Trainers spend a dog’s lifetime teaching new cues and behaviors, but there are a few worth teaching every dog sooner rather than later.
Don’t move forward. This cue is especially useful at doors. Dogs who wait are easier to take on walks and let in and out of the car because they don’t go through the door until given permission. Wait is also a great safety prompt, in that it can prevent a dog from charging out a door into traffic and reduce some of the chaos inherent in living with dogs. It also allows people to catch up during off-leash walks if the dog has gone ahead.
Look at my face. Helpful for getting a dog’s attention and distracting him from problematic situations, such as the unexpected presence of another dog.
Put your bottom on the ground. One of the easiest things to teach dogs to do. It’s a useful calming cue and — since sitting is incompatible with undesirable behavior — in defusing otherwise touchy situations.
Remain in place until released. “Stay” helps dogs practice self-control. It also keeps dogs in one spot when necessary, for reasons ranging from “It’s dinnertime and our guests are not dog people,” to “I just broke a glass in the kitchen and you’ll cut your paws if you come in here before I clean it up.”
Run to me. Run directly to me. Do not stop at the dead squirrel. Do not collect a toy on the way here. Dogs who reliably come when called can safely be given more freedom.
“Okay” or “Free” gives your dog permission to stop doing what you previously cued him to do. Used most commonly with “Wait” and “Stay,” it tells your dog that the behavior no longer needs to be performed — he can get up and move around if he’s been staying, and move forward or go through the door if he’s been waiting.
Without Jumping The appearance of a new person, rather than a word or a hand signal, is the cue to keep all four paws on the ground. Many dogs do the opposite— jump on every new person—and that can make both guardians and guests uncomfortable. Few behaviors are more appreciated in dogs than the skill of greeting people politely.
Being able to perform an endearing trick on cue shows off a dog’s training better than most practical skills. Sure, it may be harder to teach a dog to stay or come when called than to high-five, wave, beg or roll over, but not many people know that. So, most people will be impressed by the trick, and consider your dog more charming as a result.
Learning these cues and behaviors allows your dog to reap the benefits of being a well-mannered member of society. Education is never a waste!