It would be great if puppies came pre-programmed. Like cable, someone could come and install them, toilet-trained and set to recognise and obey default commands. But they don’t. They arrive with enthusiasm, fear, love and hunger, and it’s down to us to help them get by in the world by teaching them how to behave.
Before you start teaching them somersaults and moonwalks, you need to start with some basics. Even the greatest racing drivers had to learn to stop, start and turn. So here are the first five tricks you should teach your dog—and why..
‘Come’, ‘here’, ‘carrot’ – whatever word you choose to use, recall is probably the most important command you can teach your dog, and also one of the hardest to consistently enforce, as anyone watching daily dog-walkers will know. Making your words more important to your dog than discarded food, intriguing smells or, of course, other dogs isn’t easy. But if your dog is running into traffic, or heading towards a potentially aggressive dog, or running towards a frightened child, being able to call them back is crucial. Click here for advice on teaching your dog recall.
It’s a classic and is just about every dog’s favorite command. Put your hand near a bag of treats with 10 dogs around you and at least nine will automatically sit. For them, it’s an easy pay day! But it’s also an essential tool in getting your dog to behave and keep them safe. When they meet people, they should sit (not jump up). If you’re waiting in line or crossing the street, they should sit. It helps keep them calm and controlled. It’s also the foundation for other commands, like stay and lie down. Oh, it’s really cute too (and they know it!). Click here for advice on teaching your dog to sit.
3. Walking on a loose leash
Strolling along with your dog on the end of a lovely J-shaped leash is a good look. Being dragged to all points on the compass by a rabid-looking pooch is not. But getting your dog to walk properly on the leash is more than just a case of avoiding public shame—it’s key to a well-trained pup. It takes time and effort, but they’ll be more likely to walk alongside you off-leash, less distracted (and therefore more responsive), and it also allows you to concentrate on your surroundings rather than a tug of war with your pet. Click here for advice on teaching your dog how to walk on a loose leash.
Getting your dog to stay in one place is one of the most satisfying commands to get right, one of the most useful, and something dogs really struggle with (judging by their joyous faces when they’re finally ‘freed’ from their invisible cages). It’s not surprising, though. Being asked to stay away from you goes against all their instincts, and our usual demands for them to pay us attention. But the stay command is very handy for keeping pooch out of harm and out from under your feet when you’re busy. Click here for advice on teaching your dog to stay.
5. Lie down
A lot of humans would love it if someone ordered them to lie down, less so an excitable and energetic pup. But it’s worth persevering in teaching your dog to lie down on command. Like sit and stay, it means you have greater control over their movements and is particularly useful if you need to park your pooch for longer periods—say in a coffee shop, visiting other people’s houses, or having a good catch-up with friends in the park. Click here for advice on teaching your dog to lie down.