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I believe it is great to have an obedient dog, and my dog loves to obey me (and get a reward or praise). So, some of the commands are useful ones like stopping at the kerb or not taking food until I say - others are fun ones for him to do as part of play (noses, paw) or they are used in games such as "hunt the treat" where I might say "use your nose" or "use your paw" to show him how to get the reward. But no point in forcing him to do something he can't manage (like sit) - I just stick with what he can achieve.

My dog knows the following commands...

Always / usually obeys
  • Lie down *
  • Wait (don't touch the treat until I say!) *
  • Take it (take the treat!)*
  • Stop - (stand still, especially at kerbs)
  • Wait (keep standing still)
  • Keep waiting... (if he is already doing "wait")
  • Cross over (cross the road at a smart pace)
  • Paw (put your paw on my hand)
  • Noses (touch your nose to mine)
  • Get back (take a few steps backwards)
  • Outside (let's go play in the garden!)
  • Get out (of the kitchen... to an invisible line JUST outside!)
  • Go through (the kitchen, where dogs mustn't be while I'm cooking!)
  • Go in your bed *
  • This way (when on a walk - a change of direction)
  • Show me (do you need water? food? outside? game?)
  • Come here (when in the house)
  • Off (usually "off thing" e.g. "off the table" or "paw off")
  • Come in (from the garden)
  • Shake! (useful if he's wet)
  • Busy (have a pee, please!) - but took a year or two
  • Gently (take the treat carefully)
  • Come round (walk round behind me to end up at my left side)

* Also obeys a silent hand signal for this command.

Often / sometimes obeys
  • Get down (stop jumping up at me!)
  • Walk with me (same as heel but easier to say with a consistent tone)
  • Use your nose (i.e. sniff to find the treat, don't just look)
  • Down here (look for the treat on the floor, not at me!)
  • Slowly (walking)

Still learning
  • Quiet / no barking / shh (but see below)
  • Listen (give me your attention)
  • Fetch - my dog is not a retriever so this is harder work!
  • Drop it

Given up on
  • Sit - he doesn't naturally adopt that position
  • No dig - we built a digging pit for him instead and use "good boy dig" when he plays in it - he no longer digs elsewhere

Cray also knows "No more" with a hand signal, which tells him he's had all the treats going at the present time! Of course he likes to feign ignorance until he realises I'm serious.

Get Down may be confused with lie down - because he can go from a flying leap in the air to flat on the floor laid down patiently in one swift move!

Barking: We allow Cray to give a single bark, and then call out "Wait!" and he waits while we go to see what he wants. Then we use "show me" and he will lead us to the back door, or an empty food or water bowl. This kind of barking is encouraged - I'd rather he asked to go out when he needs the toilet! However he does take advantage sometimes, and shows me "I've eaten all the interesting bits and want some different food".

However persistent barking (double or triple barks in one breath, over and over) is different. A command like "Quiet" works best when followed by another command he can obey so he is praised for that and also distracted from what he was doing before; he seems to really be focused when barking as it's either caused by a really exciting thing, or he's bored and wants you to come and attend to him. Where possible I call "Quiet" and then ignore him until he stops barking, only going to him once he is silent. However it's not always possible to do that, especially with neighbours to consider!

Obedience often depends on how distracted he is. When we have visitors I wait a few minutes for Cray to settle (the sooner we sit down and chat normally, the sooner he will calm down) and I encourage my guests to tell my dog to lie down or get back, or to walk him and make him stop at the kerb, so he will obey different voices and so visitors can themselves contain his excitement at seeing them, by giving him something to do!

Other tricks which I haven't specifically taught include Cray coming to find me when the phone is ringing, barking when the doorbell goes, and also letting me know when the post has arrived - as long as there was nothing in the delivery that he fancied eating first! I think he'd make quite a good hearing dog if I wanted to teach him more of these types of behaviour.

This page last updated: 01 September 2022

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