Ask anyone and they have their own idea of what a dog should learn. There are the essential behaviors but there are some other behaviors that might not be taken into consideration until there is an issue. It is important to cover these in a class to provide students with a proper foundation for a well-behaved and stable dog.
An essential behavior that most clients have already started with their dog when they come to class but is still just as important to cover. Sit is key to get as a solid behavior because it can be utilized when working on proper greetings or providing a dog with an incompatible behavior to jumping.
Another essential behavior that clients like to know how to teach. It works as an incompatible behavior to things like jumping but also is handy when working on teaching place or a settle.
A behavior that has endless uses. Not only to teach a dog to leave food or inanimate items but other dogs, cats, people or “yuck”. You can fill in the blank.
Whether a dog is allowed freedom outdoors or not, how to walk on a leash is a behavior to start immediately. There will always be a time when a dog needs to be put on a leash and it is more pleasurable for dog and handler when the leash is loose, let alone safer.
Clients tend to focus their attention on exercising their dog which can lead to an anxious or hyperactive dog that doesn’t know how to chill. Dogs will adapt to the level of exercise they are given. We need to teach them to settle and relax in the face of excitement or boredom.
Also known as “coming when called,” this is a life saving behavior and takes lots of practice to be truly successful. Coming when called is a key behavior to teach early on in lessons. Consider incorporating a hand touch with this behavior to make sure the dog comes within reach in case of an emergency situation.
A versatile tool like a mat, towel, dog bed etc. that can be used to have the dog target at a specific location and then to relax and settle. Mats are portable and can be taken to coffee shops or restaurants as well.
Client will repeat cues to a dog when they don’t even have the dogs attention. By teaching the client this tool of gaining their dogs attention will help to eliminate frustration in the face of distractions.
Teaching your clients to teach their dogs to love handling is essential. It helps to create a stable, confident dog. Dogs should allow their owners to comfortably hold their feet (for nail trimming), check their mouth, look in their ears, brush their coats and accept restraint. Having strangers perform these exercises to the dog is a definite bonus to prep for vet visits! (Tip: Have everyone in class switch dogs and practice gentle handling exercises with lots of rewards.)
Teaching “give” or a “drop it” helps prevent resource guarding. Instead of forcing something away from the dog we can give the dog the choice to drop the item for something of better value.
The above behaviors are listed in no particular order to importance. Which behavior do you think is the most important?