If you are keen to ensure your dog is useful in the event of a disaster, you do need to teach it some tricks. You can start off with some simple things that all dogs should learn. This includes sit, stay, heel and come. These are the four basic commands that you need as a dog owner. It’s important to realize that these will be important, regardless of whether or not you are using your pet as a disaster dog.
Leave it alone is an incredibly important command to teach your dog in everyday life and in a disaster as well. Let’s start by thinking about daily life as a pet owner. You will be taking your dogs on walks, outside, perhaps even letting them off their leash. If this is the case, then you need to be careful what the dog eats while it is outside. Dogs can be drawn to droppings due to their smell, but by eating it, they can get worms or any other number of infections. They might also decide to roll in it which will lead to a nasty clean up job for you later.
Many people think dogs do this to show their owner where they’ve been, like a little souvenir stench. So, by teaching your dog to leave something alone, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and protect the health of your dog.
Getting a dog to leave something alone can be accomplished through positive reinforcement. The easiest and safest way to do this is to use a treat in a closed hand. When the treat is in the closed hand, you can hold it at a height in front of the dog where they can smell it. They will nuzzle at your hand, perhaps even using a paw to try and get it out. Use the command and wait until they obey. Eventually, they will grow tired of the game and sit down leaving the treat you are offering. At this point, you can then give them the treat that they have been opening for, repeating the process until they respond immediately to the command. It can take a little time.
Be aware that variations of this command can be useful in a variety of situations including when strangers try to give your dogs treats. It’s very difficult to get your dog to turn down a treat from a stranger because some might drop it right in front of them or hold it out. But, with training and using a family member as the stranger, you can stop them from eating the treat. That’s important because you can’t always trust strangers. Helper dogs are actually trained not to accept treats from other people because it could leave the person they are helping exposed and unprotected to criminal behavior.
Bear in mind that a person doesn’t need to be nefarious to endanger your dog with a treat. They could just give them something that they are allergic to, or that is dangerous to them. These tips are to make sure that your dog is always safe. As such, it’s always best to avoid your dog getting these types of treats.
In the event of a disaster, there could be various issues and distractions around that could injure or endangered either you or your dog if they choose to explore. For instance, there could be loose, live electrical wiring or even something on the floor that is explosive.
In basic life situations, closing the door can stop your dog becoming a nuisance. You might just have settled down to watch TV in the lounge, shutting the door, when your dog pushes his nose against it and wanders in to be with you, leaving it wide open. Most dogs will learn to open doors naturally by themselves without any command but closing the door is another matter. You’ll have to teach that one with a sticky piece of food and a few tries at a command. You put the stick piece of food on the door and ask him to wait. Then, tell him to take the treat. When he does, and his nose touches the door, reinforce it with another treat. Repeat it until the dog looks to you after touching the door and remove the first treat keeping the second.
Now you can use the phrase shut the door or move the door, and he will respond to get the treat. You can keep doing this until the treat is no longer a necessity. Once you’ve taught a dog how to move the door, you might be able to use the same trick to get them to move items, and this could be useful in a disaster scenario.
Lastly, you might want to teach them to find objects. Remember, dogs can find objects by smell and may even remember where something was. As such, they could be incredibly useful during a power outage to find an item that you need.
In general daily life, it could also be a cool trick if you’ve lost your keys or just want them to bring you your slippers. You can do this by starting with your set of keys. Add something to your keys that makes them easy for the dog to pick up like a squishy key-ring and use them as a toy, getting your dog to tug on them or fetch them. Once you have done this, you can get him to exchange the keys for a treat. After you have taught them this trick, you can then get them to pick up your keys off the ground when you have dropped them. Again, exchange the keys for a treat. Keep doing this, and eventually, you can move on to leaving the keys somewhere and asking them to find them.
Any of these tricks could be very useful in both an emergency disaster situation and everyday life. The best part though is that they’re not actually that difficult to teach.