Useful Commands When Gardening With Your Dog

Carla and I set up a garden this year. We decided to experiment with Mel Bartholomew’s “Square Foot Gardening” system– which means setting up 4’x4′ wood raised beds and filling them with a special soil mix of 1/3 vermiculte, 1/3 compost and 1/3 peat moss.

… Everything a big-hearted dog would love to dig, roll and pee all over.

But that’s not going to happen to our garden… and it shouldn’t happen to yours, either.

Here are some dog training commands that we’ve found useful for successfully gardening with our dogs in the yard:

First, you should know that: In our dog training system, we differentiate between formal and informal commands. Formal commands are those that must be obeyed immediately, as they may save your dog’s life someday. These are the one’s you’re probably already familiar with, such as:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Heel
  • Come
  • Stay (although we don’t technically use the “stay command” as we instead use the “exercise finished” command instead. i.e. Sit=stay… in the sit position
  • No!

But since we may be in the yard for a few hours with our dogs while gardening, we tend to rely more on the informal commands such as:

  • Go on
  • Go lie down
  • Leave it
  • Come on…

And occasionally, the “No!” command

I’ll go over each of these briefly so that you’ll get an understanding of how and why we use these informal commands and why they are especially useful when gardening:

Go On: This command tells your dog to “walk away” from an object… such as a bag of soil. It can also be used to communicate to your dog to leave you alone, for awhile. You should first teach this informal command in a non-gardening environment by simply saying, “Go on,” and then grabbing the tab (the one-foot leash) and giving the dog a mild pull and release in a direction that is away from you. You can also take a few steps forward, and then release the tab. A quick shove on the tush also works.

Go Lie Down: I start by just going over to the dog and placing him in the down position. Once he understands what it means, he’ll quickly realize that he can meander around and find his own place to lie down… because you’re not enforcing the command with the same consistency that you do with your formal “down” command. I tend to also associate the “Go lie down” command with a hand signal that consists of two fingers, flicked in a downward direction. You’ll get to a point where you can just look at your dog and flick your fingers downward and he’ll go lay down. You should also note that with this type of informal command, the dog is not waiting for the formal “exercise finished” release command. Sooner or later, he can get up on his own.

Leave it: The leave it command is a simple way of telling your dog, “Leave it alone.” It’s not as serious as the “No!” command… which communicates to the dog that he should never, ever touch something. In contrast, the “Leave it” command just lets your dog know that whatever item he was considering playing with… that now is not the time.

Come on: We use “Come on,” or “Come along” as an informal recall command. Whereas we use “Here!” as our formal command (our dogs must immediately stop what they’re doing and run back to us). With the “Come on,” command– it’s more informal: If we’re walking from the back yard over to the garage, the “Come on” command communicates to your dog, “Let’s go… we’re walking over here now.” Your dog does not have to come directly into you and does not have to finish in a formal sit or heel position.

No: When our dogs wander near the garden– we use the “No!” command– because we want them to know that they are never allowed to be near the raised bed garden where we grow our vegetables. (Technically, the “No!” is a formal command, as it is absolute).

Once you’ve mastered these commands, you’ll be in a position to start enjoying the sun and your backyard garden– while spending quality time with your dog.

One thought on “Useful Commands When Gardening With Your Dog”

  1. Clara just seems to know that she’s to take it easy and supervise when I’m out in the garden. So far it’s only been weeding, but will soon be tilling and planting…but she’s pretty content to laze around.

    Another help (indirectly) with gardening is to do some serious work on the recall. Gardening brings out wildlife (we are blessed with bunnies here), and if you are out working in the garden and your dog takes off after something…will you be able to stop it without scrambling head-over-heels to grab a trailing long line?

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