4 basic non-verbal commands you should teach your dog or puppy

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Teaching your puppy or new dog a few basic commands will pay dividends for the rest of your dog’s life. Remember – they will be part of your family for 12-15 years so you should invest the time to teach them some useful commands.

Start using verbal and non-verbal cues when your dog is a puppy. That way, when he or she reaches senior-hood, they’ll still be able to follow your commands if they lose their sight or hearing.

The following are the most useful commands to teach your dog or puppy. Go on, give it a try! Any age dog can learn these if you’re patient with them.

Non-verbal command for “Stay”

“Stay” – hold up your hand like a traffic cop, or point. I like the traffic-cop hand, myself. This same gesture is helpful with the “Wait” command (if you’re opening a car door with busy traffic around, for instance) and for the ever-popular “Hot! Hot! Hot!” command when I open the oven. 🙂

Non-verbal command for “Sit”

The hand gesture I use for “sit” is unorthodox and I’ve sometimes been scolded for not using the standard dog-training method to motion for sitting.  Most people hold a treat in their hand, or fake doing so, and move their hand over the dog’s head, in the hopes the dog will sit.  If the dog is trained this way, GREAT.  But mine aren’t, and they look at the person, completely clueless.

I have always taught my dogs “sit” by hiding the treat in my hand and clasping my hands across my chest while saying “SIT!”  (not “can you sit?”  or “please sit” or “[anything added to] sit”).  Just plain, ol’ “SIT!” said sharply and command-like.  Now that I’ve taught that lesson, all I need to do is clasp my hands across my chest and voila, everyone sits like a champ.  Most of the time, they just sit anyway because they know a treat is coming, as if to say  “Look ma, I can sit!”

Non-verbal command for “Go lie down!”

“Go lie down!” (or the less-irritable, “Lie down”… or some folks just say “down” which I always use meaning “stop jumping on me” — most people use “off” for that one.  Hey, I said I was unorthodox.)  For the “Go lie down” command, I point, sternly to the dog’s “place.” This can be his bed, the floor, my bed, the couch, chair, etc.  Anyplace convenient as long as he will lie down.  My dogs generally learn this one quite quickly since I normally only use it when I’m cranky! They know I mean business when I shout “Go lie DOWN!” Once in a while, I’ll use it in training, but not very often.

Non-verbal command for “Paw?” 

“Paw?”  (the short version of “gimme your paw”).  And the lesser-known, “the other one?!”  Out of my many dogs, only two have mastered this trick:  Hobie and Charlie Brown.  When I say “paw?” the dog gives me either the left or right paw (I’m not picky)… and when I say “the other one?!” he gives me the other paw!  It’s amazing!  I hold out my hand, palm up, for the first paw, and then I do the clasp-hands-across-chest movement (see “Sit”, above) for the second paw, or sometimes I hold out my hand again.  Works every time! After mastering this trick, I can now say “paw?!” and then “other!” It’s important to say “paw?” with a question-mark inflection in your voice.

Use whatever method of teaching works for your dog, but  make sure you teach your dog non-verbal cues in addition to any verbal cues. Try to teach them these commands as soon as you get your dog so when he or she ages, you are still able to communicate non-verbally.

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