None of us would mind much if we had a bona fide Lassie on our hands – a dog who knew every trick in the book, including how to save Timmy from his own constant demise.
However, most of us are content with our dogs knowing a handful of tricks. But what tricks are the best tricks to teach your dog? If you were set on teaching your dog just five tricks, what would they be?
Below are five tricks every puppy should know. The emphasis here is on should. These tricks are more than just tricks; they are commands that could save your dog’s life one day (and save you thousands of dollars in vet expenses down the road).
Sit is, of course, the go-to trick for every dog owner. Sit tells the dog that he needs to be in a rested position, and that he’s likely not going anywhere at the moment. Sit works when you’re stopped in a crowd, or when you want your dog by your side.
When your dog knows sit, you can use it for times such as when you open the car door or attach his leash. Having him sit will keep him from running out into the street. Sit is also a gateway trick. Think of it as a starting point. With “sit,” you can focus your dog’s attention to try your hand on another trick.
Stay is an extension of sit. If your dog can “sit” but gets up immediately, it’s not really worthwhile for anyone. As you teach your dog to sit, slowly extend the length of his “sit” before you treat him. Then you can incorporate the command “stay” into the equation.
Ideally, if you tell your dog to “sit” he’ll automatically stay, even if you walk away. However, you can reinforce this behavior (and feel better about it yourself) by using the command “stay” to clarify what you want your dog to do.
Let’s say that a vicious-looking dog is walking by.You tell your dog to “sit” to calm him down and let him know he’s not moving anytime soon. But the excitement of the nearby dog is getting his attention. You can tell by the way your dog is moving or whining. So, you tell him to “stay.” This added command keeps his mind focused on the task at hand.
“Stay” is also helpful for when you need to leave your dog’s side, but want him to stay where he is. By just saying, “sit” your dog might not understand that he’s not meant to follow you. Using the “stay” command will help clarify what you mean.
Many people don’t see the purpose of “lay down” when they already have “sit” in their toolbox of tricks. But here’s why “lay down” can be helpful. Lying down is an act of submission. The behavior by itself is enough to reduce anxiety and excitement, as well as aggression. Sitting can still allow your dog to be alert and buzzing with energy. But lying down can help you diffuse a problem before it arises.
This is one of the most important tricks to teach a dog, yet it’s also one of the most difficult. Most dogs will come to their owner (or anyone, for that matter) if there’s nothing else sparking their interest. What happens, however, when a squirrel’s nearby, or a cat, or a rattlesnake? You get the idea.
The point is, your dog won’t always come running to your side when you want him to, unless you train him to do so. How can you get him to sprint to you no matter what? It takes more than an every-day treat. You need to give him the most unbelievable treat imaginable (chicken, meat, etc.) every time that he returns to you when you call his name.
Leave it (drop it, give it)
Here’s a trick we often use to end a tug-of-war game, but it can also be a lifesaver. You don’t want your dog eating chocolate, grapes, or dead animals, do you? But all of those things look mighty tasty to your pet.
How can you possibly keep him from causing any harm? You need to teach him “leave it” and/or “drop it.” Some owners use these commands interchangeably, while others use them to complement one another. For example, you can say, “leave it” to keep your dog from chasing after a squirrel on your walk. But, if he finds a tennis ball on the sidewalk and picks it up, you may want to use a separate command (drop it) to make him let go of the ball.