Once you have mastered basic training and your dog rocks a solid “Sit”, you should consider teaching him some more advanced commands. The latter can give you control in dangerous situations, such as when your dog picks up something he shouldn’t or comes face-to-face with an aggressive dog and you need to remove him from the situation quickly.
5.1 Why bother teaching advanced commands?
5.2 “Bark” and “Quiet”
5.3 “Come Away”
5.4 “Leave It”
5.6 “Look” and targeting
5.7 “No” and preventing attention seeking behavior
5.1 Why bother teaching advanced commands?
You are a regular pet parent who wants their dog to be obedient but not to jump through hoops (literally or otherwise!) Your dog already sits nine times out of ten and you’re perfectly happy with his recall, so why bother teaching advanced commands?Isn’t that stuff just for performing dogs or those that are into agility?
Actually, even the smallest lapdog with no pretensions to appearing on TV showing off his latest dance moves can benefit from advanced training.
The first reason is all about mental stimulation and bonding. You see dogs love the one-to-one focused attention they get during a training season. Dogs are basically attention junkies and so anything that places them at the center of your world AND earns them rewards is going to enrich their life. Training also requires the dog to watch and think, which is great way of stimulating the mind and staving off boredom. This is even more important when you realize how many problem behaviors are the result of dogs making their own entertainment because they are bored.
The second reason is these are commands which can keep your dog safe. For example, using the “Come away” command in a timely manner can break your dog’s focus in a situation he finds frightening and give you a chance to get him away. Also, imagine what you wouldn’t give to have your dog stop barking on demand – which is exactly what the “Quiet” command achieves.
So let’s get an overview of the situations in which each command is most useful:
|“Bark” and “Quiet”||If your dog’s barking is driving you mad, then teach him to bark (this is the super easy part!) and then you can teach him to be quiet.|
|“Come Away”||This is a great command to teach a fearful dog. If your dog gets anxious at the sight of a certain dog, then “Come away” could be the answer to preventing events from escalating into fisticuffs. In response to this command the dog turns away and follows you, thus leaving the fear-inducing dog behind without you needing to tug on the lead.|
|“Leave It”||Does your dog scavenge or pick up things he shouldn’t? “Leave it” is a great command for doing just that, having him ignore that jackpot week-old burger he found in the gutter.|
|“Give”||This is a step further along than “Leave it” because the dog has already got his ill-gotten gains in his mouth. Teach your dog to “Give” early on, and you can get him to drop your diamond engagement ring right out of his mouth with no hassle at all.|
|“Look” and targeting||This is a useful command for so many reasons. By teaching the dog to “Look” at you, or a targeting object, you can control his behavior. It’s a great aid to getting him to concentrate, and also a sneaky way of moving the dog from A to B by having follow the targeted object (More explanation in Module 5.6]|
|“No”and preventing attention seeking behavior||Some dogs like to pester you for attention, and the “No” command helps them understand pet-pester-power gets them nowhere.|
5.2 “Bark” and “Quiet”
Does your dog’s barking drive you crazy? Then put his barking on cue and then you can teach “Quiet” on command.
Step one is to teach the dog to bark! Obviously a crazy idea…but it works.
Teach your dog to bark
For a dog that naturally delights in the sound of his own voice, it is easy enough to teach him to bark on request!
First, work out something that triggers your dog to bark and that is convenient to reproduce at home. A good choice is to sit beside a wall or door, and use your fist to knock on it behind your back. This is usually enough to get at least one or two woofs out of a seasoned barker.
The second he barks, use your clicker and toss him a treat. For each bark, give a click, and throw a reward. Don’t be surprised if your dog looks visibly puzzled; after all, for years you’ve been telling him to stop barking, so how come it’s suddenly a good thing to do? He’s liable to bark, and then look at you quizzically, wondering what the heck’s going on. Persist, with the knocking and clicking when he barks. Now start to add in the command word, which in this case is obviously “Bark”.
