Dogs are great companions. However, to make the best of their company there are certain dog obedience commands that every owner should teach his pet. In case you are wondering how does such training help one's pet, then let me tell you the first most evident benefit is discipline. With the dog responding to simple commands like "sit", "stay", and "come", managing one's pet at home or in public, specially with the larger breeds turns out to be a blessing.
The Sit: This command aims at the dog sitting on his hindquarters with front portion of the body propped up on the front legs. This can be taught by any of the following three techniques. The first one requires you to keep an eye out for when your dog is just about to sit. As soon as he tries to sit, give him the command 'sit' loud and clear. Praise him profusely once his hindquarters touch the ground. Puppies respond to this training technique pretty quick. For older dogs, hold a training treat in your hand. Stand right in front of the dog and guide the treat from his nose up towards his head. Keep it a few centimeters above his head and try to keep it in between the dog's eyes. As the dog trails the treat's smell with his nose, his rear end would drop down to the ground while his front portion would be up on his front legs. The other technique is to train your dog using the leash, one of the common training tools. For this, stand next to your dog so that both of you are facing the same direction. Hold the leash straight up and while you say the command 'sit' push your dog's rump down encouraging him to sit down on his hind legs.
The Down: One of the options of teaching this to your dog is to first get him to sit. Stand facing your dog and hide a treat in front of its nose and move it lower. Hold the treat in a loose fist. Let its smell guide the dog. Once your dog's belly touches the ground with his front legs stretched out, give him the treat and praise him as well. In case the dog does not stretch his front legs out, move the treat slowly horizontally away from the dog once you have taken the treat close to the ground. Once your pet gets a hang of the non-verbal command, add the verbal part of it to his training. Next time utter the command while lowering the treat. Your dog would soon be able to associate the command with the action.
The Stay: The 'sit' and the 'down' commands are not just to exhibit the ability to comprehend commands. In case the dog just obeys the command and then dashes off once he has executed it, the whole purpose of teaching it is lost. Hence a logical extension is to teach your dog to hold on until he is instructed to release himself. This can be achieved by training your dog to 'stay'. Try this only after the dog has mastered the other two. Now stand in front and instruct him to either 'sit' or 'down'. Maintain eye contact. Hold on to this position for a second or two. Then praise your dog and give him a treat. The praise and treat is a hint of the end of the training duration. As the dog becomes comfortable with shorter time intervals, increase the duration of maintaining the 'stay' position. Once the dog responds reliably to this level of training, add a verbal cue. Stand in front of your dog and after he has complied to the 'sit' or 'down' command, say 'stay' with your hand stretched out, palm facing him.
The Come: This is the easiest to teach, especially in case of a puppy. A puppy usually sticks to his owner and loves to play around his feet. So, getting him to come to his master won't be difficult. However, the problem is in trying to move away from him. Begin with shorter distances first. Step a few feet away from your dog/puppy. Take a treat in your hand, kneel down and call out for your pet with the command following his name. For example: 'Tracy, come'. Open your arms wide, inviting your dog to come to you. As he starts moving towards you bestow him with verbal praises. In case he strays away, stop the praises and utter your command again. Once the dog resumes walking towards you, start with your verbal praise. Reward him with the treat and praise him profusely once he has reached you.
Helping Your Dog to Follow Your Commands
It is important to follow some guidelines so that a dog picks up the training quickly and in the right way. Here are some tips that trainers and owners follow while teaching obedience commands to their canines:
Practice and Consistency: Training a dog to respond to the various instructions can be easy, provided they respond just the way they are supposed to. However, this is not the case most of the time. For any type of training the one most important training tip for an owner or a trainer is to have patience and give enough practice to his pet.
Keep it Short: True practice is the keyword. Nevertheless, one important point to keep in mind while conducting training is that one should not extend the training sessions so much that it becomes boring and exhausting for the animal.
Be Precise: Remember it's the commands that you want to teach and not add to your dog's vocabulary. Keep them short, like 'Tracy, SIT'. Don't speak in long sentences like 'Tracy you are a good girl, and so I want you to sit'.
Timing is Important: Be it the training treats or praises, be sure that it is given, almost as soon as the dog obeys. This would minimize your dog's confusion in associating a command with the correct action.
The 3 Ds: Let your commands be simple. Then gradually follow the 3 Ds - distance, duration, and distractions. First stay close to your pet while teaching. Then gradually increase the distance between both of you while giving the command. Similarly start with shorter durations for which the dog has to maintain the position. Ensure that initially the distractions during the training sessions are minimum. Then slowly increase both, the durations as well as the distractions. Also phase out the treats and rewards gradually. Stopping them abruptly will frustrate your pet.
These were four of the basic dog obedience commands. As a dog masters these, an owner or trainer should move on to the more advanced training. Other than helping one to manage his pet, it helps him to develop trust in the owner. It helps a dog to know that his master is a leader and enables him to be more confident of his actions.