How to Teach Your Dog Words & Commands

Do you and your dog speak the same language? Kind of — you probably already know what your dog means when he barks a certain way. But you can make that line of communication a two-way street and teach him to understand hundreds of words outside of the usual sit, stay and fetch.

The following method was pioneered by John Pilley and his border collie Chaser. In fact, John has taught Chaser to learn and respond to more than 1,000 different words. Use these tips to train your dog the Chaser way, and watch this training video series to see John and Chaser in action as they guide you through the system.

1. Setting the Groundwork

Follow the “errorless learning” method to train your dog

  • Nurture your dog’s natural instincts

  • Make tasks so simple that your dog can’t make a mistake

  • Reinforce what he or she has learned frequently

2. Building Confidence

Adding playtime elements helps make learning fun

  • Playing builds confidence

  • Play strengthens your relationship

Chaser, a border collie who has learned over 1,000 words, gives a ball to her owner, John Pilley.

3. Saying “No”

Avoid saying “no”— it can diminish your dog’s motivation.

  • Just like us, dogs are sensitive to failure

  • Harsh commands won’t make your dog happy

  • “No” simply means, “stop what you’re doing”

4. Let Your Puppy be a Puppy

Part of successful training is knowing when not to push your dog

  • If your dog gets frustrated, take a break

  • Let your dog decide what’s fun

  • It’s ok to give in and play

5. Teaching Names of Objects

Playtime with a favorite toy or ball can help your dog learn the object’s name

  • Start with verbs, like “sit” or “catch”

  • Teach only one object at a time

  • Repeat the name of the object while your dog is playing with it

6. Learning Builds on Learning

Practice opens the door for learning to do even more

  • Give your dog a problem to solve

  • Dogs need practice, too

  • The more your dog learns, the more she is able to learn

Having Success? We'd love to hear about it.

Think your dog is as smart as Chaser? Share your success story with us on Facebook and we’ll feature some of the best in hopes they can help other people train their pups.

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