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5 Basic Commands Every Dog Should Know

Monday, January 22, 2024

5 Basic Commands Every Dog Should Know

Training your dog is one of the best things you can do for your canine pal. Not only will you be giving them possibly life saving skills, you are providing them with physical and mental stimulation on a daily basis. While there are a number of commands you can teach your dog, there are five basic ones that should be on every pet owner’s list.

5 Basic Commands Every Dog Should Know

1. Sit
Sit is one of the most basic commands you can teach your dog. It is also the foundation in any good training program. By teaching your dog to Sit, you can help to eliminate bad behaviors, such as jumping on guests, and restore control in your household.

To teach your dog to sit, there are a couple of different ways to approach it. You can catch your dog sitting by himself, then give him a treat and verbal “yes”. After a few times of this, you can start saying “sit” as your dog begins to sit, then give him a treat. After a few practice sessions, your dog should start to associate the word “sit” with the actual act of sitting.

The most effective way of teaching Sit is to start with your dog in front of you on all fours. Apply suggestive pressure with his leash upwards until his bottom is on the floor. Then give a reward. While doing this, it’s important to keep the pressure on the leash until the sit is complete, or else your dog will sit to get the reward and then immediately get right back up. Once your dog is in a Sit, require him to stay in that position until give him the cue that he is released. The three cues that can be used to release your dog from the Sit are:

“(Dog’s name), come!”
Practice Sit often, and give generous praise as your dog succeeds.

2. Down
Down is the next logical command to teach after Sit. Down is a temporary deactivation and can be useful in keeping your dog in one place for a short period of time. It can be considered to be an “off switch” for your dog.

You can teach your dog Down with either the pulley, footstep, or hand method. With pulley and footstep, have the leash under your foot, and apply a suggested downward pressure from the leash until your dog lies down. Immediately release the pressure and give your dog generous praise. With the hand method, snap the leash down at a 45 degree angle and use your hand to push your dog’s shoulders down. Give a reward once your dog is down. As with the Sit command, use “Heel”, “(dog’s name), come!”, or “Free” to release your dog from Down.

3. Stay
Stay is the natural progression after your dog has mastered Sit and Down. Stay is a must-teach command, preventing your dog from bolting out of the front door after that squirrel or getting him to stay in a seated or lying down position at the vet’s office. Stay is one of the hardest commands to teach, but it can be done with a little persistence.

Get your dog into a Sit. With a flat hand in front of his face, say “Stay” and wait two seconds, then give him a treat. Gradually build this time up to ten seconds, thirty seconds, etc. Also start slowly getting further away from your dog, starting with just one step. Keep working on it until he will hold the Stay for two minutes with you in his sight.

If your dog gets up early, then you are going too fast. Shorten the amount of time you are making him Stay for, and slowly build back up. Focus on the three D’s- Distance, Duration, and DIstraction.

Distance- How far can you move away from your dog?
Duration- How long can your dog hold the Stay?
Distraction- Under what conditions can your dog hold the Stay?
Continue to work on the three D’s, keeping in mind that your dog is only going to be reliable under the conditions in which they are trained.

Your dog can only get up from Stay when you have given the complex release signal. This consists of returning to your dog, regaining control of your dog by taking the leash, and saying “Free”.

4. Come
Come is a very valuable command. Having your dog come reliably to you can not only save you time chasing your dog down in your backyard or in the dog park, it can save his life in a dangerous situation.

There are two very important things when teaching the Come command. The first is to use a high value reward, such as a treat he doesn’t get a normal basis. This could be cooked chicken, cheese, jerky, etc. The second is to never create a negative association with obeying the command. If they don’t come and you punish them, this can create a negative association that can be hard to overcome.

Start by practicing this command indoors. Have someone restrain your dog about 10 feet away from you. Get really excited. Get loud. Make your dog be dying to come to you. Say “Come!” and have the second person release your dog. Praise your dog like crazy when he comes to you, and give him a delicious treat. Once you do it a few times, you probably don’t need help from a second person. You can call your dog when he is across the room, laying down on his bed, etc. Introduce varying levels of distraction, such as toys or another dog. Keep practicing Come indoors until your dog has mastered it.

Once your dog has mastered Come indoors, start practicing it outside. Keep in mind that it is much harder to teach Come outdoors. There is much more to distract your dog outside. It might help to have your dog on a long leash to aid you if your dog is too distracted outside.

5. Heel
Who doesn’t want their dog to walk calmly beside them on a loose leash when you take them on a walk? That is every dog owner’s dream! By teaching your dog to Heel, he will walk beside you, not pulling you or you pulling him. Both dog and owner will be happier in the long run after learning this command.

With Heel, the dog will typically be on your left hand side. Start with the leash held comfortably in your hands, allowing some slack so that you aren’t guiding your dog on the walk., Say “Heel!”, pause briefly, and start moving in whatever direction you choose. Your dog should start walking with you. Remember, you are in charge, so your dog should be walking in the direction you choose and at the pace you set. If he doesn’t follow your lead, snap the leash and get his attention, then continue walking. After your dog has gotten used to walking at your side, add in zig zags, changing direction, stopping etc., to get your dog used to keeping up with you. As you continue to train your dog to Heel, he will learn to stay by your side in order to avoid an unpleasant and unexpected turn. Dogs love praise, so feel free to generously praise your dog for a job well done.

A useful thing to teach your dog is to sit when you come to a stop. To teach this, walk with your dog in the Heel position for ten steps or so. Come to a stop and get your dog to Sit, then give him a treat or praise. Keep practicing this, and your dog will eventually Sit every time you stop walking.

A few training tips
1. Keep your training sessions short. A 5-10 minute session a few times per day will do much more than one long session.

2. One of the important parts of teaching your dogs various behaviors is practicing them with different levels of distractions. Some examples would be with a toy in your hand, with another family member in the room, while the doorbell is ringing, at a pet store, with another dog nearby, etc.

3. Don’t let yourself get frustrated. If you or your pet become frustrated, take a step back and take a break. There is no shame in working on the command again later when you both have a fresh mind.

How We Can Help
Whether you haven’t had success trying to train your dog on your own or you simply don’t have the time, The Academy can help! We offer a number of different training programs, including Board and Train programs, puppy training, private lessons, training for fearful and aggressive dogs, and agility training. We can even create a custom training program for your dog!

Whether you need help teaching your dog basic commands or help breaking bad habits, The Academy can turn your dog into an enjoyable companion. Contact us with any questions or to schedule your start date!

Bryan Bailey

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Bryan Bailey

CBCC-KA Certified

Bryan Bailey, an acclaimed author, media personality, and expert in canine behavior and training, co-founded Taming the Wild and brings his diverse experience and innovative methods to his role as a mentor and director at The Academy for Canine Behavior and Training.

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