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Michigan Dog Training

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Plymouth, Michigan 48170

Dog Training Commands and Language Learning

By Essential IT


When communicating with others, a common language is crucial for clear understanding. My mother in-law and her family live in China. They will be visiting my wife and I later this month staying for approximately three months. It will be a joyous reunion for Annie as she has not seen them for two years and it will be my first opportunity to meet them in person.

Since I don’t speak Chinese I expect there will be a few awkward and funny misunderstandings. I am ok with that though as it’s just my nature to embrace challenges. I wish I spoke Chinese but it is a hard language to learn. I also blame my childhood hearing disability which made it hard to learn beginning speech (if it hadn’t been for my dog who taught me how to talk) let alone learn a foreign language as an adult.

So to compensate, I have learned a few basic Chinese words to enable basic understanding and will enlist the help of a translator, my wife. I also anticipate learning more Chinese words and phrases when they are used in every day life and interaction with my family. Having learned Spanish in high school and college, I know first hand that it is far easier to learn a language when one is immersed in it rather than learning from a book.

So too when we speak with our dogs, there needs to be a common language used amongst the family members. It doest help the dog if one member uses one word for an action while someone else uses a different word. The words also need to be short, preferably one syllable. Dogs of course don’t naturally understand English. However, as the words are used in everyday repetitive situations, your dog will quickly catch onto their meaning. For example, when you say “sit” and then lure your dog’s head upwards with a treat in your hand, very quickly he will learn that “sit” means to put his rear on the ground.

To help your dog learn English concentrate on the following:
* Use the same words
* The words should be short, one syllable
* Use the words repetitively in everyday situations and reward your dog’s accomplishment


Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, dog trainerSeveral dog training commands that are used at Michigan Dog Training are listed below to help your family be on the same track:

Center – the dog goes around the handler and enters between the handler’s legs from the backside ending in a down position between the handler’s feet. This command is helpful in obtaining control of your dog in a busy environment as you are straddled over your dog. It can also be used as a flashy way to heel your dog between your legs.
Come – the dog comes to you within arm’s reach so you can grab ahold of the dog’s collar. In the finished stage of come, the dog comes to you and sits squarely in front of you a few inches from your toes.

Down – the dog lays down on the ground either in a Sphinx position or preferably on one hip. A dog that lies on one hip is more comfortable doing so and will be able to maintain the position for a longer time. The Sphinx down position may be desired though for short term down positions such as found in dog sports. Down means lying down, not get off when jumping on a person or furniture.

Drop – means to release an item from the dog’s mouth. MDT uses “give” as it can be used in various situations. For example, if the dog was presenting an object to you, one could say, “give” but what if the dog is away from you at a distance and you want the dog to drop the item? You wouldn’t say, “give” in that situation. You would say “drop”. Therefore, to keep things simple for dogs and handlers, MDT uses “drop” for both situations.

Fetch – means the dog takes an object out of your hands or picks up an object in its mouth that you have pointed to.

Good – is a verbal marker that the dog made the correct choice, e.g. when the dog’s rear end makes contact with the floor after being asked to sit. The “good” marker is then followed by something pleasurable such as a food treat or praise. It is used as a marker and not as a release.

Heel – is a specific position for the dog to find and maintain when you are walking or standing. The position is for the dog to line up its nose to should in line with your left leg. Pretend you are wearing the pants of a Marine soldier. Your dog should line up with the cloth piping of the center of your pant leg.

Hold – is useful when teaching a dog to continue holding an item until you give the “out” command.

Leave It – means to ignore an object that the dog was interested in looking at, pursuing, sniffing, etc. If the dog picks up the object, then use the command “give.”

Let’s Go – is a general command for your dog to follow. The dog is not in a “heel” position but is close enough to you to be able to see you out of his/her peripheral vision. This means the dog is in a half bubble position around you, a little in front, beside or a little behind you. If the dog is a full body length in front of you, then they are out of the bubble and cannot see you when you turn.

No – is a verbal marker when the dog makes an incorrect choice in its behavior after the command has been thoroughly learned. Depending on the degree of the wrong choice, the inflection of the word “no” can change up or down to match the situation. For example, the tone and inflection of “no” used for jumping up on a person (after sitting has been taught as an alternative behavior to jumping) will be different for not leaving a bottle of pills that has been spilled accidentally on the ground.

Nope – is a verbal marker when the dog makes a minor incorrect choice. Because it is simply a mistake on the dog’s part (because it hasn’t been reliably learned by the dog yet), it is just that, a “mistake” and not a choice not to comply. Thus, the word “nope” is used as a non-reward marker. It is difficult to put a lot of emotion behind the word “nope”, so that is why it is used instead of the word “no” which tends to carry a high level of emotion when spoken.

