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Four Commands Every City Dog Should Know
by Babette Haggerty-Brennan

Carol Lea Benjamin, author of Mother Knows Best, once said, "New York City dogs are the most well behaved dogs in the world." They have to be, New York dogs come in contact with the most people and live amongst the most distractions. In addition to basic skills, city dogs must know four commands.

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Command #1: "Leave It"
In the city, there will always be something that has fallen out of a grocery bag and has turned into a canine delicacy of unknown ingredients. Dogs survive on the mantra, "if it smells good, it must go into my mouth." However, dogs depend on us so we need to stop them from inhaling potentially toxic ingredients.

Find an object that you know your dog will want to pick up, such as a favorite toy. Drop the item on the street, when she goes for it, tell her, Leave it!" and using your house keys, throw them towards the object. The keys will startle her and make her step back. Do this three to five times each day, each time using a more desirous object. In a couple of days, you will find that she will respond to a simple "leave it"! Practice each day with various objects, such as garbage bags and other dogs.

Command #2: "Drop It"
"Drop it" is imperative if your dog has already grabbed something she should not have. As soon as you say drop it - she will drop it from her mouth.

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Start with your dog on a leash and collar. Offer her a toy or something you know that she will want. Let her hold it for a moment. Tell her "drop it", if she doesn't drop it, give her a leash correction. As soon as she drops it, fuss all over her and give her lots of praise.

Command #3: "Go To The Corner"
Most city dogs have a daily encounter with the elevator. Before teaching "Go to the corner" teach your dog to ALWAYS sit and stay at the elevator with you. I remember the tragic story of a dog who had gotten on the elevator, before the owner. The door closed on the leash and the owner couldn't get the door open. Your dog should not move toward the inside of the elevator or vice verse without you moving in pace with her. Whenever you are moving into or out of the elevator, be sure to place your arm across the door so that it can not close until you are both safely through it.

Once you walk into the elevator, get behind her and "herd" her into the corner and say "go to the corner". Herding or nudging her works quite well. Just keep moving towards her while repeating "go to the corner, go to the corner"" until she relents. If you practice this daily five times in a row in three days she will be going just on your voice command. This is especially handy when your hands are full of groceries. It decreases the possibility of her running through the door without you.

Command #4: "Sit While I Scoop"
How many times have we been bending over to clean poop and she starts pulling on the leash? That can make for a mess. A sitting dog makes this a much easier task. Place her into a sit. Show her the hand signal for stay - flat hand in front of her face. Tell her "stay", place your left hand on her left cheek and step in front of her without taking your hands off of her. Slowly extend the length of time that she stays for you. Keeping your hands on her maintains the praise that you are giving her by slowly stroking her ears and face and telling her that she is a good girl. As you continue to practice this you are going to extend the length of time that she sits for you as well as your distance. If you practice each day for ten minutes without distractions, in three days she will stay for you each time. You will then be able to bend over and scoop poop after you have told her to stay.

Basic obedience skills and training will help you teach these commands more easily. If you have not taken your dog to class yet, I encourage you to as soon as possible. It will make a world of difference for both of you.

Our dogs want to be good. We just need to show them and most of all be patient. As long as you are consistent and persistence, your dog will join the ranks of the best greatest trained dogs in the world.

Babette Haggerty-Brennan began training city dogs as a young child in her dad's school, Captain Haggerty's School for Dogs. The school began in 1961 in The Bronx. Today Babette divides her time training the city dogs of New York and the beach dogs of Palm Beach. If you have any questions, you can call her toll free at 866-283-6582 or e-mail her at

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