How To Train Your Dog for Emergencies
In an emergency, trained dogs can give you important survival advantages, while untrained ones can actually be a noisy liability. If you want to be prepared for disasters or worse, the time to start training is now.
Essential Commands for Every Dog
Are average dogs capable of learning basic survival commands? Absolutely — as long as you’re willing to put in the time. Here are the most important dog commands for emergency situations:
- Barking (speak): This is the first command your dog should learn. It’s important for canines to bark when you want them to, not just because they feel like it. Once dogs learn to speak on command, they can alert you to strangers at the door. In a survival situation, this is helpful for being aware of potential threats to your property.
- Not barking (quiet): After dogs learn to speak, you can train them NOT to speak. You have to progress in that order, otherwise dogs don’t understand why you’re rewarding them. The benefits of teaching pets to stay quiet in an emergency are obvious. It can literally save your life by not giving away your position or scaring away potential prey.
- Staying in place (stay): Ideally, this command should get your dog to stay in the same spot until you return. In practice, most dogs stick around for 15–20 minutes. Still, it lets you perform certain actions with increased stealth. You don’t want a dog crunching leaves if you’re scouting out a dangerous situation.
- Going to your side (come): This simple command is designed to get your dog to come right away. It can help dogs overcome their natural curiosity. That way they don’t wander too far ahead of you.
- Not taking food from strangers: You don’t want your dog making nice with people who may or may not be dangerous in an emergency. One of the main ways intruders deal with barking dogs is to offer food, poisoned or not. It’s worth taking the time to teach pets only to accept food from your hand or their food dish.
- Returning in an emergency: An emergency return command has the same effect as “come,” but it’s much stronger. This is a code word your dog learns that trumps all their other training. If your canine is sniffing too close to a rattlesnake or about to get hit by a car, this training should move them to return to you without hesitation.
What about hunting, patrolling and attacking? These advanced commands often require selecting a specific breed and investing in professional training. This is one reason many preppers hire former K9 trainers or adopt retired military-service dogs.
Tips for Canine Survival Training
Training is all about “marking” and then rewarding the desired behavior over and over until the dog gets it. To train the speak command, here’s what to do:
Do something that gets your dog excited enough to bark, such as reaching for a favorite toy.
As soon as it barks, “mark” the bark using your command or clicker. Say “speak!” on the first bark.
Reward your dog with one treat.
Repeat this routine many times.
Once your dog has this command down, you can apply it to specific survival situations. For example, teach it to bark when people knock on the door using this same technique of “marking” with the command and rewarding with a treat.
Training isn’t a one-and-done deal. You have to spend time drilling these commands for a few minutes every day.