Basic commands can save your dog’s life. That’s not an exaggeration of how important they are. In addition to the essentials of good food, vet visits, and grooming, you also need to properly train and teach your dogs the basic commands. Dog training stimulates the mind, promotes obedience and discipline, and makes your dog more energetic and well-mannered.
Commands are a way of communicating with your dog, not to mention that it is a satisfying way to deepen the bond between people and pets even more!
Here is a step-by-step guide for the 10 most basic commands you can teach your dog early on.
10 Basic Commands to Teach your Dog
Both new pups and adult dogs that are moving into your home need a lot of training before they learn house rules and recognise themselves as a member of the family. Training demands attention, and how can you grab your dog's attention? Call them by their name!
Choose a good dog name that ends with a vowel - names that end in vowels change your tone when you call your dog. This is important because dogs are good at differentiating between different pitches. It’s easier to get their attention when their name ends in a vowel as they can easily remember the ending sound better.
- Use two syllable names - two syllable names are better, since the first syllable can serve as a warm-up for the second every time you call your dog. It’s also easier to call for them with short names.
- Use their name for positive reinforcement only - Associate your dog’s name with positive things only, so they will always want to come to you when you call them. Don’t use their name when they misbehave, or when it’s time to take a bath– they might not respond to you the next time because they think you’ll make them go through something unpleasant again.
Reward them every time they come to you - Rewards help them associate their name with positive things. You can give them a treat, or cuddle with them when they come to you after hearing their name.
Come is an important command for your dog as it will come in very handy if you lose your grip and let go of the leash, or when you forget to close the front door. Teaching your dog this command helps them to stay out of danger.
Teaching ‘Come’ with leash
- Put your dog on collar and leash.
- Reach down to them and say, “Come,” while pulling the least lightly.
- Reward them with affection and a treat when he finally reaches you.
- Remove the leash once they have mastered it, then have them practise the command in a secure place without it.
Teaching ‘Come’ without leash
Once they've mastered ‘Come’ with their leash on, try it without their leash. You’ll want to begin in a quiet area and indoors.
- Sit with your dog and call their name or say the word 'come.'
- Each time you say "come/name," give your dog a reward. They still have nothing to do! Simply say the word again and offer a reward.
- Place a treat next to you on the floor. Say their name again as soon as your dog has finished the treat that is on the ground. Give them another treat when they look up at you.
- Continue this a few times until you can throw the treat a bit further away and they respond to their name by turning around to face you.
- After your dog consistently responds to their name, try increasing the difficulty. Say their name while moving across the room. Start using intermittent treats but always express verbal praise. Take the lessons outside and add some distractions.
One of the easiest commands to teach your dog is to sit.. Compared to dogs who aren't taught this simple command, a dog who understands the "Sit" command will be a lot calmer and simpler to control.
- Hold a treat in front of your dog's nose.
- As you raise your hand, their head will follow the treat, prompting them to drop their bottom and lower themselves.
- Once they're sitting, say "Sit," hand them the treat, and then express your affection to them.
Practise this routine with your dog a few times every day until they master it. So when you want your dog to be calm and seated before meals, while you're leaving for walks, and in other situations, command them to sit.
Just like the "Sit" command, the "Stay" command helps your dog be more in control. This command might be useful when you want your dog to stay out of the way as you do home duties or when you don't want your dog to be a distraction for visitors.
Make sure your dog mastered the "Sit" command before attempting to teach them Stay. If he hasn't fully mastered “Sit”, practise it with them for a while before introducing the "Stay".
- Ask your dog to sit first.
- Say "Stay" while opening the palm of your hand in front of you.
- Trace back a few steps. If he stays, treat him and show him some affection.
- The next try, slowly increase the amount of steps you take before giving the treat.
- Even if it only lasts a few seconds, always praise your dog for staying still.
One of the trickier dog training commands to teach is the Down command. But they need to learn it because Down, like Sit and Stay, can be a life-saving command to keep your dog out of danger. It’s also the best manners for dogs to know Down, when in restaurants for example, or other people’s homes, especially for big dogs.
Your dog may find it challenging to learn this because it requires them to do a submissive posture. Keeping a happy and easygoing training environment will help with teaching this command, especially if your dog is easily scared or worried.
- Hold a tasty and good-smelling treat in your closed fist.
- Put your hand near your dog's snout. Move your hand to the floor when they sniff it so they follow.
- Then, to help their body follow their head, slide your hand along the ground in front of them.
- Say "Down," give them the reward, and show them some affection now that they're in the down position.
One of the most common dog problems is jumping up on people or furniture, so if your dog can't keep four paws on the ground, don't give up on them.
