Three Survival Commands to Teach your Dog
Building valuable skill-sets go hand in hand with being a survivalist. To get prepared, you can bet the team at APE Survival are regularly honing our skills, but this also extends to our family members. Bringing your children on board as you prepare evacuation plans, but there's much your dog can do to help. So long as they've got the right training, you can turn your loyal best friend into a key asset once the SHTF. Imagine if your dog could help you out of a dangerous situation, or save your life? When something is wrong, your dog is going to be the first to know. Their heightened senses make them an effective burglar alarm (and deterrent) even before a crisis, and can help protect you if you're attacked. But if you've been a little lax on their training, you can find things go horribly wrong. Your dog will pick up on your fear in a stressful situation, which can make them nervous and jumpy. They may bark incessantly, bite you or one of your group when you try to control them, or even run off into the night, all wreaking havoc on your bug out plans. But these are all easy fixes with the right training. Here's three commands you can teach your dog to help them survive a crisis.
Barking on cue Training your dog to act as an alarm can alert you to danger before you even know it's there. Personally, I can't even remember the last time a guest to my house even had to use the doorbell, as my faithful pooch lets me know as soon as someone is at the door. Another great use of barking is how easy it can be used to intimidate a potential attacker. Especially if you've got a larger dog a deep growl can be enough to convince them they're better off finding an easier target down the road. So how do you train your dog to ‘speak’ on command? First you need to create a situation that is going to set your dog barking. Grab a friend or a family member, and get them to go around back and then knock on the front door. For me, this sets my dog off every time. As soon as they knock, say ‘speak’ in a firm and commanding voice to your dog. The first time I did this my dog gave me a split second look of confusion before launching into a fill on tirade of ‘omg-there's-someone-at-the-door’ barking fury. You need to get in quickly, and as soon as they've barked give a treat, praise, tell them how good they are, and give a quick pat on their head. Repeat the process until your dog starts associating the work ‘speak’ as a cue for their barking, and you no longer need to knock on the door. Just saying the word ‘speak’ gets your dog to bark.
Staying silent Once they've mastered the art of speaking on command, your next step is to train your dog to stay silent. This is especially critical if you're bugging out, hunting, or in hiding and do not want to reveal your position. I found it easier to train my dog with a leash, but this is up to you. First, give your dog the ‘speak’ command, and as soon as they bark, reward them with a treat. I like to repeat this several times, to reinforce this is a training session. Now once your dog has barked four or five time, give the leash a quick pull to grab their attention and say ‘quiet.’ Your dog should stop barking as they shift their focus to you, and if they do it immediately, reward them with three treats. This is a neat trick, because it teaches your dog that being quiet earns them more treats than a bark. Perform the speak/quiet routine four or five times, and then take a break. Training your dog for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time can be counterproductive, so grab their favorite toy and toss it around, and wait at least a half an hour before you start training again. You'll need to continue repeating this training until your dog no longer needs to be corrected with the leash to stop barking and stay quiet. Plus, it's going to take longer than teaching the simple bark command, but stick with it. As your dog starts learning, stop giving treats for the speak command altogether, and reward only when they successfully go silent on cue.
Search and rescue A dogs ability to sniff out a scent is 100,000 times stronger than a humans, which is why they are a key asset in search and rescue operations. A fun game you can play is teaching your dog to find and follow a scent, which may prove very handy in a disaster if you need to track down a missing family member. Dogs as young as 12 weeks are able to learn to use their nose to track, and older dogs are able to learn too. To teach scent trailing, you're going to need someone in your family to help. First, take a piece of clothing they've been wearing, and then have your partner hide in an easy-to-find location. Drop the clothing on the ground and with each step towards their location drop a treat. Show your dog the clothing, and let them sniff it. Say the command ‘find’ and let your dog loose. They should be able to easily follow the treats until they reach your partner. Reward your dog with play and more treats, and continue the process. As your dog gets better you can use less treats, and try experimenting with different locations, terrain, and more complex hiding places until they're able to sniff out your partner wherever they're hiding. This training reflects the three fundamental survival commands you should teach your dog, but are by no means everything your dog can learn, they're just a great place to start. Once you've mastered these, consider teaching your dog to fetch and retrieve the game you hunt, to stand guard at a certain entry point or on a particular asset, or to attack on command. Where you take your dogs training is up to you, and with the right push from your side they'll definitely be a key asset in your survival once the SHTF.