The commands that will save your butt

There are three concepts that your dog should absolutely know, and will someday save your butt — and hers. Stay where you are, come to me, and stop doing that. Naturally, these can be trained various ways, but above all other skills, these are worth spending time perfecting.

An example. The other day, we were working in the garden, and Doodlebug was basking in the sunshine, gnawing on a raw bone. The gate was open, because we were moving lawn bags from the back yard to the front. Ordinarily, this is not a problem — the dogs would rather be in the yard with us than anywhere else, so they aren’t typically tempted by an open gate.

That is, unless a cat runs by, or a person walking a small, energetic dog.

In this case, it was a person with two small dogs, yipping and running on retractable leashes. From across the yard, I saw Doodlebug perk up, lock his gaze, and start sprinting toward the open gate. Without even thinking (this is another benefit of much practice– you become well-versed in What To Do), I yelled “Doodlebug, TOO BAD!” This is our phrase for stop doing that. Doodlebug stopped on a dime and looked at me. “Doodlebug, COME! Goodboygoodboygoodboygoodboy!” Doodlebug galloped happily over to me and sat at my feet, wagging his tail, yippy dogs on long leashes forgotten. We ran inside together, me yipping and praising and offering him a big handful of treats. Doodlebug LOVES these commands, because in practice, each is a fun game. So whatever naughty business he might be up to, he assumes that whatever I’ve got is even better.

Teaching your dog “stop doing that” is so useful for interrupting a behavior that may be just annoying or against the rules, or may be immoral or illegal (picking up a huge hunk of chocolate, chewing on the furniture, putting another dog in her mouth). Teaching your dog “come to me” is critical for self-explanatory reasons. And teaching “stay where you are” — though less obvious on its face, is equally important (Why did the puppy-dog cross the road? It doesn’t really matter, but I hope he stays put until I can get there to clip on his leash and escort him back to safety!)

photo (56)

I can run FAST.

It’s National Train Your Dog Month for another week and change. Do yourself — and your dog — a favor and find a fun way to brush up on your safety commands. You won’t be sorry.

48 responses

  1. Oh I’m cracking up over the “goodboygoodboygoodboy”. We’ve had to do this a time or two, never once our Kylie has seen the distraction but preemptively. We’ve been working on our own “too bad”, using some of the tips you’ve shared in the past. But we are well versed in the skipping, jumping, endless praise run into the house/car/closest safe place!

  2. Hi, thanks for the post. I always read tour blog.
    Tell me Doodlebug, how did your mom teach you these commands and what worked best for you?

  3. Superb. I use “leave it” for a multitude of situations when I want my dogs to leave whatever alone be it a bottle of wood polish, a person, or another dog. And I haven’t used my “stay where you are” for Justus yet. He knows when I hold my hand out like a stop, he downs; the idea being, should he be far from me and I want to stay where he is, I can raise my arm with my “stop” hand aka show me the paw and he will down. LOVE Doodlebug’s reaction and your constant training.

    • I am currently training our 2-year-old bluenose Pitbull (Kita). I tried to do it myself, but found that working with a professional trainer was a better choice.

      How do you train a pitbull to stay when the office door is open? We’d like to have the office door open with Kita, but there are other dogs around (including five elsewhere in the building). Any pointers?

    • Nope, we teach all in basics class… It is the proofing against distractions that takes the most time and effort!

      Typed by my trained monkey. Please excuse tybos.

    • Good question… Our “too bad” is broader than “leave it.” Essentially, it means “you have broken a rule.” It applies to taking unauthorized things (a la “leave it”) but also other rules like getting on furniture, barking out the window, etc. It is also taught without any intimidation tactics like grabbing collars, yelling, or yanking leashes.

      Typed by my trained monkey. Please excuse tybos.

