Popular trail commands for your dog and how to train them

When getting involved in dog powered sports it is important that your dog understands some basic commands. Your dogs’ understanding of the commands is essential for a safe, smooth, and fun time at a race, while training, or out adventuring.

We are going to go over the most common and essential commands you and your dog will need to know, and some of the most popular ways to teach those commands.

1. Hike (go)

Used for: typically at the start of a race or training run to indicate that it is time to take off and start running.

2. Gee (turn right)

Used for: to get your dogs to turn right.

3. Haw (turn left)

Used for: to get your dogs to turn left.

4. On-by (go straight or keep going)

Used for: passing another team, to go straight past a turn off or to just keep going by any kind of distraction you might encounter.

5. Line out (stand straight)

Used for: when you are getting ready to start going with your dog. It is intended for the dog to stand facing forward and to keep the line tight.

6. Ok/Lets Go (speed up or go again)

Used for: either to pick up speed while already running or to start running again after a small pause or break.

7. Back

Used for: mostly in canicross to get your dog to run behind you on steep hills or to get a dog to back up when stopped.

8. Lets Go Home (to pick up speed)

Used for: during the last half mile or so of a race to signal to your dogs you are almost done so they can pick up speed.

9. Whoa (stop)

Used for: getting your dog/s to stop in any situation, even if you can’t use a break of some sort.

Now that you know the most commonly used commands, you need to teach them to your dog. Keep in mind that you do not have to use these exact commands, many people have their own variations that work best for them.

It is easiest to train a new dog commands with an older dog that already knows the commands, but not everyone has this opportunity.

Training your dog trail commands is very similar to training your dog to sit and stay. It takes time, repetition, consistency, and reinforcement.

If you are trying to get your dog to go Gee but it wants to go haw, go up by them and reinforce by manually going Gee and then reward. Stay consistent, make sure that EVERY time you turn Gee you call the command, even if the dog knows where to go because thats the only way to go. Repeat the command as often as possible (when appropriate). It takes time, don’t get frustrated if your dog doesn’t pick up on the commands right away. One’s tone of voice has a lot of influence on how a dog receives a command too, a positive tone reinforces a good job, a negative tone reinforces a mistake, a firm tone reinforces how serious you are, an excited tone reinforces motivation. For example, when you call the command “hike” you want to do it in an excited tone, as the dogs should be excited to start their run. Whereas when you say “whoa” it should be in a firm tone because stopping is a serious matter.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun while training your dog. Hint: dogs love treats when they have done something right!

Good luck and happy training!