The time to say “Bark” is between the knock and before the woof, and then click on the bark. Keep practicing this. Most barkers take to this part with gusto, because barking is their number one favorite hobby (only this time it’s under your control).
Teach your dog to be quiet
Now for the sneaky part!
Start rewarding the quiet between the barks. Ask him to bark, click and reward as before. Only now you take advantage of the fact that it’s an impossibility to bark while chewing, and use this to label the silence to tell him what you want. Say “Quiet” while he’s eating the treat or in the quiet spell before the next raft of barking. Be sure to click the silence, (so he knows the reward is for the absence of barking) then give a treat.
It’s important the dog grasps that the reward is for silence, rather than any other activity, hence the importance of the barking. With the action of barking fresh in his mind, he eventually understands that “Quiet” means an absence of barking, and starts to obey. If you try to teach “Quiet” without barking immediately beforehand, there’s a risk he’ll make a wrong connection and think he’s being rewarded for standing still, or whatever else it was he happened to be doing at the time.
Happy (bark free) days.
Oh yes, practice “Bark” and “Quiet” regularly and in different rooms in the house and other locations. Where possible, while he’s learning better manners, try to avoid situations which would cause an avalanche of barking, so perhaps pop him into a back room when visitors are due at the front, or block the view from the window where he sits and barks at the neighbor’s cat.
5.3 “Come Away”
Are you wondering what the difference is between recall and “Come away”?
The difference is that you’d use recall at a distance, to get a dog to return to you. Whereas, with “Come away” the dog is already close by but you need him to move towards you and away from a threat.
Why teach “Come away”?
Let’s make this clearer with an example.
Your rescue dog is of a nervous disposition and is especially fearful around black dogs. You are in the process of desensitizing your dog with the help of a friend who owns a black dog. However, progress is slow and in the meantime you need to avoid black dogs because you don’t want to undo what your pet has learned about being calm in their presence.
Unfortunately you’re walking in the park when you see a black dog in the distance. Your pet freezes in horror, and any second he will start growling and barking. You say “Come away”, and your dog instantly swaps his attention from the fearful object to you, and starts to follow you as you change direction and walk away. Disaster averted.
OK, so now you see the advantage of teaching “Come away”, let’s learn how to do it.
Teaching “Come Away”
To teach this command is to have your dog on a lead and plentiful supply of ultra-tasty treats in a treat pouch on your waist. Start in a place with few distractions, such as the backyard.
Similar to teaching recall (Module: 3.7) you’re going to use the dog’s natural tendency to want to follow a leader. In this case have the dog on a leash, get his attention with excited noises, and then you run backwards away from him. The dog’s curiosity will make him run after you. As soon as he turns in your direction, click (because you want him to know coming toward you is good).
You can make this into a game, where you keep changing direction and backing away from the dog while encouraging him to run after you. This is the behavior you want, and as you now know, click that action to mark it and give him treats. You can even encourage him toward you by dropping the treat at your feet.
Once you find he is responding readily and is getting the hang of what you want, start adding in a command word. “Come away” is good, and even better when said in a happy, cheery voice which backs up that good things happen when he obeys.
To summarize, your actions are now to back away from the dog and say “Come away”, then click and reward as soon as he turns to you. Great. He’s got the hang of that. Now add in a distraction (to get him used to choosing to obey even when distracted.)
Teaching “Come Away” with Distractions
The distraction can be something your dog likes a LOT, such as treats or a favorite toy. Pop the distraction on the ground, but at a distance. Let the dog see it, then back away from the dog and give your command. If he obeys first time, magnificent, you are a training diva!
But, it’s more likely that he’ll try to get to the treat. At this point slowly back off and use the leash to draw him away. Eventually you will reach a point when he turns away from the distraction and towards you. Bingo! This is the moment you say the magic cue word while clicking…and then, reward. This takes perseverance to learn, but practice for short spells regularly and you’ll both get there. Oh, and then practice in different locations and with different distractions, so that his immediate reaction when hearing “Come away” is not “Should I, shouldn’t I?” but, “How quickly shall I go to Mom?”
