Thursday, June 16, 2011

Multi Purpose Commands

Living with dogs is never dull and most of us like it that way.  But don't let chaos spoil the fun!  Of course, no matter how much you love Spot, you don't let him run things, his priorities would doubtless be different than yours.  You must be in charge.

In everyday life things come up that aren't covered by standard commands like come, wait, sit, etc.  Indeed, there are many instances where you need a more versatile method for bossing Boots around.  Thus, today's tutorial focuses on handy multi purpose commands.
Now then, our first example of a multi purpose command involves direction or location.  This is useful when you want the dog to leave the room or in general, move elsewhere.  You don't have to teach Fluffy individual room names (unless you want to amaze your friends!).  One command can serve to get Fluffy from here to there.

Let's take my dogs for example.  The short haired dogs rarely get material on their rump hair after a bowel movement.  Sheepdog Lois is not so fortunate.  The poop bounces against her substantial hair on the way down and leaves crumbs.  As the dogs enter the back door following toilette, I am traffic cop.  The short hairs may repair to the kitchen.   "This way" accompanied by an arm gesture that points to the kitchen sends the dogs up the steps to the kitchen.  Lois must go to the basement bathroom because that's where the baby wipes are.  "This way"  accompanied by a arm gesture toward the basement sends Lois down the steps to the basement.  (Lois is an old hand at this, she heads right to the bathroom and waits for me).  You will notice I don't say kitchen to one dog and basement to another.  "This way" and a wave of your hand is a directional command that can be used anywhere.

Our next example is useful for those unpleasant or awkward things you must do to your dog from time to time.  Sometimes you have to wipe goop off your dog's eye or trim the hair between his toe pads.  "Let me do" proclaims that something disagreeable but necessary is about to happen.  You've already taught your dog to cooperate with say, being rigged in a harness and getting into the car.  When you have to then lean over him to fasten the seat beat a little "let me do" can save you both the stress of wiggling.  The "let me do" command is sort of a courtesy/warning/comfort all in one. The dog knows he must cooperate and trust you to guide him through the ordeal. It even works at the Vet's office. 

Life is full of inconvenient mundane details you and your dog must endure.  Multi purpose commands give you tools to reduce irritation and increase organization to benefit you both.



  1. Great post. Curious about what you do to get the command(s) in place.

    We have similar gestures/phrases for Sensi. "Be nice" to let him know restraint and gentle touch is needed (used for everything from modifying his behavior around deer to turtles) and he's also doing well with hand gestures for direction (vital in my yard, since he manages to wrap his 30-ft cable around every rock and bush in sight. So nice to say, "This way" or "That way" with a hand wave and have him unwind himself!)

    These are commands that we really didn't actively teach, but he picked up on over time because we were consistent in their use and feedback for the right response. Same for you?

  2. Both my dogs understand "Ladies first", they move aside so I can get into the house first.

  3. Thank you for these great tips. I read it to my brother and sister who have cute doggies who need to be told things quite often.

  4. Karen, you're right. These commands are not actively taught, I sort of take advantage of opportunities to show the dogs what I want them to do. At some point I may have physically nudged one of the less cooperative dogs with the directing hand but otherwise it's just orders wrapped around everyday activities that they learn rather effortlessly.

    It's amazing how many ways we boss our dogs around without formal planning...and really cool how often they comply!

  5. I trained one of my dogs to respond to hand signals. My cousin's Lab use to go get him a beer from the fridge.