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ONE command to fix everything?

Posted by gooddogdc on May 1, 2014 at 1:15 PM

Is there one special command that would “fix” everything?


All of us are limited on how much time that we have to train our dogs.  If you only had time to train your dog to do one thing with your dog, what should it be?


This is a tough question!


What about your dog’s name? That way if your dog started to do something you didn’t want, you could easily get his attention.  Once you have your dog’s attention, getting him to sit, down, or come are much easier!  However, if your dog didn’t know the other commands well, he may or may not have enough experience to complete your request successfully.


What about come?  If you could recall your dog out of any scenario, would that work?  You could recall your dog away from jumping on a visitor, away from chasing a squirrel, or away from lunging at a dog on the sidewalk.  But, what if your dog was on the other side of a street?  A recall probably wouldn’t be the best choice there.


Okay, what about a down? You could ask your dog to down when guests arrived, down when you wanted to say hello to a person, down when he started to get excited about another dog.  But, what if your dog was so invested in the other thing that he “couldn’t” hear you?  Such as when your dog was chasing a squirrel?  I’ve heard trainers claim that down actually works better than come, since down in place allows the dog to still face the squirrel and he doesn’t have to leave it and come all the way back to you.  I have a squirrel-crazy dog, and I have my doubts about that theory. Even though she is really well trained and always comes back, sometimes she just needs to chase a squirrel!


In reality, I don’t think there is one specific command that surpasses all others.  It would be nice if that were the case and if we could create robot dogs who were 100% reliable on a specific command.  In reality, I think it is the combination of several different skills (leave it, attention, name recognition, recall, stay, loose leash walking) that make your dog reasonably reliable and well-behaved overall. 


Supporting all of that training though is the foundation of your relationship.  The better your relationship, the stronger that foundation, and the more reliable your dog is, the more biddable, the more willing to work for you. 


Like any good relationship, such as that of a relationship with a spouse or with your children, it is not something that you can acquire quickly or without effort.  Relationships take time.  You'll have good days and not so good days.  It is the day in and day out with your dog over the course of months and years where the dog learns that you are trustworthy, you are fair, and you will provide what he needs.  It is walking your dog everyday, even when you are tired.  It is taking your dog to training class, even when you would rather be going to Yoga.  It is taking moment to breathe and think rationally before you let your frustration out on your dog when you are stressed out or upset because of his behavior.  It is following through and making sure your dog sits if you have asked him to, even though you are tired and don't want to get up to remind him. 


This relationship that you form with your dog is the reason that your dog comes to you when you call him.  It is the reason that your dog chooses to stay even though there is another dog or a squirrel nearby.  It is the reason he looks to you when you call his name.  And, it is the reason that he tries so hard to figure out what you want him to do.  


On top of all of this, once you get your relationship, you still need to invest the time to teach your dog skills to function successfully in a busy metropolitan area.  This requires training.


Is all of this a ton of work?  Of course it is.  Forming a relationship with anyone, yet alone another species, requires a huge investment of time and resources.  Training a dog requires lots of patience, time, and effort.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is not telling you the full truth. 


Is it 100%, absolutely worth it?  You bet. Would I trade in all of the hours I’ve spent with my dogs for a life with more time, money, and no dogs?  Not in a million years.


For those of you who have been blessed enough to share your life with a dog with whom you have had what I described above – a dog who comes when you call, is appropriate and reliable around people and other dogs, and a dog who responds when you ask him do something – you know what I’m talking about.  It is without question worth it.  It is one of the coolest experiences out there, I think, to share your life with a dog like this.  A dog with who you are “in sync" because of your relationship and ability to communicate effortlessly. 


For those of you working to get there, great job!  Keep up the hard work.  You will get there.  It is worth it!

Happy training!!!


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