- Back to (Obedience) School!: 7 Things Every Dog Should Know
As silly as it sounds, many dogs don't even know their names! A name is the first thing you should teach a dog. It's essential to settle on your name first—for example, if your dog's name is Jackson, he won't understand that "Jack," "Jackie," and "Jax" are derivatives of his name the way a child would. Pick and choose the one you want your dog to respond to before you teach them, and stick to it. Sit This is typically the first thing people teach their dogs—and it should be! Teaching a dog to sit for you is not only the foundation of obedience training but teaches them to be polite in the presence of people. An "auto-sit" (automatically sitting in front of people's feet) is an example of excellent doggy manners we want to encourage.
Everyone (and their dog walker!) wants a dog who walks politely on a leash. It's important to choose walking gear that will encourage your dog to walk nicely and work on commands, signals, or sounds that help your dog follow your lead and not go full speed ahead at something exciting. This will help keep walking your dog a pleasure for all involved and enable your dog to enjoy more walks with its people.
Your dog coming when called (or "recall") is an essential behavior for dogs to know for their own safety. Whether it's to come back in from the yard or to run back to their person after slipping out of a collar, recall is a command all dogs must know so they don't get lost. It's also vital that dogs without a strong recall are also not let off the leash in open areas.
Teaching your dog to "leave" (i.e., not pick up or sniff) an object is a command that is important for all dogs, but especially puppies and those who like to scavenge. For example, "Leave it" is a command you would use if you don't want your dog to steal your toddler's cookie at nose level and not pick up something smelly in the grass or a box of chocolates that fell on the floor. This command could save your dog's life.
"Drop It" is a command that goes hand-in-hand with "Leave It"–and is often confused. "Leave It" is when the dog has yet to pick something up. "Drop It" is when the dog already has the object in its mouth, and you want them to release it. This is another command that's good not only for safety or making sure your dog lets go of forbidden objects—but also for games of fetch!
Today's often forgotten lesson of many dogs is to "settle," that is, an ability to be calm and rest with their people. When sufficiently exercised and given attention, dogs should be able to relax and not insist on getting attention, playtime, barking, or otherwise being a nuisance. Instead, teach your dog that it's time to lie down and rest after they've gotten playtime, food, and love. This "settle" or "place" can be on a unique cushion on the floor, crate, or even a small room of the house.