Five Things Every Good Dog Should Know

Dogs enrich our lives immeasurably. However, like children, dogs must be taught how to behave to fit into our world. We have all seen the dog that drags the human down the street, ignores commands, messes everywhere, and generally causes problems where ever it goes. Don’t let your dog be that dog — teach him what he needs to know to be a good companion.

People think about teaching their dogs the big five: sit, stay, down, come, heel. However, these five things are important to teach your dog before you even attempt anything else. These are the things that make it possible to live with your dog long enough to teach him obedience!

Crate training. Many people think crating a dog is cruel. Like most things, crates are subject to misuse. However, a crate that is properly used becomes a dog’s den. Think of it as the dog’s bedroom, where they can sleep in comfort without worrying about anything harming them. Crates are invaluable in house training or when traveling. A crate trained dog is comfortable on trips because his bedroom comes along. You can be comfortable because you know your dog is safe and comfortable and cannot destroy anything in the hotel room. The same is true when you are at home and the dog is crated. Crate train your dog for both your sakes.

House breaking. This would seem obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of dogs that are not house broken but are allowed to run around in the house. Yuk! Crate training helps with this, as does developing a schedule and sticking to it. Dogs naturally go far from their den to eliminate, so use this by confining the dog to the crate unless he has gone outside and eliminated. Dogs need to go when they wake up, after eating, after playing, and before bedtime. Taking the dog out every hour during the day and then gradually lengthening the time between potty breaks works well.

Walk on a loose lead. This is useful because the dog does not drag you down the path if the lead is loose. It also teaches the dog to be aware of your position at all times so that he can keep the lead loose. Finally, the dog does not develop problems with his trachea common with dogs that pull hard against a leash. This is especially important with breeds such as the Boston Terrier, which have a tendency to have trachea problems anyway.

Thou shalt not take my food. Dogs are naturally food oriented. It is not realistic to think you can leave a roast on the counter and go to work and still have it there when you get home. Your dog will have eaten it if they can reach the counter at all. However, it is realistic to leave your sandwich on the table long enough to get a soda from the refrigerator and expect it to still be there when you turn back around. As dogs learn there is always enough for them, they are less apt to steal your food. They should be actively taught, however, that they do not take your food. Without teasing them, give them opportunities to try, and correct them. They will soon learn it is off limits.

Play nice. If you have dogs, you want to be able to take them to parks, have friends with dogs over, and generally interact with other dogs. It is important that your dogs learn to tolerate the presence of other dogs in your home and around you. No one enjoys having a dog who tries to attack other dogs every time they are near. Further, such a dog is likely to cause you to get injured when you have to break up the fight. Enforce a no fight rule, crating if necessary, so that everyone can coexist.

During a decade of doing Pointer rescue, these were the first five things I taught newly rescued dogs. After they learned these things and were fixed, given their shots, and given a clean bill of health, they were ready for a new home. Make sure your dogs know these things, too, so your house is a home.