A few disclaimers: First off, I am NOT a professional dog trainer. Second, I’m not even a very good amateur dog trainer. Third, there is no substitute for obedience training. If you’re a dog owner, you should obedience train your dog as soon as possible. Fourth: There are additional commands that make everyday life easier.
“What are these additional commands?” you may ask. Well, many dogs already know Sit, Stay, Heel, Down, and Come as being among the traditional obedience commands we tend to use outside. Although some of these are helpful indoors, you probably won’t find yourself making your dog heel around the house, and you’ve got to be careful about calling “Come!” inside, especially if you have linoleum floors.
These additional commands are creative solutions to mostly inside issues and are adaptable to everyday life. They’re a bit less stiff than obedience commands — you’re sort of explaining the situation to your dog. Each one uses a specific tone and, usually, some body language. Having a persuasive personality is also helpful.
My basic dog training continues to evolve and you will probably find that these commands will evolve with your use, too. Certain words or movements may work better for you. I tend to be rather dramatic when speaking, because of my Southern upbringing, and I use a lot of body language. You may be quieter, or you may find flying hands when speaking to be distracting. That’s fine. Use these as guidelines and fit them to yourself and your everyday life.
I have used these commands with four generations of dogs, mostly pit bulls. Two have been very smart (my current dog, Bunch, is one) and a few have taken a while to catch on. Watch your dog’s reactions when you give the commands. If he doesn’t understand, try it a different way. And repeat, repeat, repeat. Note that these situations are just examples.
Situation: Bunch and I are playing with a toy and she accidentally nips me.
Tone: This command should be given forcefully, since a dog who nips someone could be termed “dangerous,” even if the dog didn’t mean it.
Body Language: After yelping “Ouch!” in a high voice, I grab the spot that was nipped. I then fake-cry very subtly — dogs can often connect that tears are not a good thing.
Situation: Bunch has suddenly started running around our 400-square-foot apartment and threatens to knock over the DVD stand.
Tone: “Careful!” should be said more as a warning, with the “ful“ drawn out. Nothing horrific will happen if the DVDs fall, but you’d rather not have to pick them up.
Body Language: If you are nearby, redirecting your dog with your arm or foot is helpful.
Situation: The door buzzer has sounded and Bunch, being such a fantastic guard dog, is barking VERY loudly. I suddenly think — what if it’s the landlord?
Tone: Say “Quiet!” as if you’d say “Heel!” — very straightforward and even.
Body Language: Bring your finger to your lips.
Situation: This command is universal, but Bunch often gets frightened when I drop something (I drop everything).
Tone: Speak in a very reassuring manner. You are not directing your dog, but redirecting her.
Body Language: After your dog calms down and accepts the situation, have a cuddle.
Situation: I am eating breakfast and occasionally giving Bunch a teeny piece of turkey bacon. Long after, she is still underfoot looking for more.
Tone: “All gone!” uses a friendly but firm tone.
Body Language: As you say the command, hold your open hands out, your palms facing your dog so she can then see that it is indeed “All Gone!”
Situation: I am getting Bunch’s dinner in my kitchen, which is in a narrow little hallway. Bunch is watching and, as I turn, we are at an impasse.
Tone: Try to emulate the sound a truck makes when it backs up — short, staccato “Back up!”, “Back up!” in a high voice.
Body Language: Gently push your pooch back with your hand or foot if necessary.
Situation: I often use this one, whether it’s stopping a dog fight before it starts or getting Bunch to stop humping a pillow.
Tone: This should be said in a schoolteacher-type tone, utterly no-nonsense.
Body Language: Your stern voice should be enough.
Situation: Bunch is tearing up a toy that cost $20 and I want her to stop.
Tone: Gentle. This is not a command, more of a suggestion.
Body Language: You don’t want to pull the toy away, so use “Give!” with “Gentle!” if you need to.
Situation: When my pit bull Hudson was young, he was a terrible mouther. The only way I could get him to stop was to switch the activity, so he became a licker.
Tone: Encouraging but firm.
Body Language: Mimicking the licking can be helpful, though you may feel silly.
Situation: I have two books, one for me to read, one for Bunch to chew on (it’s a long story). I need to distinguish between the two.
Tone: Use two different tones. Consistently say one word in a lower voice, the other in a higher one.
Body Language: Hold your object against your chest as you say “Mine!” and put your dog’s object on her front legs as you say “Yours!”. You might also say to her, “I’m giving this to YOU” for good measure.
As far as obedience training goes, Bunch can sit and stay and heel, and I think we’ve both forgotten the rest. But she knows all these additional creative commands and picks up on new ones all the time that I don’t even know I’m doing. These commands should mostly be fun and can definitely be helpful. They are also flexible and give you an opportunity to bond even more with your dog (and to be… creative!).
Have you tried creative voice commands with your dog? Do you have recommendations for my list? Let me know in the comments!
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