      • Thanks for the insight, but I did have a giggle about
        “It is also taught without any intimidation tactics like grabbing collars, yelling, or yanking leashes. ” because my initial response when I read it, was “Duh!” I’ve been a reader/lurker for long enough to know you all are positive teachers and learners. 🙂

  4. These are so important and my dog definitely needs some work on it. We taught him “leave it” as stop doing that. We would use the command out on walks when he would stop to smell something. It was so easy to correct the behavior and teach the command because we just had to keep walking and he would give up and follow us once his leash became uncomfortable.

  5. Great post and totally agreed. I hike with my dog off-leash a lot, and can only do so comfortably because she Comes and Leaves It on command. People often remark how well-behaved she is. The training really does pay off!!

  6. we worked with rescue pitbulls and had a lovely girl Janey. She had been chained to a fence near a crack house, and thus was very sensitive to free dogs. We would walk her, and feed her treats whenever another dog was near to teach her not to be afraid.

    Janey loved to play, and we would play with a pull toy with her, but my wife Jan taught Janey “Leave It” which meant she would let go of the toy.

    One day walking Janey on her leash, a neighbor’s dog got loose and attacked Janey. Janey quickly had the other dog down when my wife hollered “Janey Leave It” and Janey let go.

    You can bet she got some treats then!

    The story ends well, because Janey got way better with other dogs and now has a forever home.

    It is so important to be able to control your dog, they really depend upon us to keep them safe.

  7. Doodlebug, you’ve learned so well, and I know your brother Chick has too. In your humble opinion, is it ever too late for a dog to start learning these things? I have 2 of those yappy dogs you mentioned, and they’re about 14.

  8. when we are in the house and I say stay she stays. When we are outside if I say stay or stop she comes to me. Having a hard time breaking her of that

  9. I do believe that recall is the number one behaviour every dog needs. If your dog knows and sees great value in stopping what he or she is doing and immediately racing back to you, it can save his or her life. Unfortunately, it can also be the hardest to perfect. With a world full of distractions I have to work on this every single day with Shiva or it will slip.

    I love the words you use: “too bad”. Our “leave it” has basically been tossed out as the words have no meaning for Shiva any more. She has ignored them for so long. But I haven’t been able to find a quick enough phrase to replace them so we can start training it all over again. Too bad is just too perfect. I hope you don’t mind me swiping them!

  10. Fabulous! I use “leave it” with all of my dogs, but especially my overly-enthusiastic coonhound. It works in lots of situations. I also rely on “off” a lot. But, my favorite trick is “look at me,” something a local trainer taught me. Whenever my coonhound is behaving badly and ignoring me, the “look at me” command gets her to do so every time. Once she has made eye contact, it’s pretty easy to get her to listen.

  11. Dude and Chick— Hope you have something special planned for your puppies first Valentine’s Day. Really miss chick’ s says on Fridays but I understand 🙂 well wishes sent your way 🙂

  12. I normally consider my dogs to be well trained but they are certainly not on the level of stopping on a dime mid chase! That is amazing and definitely inspires me to put some more time into the Stop and Come commands!

  13. I also taught my dog GO HOME. Because if your dog is ever wandering around, that is usually what people tell it. In her decade and a half, she never did hear it from anyone but me, but it was a nice trick for when walking with friends, to let the dog lead them home.

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  16. I took Kita (our bluenose pitbull) in for training classes. First class was basic obedience (come, sit, stay, down, etc). We are now on the refresher and second-level class (behaving around other dogs, mostly).

    OTOH, Kita had her first visit to a dogpark recently. While we were sitting outside the fenced area (because I wanted to see how she would behave before I let her in), she looked at me: “hey, unhook my leash already!”

  17. Great post and I totally agree with everything written. My problem is every time I give command to my dog she looks around for reason why she needs to stop doing what ever she wanted to do. So if we have open door on the yard and I tell her to stop she will look out the door to see if there is cat or dog out there. And if it is: “hasta la vista” 😦

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  20. Also, dogs respond really well to consistency of commands. The 3 essential commands that you mention work really well when the dog automatically recognizes the voice command as well as a hand command.

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