Some dogs naturally stay close to home, but others try to bolt out the door at the first chance they get. Either way, on the occasion that your dog does leave your yard without you, it can be a time of panic. Your mind may race and wonder what to do next.
There are things you can do to prepare ahead of time for this type of situation, like strengthening your “come” command or having a squeaky toy or treats near the door. A strong “come” command is one of the best foundational dog training commands you need for a variety of reasons, but there is one lesser known command that could actually save your dog’s life. “HOME”.
Why “HOME”? Simply put, if your dog is not in your yard/home, what is one of the most common things someone will say to try to get your dog back home? GO HOME! And that makes perfect sense, but unless you have taught your dog what home is, it’s like speaking a foreign language. Your dog may be able to find his or her way home anyway, but the command (even if from a stranger) could break your dog’s panic and give it clear direction of what to do next.
Just like the other commands your dog knows, our goal is to associate a behavior or object with a word. Our goal here is to help your dog identify the word HOME with the physical building you live in (house, apartment building, etc).
Here’s how to teach the HOME command:
- Every time you approach your home while on a walk with your dog, even if it’s from across the yard or just coming from your neighbor’s house, say “let’s go home”, and excitedly walk towards your home. Say “YES! We’re home!” when you arrive at your house. (tip: you can also say “we’re home!” as you approach in the car to reinforce what being home means and that this is a really good thing).
- After doing this consistently for about a week, start to say “let’s go home” as you approach your home from a bit further away. See if your dog seems to recognize what you mean and join in the excitement you’ve built about going home, while still maintaining manners.
- Once your dog clearly understands what home is, you can make it a fun game and start taking different routes when out on a walk. You can even test them a little bit and say “let’s go HOME” from further away. Can your dog guide you home?!
As with all training, consistency and repetition is the key. If you have any question we’d be happy to answer them for you. Just email Racine@Pet-U.net or visit Pet-U.net for more information on our individual and class training options.