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Teach your dog to "GO" wherever you send him

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Miniature PinscherWhen we played hide and seek, we had some fun with the word GO  as in "Go find Daddy!"

If you've been following my training articles in order, your dog has also learned "GO to your bed". Later your dog will learn "GO home".

GO  is not only a fun game, but also it teaches your pup to take directions from you, which is a positive leadership thing.

In this article, we're going to play around with more places you can direct your dog to GO.

Let's begin by teaching your pup to GO  to various pieces of furniture in your home.

"GO couch!" and "GO chair!"

Choose two pieces of furniture that you don't mind your dog jumping on. Let's say a couch on one side of the living room, and an easy chair or recliner on a different side of the room.

Re-read my article on "Go to your bed" because you're going to use very similar steps.

In fact, they're so similar that if your pup's bed is in the same room as the couch and chair, you might want to remove the bed for the moment, in case he gets confused and thinks you're trying to send him there.

Let's start with "GO couch!"

dog on couchExtend your hand and arm toward the couch and say, "GO couch!" in a cheerful, upbeat voice. Then move briskly toward the couch and encourage your dog to jump up by motioning and patting the couch.

The moment he jumps up, say, "Good! Yay!" and give him a treat while he's on the couch. Then say "Okay" and he should jump down and walk away with you. Repeat many times, but if he already knows "Go to your bed", he should learn "GO couch" very quickly.

Then it's only a matter of getting him to run to the couch GO without your needing to run all the way with him.

You can start by placing a treat on the couch. Make sure he sees you do it. Then lead him across the room from the couch, turn him to face it, and encourage him, "GO couch!" Hopefully he beats you to the treat! Each time you practice this, hang further back so he is running to the couch without your needing to run beside him.

Then stop placing the treat on the couch every time. When he jumps up and discovers no treat, move toward him and caution him to "Wait" as you go to him and give him his treat.

"GO chair!"

Go through the same routine as "Go couch!" Then, just as you did when you sent your dog to fetch alternate toys while playing the Musical Toys game, send him to the couch, then to the chair, then back to the couch.

Sometimes give him a treat, sometimes just praise and petting.

GO up and down the stairs

You'll get a workout with this one! With your dog at your side and treats in your pocket, stand at the bottom of a staircase. If possible, pick one with wide treads, carpeted or rubberized for non-slipping, and not too many steps.

If your dog is less than a year old, more than ten years old, or has any joint problems, I would skip this game.

"GO stairs!"

Point your arm dramatically up the stairs. Tell your dog, in a cheerful voice, "Go stairs!" and trot up the steps with him. Give him a treat when you reach the top.

dog and owner coming down stairsNow point dramatically down the stairs. Say, "Go stairs!" and go down with him. Give him a treat at the bottom.

Practice, practice, practice.

The Stairs Game

If your dog will retrieve, place a favorite toy at the top of the stairs and send him after it. "Find your ball! Go stairs!"

At first you will need to help your dog with this combination, by going up with him. But soon he will come to trust that when you combine "Ball" and "Stairs", there really is a ball for him to find – and the STAIRS will take him to it.

Never lie to your dog – even accidentally. If you point him in the direction of the stairs and tell him his ball is that way, it had darn well better be there!

Because if he bounds up the stairs, trusting what you say and eagerly anticipating finding his ball...and it isn't there...he will begin to doubt your word.

So make sure you know that a particular toy is indeed where you tell him it is, before you send him for it.

GO into the house

When you're outside in the yard with your dog, get his attention: "Jake!"

With a dramatic wave of your arm, point toward the door of your house and hold your arm extended in that direction. "GO inside. Inside." Run toward the door yourself, encouraging your dog to accompany you. "Good boy! GO inside." When you reach the door, open it and motion him through. "Inside. Good boy!"

It shouldn't be long before you can stand in the far corner of the yard, wave your arm toward the back door and call, "Go INside!" and your dog will make a beeline for the house.

