By G. Elaine Acker for Pets Best, a pet insurance company for dogs and cats. Elaine is the author of the Pet First Aid and Disaster Response Guide. Elaine is developing an online Pet First Aid course along with Dr. Larry Newell.
I have two small dogs. One is a Jack Russell mix that my veterinarian describes as an “American Terrier,” and the other is a suspected Chiweenie (although he was found on the side of the road, and his heritage is forever a mystery). They both have a willful streak, and even though my husband and I have been through advanced obedience training with them, we find that it takes regular obedience reviews, for both dogs and humans, for that training to be effective.
When we train, we focus on the following three obedience commands, which we consider the life-and-death essentials.
When your dog will sit and stay until released, you’re able to comfortably place your dog in a specific location, knowing that they’re safely out of harm’s way, until you return. This command makes it easy to do something as simple as take your dog onto a restaurant patio with the confidence that they’ll be well behaved and welcome.
It’s also valuable in emergency situations. For example, you’re visiting a local park with your kiddo and he or she takes a tumble off a swing. You’re able to put your dog into a “stay,” and go help your child without having your dog suddenly invading another family’s picnic, or getting into a tussle with another nearby dog.
Once your dog has learned the basics, you can practice by putting your dog into a sit/stay and gradually increasing the amount of time he or she remains in that position. Our goal is five minutes, and we always return to our dogs with a treat before releasing them.
This one’s always a difficult one. It’s hard for you, even armed with tasty treats, to compete with the joy of chasing a squirrel. But the “come” command is worth mastering when the chase could potentially lead your dog into a busy street.
Work with certified dog trainers if necessary to build confidence in your “come” command. You’ll learn more about what motivates your dog, and how to ensure your dog will respond to your command every single time.
3. Leave it
What do discarded chicken bones, toxic plants and unfriendly dogs have in common? They can all be found on almost any walk around the neighborhood. The good news is that you can keep your dog safe from all of the above with a simple command: Leave it.
We use this command routinely to deter our dogs from visiting the “kitty litter buffet,” or eating toxic acorns, or even challenging the mastiff next door. (Our Jack Russell has no shortage of self-confidence, and our Chiweenie is always ready to back her up. Go figure.).
Remember, tricks are fun and entertaining, but basic commands are essential for keeping your pets safe and healthy.
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