Everyone wants a well-behaved Lab who doesn’t jump up on visitors or destroy things in the house, right? How do you get that dog? It takes training. If you teach your Labrador some basic commands right from the beginning you too can have that well-behaved dog.
The 8 Basic Commands that every Lab should know are:
- Watch Me
First Things First
Labs are very intelligent and easily trained. They can often learn commands faster than many other breeds of dogs. However, they can’t train themselves. They need you to take the time to teach them. The key is to be patient and consistent.
When you first start out, make sure you have your Lab in a quiet place with few distractions. In or around your house is often a good place to start. He will make mistakes in the beginning and you want him in a safe environment. You will teach him how to deal with distractions after he has mastered the basic commands.
Keep your training sessions short and fun. In the beginning, they should only last for about ten minutes. You also need to make sure that you keep the lessons regular and consistent. Repeat the lessons often but don’t wear your dog out. Boredom can make your dog act out rather than comply with your commands. Training time should be fun for your Lab. You want him to look forward to it.
Keep the training basic. Make sure you use the same commands during each session. One- or two-word commands are usually best. Don’t change them or add words to them as this may confuse your dog. Say each command firmly but not angrily. You don’t want your Lab to think that he is in trouble. Keep your body language loose and friendly.
It is important to be consistent at all times. Reward him when he does something right and correct him when he doesn’t follow the command. Don’t let him goof around or turn training into play time. Teach him the boundaries and he will follow them. Always correct in a loving way. These commands are new to him and most mistakes will be made because of confusion, not disobedience.
Reward your dog when he obeys The rewarding part is essential for your dog to learn. There are many ways you can reward your dog- playing with him, petting him, and of course, giving him treats. The reward needs to be something that your Lab really looks forward to. He will start to respond more quickly to obtain a reward he really wants.
In fact, when he does an extra-good job you should give him some bonus treats. Once he is obeying consistently then you will want to reward more sporadically. The goal is eventually to have him obeying the command without having to be given a treat. Verbal praise should be given every time he does something correctly.
Training sessions should occur once or twice a day to help keep everything fresh in your Lab’s mind. At the end of the session do something fun with him like taking him for a walk or playing fetch. Make learning times as pleasant as possible so that he will look forward to them.
Keep in mind that puppies may have lots of energy, but they have a shorter attention span. Until your Lab is about 6 to 8 months old the training sessions should only last about 5 minutes. Every dog is different. If your Lab is showing signs that he is bored, cut the lesson short. If he is learning quickly and able to pay attention then the lesson can go a little longer.
Training your Lab takes time and effort but it is worth it. In the end, you will have a well-mannered house dog. You won’t have to keep him from jumping on visitors or replace items in the house that he has broken. You both will be much happier!
8 Basic Commands to Teach Your Lab
1. Watch Me
“Watch Me” is a basic focus command. One of the first things your Lab needs to learn to do is pay attention to you. If he can’t do that he won’t be able to learn any of the other commands. You don’t need to reward him every time he looks at you – that would use up a whole box of treats pretty quickly. Just praise him when he looks at you and reward him occasionally. He will come to learn that paying attention is worth it.
Teaching “Watch Me”
The best way to teach this command is to say the words, “Watch me,” and hold a treat near your face. Make sure he is aware of the treat so it will grab his attention. After he holds eye contact with you for a few seconds give him the treat. Repeat this several times every day until he learns the command.
This is one of the easiest commands to teach your Lab. It is also one of the first ones he should learn. If you can teach your Lab to sit on command it will keep him from jumping up on visitors or chasing after other animals. He can also learn to sit while he is waiting for his food or while he is being groomed.
To teach him to sit, hold a treat in your hand just far enough above your Labrador’s head that he can’t easily reach it. Don’t hold it too high or he will be tempted to jump for it. Slowly move your hand back over your dog’s head and give the command, “sit.” As the treat moves backward, he should sit to reach it.
As soon as his bottom touches the ground at all, praise him enthusiastically and give him a treat. Always give verbal praise along with the reward. You should have a release word that you consistently use. It can be something like “done,” “ok,” or “up”. Release him and then repeat the exercise.
Don’t push down on his hind end to urge him to sit. The dog will resist this as it makes him feel submissive and it will be harder to teach him the command.
Labs usually learn to sit pretty quickly. By the third or fourth time, he may already be anticipating the command. Remember to keep the lessons short and fun. He will learn the word with the action and soon the command will be all that he needs.
Once your Lab learns to sit, the next command to teach him is “stay.” When you give the command for “stay” you are asking your dog to keep the position he is in for a longer amount of time. This will come in handy if he starts to run after something he shouldn’t or if you want him to remain sitting while he’s introduced to someone new.
To teach your dog to stay first have him sit. Give the command “stay” and take a few steps back from your dog. If he holds the position for a few seconds reward him and then release him. In the beginning, you should only have him hold the stay position for a few seconds, then gradually add time as he learns the command. As he gets better at this you will move a few steps farther away.
Your body language is important when teaching this command. Don’t tower over him as this can be intimidating, and don’t bend towards him as he will think you want him to come to you. Stand naturally and a short distance away from him. Continue gradually to increase the time and distance involved with this command. Always use the same word to release him so he won’t get confused. Practice random distances and random lengths of time.
At some point during this process, your Lab will probably get up before he is released. Tell him “no” and try to get him to return to his position. Sometimes you may have to physically return him to his spot and give the command again. Remember to keep it fun and consistent.
Once your Lab can follow this command, practice it in places where there will be distractions, like at the park or on a walk. The goal is to have him stay on command no matter what distractions are going on around him.
