Train Your Dog for the Trails with These Tips

Winter is a great time to focus on learning new skills with your pup! Between the colder weather and shorter days, many of us tend to spend more time indoors. Take advantage of this time to prepare for hiking by teaching your dog some useful and potentially life-saving commands.
Heather and DellaTails working on learning a new command. Training your dog is a fun and rewarding activity for both of you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of these commands are basic and straightforward to teach, but keep in mind that every dog will learn differently. Some commands may take longer to learn than others. Always keep the training fun and make sure you & your dog are both enjoying the work together. When your dog knows that training means spending time with you doing something fun, they'll be eager for next time!

This list starts with skills that are easier to create a solid foundation. Remember, your dog needs to learn how to learn. If you haven't attempted to train your dog, they'll need time and practice to figure out what it is you want from them. Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are necessary for success.


SIT

Start by having your dog in front of you. Hold a treat in front of their nose and slowly move it up and over their head. As the head follows the treat, their hind end will naturally lower into a sitting position.

Once your dog is in a sitting position, say "sit" in a clear and firm tone. It's important to give the command as soon as your dog sits, so they can associate the word "sit" with the action of sitting.

Give your dog the treat as a reward for sitting. Repeat this process several times a day until your dog associates the word "sit" with the action of sitting.

As your dog starts to understand the command, you can gradually decrease the use of treats as a reward and use praise instead.

Practice the "sit" command in different locations and with different distractions, such as other people and pets, to ensure your dog understands the command and can perform it in any situation.


STAY

Once your dog has mastered the "sit" command, you can begin working on the "stay" command. Start by having your dog sit and give the command "stay." Slowly move away from your dog a few steps, keeping your hand up to signal them to stay. If they stay, give them a treat and praise. Gradually increase the distance and time you move away from your dog as they become more comfortable with the command.


LOOSE LEASH WALKING

One of the most common issues dog owners face is pulling on the leash. To teach your dog to walk on a loose leash, start by making sure the leash is loose as you begin walking. If your dog starts to pull, stop in your tracks and wait for the leash to go slack before continuing. As your dog gets better at walking on a loose leash, you can gradually increase the speed and distance of your walks. This skill in particular may take a bit longer to train, so stay patient and positive.


FOCUS WORK

Teaching your dog to focus on you is important for training and safety. To teach your dog to focus on you, start by getting their attention with a treat or toy. Once they are looking at you, say "watch me" and give them the treat or toy as a reward. Repeat this process several times a day until your dog associates the phrase "watch me" with looking at you. 

Gradually introduce distractions, starting with small ones, and practice the "watch me" command to help your dog understand that interacting with you is more fun than chasing after whatever is passing him by.


PACING CUES

Teaching your dog to pace themselves during walks is important for a comfortable and safer hike. If you're navigating slippery rocks in a creek or a tricky downhill grade, you don't want your furry pal to pull you off balance. To teach your dog to slow down, simply say "slow" or "whoa" in a calm voice and give them a treat when they respond. To teach them to speed up, say "let's go" and give them a treat when they respond.

LEAVE IT

Teaching your dog to leave something alone is an important safety measure. To teach this command, start by placing an object on the ground and say "leave it" as you point to the object. If your dog goes to touch the object, say "no" and redirect their attention to something else. Repeat this process until your dog understands the command and doesn't touch the object.

DROP IT

Teaching your dog to drop an object is also important for safety. To teach this command, start by giving your dog an object and say "drop it" as you open your hand. If your dog drops the object, give them a treat and praise. Repeat this process until your dog understands the command and drops the object on command.

RECALL

Teaching your dog to come when called is yet another essential safety measure. Even if you're not planning to allow your dog to run off leash, dogs can wiggle out of their collar/harness and may see something so exciting on the trail that they decide to make a break for it. Recall can save them - or others on the trail - from a potentially hazardous situation.

To teach this command, start by calling your dog's name and saying "come" in a happy, upbeat tone. When your dog comes to you, give them a treat and praise. Repeat this process in a calm, quiet, familiar location until it's solid. Then work in different locations and with different distractions until your dog comes to you every time you call. This is another skill that may take longer and more practice to master.

A FEW FINAL WORDS

  • Keep your training sessions short and fun. If your dog gets bored or frustrated, take a break and try again later. 
  • Remember that all dogs learn at different paces, so don't get discouraged if it takes longer than you expect or want for your dog to learn.
  • Positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise, is key to a successful training experience.
  • Enjoy this time with your dog!



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