Friday, October 8, 2010

The Two Most Important Commands

          There are all kinds of things you can teach your dog, the array of commands is only limited by your imagination. As we learned in the last article " Service Dogs, A Worthy Charity", dogs can be trained to do just about anything. The trick is knowing how to train properly.

          If I had to pick the most important command that you could teach your dog I would be hard pressed. As I think of all the commands that are important in a dogs life, there are two that I keep coming back to. I can not seem to decided which is more important, so I won't. I truly believe there are two commands that every dog must know, and those would be the come command and the stay command. Most people who know a thing or two about dogs would say the come command is the most important. They would argue, if your dog is running into a dangerous situation and you give the come command you could possibly save your dogs life. I would not disagree with that. However the stay command, in my opinion, is just as important. If you give your dog the stay command, he or she wouldn't be running into a dangerous situation in the first place. So I think that every dog should know come and stay. Those are the commands that could very well save your furry loved ones life.

          There are two traditional methods of training a dog, positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. I happen to think a mix of the two is the best way to communicate with your dog. I prefer positive reinforcement as it makes learning fun for you and your dog. Positive reinforcement is simple to implement. When your dog does what you want, coming to you when called for example, you give them lots of praise and a treat. If you do this every time your dog does something correctly, soon your dog will understand that it is his action that is pleasing you and he or she will begin to learn. Once the learning begins you can give a treat every other time then every third time and eventually stop giving the treat and just give praise and soon your dog will know the command and you will not have to give the treats or the praise... although I do love giving praise, and so do my dogs. If your dog makes a mistake while you are implementing this type of training, you should totally ignore the mistake, give no treat, give no praise, reset and try the command again. Most dogs do not have a very long attention span so I try to limit training sessions to about 15 minutes two or three times during the day. I have found that short, fun, happy training sessions tend to get the best results.

          Negative reinforcement is a little trickier to master, though there are a few commands in which negative reinforcement seems to work better. A lot of people hear negative reinforcement and they conjure up pictures of abused dogs. This could not be further from the truth. The object is to teach the dog, not to scare, or harm the dog in any way a scared dog does not learn well. It is a fairly simple principle, when your dog does not do what you want them to, for example if you tell your dog to stay and the dog moves or "breaks" the stay position, you place your hand firmly on the dogs chest and in a stern voice, not a shouting voice you say no. Another example of negative reinforcement training is putting your dog down, I know it sounds horrible, but actually its quite tame. If, for example, you are trying to walk your dog, and your dog gets ahead of you and starts to pull (we have all been there) simple take your dog by the collar and with one hand on the dogs mid section you make him or her lay down while in a stern voice you say no. Do not be rough, simply putting the dog on the ground will get the message across that you do not want him or her pulling you. Just remember, there should be NO anger what so ever while you are employing negative reinforcement. You are teaching, not frightening.

          I have found that a healthy mix of the two will get you the best results. So be sure to teach your dogs the two most important commands, it could prevent a tragedy, and that is the best thing you can do for your furry loved ones. I will be adding video to this blog in the near future so I hope to have a few training videos out by the end of next month so keep an eye out for them. I am sure they will be funny as well as informative.
Thanks for reading and welcome to all the new comers, feel free to comment and give suggestions for articles if you like. I would love to know what dog related topics you would like to be reading about. And remember, keep your furry family members healthy and happy.
Nick C

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