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10 Essential Training Commands Every Dog Should Know

Updated: May 21


Dog learning command to shake paws

Training your dog is more than just a fun bonding experience; it's crucial for their overall well-being and your relationship with them. By understanding and teaching your dog these essential commands, you're fostering an environment of mutual respect and understanding. It also significantly enhances your dog's safety, as mastering these commands can help prevent dangerous situations.


Positive reinforcement training is an effective and humane method to guide your furry companion towards desirable behavior. This approach is based on rewarding the behavior you want to encourage in your dog, which makes learning a fun and rewarding experience for them. In the following sections, we'll discuss these 10 essential commands that every dog owner should know, all of which can be taught using the positive reinforcement technique.


10 Essential Training Commands for Dogs



Sit

Woman training her dog to sit

The "Sit" command is one of the most basic, yet most beneficial commands that every dog should master. It's not only useful in daily interactions but also plays a vital role in ensuring your dog's safety. For instance, teaching your dog to sit helps them greet people in a calm and controlled manner instead of jumping excitedly. This command can also be used to instruct your dog to wait patiently before crossing the street, preventing them from running into traffic.


Here's a step-by-step guide on how to teach your dog to sit:

  1. Hold a treat close to your dog's nose.

  2. Slowly move your hand up, allowing their head to follow the treat and causing their bottom to lower.

  3. As soon as they sit, say "Sit", give them the treat, and give praise.

  4. Repeat this sequence a few times every day until your dog has it mastered. Then, ask your dog to sit before mealtime, when leaving for walks, and during other situations where you want them calm and seated.

Stay

Woman training her dog with the stay command

Teaching your dog the "Stay" command is essential, particularly in situations where your pooch may feel tempted to run off. This command is particularly useful during walks when a squirrel darts across your path, or when the doorbell rings, and your dog wants to excitedly greet the visitors. The "Stay" command helps maintain control and ensures your dog's safety in these situations.


Training your dog to "Stay" is all about increments. Start with a short distance and duration.

  1. Ask your dog to sit.

  2. Open the palm of your hand in front of you, and say "Stay."

  3. Take a few steps back. If they stay, reward your dog with a treat and some praise.

  4. Gradually increase the number of steps you take before giving the treat. Over time, your dog will learn that "Stay" means not to move from the spot.

Remember, it's important to remain patient when training your dog. Teaching your dog to stay for a few minutes may take some time, but consistency is key in dog training. Also, always try to end the session on a positive note to keep the training experience enjoyable for your dog.


Come

Dog walking towards the camera

The "Come" command is arguably one of the most important safety commands in a dog's training repertoire. This command is vital in potentially hazardous situations where you need your dog to return to you quickly and without hesitation. For example, if your dog escapes from the yard or is heading towards a busy street, a well-trained response to "Come" can be life-saving.


To train your dog with the "Come" command, begin in a quiet, enclosed space to minimize distractions. Use your dog's favorite treats or toys as positive reinforcement for responding correctly.

  1. Stand a short distance away from your dog. Ensure they are focused on you and not any potential distractions.

  2. In a friendly and enthusiastic tone, say "Come," followed by your dog's name.

  3. When your dog comes to you, provide the treat or toy and shower them with praise.

  4. As your dog becomes more confident and reliable in responding, gradually increase the distance and introduce the command in different environments with more distractions.

  5. If your dog fails to respond, don't punish them. Instead, go back to the last stage where they were successful and build from there.

Remember, the purpose of this command is to bring your dog back to you safely, not to end their fun. Ensure that the reward they receive for obeying is always more appealing than whatever had their attention in the first place. With consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement, your dog can master the "Come" command, enhancing both their safety and your peace of mind.


Down

Dog laying down

The "Down" command is an excellent training tool to control your dog's enthusiasm and hyperactive behavior, and prevent them from jumping on people or furniture. It is particularly useful when you need your dog to settle down in a calm manner, especially in public spaces or when guests visit your home.


Training your dog to respond to the "Down" command requires patience, consistency, and a positive reinforcement approach.

  1. Hold a tasty treat in your closed hand and let your dog sniff it.

  2. Move your hand in a diagonal path towards their chest to the floor, so your dog follows.

  3. This should make their haunches collapse under them.

  4. As soon as they lay down, say "Down", give them the treat, and share affection.

Remember, it's important to only use the command when you're sure your dog will understand and respond. Repeating "Down" without your dog's understanding can lead to confusion. Always end training sessions on a positive note and gradually practice the "Down" command in different environments with varying levels of distraction to reinforce the behavior.


