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Every dog owner knows that good training is important, both during the initial stages of owning your dog or new puppy, and throughout the course of their life as an ongoing endeavour. All dogs should respond to a range of commands reliably, and it is important to refresh your dog’s training over the course of their life in order to ensure that when you need to give your dog a command, you can be confident that they will comply!
Exactly how in-depth you decide to make your dog’s training will depend on whether you simply want to raise an obedient, well-mannered dog that does not pose a danger to either themselves or to other animals and people, or if you wish to take your dog’s training to a higher level. Even if you wish to teach your dogs tricks or get involved in advanced obedience classes, agility or other canine sports, a good grounding in the basics is vital before you can progress.
Most dogs, even those trained to the most basic standard, will be able to recognise and obey around ten commands. These commands generally consist of some variation of:
All of these ten commands are important, and will be used regularly over the course of the average dog’s life. However, of these ten basic commands that your dog should be able to master, five of them are core commands that are not only important for obedience and managing your dog successfully, but are also vital to ensure the safety of both your dog and other animals and people. These five commands, therefore, should be your priority, and the commands that you concentrate on teaching first, and ensuring that your dog continues to understand and respond to them over the entire duration of their life, refreshing their training as and when necessary.
Here are the five most important training commands that your dog should learn and respond to; plus, an explanation as to exactly why each one is so important.
“Come back,” “come” or any other wording that has the same effect is the recall command, and recall is potentially the most important training command that your dog needs to learn and obey. Recall is the means by which you get your dog’s attention and call them to return to you, and it can also be one of the most challenging commands to teach successfully.
Most dogs will come back when called as long as there are not other things vying for their attention, but teaching 100% recall in a dog under any circumstances can be more of a challenge. A dog that is chasing something or engaged in play may well prove harder to recall than a dog that is just running around, and so you should train your dog for recall in a wide range of situations and be prepared to keep working on it until the command itself works every time. Recall is a safety command, as recall can stop your dog from running into the path of danger, or hunting and catching another smaller animal.
“Leave it” is another core command that can potentially get your dog out of a dangerous situation, such as if they are attempting to eat something that they shouldn’t eat or are trying to take a toy away from another dog. It also comes in very useful for keeping your dog from eating your slippers, newspaper and anything else that they should not be trying to play with!
“Down” is not just about encouraging your dog to give up their favourite seat or to get them off the good furniture, but is also a vital command to teach dogs that are apt to jump up at people or other dogs. Not only is jumping up at people annoying for the person in question, and may make their clothes dirty, but jumping up can be dangerous, as even a small dog could potentially knock over another dog, a child, or someone who is unprepared for them to jump up.
“No” or alternatively, “stop” is a universal command that can be applied to a wide range of situations and occurrences, but it must usually be used in partnership with another command. “No” on its own will let your dog know that they are doing something wrong and to pause in what they are doing and look to you for direction, but “no” alone may not be sufficient to let your dog know exactly what it is that you want them to stop doing!
“No” should be considered as a core command that will make your dog check themselves and pause, and should be followed up with an additional core command such as “down” or “leave it” in order to communicate to your dog exactly what is garnering the disapproving “no” response.
“Heel” is the first command that should be taught when training your dog to walk on the lead, and is the first stage towards teaching heelwork and enabling your dog to walk beside you safely even when off the lead. The “heel” command should be used when in close quarters to call your dog to your side, and to indicate to them that they should walk beside you, matching your pace and staying close. “Heel” is an important command to keep your dog safe when walking on the roads, and to safeguard your dog and other people and animals when passing each other in close quarters.
All of these five commands; Come back, leave it, down, no and heel, should be thought of as the ‘safety’ commands for your dog, and treated with the appropriate level of gravitas and depth when training. It is important not to neglect the other basic commands such as sit, stay, wait, lie down and drop it, and these commands are often thought of as “manners” commands and commands that will make both your dog’s life and your own life easier. A dog with a basic grounding in all ten of the core commands and that responds to them reliably can be thought of as an adequately trained dog.
Remember that training is an ongoing endeavour, and not something that takes a few weeks to teach when your dog is a puppy and that then takes care of itself!
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