Hooray! You've stocked up on the small snacks, and you're ready to train away! Decide beforehand what command words you want to use. Even if your pup has been trained in the past, it doesn't hurt to give him a refresher. North's main command words are sit, down, stay, drop it, on by, out, and off. Research has indicated that an intelligent dog can develop a vocabulary of well over 50 words so don't sell your pup short!
As a pet owner, you'll choose different trigger words and commands necessary to your life. For example, living in Manhattan with my puppy, "on by" was a necessity off the bat — this let North know that it's not time to stop and greet every person we pass (hence go "on by" them) but, if you live in an area where you seldom encounter people, this is probably not first on your list. Similarly, we still struggle with "off" as he inevitably tries to jump on favorite visitors for kisses. Remember training is an ongoing process, and voice commands should be chosen carefully — see tips when you read more.
- Words that end in a hard consonant (C, K, T, X) are better than those that end in a vowel because they have a hard finish and can be quickly and articulately said.
- Keep your voice crisp and cheerful. At no point during training, should you act as if your pup will be getting punished if he responds.
- Use short commands, preferably one syllable. Choose one word for each action to keep consistency. Say the word once to get the result. Repeating it can be confusing for the dog, and can result in him finally performing the task but simply because he is trying to figure out your cues, not because he has made the connection. Your goal is to get your pup to associate that one word with the one duty instantly.
- When teaching your pet to come, that command often needs more than one word associated with it. With new pups, you have to first attract the dog's attention by saying his name, then you issue the command (come), and then you say "good boy" so your pup knows he's not in trouble.
- After your pup comes and does the tasks you have asked, use a finish command like "free" or "release." Some trainers advise against using common words like "okay" although others teach this — I like to make North hold a "sit" at the front door before our walk, next to his dish before getting food, and at each red-light corner so I chose my finish command of "let's go."