4. Down or Lie Down
There will be times when you prefer your dog to settle down and rest somewhere. Teaching this command will come in handy when you need him to rest at your feet or when there are small children in the house. You don’t want your otherwise loving Lab accidentally to knock a child over. He will also sometimes need to lie down for the veterinarian so that she can give him a proper exam.
This command can be a little tougher to teach because it puts your Lab in a vulnerable position and he often doesn’t like that. Be consistent and let him know you are in control. Eventually, he will trust you and will follow the command.
Teaching “Lie Down”
Start with your Lab in a sitting position. Hold a treat in front of his nose and gradually lower it to the ground between his legs and then pull it forward. As he follows the treat it should lead him into a lying position. Say “down” as you lead him there.
Kneeling next to him may help as it will put you closer to his level and help him to feel less threatened.
You are watching for his front elbows to touch the ground. Often times you Lab will crouch part way down but keep his butt in the air and bounce right back up again. This is not a proper “down.” Don’t reward him for this incomplete maneuver. Once your Lab is in the correct position move the treat back towards him so that he doesn’t move out of position to get it.
You will have to repeat this many times. Remember to keep the sessions short so your dog doesn’t wear out.
Always try to the end a training session after the dog has performed the command correctly. He will be more eager to continue training if things end on a positive note.
There will be times when your joyful Lab jumps up on someone or something that he shouldn’t. This is when “off” comes in handy. Your Lab will need to know that there are times when he needs to keep all four feet on the ground.
“Off” is usually taught through circumstances. Whenever your Lab jumps up on something and you want him down, then you will give the command and give a slight tug on his leash or collar. Reward him when he gets down quickly. It is usually a good idea to have him then “sit” for a bit to calm him down.
6. Leave It / Drop It
Dogs are always putting things in their mouths that they shouldn’t. Some of these items can be extremely harmful to them if ingested. You need your Lab to learn when he needs to drop something and leave it behind.
Teaching “Leave It / Drop It”
Start out by using the command “leave it” or “drop it” when you see him chewing on anything that you don’t want him to. Hold out a treat so that he sees he can have something else. As soon as he drops it, reward him with the treat. Try not to attempt to pull the object out of his mouth. He may think you are playing and hold on even longer and tighter.
Once your Lab starts to learn that he can earn a reward for dropping the object he will start to do it just at the command. As with other commands, once he has it down you don’t need to give him a treat every time. However, always make sure to verbally praise him.
This can be a harder command to learn as your dog may really want this object he has found. Be patient and consistent.
This is probably the most important command as it can save your dog’s life. If he is running towards a busy street this is a command you want him to obey immediately. You never want him off his leash in public if he hasn’t learned this command.
Teaching this command is relatively easy. The challenge is to get him to do it immediately no matter what else is going on. Start out by holding your arms open and calling him to you. Sometimes clapping your hands helps top get his attention. Use a happy voice when you call him and cheer him on if he looks at you or moves your way. If he seems reluctant, kneel down and open your arms.
As soon as he comes to you give him a treat and let him go. If there is an activity your dog doesn’t enjoy, like a bath or taking medicine, go to him to take care of those things. Don’t call him to you as you don’t want him to associate coming to you with unpleasant activities.
Call him to you at different times throughout the day so that he gets used to hearing you call him in a calm, relaxed voice. Always give him praise. Make him glad that he came to you when you call.
There may come a time when he decides to test you. If that happens you may have to put him on a long, loose lead and slowly bring him to you using treats. Don’t ever chase him as his immediate instinct is to run.
This command takes a lot of consistency. If you let him get away with disobeying this command he will learn that he doesn’t always have to obey. This could be disastrous if he is ever in real danger.
Simply put, to heel means to walk at your side. If your lab tends to take you for a walk rather than the other way around, then he needs to learn this command. When you first start teaching him to heel, you may not get to walk very far but eventually, you will have a well-mannered dog walking immediately by your side.
The heel position means that your Lab is walking at your side with his ear lined up about with the side seam of your pants. He should maintain this position for the entire walk. You should never let him take a step while he is pulling you.
Your Lab should already know the command “come” before you teach him to heel. It will help bring him to you when he starts to pull.
The leash can be a lifesaver for your dog. He needs to learn proper leash behavior. While you are teaching your Lab to heel don’t jerk on the leash. When he starts to pull either turn the other way or stop. Wait until he joins you and gives you his full attention. Give the command “heel” and start walking again. If he starts pulling again repeat this process. When he stays by your side for a few strides reward him and continue onward, stopping as necessary.
If either you or the dog becomes frustrated it is time to stop for the day. Learning to “heel” can take a little while especially if there are a lot of distractions around. Stay consistent. Don’t give in and let him pull you around as it will teach him that he doesn’t have to obey. Try to end on a positive note when you can so he will be eager to try again the next time.
Even if you have taught your dog well and he has learned all the commands, it is still a good idea to take him to obedience classes. These are great places for your dog to learn socialization skills along with basic training. It also has the added bonus of helping to keep you on schedule and consistent.
Ask your vet, local shelter, or friends for recommendations for classes. Sit in on some classes and watch to find one that seems like a good fit for your dog. Make sure the class looks enjoyable and that the class size is appropriate and has enough helpers. If you don’t like what you see then find another. There are lots of dog obedience classes available.
Each dog is different and will progress at a different rate. If he is having difficulty with the training, try to determine where the issue is. Are you expecting too much, training too long, or maybe getting angry? Make sure you are being clear and consistent. Always use the same commands and reward your dog often. Make sure you repeat the lessons and give your dog plenty of time to learn. Training time should be fun and enjoyable.
Finding the solution to a problem may take time. If you have tried different things and there are still issues you may want to consult a professional. Sometimes all you need to do is try something new.
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