(Photo by Tori Martin)
How-To: New Year, New Dog!
By Tori Martin
You know the cliche. “New Year, New You” as you eagerly take on your New Year resolutions. Then by the time February starts approaching, you find the “old you” has moved straight back in! Just for the record, only God can change you.
Let’s mix this New Year thing up, take the pressure off ourselves, and get our faithful four- legged friends involved! Yes, you read that correctly. Let’s include our beloved canine friends in our New Year resolutions by teaching the old dogs a new trick! Training your dog some new cool tricks is not only super beneficial for your pooch’s overall well-being, but it is also super beneficial for you! It’s achievable, lots of fun, and develops a deeper bond between you and your beloved dog. What’s not to love?! Over the holidays leading up to New Year’s Eve, start with a small and simple trick. Depending on how well they get on, allow your pooch to show off their new tricks to all your family and friends on New Year Eve’s night! Here is a basic and very useful trick to get you and your furry friend off to an excellent New Year!
Teach Your Dog to “Stay” or “Wait”:
Step 1. Choose a quiet location that is familiar to your dog when your dog is calm (after a walk is perfect.) You can teach your dog to stay from a starting position of “sit.” If you haven’t taught that command yet make sure you do that first! You will also need to pick a cue word and make sure you stick to it. Go with “Stay” or “Wait.”
Step 2. Ask your dog to get into the “sit” starting position and praise them for it. Then, give your dog the verbal cue “Stay,” followed by a clear hand signal. Holding your hand up with a flat palm facing away from you works well. Take the hand signal away and quickly reward your dog before they move. Once you can do this five times in a row, without your dog getting up before you reward them, move on to the next stage.
Step 3. Next, you want to start to build up the amount of time that your dog can stay before you reward them. This is going to be different for every dog so please be patient with them if it takes them a while. Perseverance is key! As a general rule of thumb, you want your dog to stay successfully five times in a row before increasing the time.
Step 4. Now you can start to put distance between you and your dog while they stay. Each time you ask for a stay, take a step away from your dog. Then return to them to reward them. Your dog may start to find it harder with the distance. You may have to reduce the amount of time that you ask your dog to stay for and then build the time back up. Gradually increase the distance that you move away from your dog.
Step 5. Once you can move around your dog freely while they remain in a stay, see if you can really up the game by quickly popping out of sight and then coming back to reward them! You could also begin to add in distractions, like toys, or dancing around them to test your dog’s impulse control. The possibilities are endless! I also taught my dog Bear a release word, like “OK” to let them know that they can leave the stay position.
The main thing to remember when training your dog is to just enjoy the time together. It can be extremely rewarding for all humans and dogs involved!