Friday, September 5, 2008

Dog obedience training: A very important command

What do you think is the most important command you can teach your dog? I guess it would be hard to rate them, because things like come and stay and off (or down) make such a difference in how you get along with your dog.

But I think one of the most important is "Leave it." Teaching it takes a little bit of patience, and a little bit of "setting the stage." When you're interacting with your dog at home or when you have him on a leash, he isn't getting into too much mischief.

To teach this, have the dog on a leash so you can give a tug at the same time you give the command. Put something interesting where he'll be attracted to it. (This could happen naturally if you're out walking in the neighborhood.)

As soon as the dog starts to go toward the object (or other animal) give a tug and say "leave it." If you have to tug a bit harder to get his attention, do it. Then when he comes back to you, tell him "Good leave it" and praise him mightily. Give a treat, too.

It sure is nicer and more effective to be able to yell "leave it" and have your dog get out of the trash than to scream "Get the H... out of the garbage, you idiot!"

The other day I let my dogs out of the car at a neighbors and one immediately spotted the cat and headed that way. I said "Pepper, leave it." And he came right back to the car. Of course I felt just a little bit smug when my neighbor commented on how well my dog behaved.

Living with well-behaved canines really is a lot of fun. Now if I could just figure out a way to make the cat listen...

Yours for joy,

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