Saturday, September 19, 2009

Teaching Your Dog Basic Commands: Come and Stay

By Ruthie Bently

“Come” and “stay” are important commands to teach your dog. They could save your dog’s life. I also teach the command “wait,” which is a variation on the sit/stay command or a long down, though your dog does not have to be in the down position.

I was lucky because Skye was already taught her basic commands when I got her, and was very well behaved. Teaching your dog to come is an easy command. Whether you are teaching a puppy or an adult dog, remember to have patience and only train your dog for fifteen minute intervals. This way they don’t get distracted or bored. As I mentioned in a previous article there are no time limits for training your dog. Each dog learns at their own pace, and you should never rush them or compare their progress to another dog’s progress.

The training tools needed are a collar (regular or choke collar), and a long lead line (cotton or nylon). I do not suggest using a retractable lead for training of any kind, though you could use one in a pinch. I use a twenty foot cotton lead, which is lightweight and easier for me to control, especially when I have a sixty pound dog on the other end. I also have plenty of CANIDAE Snap-Bits treats available, which I love because of their small size.

The “come” command is easier to teach if you have already taught your dog to sit, although it can be taught if your dog has not yet learned to sit. Attach the long lead to your dog’s collar and have them sit. Next, while facing your dog, walk backwards to the end of the lead so it is fully extended between you and your dog. Then call them in a happy voice and say “come” repeatedly until they come. If they don’t immediately get the idea, begin drawing the lead (with dog attached) toward you while you are repeating the word come. After they come to you, whether they do it on their own or with your help, praise them, give them a treat, or a hug and a pat on the head. Keep practicing and training until your dog has this one down.

You can also use the long lead to teach the “stay” command. Put your dog in a “sit” facing you and back away from your dog to the end of the line again, repeating the word stay as you back away. After you get to the end of the leash length, keep repeating the word stay for fifteen to thirty seconds. You want the dog to stay where they are until you give them your release word, which can be as simple as OK. I teach in increments of time beginning with about fifteen seconds and work my way up to one minute. If you go into open obedience classes with your dog, they will need to “stay” for longer than thirty seconds, but remember that your dog’s attention span when teaching a new command may be distracted by something else, so you want to make it easy and fun for them, without them getting bored.

I also teach the command “wait” to my dogs. This is a great command if you are getting your dog ready to go outside, to go for a ride in the car, or if you need to put something on the dog, like a different collar or a coat, sweater or boots. When I was teaching this command to Skye, I began by putting her in a “sit/stay,” which is basically getting your dog to sit, and then giving the stay command. Then you add the “wait” command. As Skye was already trained, I didn’t need to use a long lead; but you can teach it very easily that way. Put your dog in a “sit” and as before back away to the end of the lead’s length. Tell your dog to stay, then add the “wait” command. After your dog learns “wait,” you will not have to use the “stay” command; just put them on a sit and then say “wait” in place of the “stay” command you would use.

It is really a long “sitting stay” the way I use it, but it has come in handy. Most recently I took her with me to her favorite pet store to get her CANIDAE dog food and the cats’ FELIDAE. I have a small truck and while I have her leashed it is a short lead, which is designed to keep her close so she can’t climb out the window. While loading my purchases, Skye decided to get out of the truck. She was still leashed to the truck, but I was worried that she might hurt herself if she pulled on the leash too much. So I told her to wait, which she did. After I got the truck loaded, I unattached her leash while holding her collar, put her back in the truck, re-leashed her and off we went.

I learned this command from a man I used to work with who taught his Labrador Retrievers to sit and “wait” at any street corner or curbside they came up to. This may sound over-simplified, but if you live on a busy street and teach your dog the “wait” command when you get to the curb, this could be all it takes to save your dog’s life if they get out of the house unattended and go shooting for the street. I have come to the conclusion that you can never over-train a dog. They love to learn, and training will always keep them safer than not training them.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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