Leave It


The "Leave It" command is crucial to ensuring your dog's safety and well-being. It can prevent them from ingesting harmful substances, approaching dangerous animals, or picking up unwanted objects during walks. This command teaches your dog to ignore or walk away from various distractions, whether it's tempting food items, intriguing trash, or other animals.

Training your dog to respond to the "Leave It" command requires patience, consistency, and a lot of positive reinforcement.

  1. Hold a high reward treat, such as dehydrated beef liver or a chewy tasty treat, in a closed hand.

  2. Show your dog the desirable treat and say, "Leave It."

  3. Once your dog stops trying to get the treat in your hand and pulls away, immediately reward them with the desirable treat from the other hand. Make sure you don't reward them with the treat they were told to leave!

  4. Repeat this process until your dog has mastered the concept. You can then work your way up to more enticing distractions.

  5. Gradually increase the difficulty by placing the treat on the floor or closer to your dog, using a leash to ensure they cannot get to the treat. Each time they pull away from the "Leave It" treat, reward them with a higher-value treat.

Remember, the goal is for your dog to learn that ignoring the first item results in a better reward. This command can be life-saving in situations where your dog may be tempted by dangerous items.


Drop It

Dog being trained to drop it

The "Drop It" command is vital when your dog picks up something potentially dangerous, such as a piece of broken glass, a harmful food item, or a small toy. It allows you to maintain control in such circumstances, ensuring your dog's safety. Training your dog to respond to the "Drop It" command requires patience, consistency, and a positive reinforcement approach.

  1. Start with a toy that your dog likes but isn't deeply attached to. Encourage your dog to take the toy in their mouth.

  2. Once your dog has the toy in their mouth, show them a treat or a toy they value more.

  3. As soon as your dog drops the first toy to go for the treat or the more valued toy, say "Drop It." Make sure to provide the treat or the more valued toy as a reward immediately after they drop the first toy.

  4. Repeat this process several times. Once your dog starts to understand the command, you can practice with different objects and in various environments.

Remember, never try to pull the item out of your dog's mouth forcefully. That could turn into a game of tug or potentially harm your dog. Always use a treat or a more desired toy to entice them to drop it willingly, reinforcing the behavior with a positive reward.


Heel

Dogs being taught to heel

The "Heel" command is essential for teaching your dog to walk calmly and attentively by your side. It's particularly useful to manage excitable dogs who tend to pull on the leash, ensuring a pleasant and controlled experience during walks. This command reduces potential distractions, enhances your bond with your pet, and fosters a sense of discipline and obedience.


Training your dog to respond to the "Heel" command requires patience, consistency, and a positive reinforcement approach.

  1. Start by holding a treat in the hand that is closest to your dog. This will draw their attention and encourage them to stay close to you.

  2. Begin to walk, using the command "Heel", and keep your hand at your side where you want your dog to be. Reward your dog for keeping pace with you, maintaining the correct position.

  3. If your dog starts to pull ahead, stop walking. Only continue when they relax the tension on the leash and return to your side. Repeat the command "Heel" as they resume the correct position.

  4. Gradually increase the duration between treats to ensure your dog can maintain the heel position even without constant rewards.

Remember, it's crucial to practice this command in a variety of environments and situations to help your dog generalize the behavior. The "Heel" command might require considerable time and practice, but it's worth the effort for the comfort and control it grants during your walks.


Wait

Dog being taught to wait

The "Wait" command is an essential tool in your training toolkit, providing a way to keep your dog safe and maintain control in various situations. It is particularly useful in moments where your dog needs to show patience, such as waiting before entering or exiting doors, vehicles, or crossing streets. This command keeps your dog from bolting out the door, jumping out of the car, or crossing the street without your go-ahead, ensuring their safety and good manners.


Training your dog to respond to the "Wait" command requires patience, consistency, and a positive reinforcement approach. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Begin with your dog in a sit or down position. Hold a treat in your hand and show it to your dog, but keep it closed so your dog cannot get the treat.

  2. Say "Wait," and make a hand signal such as an open palm. If your dog stays put, reward them with the treat. If they move towards the treat, close your hand, and start over.

  3. Gradually increase the waiting time before giving the treat. Start with a few seconds and work your way up to a minute or more as your dog gets more comfortable with the command.

  4. Once your dog has mastered waiting for a treat, you can start using the command in real-life situations, such as before opening the door for a walk, before meal times, or when getting out of the car.

