English for Dogs – Train Your Dog More Useful Words

Sheltie with stuffed toy bone


Since school is out and kids are home moaning about being bored, maybe they could teach the family dog some of the English language.  In her book English for Dogs, Teresa Gary covers 50 words that are commonly used throughout the daily interaction with our dogs. How much fun would this be if the kids could show off how many words their very smart dog knows when their friends come over to visit! Or they could enter in the local talent shows or local fairs and amaze the crowd.

While several of the words are familiar with anyone who teaches basic obedience like “sit,” “down,” and “heel,” did you know that you can also teach your dog the meaning of “towel?” Think how much easier it would be if your dog knows what “paw” or “foot” means when you come in from a walk in the rain. All you would have to do is ask for a paw and he would lift it up and give it to you. And since he knows “towel” he will also be relaxed when you start drying off his paw.


Does the family dog have unruly house manners? Gary covers this very well in the chapter “House Manners.” If your dog regularly jumps on you or the couch and chairs, teach a solid “off.” This command combines nicely with “up.” Both words can be taught simultaneously, teaching the dog “up” on the couch, and then “off” the couch. With some treats in hand, sit on the couch. Patting the couch beside you encouragingly, say “up.” Most dogs don’t need too many invitations to jump “up” beside you. Reward him with some treats. After a few moments of quiet companionship, toss a few treats on the floor, and command the dog “off.” This is very useful at different times. If you want your dog to jump “up” to join you while you are watching a movie, or you need him to stay “off” when family is there for the holidays.

Another very useful word to teach him is “place.” “Place” can be used to teach your dog to go to a designated area, especially when visitors come to the door or when the family is gathered at the table for dinner. She advises that you have two of the same throw rugs or mats, one in the family room and one at the entryway. To teach “place,” sit on the floor several feet away from the mat. Toss a treat on the mat and say “place.” Praise the dog when he approaches the treat. Continue in this way until you have the dog entirely on the mat. Tell him to “wait.” Release and treat. Work on this from a further distance and request that he stays there for longer periods of time. Soon he will understand what is expected of him. You can send him to his “place” during dinner, when company arrives, or other times where you need him to be quiet and out of the way. This could be useful on trips or if you take your dog with you when you visit friends and relatives. If you bring along his special mat he will feel at home and more comfortable


Let your imagination run and experiment with different words that you use during the day. How many toys can your dog learn by name? One Border Collie has been documented to recognized over 200 items by name. Can your dog go “left” or “right?” Can he “hurry?” “Turn?” “Go back?” When you spend time working with your dog, your relationship with him will improve dramatically. Imagine having such a relationship with your dog! People who watch you will be amazed at the partnership between you and your canine companion.

Find out more in English for Dogs: 50 Words Every Well-Mannered Companion Should Know, by Teresa Gary. Photos copyright Teresa Gary.

Sheltie - tireSheltie - paw

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