Naming Your Commands

Usually the first commands we teach our pets are sit, down, and stay. These command names are pretty much the standard because they are simple and describe the command perfectly.

There are many other commands that we can teach our pet, such as crawling on the ground, getting off the furniture, and getting a cold soft drink out of the fridge and bringing it to you. But what are the best terms to give these types of behaviors that we want performed by our pets?

Here are some tips to help you choose what to call your commands:

Keep it simple. The more basic the word(s), the easier it will be for your pet to learn and remember the cue. For example, if you are teaching your dog to grab his leash when he needs to go outside, it’s probably more salient to the dog to just say “leash” as opposed to “go get your leash”

Be consistent. Once you choose the name for your command, don’t alter it. If you decide that the command for your dog to jump through a hoop should be “through”, don’t interchange it with “jump”. Also, everyone interacting with the dog should say “through” as well.

Don’t assign multiple meanings to the same command. Mostly everyone will agree that command “down” is for our pets to lie down, but a lot of people will also say “down” when they want the pet off the couch. Then, when the pet lies down, the person gets perturbed because the pet is still on the couch but the pet thinks he did the right thing by laying down, regardless of where he is. So there’s no confusion, try using the word “off” instead when you want your pet off the couch.

 Don’t use something that doesn’t work. This seems like it would be common sense, but there are many times people call their pet to them either using the word “come” or their name and either ignores them when they do come or punishes them for something they did or for not coming to them fast enough. If your cat has associated her name with being squirt with water or getting no benefit for her coming to you (no treats, petting or some kind of likeable interaction) chances are good that she’ll ignore you when you call her name. If that’s the case, switch to another command that is only used for that action and has positive associations to it.

Don’t repeat yourself. If you want the command for your dog to sit up and beg to be “beg”, just say it once and wait for your dog to perform the action. If you keep repeating the word “beg” over and over until he does it, he can either think the command is “beg…beg…beg” or choose to ignore it.

Use words that sound different. Some dogs are able to discern the difference between “down” and “bow”, while to others it may sound like the same command. Instead of saying “bow”, you could try “ta da”, “curtsy”, “thanks” or maybe even using a different language.

Be creative when giving your command it’s name. Animals aren’t born knowing the English language, so feel free to use another language, make up a word, or even be silly by teaching your pet that the command for lying down is “up”. Whatever cues you do choose to use, following the guidelines above can help your pet in learning your command.