Remember that this command is not a replacement for the "Stay" command. "Wait" implies a temporary pause, whereas "Stay" means the dog must remain in place until you give them a different command. Always be patient and keep training sessions short and engaging to ensure your dog doesn't get bored or frustrated. The "Wait" command, when used appropriately, can significantly improve the safety and manners of your dog.


Speak/Quiet

Dog barking on command

The "Speak" and "Quiet" commands are invaluable tools in a dog owner's toolkit, particularly for controlling excessive barking. Teaching your dog these commands can make your pet more communicative and manageable, leading to a more peaceful and harmonious coexistence.


Speak


The "Speak" command is an excellent way to engage with your pet, channel their energy productively, and control unnecessary noise. It helps them understand when it's appropriate to bark.

  1. Trigger your dog to bark by doing something that usually gets them excited, such as knocking on the door. Once they bark, say "Speak."

  2. Immediately reward them with a treat and praise. This reinforces the positive behavior.

  3. Repeat this process until your dog starts to understand the command. Patience is key – some dogs might take longer to associate the action of barking with the command.

Quiet


The "Quiet" command is essential in managing excessive barking. It's a helpful tool to teach your dog when it's time to stop barking.

  1. Wait for your dog to start barking, then say "Quiet" in a calm but assertive voice.

  2. Once your dog stops barking, even for a moment, immediately reward them with a treat and praise. This helps them understand that they get a reward when they stop barking on command.

  3. Repeat this process until your dog associates the command with the cessation of barking.

Remember, consistency is crucial when training your dog. Always use the same commands and rewards to avoid confusing your pet. Keep training sessions short and sweet to hold their interest and prevent frustration. And most importantly, always end on a positive note to keep the experience enjoyable for your dog.


Shake/Give Paw

Dog giving paw

The "Shake", also known as "Give Paw", command is not only a fun trick to show off your dog's training but also a valuable opportunity to reinforce good behavior. This command teaches your dog to offer a paw, much like a human handshake. It's an engaging way to greet guests that encourages polite behavior and can be a delight to both children and adults.

Training your dog to respond to the "Shake" command requires patience, consistency, and a positive reinforcement approach. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Begin with your dog in a sit position. Hold a treat in your hand and close it in a fist. Let your dog sniff it to get their attention.

  2. Say "Shake," and move your hand with the treat towards their paw. Most dogs will naturally paw at your hand to get the treat.

  3. As soon as your dog lifts their paw to touch your hand, open your hand, give them the treat, and offer lots of praise. This will reinforce the positive behavior.

  4. Repeat this process until your dog starts to understand the command. Remember to always use the same command and reward to avoid confusing your pet.

  5. Once your dog offers their paw consistently, start practicing without a treat in your hand, but continue to provide a treat from your other hand as a reward for correct behavior.

The "Shake" command, when used correctly, can be a charming and enjoyable addition to your dog's repertoire of tricks.


Beginning Your Dog Training Journey


In the journey of training your dog, it's crucial to emphasize the use of positive reinforcement. This approach focuses on rewarding your dog for displaying the behavior you want to encourage. This could be a treat, praise, or a favorite game. The fundamental principle is to make the desired behavior more rewarding for the dog than the undesired one.


Avoid at all costs punishment-based techniques. Studies have shown that dogs trained using aversive methods tend to develop fear and anxiety, leading to undesirable behaviors.


A well-trained dog isn't just about obedience. Dog training also serves as a form of mental stimulation that contributes significantly to their overall well-being. The learning process involved helps keep your dog's mind active and sharp, and the positive interactions they have with you during training sessions can help improve their overall behavior, making them more manageable and happier.


But remember, patience and consistency are essential in dog training. It's normal for your dog to take some time to learn new commands and behaviors. Keep the training sessions consistent, and don't forget to reward your dog each time they get it right. Remember, the goal is to make the learning process enjoyable for your dog. Your patience and persistence will pay off with a well-behaved, happy, and safe dog. Happy training!


Please note that the information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only. The methods and techniques discussed are merely suggestions and should not replace professional advice or guidance. We make no guarantees regarding outcomes and are not responsible for any actions taken based on the information provided here. We strongly recommend consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist before beginning any training regimen. Results can vary greatly depending on individual dog temperament, history, and specific circumstances. Therefore, reader discretion is advised, and we disclaim liability for any potential issues that may arise from using this information for dog training.


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