GO into the car

  1. With your dog on leash, stand beside the rear door of your parked car. Say, "Wait" and open the door. The first couple of times, hold the leash slightly taut to remind him what "Wait" means. He should not jump in without permission.
  2. Once he is waiting at the open car door with the leash loose, tell him, "Okay! GO car!" Either encourage him to jump in, if he's large enough, or else give him whatever help he needs, including picking him up and placing him in the back seat if necessary.
  3. hand signalNow close the door and let him stay in the car alone for 5 or 10 seconds. Then caution him (through the closed door) to "Wait" and add your stop sign  hand signal. Carefully open the door and get hold of the leash so you can block him if he tries to jump out. Once he's waiting politely, give him the "Okay" to come out. (If he's small, lift him out yourself – don't let him hurt himself by jumping!)
  4. When he's no longer making any attempt to jump out when the door opens, switch to a longer leash or cord. Then you can get farther away from the open car door, yet still have control over him if he should leap out.

Riding safely in the car

To practice getting in and out of the car, plus waiting, we had your dog loose inside the car.

dog riding in open convertibleBut he should never RIDE loose in the car.

In a crash, a loose dog becomes a deadly projectile. Even a small Miniature Schnauzer, because of momentum, becomes the equivalent of a Saint Bernard hurtling forward with enough force to fracture the skull or break the neck of you, your spouse, or your kids.

The Institute for Highway Safety says, "After the collision outside the car, there are always collisions inside the car. Both wreak havoc."

Often the victim is the poor dog himself as he smashes against the windshield or is flung through an open or shattered window or a door that pops open. The impact on the street may injure or kill him or set him loose in traffic, where he will be hit by another car.

Please, if you truly care about your dog, secure him in the rear seat:

  • with a special canine harness and seat belt like the Ruff Rider Safety Harness
  • or in a crate that has itself been buckled into the rear seat so IT can't hurtle around the car during a crash.

Your dog should never ride in the front seat. Airbags blast out of the dashboard at a fearsome speed that can kill a dog.

GO from place  to place  outdoors

"Go place!"  is one of the funnest games that my dogs love the most!

Here is how this great game works:

homemade platformIn your back yard, you will set up a triangle of slightly elevated platforms (which we call "Places") which your dog can jump onto. You will stand in the center of the triangle and direct your dog to GO  from Place to Place. As with all games, it doesn't matter whether your dog learns it, or not.... so no corrections!

Let's get started....

Start with just one place

This might be a homemade wooden box or any kind of platform that's sturdy enough and low enough for your dog to easily hop up onto. Keep it low! This is not a high-jump competition!

homemade platform

The platform must be broad enough that all four of the dog's feet fit comfortably on the surface, and sturdy enough that it won't collapse under his weight.

Oh yes.... and the surface must provide secure traction  for his paws. Sliding on a slippery surface can damage a dog's joints and shake his confidence. I always add a rubber-backed, non-slip mat or carpeting so my dog is always landing on a safe and secure surface.

garden benchBe creative! This wrought-iron/wooden garden bench works as a platform onto which your dog can jump.

You can even lay a piece of plywood across a few concrete blocks to make a slightly raised platform.

Teach this game the same way you taught "GO couch" at the beginning of this article.

Add a second place... then a third

When your dog has mastered the concept of one Place, add a second Place about 10 feet away. Later add a third Place to form the triangle.

Then you would be sending your dog like this:

  • Arm extended toward one Place: "GO Place!" Dog runs over and hops up. "Good!"
  • Arm extended toward a different Place: "GO Place!" Dog hops off the first and runs to the second. "Good!"
  • Arm extended toward the third Place: "GO Place!" Dog hops off the second and runs to the third. "Good!"

You can choose to give a treat for any of those individual successes, or you can wait until the end and give a treat then.

If your pup has any difficulty, step in and help him with gentle guidance and encouragement. No corrections!

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

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