Social Distancing … for Your Dog: Training Tips for Fido

Posted by Billy Francis

Social distancing is a trending topic these days, but it's also a practice savvy dog trainers have been teaching for years. After all, Fido might love making new friends, but he should also know when it's time to avoid contact and keep to his "pawsonal" space. Here are a few basic tips that will help your pup learn to keep his distance.

“I deserve this. I really do.”Photo by Eric Sonstroem

What You'll Need

As with most types of training, dogs need an incentive to grasp new things. For these exercises, you’ll need the following:

First Things First: Sit

“I’ll sit this one out!” Photo by @skyethesiberian

Sitting nicely on command is one of the first things to teach Fido. It’s the building block for more complex training methods. There are two different ways to teach “Sit:”


Stand in front of your slobbery student with a bite of his favorite treat. He should sit (eventually) and when he does, reward him with the treat. Then, move away to reset.


Hold your pooch’s favorite treat above his nose and gradually raise it. As you do, he’ll start to sit down. When his bottom touches the floor, reward him. Repeat this a few times, then remove the treat and use your hand only.

Once your clever friend has this down, move onto the next command.

Stay Another Day

“For my next trick …” Photo by @liaoxh1981

Whether you’re signing for your grocery delivery or trying to keep her away from people during a stroll in the park, training your dog to stay is useful and important. The three main aspects of this command are distractions, time and space. Teach them separately for maximum effect.


Fido is surrounded by distractions like squirrels, the doorbell and alarms. It’s important that he keep his focus even when he encounters them. Start with a tap of the foot during “Sit,” and progress to swinging your arms and legs, which adds a visual distraction. When you’re confident your dog is concentrating, try more stimulating everyday noises.


Increase the length of time your dog holds a sit. Start with the command, then increase the time between her bottom touching the floor and when you reward her with a treat.


The third and final puzzle piece is space. Save this for last, because it includes “distraction” in the form of you walking away and the “time” it takes you to do so. Take a few steps, reward him, change direction and finish off by removing yourself from his field of vision.

“Stay” is a great command for dogs who like to greet everybody and shouldn’t. Remember, you want her to treat “Stay” like she’s cemented to the spot. She should only break this command upon your return.

Wait It Out

“Why are you wearing that hat inside?” Photo by @JenRegnier

“Wait” is another essential command. The main difference between “Wait” and “Stay” is how you release your dog from her position. A good “Stay” should only be released by the trainer returning, whereas a trigger word can be used to break a “Wait” command. Start by sitting in a chair with your dog in front of you. Slowly place a treat on your knee. If she goes for the treat, move it away quickly and start again. Use a magic word like “Go” or “Take it” to give her permission to grab the snack. This can be replicated standing up and moving away, using the same magic word to call her to you.

Total Recall

“I am totally going to run in that mud, Dad.” Photo by @pixabay

If your furry friend is running off-leash and another human appears on the horizon, what do you do? That’s where recall can be useful. Release him from his leash and start walking away. As he runs ahead, change direction and keep walking. When he sees that you’ve moved, he should return to you. This teaches your pup to look out for and follow you.

Bring the leash out and resume your stroll. After a short while, let your pooch off leash and try the technique again. This will prevent him from thinking the walk is about to end when he is practicing recall.

Who’s Walking Who?

Walk on the wild side! Photo by @sportdogbrand

If your dog is pulling ahead of you, he’s going to come into contact with people before you even have a chance to step politely to the side. Training your pooch to walk on a loose leash can make life on the trail and in public much easier. Surprisingly, loose leash work starts without a leash at all. In a fenced area of your house, ignore him and wander around freely. Then, excitedly call your him and reward him with a treat. Encourage him to stay next to you and reward every few steps. Then, go back to ignoring. This allows your canine companion to build positive connotations about walking by your side.

“You lead. I’ll follow.”Photo by @susanne906

The next phase involves a leash. When out on your daily walk, if your dog starts pulling, stop and take a few steps backwards. As you step back, talk to your pup cheerfully and reward her with a treat for following your command and not pulling. Start walking forward again and reward her if she stays by your side, but step back if she pulls again.

Is your dog ready to add a little distance? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

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