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8 Skills That Should be on Every Dog Trainer's List

I call myself a dog trainer, sure. But I’m not really interested in training dogs tricks and cute behaviours.

I am more interested in teaching dogs skills that help them navigate their lives with us humans.

I begin by giving the dog a foundation, meeting his basic needs. Of course this includes food, water, shelter, social interactions, and exercise. But very importantly, one of a dog’s most basic needs is leadership. (This is what I focus on most with my method.)

Only once I put the leadership component into place, I like to think: what skills does this dog need to know that will help him live with his human family.

Of all the things we can teach a dog, I think they all boil down to these 8 skills. I see these skill as the most important skills to train your dog.

#1. COME

Come is the recall. This is perhaps the most important skill a dog trainer can teach your dog. Training your dog to come when called can prevent accidents, injuries, and mishaps because you always have some sort of control over the situation.


These are pretty basic but important skills in dog training. They are valuable around the house, at the vet, the groomers, when meeting new people, in strange situations, when someone comes to the door, on the walk around town.

#3. WAIT

This skill is asking the dog to pause for a second. This might be instead of rushing to eat his dinner, or instead of rushing out the door, or rushing into the car. Dog trainers like teaching a dog to wait because it gives everyone a bit more time to prepare, compose themselves, and get ahold of the situation as necessary.


A dog should know how to be safe and calm in a crate. Proper dog training is important here to prevent the opposite from happening. If the dog is rushed, or doesn’t know how to calm himself, it can backfire and the dog can become afraid of the crate. With proper dog training, the crate can become a safe haven for the dog, a place where you can put him and know he’s ok. It is useful for car rides, just-in-case scenarios, or if your dog has to go to the vet.


This is a skill that dog trainer use to bond with the dog and get the dog’s focus and attention. It doesn’t have to be prolonged eye contact, or even necessarily eye-to-eye. It has more to do with the dog checking in with you. A dog trainer wants the dog to check in, to defer decision-making to the handler, rather than feeling he has to make rash and reactive decisions all on his own.


All dogs should know how to be calm and tolerant of someone handling their physical body. Perhaps they don’t have to enjoy someone touching their feet, but a dog trainer likes to see that they can tolerate it while being safe. This is valuable for caring for the dog, around the home and also at the vet or groomer’s.


It is important that a dog is safe around food. Curious kids and distracted adults can easily get too close to a dog chewing a bone or eating his dinner. In those cases, a dog trainer wants to see that the dog is safe and tolerant.


For the sake of everyone who has to handle the dog, especially the person who takes the dog for walks, loose-leash walking is a skill that never stops giving. The dog feels more relaxed and connected on a loose leash rather than always experiencing the tension of the collar or harness. The handler feels more calm and composed, with less shoulder pain. I’m not saying that the dog has to be perfect, but having a general idea of how to walk calmly on a loose leash is a skill that all dog trainers value.

Perhaps there are other skills your dog needs to know. Think about what skills would help your dog navigate life. For example, for most dogs, learning how to spin, play dead, jump through hoops, etc aren’t necessary life skills. That being said, for some dogs, teaching them how to do these things provides enrichment and mental stimulation. It’s like the human who loves to take additional online courses, for no reason at all, except to keep learning.

Please note: training your dog these 8 skills before you have a solid base of leadership is going to be tricky or in some cases down-right impossible. Please contact me to learn how to build a solid foundation first, and teach skills second.

Here’s to You and Your Dog!


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