Paws – means for the dog to place its front two feet on something instead of all four feet. To teach this, use a smaller object than a place board such as an overturned rubber water dish. It is just big enough for the dog to place its front feet on and because it is made out of rubber it won’t slide. On it is used to teach focused heeling turns, to go out straight after completing a jump and tricks.

Place – the dog goes up onto a place board, dog bed or other slightly raised object at the direction of the handler. It is important that the place is a different surface feel than the floor and it helps if it is raised a few inches off the ground. Since the dog is free to move around on the “place” (sit, lay down, stand, etc.), the dog is not told to “stay” on the place board. The command “place” is a geographical location to go to rather than a position. If the dog attempts to leave the place board, the dog is simply directed back to the place board as the command “place” is given again. Later, after the dog learns the place command, the place can include other objects such as flat carpet squares, stair landings, picnic tables, large rocks, etc. Its’ a useful command to maintain a dog’s position despite distractions about the dog, e.g. when answering the front door the dog is sent to “place” so they do not jump on guests, while you’re eating dinner so the dog does not beg for food, or while a new mother is attending to her baby.

Right (leg) – is similar to “heel” except the dog lines up to the side of your right leg.

Side – dog lines up to left leg in heel position but most be making body contact with your leg. This is a helpful command for a dog that easily get distracted or reactive. If he/she is making contact with your leg, they know they are in heel position without looking at you as when under stress they probably won’t look at you. They will look at what is
distracting them instead. This way they don’t lose the heel position because they can feel where you are without looking. It is used for short duration to remove the dog team from a difficult situation.

Sit – the dog places its rear on the ground and keeps contact until given the release command of “yes”. The command to “sit’ is the preferred command to give when the dog jumps up on a person instead of “off” as this tells the dog “what to do” instead of “what not to do”. A reliable sit is the key to preventing the dog from jumping. It is acceptable for pet dogs to lay down after being told to sit, if they do the sit but later lay down on their own to become more comfortable because they haven’t gone anywhere. However, future competition dogs will have to do a sit and remain in a sit (without laying down) until released or given another command.

Stand – the dog either moves into a standing position or stops his forward movement and remains still. This command is especially helpful when the dog is sitting and you want the dog to stand up so that his paws can be wiped or his belly examined by the veterinarian.

Stay – means for the dog to maintain its current position whether that be a sit, down, stand, etc. A stay command really isn’t necessary as long as the handler has been consistent in enforcing a sit means continue to sit until released. However, it has been found helpful for the human rather than the dog to work on a stay command as it makes things more clearly to the human part of the team. Think of all the situations in which you might tell your dog to “stay” and you’ll see that it would be more productive to reinforce a solid sit, down, or stand command rather than using an extra unnecessary command of stay.

Touch – the dog touches its nose to an object such as your open hand, closed fist or a target stick. It can be helpful in working with fearful dogs, teaching dogs to move their position as well as teaching dog tricks.

Wait – is not used by MDT. For those who want to use a “stay” command, some folks in other training systems will differentiate on the time that they expect the dog to maintain the stay position. Supposedly, the dog is expected to learn that the stay means you’re going to be in that position for some time to come, whereas the “wait” is suppose to give the dog relief that it will just be a few moments because you said “wait” instead of “stay”. This is an unnecessary and confusing command because even if the dog differentiates between long and short durations of a stay based upon the command given, it would vary in time as not every stay or every wait is going to be exactly the same time as the last time the command was given. Nor do we really know that the dog cares. It is much simpler for the dog to understand that they must maintain the position commanded until they are released. Plus, if you said “wait” because you thought it would be only for a few moments, but then something changes and you want the dog to stay longer and thus now give the “stay” command, that really is a punishment for the dog. Here you said “wait” and the dog did it well but you followed it up by telling the dog its going to be a much longer wait by saying “stay.” Therefore, MDT does not endorse the use of a “wait” command. You can say “stay” if desired, but as explained in the description of “stay”, that’s really not necessary either as long as you are consistent in not allowing the dog to break the position commanded until you give the release cue of “yes.”

Yes – is a release cue that lets the dog know that he/she can move from a certain place or position. For example, after being told to go to “place”, the dog should remain on place until it is told that it can be released from that location when it hears the word “yes.” If you were doing a place or sit/down with distance, return (most times) to the dog before saying “yes.” Otherwise, the dog may start to anticipate being called from that position. We want the dog to be thinking, “hey this is great, all I have to do is remain sitting or laying down, and they’ll come back and give me stuff (treats, praise, release me).”

And, if you need a translator for your dog’s behavior as Michael needs a translator for his Chinese in-laws, contact Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan at 734-634-4152.


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