Top 5 Things to Teach Your Dog

Happy Dog’s Head Trainer, Piper, shares her Top 5 Things to Teach Your Dog. These are the cues and behaviors Piper uses with her own dogs every day and considers to be essential for a happy life. 

5. To Come Back when Called

When your happy dog takes off running down the road, you’d love to be able to call them back with ease. But, as many owners find out the hard way, your dog would much rather keep chasing the fuzzy-moving object, substitute cat, squirrel, chipmunk, skunk, or neighborhood punk on a skateboard as needed.

This is what makes teaching a recall so challenging for owners. Unfortunately, most owners don’t reinforce their recall cue enough. Even once trained, a recall cue needs to be consistently rewarded. This helps us create a cue strong enough to work when it counts the most. When choosing between “my owner calling” and their “fuzzy-moving object” of choice, your dog needs to know that coming back when “my owner calling” pays off. This is especially true when your dog’s safety or the safety of others is at stake. 

Whether your dog’s name does the trick or you use a cue that means “come back to me”, having a reliable recall is essential for every dog owner. At Happy Dogs, our trainers use a variety of reward methods and games to keep recall training fun for our owners and their dogs. 

4. To Make Eye Contact with You

While we normally think of dog training as verbal cues and hand signals, eye contact can be an additional way for you to communicate with your dog. By consistently rewarding eye contact, you can intercept your dog’s attention and keep it on you. 

For this reason, Piper loves using eye contact to stay connected with her dogs in training and in everyday situations. This behavior not only improves your relationship, it can be a helpful “check in” with your dog. When you encounter a distraction, like another barking dog, being able to maintain eye contact  can help your dog stay calm and connected with you. This is true whether you need your dog’s focus as they walk past the noisy garbage truck or as they hurdle towards your over jumps on an agility course. 

At Happy Dogs, our clients are taught to consistently reinforce eye contact. This helps your dog stay all eyes on you when you really need their attention. 

3. To Love Their Crate 

Teaching your dog to love their crate is in Piper’s Top 5 Things to Teach Your Dog for so many reasons, we don’t even know where to begin. Our ultimate goal is for your dog to stay calm in their crate, whether you're on the go, at-home or somewhere new.

Your dog is safest in a crate while riding in your vehicle. If your dog is barking, scratching or all-stressed out in their crate, even short-distance travel can be a major challenge.  A prevents your dog from being a distraction while you’re driving, and protects them in the event of an accident. Not only will they be physically safer during an accident, a crate allows people to care for and rescue your pet. This is also true in your own home and when your dog is somewhere without you, like the groomer. Staying calm in their crate drastically increases you dog's safety during travel, vet visits, and in emergencies.

The crate can also act as your dog’s safe space when the house gets busy. When your family gathers for a holiday or your kid has a playdate on Tuesday’s, allowing your dog to stay in their crate can be a blessing. At Happy dog’s we see “loving the crate” as a benefit to dogs and owners. This keeps your dog out of trouble and gives you peace of mind. 

2. To Play with You

While some dogs seem to be naturals at games like fetch or tug, our dogs still need to learn to play with us. And, we need to learn how to play with them. Play combines body language, noises, and game “rules” to create a fun way to engage and communicate with your dog.

Dogs use plenty of play signals, like bowing or wagging their tail, to let us know they’re ready for a game. You can use your body to signal play too! Like using motion, like running away with a toy or quickly darting to the side, to get your dog engaged. Or, you may use fun sounds or words to cue your dog that you’re playing with them. This not only allows you to bond with our dogs through play, you and your dog are learning to communicate better. You’ll understand their movements better, and they’ll learn to read your body language too. 

How you play and which behaviors you reinforce during play can make play an enjoyable experience for dogs and owners. For example, how you play fetch matters. If your dog is running circles, barking or refuses to drop the toy, you’re probably not having a great time. This type of play can be frustrating, and doesn’t provide the same benefits to your relationship with your dog as cooperative play. Instead, you can reinforce some simple “rules” to make play better, like rewarding your dog for dropping their toy on cue.

1. To Do Nothing

Being able to chill out on the couch for a Netflix episode, or two, is an essential skill for every dog. A happy dog knows how to relax. However, this is often easier said than done. Your dog is hardwired to be looking for things to do, like toys to play with, things to chew, chase or bark at. This can be exhausting for owners to manage, and keeps dogs in a stressed-out, hyperactive state. We know that chronic stress isn’t good human health, and it isn’t good for a dog's health either.

A little training can go a long way to help relieve your dog’s stress in exciting situations and improve their quality of life. By cueing and reinforcing when your dog is calm, you can cue them to relax even when people, places or other dogs are a distraction. This ability “to do nothing” is what Piper relies on when she takes her own dogs to work, has friends over or takes her dog out to the local brewery.