Teaching your dog “here” is a directive that is useful in so many situations. “Here” is a specific positioning cue to let your dog know exactly where you want them.
Some people use the terms “come” and “here” interchangeably. So as not to cause any confusion, I teach “come” as communication that I want my dog to come directly to me. I teach “here” as communication that I want my dog positioned exactly where I am indicating with my finger or another object. This could be in a tighter “heel” position, seated in a particular place, or lying further under a table to avoid paws or tails getting stepped on by a passersby.
“Here” can be used as a bridging communication between two other commands which can make providing encouragement to your dog in the learning process easier. For example, if you have points A, B, and C in a training exercise where A is the start and C is the finished directive/position, you can use ‘here” as B to help you provide direction to get your dog all the way to completion, C. For example, If C is a tight “heel” and A is teaching your dog to walk next to you, using “here” is the provisional directive that helps explain to your dog exactly where C, “heel” is going to be while moving or still.
To teach “here”, breaking down the steps of the learning process looks like the following:
- Start by using two surfaces such as the floor and a mat, or the carpet and the hardwood floor to help your dog differentiate your directions more easily.
- Use your finger as a lure (or you can use a target if your dog already knows how to “touch”), with your finger in front of their nose and treat tucked inside of the rest of your hand, lure them to follow your finger on to the other surface.
- Present the food reward right at the stopping point — the speed of the reward is important in learning so be sure to present the reward with some haste right as they stop where you’ve pointed and lured them to.
- Practice this movement over and over again without any verbal direction.
- Once well practiced, lure with the same hand but have the treat in your opposite hand and reward at the same stopping point.
- Next build in the marking directive “here” to communicate the action you are expecting and build that association with the word. Use “here” as you are pointing to where you would like your dog to go, (use the same two surfaces initially).
- Practice in different settings around different objects. If your dog starts to lose the idea of what you are asking in a new setting or by new objects, take a step back, try again, and use encouragement such as “that’s it (in an upbeat tone) or small reward to let your dog know they are on to something and almost have it. Then once they’ve got it — go bananas!
- Next, up your game by pointing and using “here” then quickly removing your finger as direction. If your dog moves to the place where you’ve directed, then reward and repeat. Point, use here, remove hand, wait for stop, reward, repeat.
These steps should not all be completed within the first training session. Start by practicing steps one through five first. Once those are solid, tackle steps six through eight in a different training session, either later that day, or in between working on a different directive.
- Start in an area of low distraction, with temperate conditions, and a hungry and/or motivated dog when teaching a brand new skill.
- Always end on a positive note. If they aren’t quite getting it, are getting bored, or you are getting frustrated, ask them something super easy to end training on a positive note and then take a ten minute break (or break until you have time and are in a good mind-frame to work with your dog) then get back at it.
- Switch it up to keep it fun, but also to really solidify your dog’s understanding of the directive. Once your dog performs this well at home, try it in new and/or unusual places like in between two picnic benches, on a golf cart seat, or under a playground slide.
“Here” is one of those directives that is simply useful in so many different situations and environments. It can help you tighten up other directives that you teach and can be a way to get much more specific in communication with your dog.
To see teaching this skill in practice and to see a second method that you can use for fun to teach “here” checkout my YouTube video on it.