and don’t go too fast. I always say that before learning division, it is necessary to learn addition, subtraction and multiplication. Know that 5 or 10 minutes a day are enough (if they are well done) to make your dog an ace of education.
Rule #3: learning is good. But it’s not the only thing! Of course, you must always spend time with your dog physically and holistically so that he can “clear his mind” after a session of mental expenditure (i.e. learning the different indications that you have chosen).
Rule #4: there is no age to learn. Of course, a puppy will assimilate new directions much faster (just like a child in front of an adult) but know that a dog of any age can still learn. Of course, it takes longer (and still . not always, it varies from dog to dog, each one is unique, and therefore different), but you just have to adapt the learning technique to each one, and the final result will be the same.
Rule #5: Similarly, if you have a puppy: there is no need to wait for any age to start his education: the sooner, the better (always respecting the learning rhythm, of course).
Rule #6: understanding the dog’s functioning is essential to teach him indications with coherence and accuracy. Know that the dog is an opportunistic animal that will go towards what is pleasant for him. Be aware of this aspect to always positively reinforce the good behaviours of your animal so that it will reproduce them later.
Rule #7: Be consistent in your postures but also your words. Always use the same gestures and words when addressing your dog.
Rule #8: learning sessions should be done in a quiet place, without too much surrounding stimulation. Therefore, prefer indoor lessons (your living room, for example) rather than outdoor lessons (unless it’s your garden and your dog knows it by heart).
Let’s start with the basics.
The recall indication
This indication is essential and is surely the easiest to set up with a puppy: hence the interest to start training as soon as your puppy arrives in your life.
For your dog to come back when you ask him, he must understand that coming back to you gives him something very pleasant. As we have seen, the dog is an opportunistic animal, and he will not go towards something unpleasant for him. Therefore, if you call him, he is not rewarded or worse, he is punished (for not coming back quickly enough, for example), you can be sure that he will never (or very little) come back when you ask him.
So, every time your dog comes back to you, congratulate him very warmly. If you are out for a walk, don’t call him back just to reattach him. Otherwise, he will make a bad association and won’t want to come back to you.
If you are “afraid” that your dog will not return when you call him, don’t hesitate to use a large lanyard (10, 15 or 20 meters) to keep security.
The “sit” indication
This is also a relatively simple indication to set up because sitting is natural for dogs.
You can wait for your dog to “naturally” sit and then reward him. Over time, your dog will eventually make the association between his position and the reward that systematically follows.
Alternatively, you can simply teach him by standing in front of him with a treat that you move from his nose to his tail (without giving it to him). Your dog will have the reflex to follow the treat with his eyes (or rather with his nose), and his hindquarters will automatically lower. As soon as your dog has done this, congratulate him as he should and above all: give him the treat, but be careful: only when he has sat down.
The “down” indication
As with sitting, we can take advantage of the dog’s natural positions to positively reinforce them and then put a “word” on your pup’s natural action.
But again, it is possible in a few minutes to teach a dog to lie down using the same method as the sit, namely the lure!
Place your dog in a sitting position and then, still with a treat in your hands (or his favourite toy if he’s not very greedy), gently lower the treat between your pet’s front paws. Don’t go too fast. Place the treat at the level of your dog’s nose so that he will follow it and end up lying down to get it. Don’t place the treat too far forward either, as this may cause your dog to reach up and grab it.
The “no move” cue
This cue is essential because it teaches your dog to contain himself and stay in a static position, which can have some benefits in everyday life.
To do this:
- Place your dog in a sit or down position and say “no move” in a very firm manner.
- Place your hand straight out in front of you.
- Take a few steps backwards and return to your dog, rewarding him if he has done well.
If this is too difficult for your dog, make the exercise easier by reducing either the time, distance or surrounding distractions.
Bonus indications that are nonetheless essential in everyday life
The “in the basket” indication
For this indication, I invite you to discover or rediscover our article specially dedicated to learning the “to the basket”.
The indication “you leave.
This indication will be useful daily because it teaches your dog to give up something to focus on you.
All you have to do is to create the following association: you leave = treat!
In the beginning, simply tell your dog “you’re leaving” and follow it with a treat. Don’t ask your dog to do anything else.
Then, once the association is made, “trap” your dog by putting a toy or something else next to him. As soon as he looks in the direction of the object, say, “you let go,” and follow up with a treat if your dog has indeed given up trying to go to the toy to look at you.
Suppose your dog is still attracted to the object. In that case, it’s either because the conditioning is not yet optimal (so go back to the classic association of “you leave = treat”) or because the object in question is too valuable for your dog and you were too quick to learn. So, go back to the exercise and make it easier.