The average service dog might know as many as two hundred commands, but there are the golden five that are truly invaluable. I’m not going to include the usual basics (sit, stay, down, come etc.) because all service dogs know those and while they are useful, they are not considered commands taught exclusively to service dogs.
1) “Go There”. I can point to a specific spot, and my dog will walk to that location, sit or lie down and await further instruction. This is very handy when in a crowded room or on a busy bus when you want your dog to move to an exact spot.
2) “Focus on me”: This is one of my favorites to use, especially when we are in hectic or crazy situations with loud noises and crowds, and I need Rally to be focused entirely on me. I’ve incorporated a “sit” into the command, so that he stops in mid walk, looks at me, sits and remains motionless, gaze fixed on mine, until it’s time to move.
3) “Greet”: This is another invaluable command, as when you own a service dog, everyone wants to come up and say hi. This can prove distracting to your dog, and might make him loose his concentration. I’ve taught Rally that he cannot say “Hi” to anyone unless I specifically give the command “greet”, in which case he is able to walk over and be pet by the adoring fan.
4) “Take it” is yet another awesome command, in which I can hand Rally anything, his leash, a pen, a bag, and he accepts it in his mouth and waits until I am ready to take it back. When you are juggling a dog’s leash, your own bags, school supplies and whatever else, it’s useful to have your dog help you out.
5) “Time to Go”: A command that I spent a month teaching Rally, which tells him when it’s okay to go to the bathroom. After long flights at airports or a four-hour class, Rally naturally has to go to the bathroom pretty badly, but I don’t want him to go potty on the nearest patch of grass or in a public place. Therefore, he will wait until we have arrived at a suitable spot before, upon my permission, going to the bathroom.
Similarly, when it is late at night and snowing, and he just can’t find that perfect spot, I can tell him that “it’s time to go” and he will immediately squat down and relieve himself. This command is worth it’s weight in gold! (: