DEAR OLD TRAINER: I taught our Afghan, Rico, the hold command and he learned it right away, but it seems more natural to me if I say “freeze” instead of hold. I switched and Rico responds just as fast. Is there some training reason I have to use hold?
Will, Millbrae, Calif.
A: No. Fact is, I like freeze better myself so I’m going to steal it. The only reason I used hold in the first place is because it’s the first word that popped into my mind when I needed a command to tell my dogs, stop where you are and don’t move again until I tell you to.
Thanks for “freeze” and for raising a good point about commands. Dogs don’t care what word you use, so pick one that sounds logical to you.
You will be adding new commands as long as your dog lives — yes, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks (see next letter)—so pick a word you can remember and that best fits what you want your dog to do.
The word doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else as long as you like it. I use “track” to tell my pack to take off and run, and it came about by accident. There was a spot on our daily run where they knew a dog was waiting to bark at them. The pack barked right back and everyone had a fine time (all dogs love to sound tough through a fence). When we got close to the house they could barely contain themselves waiting for me to tell them they could go.
I needed a command and “track” popped into my mind. I prefer strong words with explosive consonants. “Track” filled the bill. Now they know “track” means take off and run about a block, then stop.”
Any word is fine, but don’t waste a perfectly good command where it doesn’t fit. Obedience classes teach people to use “off” when they want their dog to stop playing with something, but why use a word that doesn’t describe what you want? I use “off” to tell my pack to get off that bed or chair or park bench. My command to leave something alone is “leave.”
DEAR OLD TRAINER: My dad got me a dog, a Lab that is 4. They said at the pound his name is Breezy, but I don’t like that name because it doesn’t mean nothing and I want to change his name to Buddy. But is he too old to learn a new name?
Ryan, (age 14) Santa Rosa, N. M.
A: A dog is never too old to learn. Buddy will like his new name because you are the one who gave it to him. Just explain to him you are giving him a good name, then start saying, “Buddy” to him over and over and petting him and loving him every time you say it. In a day or two he will learn his new name.
Same goes for commands. Makes no matter what word his old owners used for commands, you can teach him new ones and he will learn them fast if love on him every time he does it right.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to email@example.com.