McMillan always teaches Sit first because it’s the most natural concept for most dogs. It's therefore also one of the easiest for them to learn, so even pets who are new to training can get the hang of it within a few sessions. And because it's also a transition command, once a dog can sit, you can move on to other directives.
2. Down or Lay Down
McMillan compares his favorite dog training technique, Down, to taking the keys out of a car’s ignition. A standing dog could bolt like a running vehicle, because there's nothing keeping her in place. A sitting dog is like a car in Park, but it's still easy for her to boogey out of there. But when she’s lying down, you’ve cut the engine. Because the command helps you control your dog, it’s also a great transition to more complicated tricks like rolling over or playing dead.
A dog who knows how to stay won’t run into the street if she gets loose, so this is one of the most important skills for any dog to learn. McMillan recommends teaching it when your pup is tired and hungry so she won’t get too hyper to focus. And be patient: Most dogs take at least a couple of days to understand Stay and it can take a few weeks to master it. But because it protects your dog from danger, keep a bag of treats or kibble handy and keep practicing until she's a pro.
If you plan to take your dog anywhere off-leash, she must know how to come when called. It can keep her safe at the dog park if a scuffle breaks out, get her away from the street if she breaks off the leash, or ensure she stays close when hiking or just fooling around in the backyard. McMillan teaches Come after Stay, since having the Stay skill first makes the process easier.
Dogs of all sizes should learn to heel, or walk calmly by your side, especially if you exercise your pup in busy urban areas where there's not much room on the sidewalk. The skill is even more important for large or strong pups who naturally pull on the leash. Once a dog can heel, walks will be easier and more pleasant for your dog and your arm socket.
Jumping on visitors or furniture is one of the most common dog issues, so if your pooch can't keep four paws on the floor, don't despair. Get her to stay off by turning your back when she jumps up, grabbing her paws and shaking a plastic bottle filled with pennies while you say “Off,” suggests McMillan. All of those things discourage jumping, so try a few to see which clicks with your pet.
Some trainers teach both No and Leave It for slightly different situations, such as using No when a dog shouldn't do something and Leave it for when you want your pup not to investigate an item or situation. McMillan sticks to No, period, to keep things simple. He says explaining the difference can confuse both people and animals, so No makes a good, all-purpose command for everything you want your pup not to do.
BY LIZZ SCHUMER