Prevention is key to keeping your dog from getting lost, and teaching your dog important commands is one of the best prevention tools you can have. Today, we bring you what we believe to be the most important commands in preventing your dog from straying, and walk you through our favorite methods of training dogs these commands.
Recall is incredibly important if you lose sight of your dog. To train your pooch to come at your command, start off in an enclosed area (I used a fenced yard to teach my dog) and have small, delicious treats such as bits of liver on hand for rewards. Start by calling her name along with the command ‘Come’ (e.g., ‘Lemon, Come!). At first, you’ll find that you need to do a combination of things including kneeling, gesturing for her to come, and calling her multiple times, but once your dog comes to you, reward her instantly with a treat. The most efficient way to train your dog this command is to have another person help you and have them call your dog to them, alternating between the two of you.
After your dog has mastered the ‘[Name], Come!’ command, teach her the variation of vocabulary that goes along with the command such as ‘Come here!’ and just her name. Continue on to the next level of recall training by introducing distractions (another dog is great for this) in the enclosed area and repeating the training steps previous. When she's mastered this level of recall, the final step is to take her to an open and safe space, such as a dog beach, with lots of distractions and run through the same training regimen with her.
‘Stay close’ is a variation on recall that I personally love and use with my dog all the time, especially when we’re on hikes. The key to this command is letting your dog know that she needs to stay in close proximity with you and ‘check in’. This becomes especially useful when you’re in an area that has many critters that could tempt your dog to stray or if you’re on a shared path (such as dirt biking trails).
After your dog has mastered the recall command, take her on a hike with you (this command requires her to be off-leash, so make sure you choose an area that you know well, is relatively small, and is far from cars). Call her name and add the words ‘Stay close’ each time she comes—do this every five feet or so to help her understand that the words ‘Stay close’ means she needs to remain in close proximity to you and frequently check in. Reward her each time she comes back to you, then once she's gotten a hang of it, repeat this training at every 10 feet, then every 20 feet and so on.
Teaching your dog to ‘Stay’ is very important, especially if your dog wants to run after distractions (and if you do have a bolter, you shouldn’t let your dog off-leash). Start once again in a small, enclosed space free of distractions and make your dog ‘Sit’. After your dog as sat, tell her ‘Stay’ and put your hand in front of you, palm facing her (think of the ‘Talk to the hand’ gesture). Take one step back and if she hasn't budged, kneel and praise her, tell her to come and offer her a treat. Do this again, but take two steps back, and then repeat the process taking one step further each time until you can take at least twenty steps back from your dog and she has mastered the ‘Stay’ command.
The next step is to introduce distractions to your dog. With this training, having another person, another dog, or another person with a squeak toy in the room will be enough of a distraction. Every step you take back, have your friend say something (not your dog’s name or a command) or squeak the toy to distract your dog. Once again, start small with one or two steps, then work your way up to twenty steps. The final step is then to repeat the training in a dog park with tons of distractions, and once the two of you have completed this process, your pooch is officially a ‘Stay’ master.
We hope you take the time to teach your dog these essential preventive commands and remember, the other key lost dog prevention tool is to register your pup on the Finding Rover app today and update their photos frequently!