As they jump up, you have several options:
- Turn your body sideways so they naturally slide off you. Say Off and reward them once their paws hit the ground.
- On furniture, it’s the same thing. Push them off the sofa, say Off when their paws hit the ground, and reward them with treats for the “ejection.”
You and your family have to be persistent if you want your dog to learn this command.
The Wait command is a variation of the Stay command and is very useful for your dog to learn as there are numerous situations you can use it.
For instance, you might ask them to wait while you set down their food and water dish so they don’t reach for it and spill, or before entering the house when they return from a muddy walk until you can get a towel to dry them off.
- Start with asking your dog to sit, then go outside a few steps at a time, come back inside, say the word "Wait," and then reward your dog.
- Keep repeating this and try to go farther away each time to help your dog learn that staying still means they'll get a treat when you say OKAY to release them from the command.
- Try it next with their food dish. They’re usually excited when they see their food. Use Sit and Wait to calm them down. And reward them with a treat when they do.
- Set down their food and release them with Okay.
- This may take a lot of patience with puppies! For success, don’t expect them to wait a lot after you set down their food. A treat should always be there to divert their attention and give them something to munch on instead of diving into their food.
- It's important to express your happiness with your dog when they’re able to wait. Smile and praise them for waiting.
Use ‘Wait’ before they go out
- When your dog is ready to get out to the yard or leave the crate, start by saying, "wait."
- When you slightly open the door, watch to see whether your dog rushes to try to get out. If so, quickly close the door.
- Try the command again. If your dog rushes to escape after you say, "Wait", quickly close the door and open it.
- Reward any hesitation. When your dog hesitates after hearing the "wait" command, reward them and open the door.
- Once your dog learns to truly wait, wait a few more seconds before letting them out. When they wait for a few seconds longer, open the door a little wider.
- After practising it for a few days, your dog should be able to wait until you say the command "free" or "go ahead".
"Heel" refers to your dog walking at your side, near your heels, with their head levelled with your knee while you're holding the leash. The goal is for them to walk calmly on a loose leash without tugging, beside you instead of walking ahead of you.
Instead of using the word "heel," some trainers like to say "let's go" or "forward."
- Make sure your dog is comfortable with the leash.
- With the leash in a loose loop, stand next to your dog. As a reward for standing or sitting near to your leg, give them several treats in a row.
- Take a step forward and give them another treat to encourage them to do the same.
- As you move forward, keep giving your dog treats at hip or knee height.
- Just turn the other way when they run in front of you, call them to you, and praise them where they are. Then continue walking.
- If your dog has already learned to pull at their leash and walk ahead of you, stop this behaviour by not moving until they come back to your side.
- Start stretching out your treats as you go—from each step to every other step, every third step, and so on.
- Your dog will eventually enjoy walking by your side anytime they are on a leash. Give time to sniff things during your walks. Say the cue "Let's go!" in a cheerful tone after they've finished sniffing and reward them for coming back to position and following you.
When your dog's curiosity gets the better of them, especially when they smell something intriguing but possibly dangerous on the ground, this command can help keep them safe. The goal is to show to your dog that if they ignore the other object, they will receive something even better.
- Put a treat in each of your hands.
- Say, "Leave it," holding up a fist with a treat inside.
- Ignore the actions as they lick, sniff, mouth, paw, and bark to get the reward.
- Give them the treat from the other hand as soon as they give up trying.
- Continue until your dog leaves the first fist when you command it to do so.
- Then, only reward your dog when they look up at you and move away from the first fist.
Take it/Get it
Use this command to teach your dog how to pick things up. It’s a variation of fetch, and fetch is almost instinctual for dogs. For example, you can teach them to get their leash for a walk, even if you don’t throw the leash in the first place! It’s also the opposite of Leave it. If a friend you meet on the street gives your dog a treat, your dog should look to you for the “Take it” command before taking the treat.
In conjunction with Leave it, this command keeps them safe from harm and teaches them to ask for permission first.
- Hold their favourite toy within arms reach. They should automatically want to grab it.
- As soon as they get the toy, tell them "good take it," or other verbal praise you want.
- Have a great reward available on the other hand to give your dog in return for their favourite toy.
- Show them the treat. Hold the opposite end of the toy and say "give" right away. As they release it into your hand, praise them and give them a tiny treat as a reward.
- Ask them to hold the toy for extended periods of time before releasing it. Have them take and hold other safe things once they have mastered taking and holding various toys.
It’s never too early to start training your dog. If you make the learning process enjoyable and interesting, you'll get the most beneficial outcomes from your effort. If your dog is in good physical and mental condition, both when you're around and when you're not, you are confident and rest assured that they have all they need to live a happy and healthy life.