5.4 “Leave It”
This is an important safety command. By teaching a strong “Leave it” you can prevent your dog eating a roasting hot potato or gobbling down rotting roadkill. This command is all about using your brain to protect your pup and stop him from doing something he’ll regret later.
When teaching “Leave it” take it in steps, and only advance onto the next stage once he’s learned the previous lesson well.
Refresh your clicker training
It’s important the dog has a clear understanding of the action he’s being rewarded for. The clicker provides a clear and instant snapshot of what he did well, so whileit’s possible to train using voice cues only, you’ll make quicker progress with a clicker.
Refresh the link in the dog’s mind between a click promising a reward. To do this, simply put a treat on the ground, and click the dog when he eats the treat. Pretty soon he’ll have a rock solid recollection of how much he loves clicker training.
Close your fist over a treat
You’ve got the dog’s interest and he’s eager for more tasty treats. But this time offer the treat on the palm of your hand, rather than the floor. Click and reward for taking the treat. Now we start to teach him to leave.
Close your hand in a fist around the treat. Let the dog sniff and nuzzle trying to get the treat, but don’t let him have it. Sit passively, and watch carefully for that split second where the dog momentarily takes his nose away to consider the problem from a different angle. This is the moment you want to capture with the clicker, because the dog left the treat – if only for a moment. It’s now OK to let the dog have the treat.
Repeat this, holding the treat in your fist, clicking when the dog backs off and then letting him have it.
Once you notice the dog is backing off as a tactic to get the treat, along with clicking, say your cue words “Leave it.”
Say this in a fun way, rather than a heavy, foreboding tone of voice, because you want the dog to understand that backing off brings good things.
You should start to notice the dog responding to the command, “Leave it” by ignoring your fist and waiting for the treat. Once he’s doing this reliably, you can up the ante.
Place the treat on the floor
The ultimate aim is for the dog to ignore interesting objects he finds on the floor, because he knows there’s a sure fire reward that’s easier to earn.
To teach this step, place a treat on the floor but cover it with your hand. Wait the dog out as he sniffs and paws at your hand, and the moment he loses interest, Click and say “Leave it”, then flick the treat toward him. Again, repeat this often enough and he’ll give up the sniffing the hand bit because it’s easier to sit and wait for the treat. Once he gets to this stage, then put an uncovered treat on the floor and say “Leave it”. If he does just that, bingo, what a great teacher you are. If he gives into temptation, then take your training back a step.
Now practice with different temptations (how about a toy) and take your training outdoors as an extra challenge. But remember, keep sessions short and fun, and stop if his concentration starts to wane.
If your dog picks up your favorite Jimmy Choo then “Give” is a great way to get the shoe back without a game of chase. Indeed, teaching a dog to give is helpful because it can be used to teach complex actions such as fetching toys and dropping them in the toy box, or to end a game before the dog becomes over excited.
The key to teaching this command is training with objects the dog likes, but having other things he prefers more. You are going to enter into a game of ‘swapsies’ where you exchange that object for something far more interesting. This provides him with positive motivation to let go of the object he’s holding, because he’d rather swap what’s he got for that tasty treat or favorite toy.
OK, so let’s get started. First, put your dog on the leash and anchor the leash beneath your knee and the floor. (The idea is to stop the dog running off when you give him the toy.) Now give him the interesting-but-not-terribly-exciting toy. Let him mouth it a bit and then show him an ultra-tasty treat (Freeze dried liver is good for this.) As soon as he let’s go of the toy to get the treat say “Give”. Simple as that.
Now repeat because repetition helps the dog to understand what it is you want him to do. You get the idea, give him the toy, let him enjoy it and then show a really tasty treat. The moment he lets go of the toy (he has to, as not even super-dog can hold two things at once) say “Give” and let him have the reward.
Of course with any command there’s often a sneaky part, and “Give” is no exception. What you do now is start increasing the length of time between him dropping the toy and getting the reward. Do this gradually, so a few seconds and then stretch it out a few seconds more, just so that you slow him up and things stay under your control.
Pretty soon you’ll have him giving up objects on demand, in anticipation of a reward. But remember, this is about your dog making a positive decision to let go, so do say “Give” in an upbeat cheerful voice, the sort of voice which promises good things around the corner. Just as with “Leave it”, you aren’t punishing him, but encouraging him to make a different decision, so influence his thinking by making the alternative something good, rather than bad.
5.6 “Look” and targeting
“Look” is a multipurpose command that gets a dog to focus on you (thus ignoring that distracting black dog he’s so frightened of) and concentrate on you (so he’s better prepared to learn a new command). Some people choose to train their dog to look into their eyes, but it’s equally useful to teach the dog to look or follow an object such as your fist or a pointing stick. In turn, with the dog’s nose following your fist this is a stress free way to lead a possessive dog off the sofa.
Let’s start with “Look”
For this you need a clicker, treats, and a hand to signal the dog with.
Hold a treat between your finger and thumb so the dog can see it. Move the treat forward and say “Look”, as the dog’s gaze travels upward, click and reward. Give the reward from your other hand, because you want the dog’s focus to stay trained on the hand near your face.
The technique for teaching look is as simple as this. Once the dog is reliably looking upwards, then stop holding a treat in the hand near your face. The knowledge that the expected behavior is to look at your face, coupled with the confidence that the treat comes from the other hand, is enough to let him concentrate where you want him to.
The idea behind targeting is to teach the dog to follow an object with his nose. Used imaginatively, this is allows you to lead a dog out of a trouble, teach him a trick, or distract him. For example, if your dog is fearful in certain situations, by getting him to target your fist you can distract him away from the feared object.
In fact, you already know how to target because “Look” is a form of targeting, only this time you ask him to touch with his nose an object such as your fist.
To do this, hold a treat in your fist. As he moves toward the goodies, click and give a cue word, such as “Follow”. As he gets the hang of this, stop rewarding when he moves toward the first and only click when he touches it. Then click and let him have the treat. Now you’ve got him interested in your fist, stop holding treats (these will now be delivered by your free hand).
action you are rewarding is touching your fist. This means you stop rewarding a mere show of interest and only click when he touches the fist. Hold your fist out and be prepared to be patient, he may fool around and then only touch by accident as he sniffs to double check there’s no treat inside, but that’s enough for you to click and reward.
Keep repeating these exercises until he’s regularly touching his nose to your fist on the cue word “Follow”. Once he does this reliably, move your fist slightly and as his nose follows, click and reward. If necessary, hide a treat in your fist to lure him, but once he starts following, then do this using the treat lure.
Now it’s just a case of practice makes perfect and having fun along the way.
5.7 “No”, and preventing attention seeking behavior
And finally, some dogs can be pushy and pester you for attention. This can get out of hand and when you don’t give in they develop disruptive habits to try and win your attention. To prevent this it’s a good idea to teach the dog a signal which means, “Yes, I know you’re there, but no, I’m not going to play right now.” This tells them that it’s not worth the effort of acting up, because Mom just isn’t playing ball right now.
This is about instructing the dog with a “No” that the game is over.
To teach this simply sit on the floor with some treats and a clicker.
Ask the dog to sit. Once he is calm, give him a treat and click. Repeat this 5 – 10 times, then say “No” with calm authority (no shouting necessary) and turn your back on the dog. It helps to then have a friend call the dog over. They do exactly the same thing, giving 5 – 10 treats then saying “No” and turning their back. At which point you call the dog over, give 5- 10 treats then say “No” … and so on.
What you’re teaching the dog is that saying “No” means “No fun to be had here,” which saves the dog the trouble of pestering you to find out if you’ll play.
This is a great tool to use against attention-seeking behavior because it makes your intentions clear.