However clearly you might think you're giving your dog an instruction, the reality is that he or she just doesn't understand: 'Henry, I want you to be a good boy and sit for me now' or 'Daisy, I'm going to let you out into the garden so please don't bark.'

Hence the blank stare!

Keep commands short and uncomplicated. The ones you need are:

  • watch me
  • sit
  • stay
  • down (which means 'lie down')
  • off (which means 'get off of me' or 'get off the furniture')
  • stand
  • come
  • heel (which means 'walk close to my side') 
  • leave it

And remember, consistency and repitition are key. Everyone in the family should use the same commands. Without them your dog will be totally confused. In fact, try posting a list of them where everyone can become familiar with them.

Positive reinforcement is great for teaching your dog commands, and it's also a good way of reinforcing good behavior.

So get your dog to sit:

  • before letting him out the door (which helps prevent door-darting)
  • before petting him (which helps prevent jumping on people)
  • before feeding him (which helps teach him good meal-time manners).

And try giving him or her a pat or a 'good dog" for lying quietly by your feet, or slip a treat into a Kong®-type toy when he's chewing it instead of your shoe.

But be careful not to use positive reinforcement to reward unwanted behaviors. For example, if you let your dog outside every time he barks at a noise in the garden, you're giving him a reward (access to the garden) for behavior you want to discourage.


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