5 Essential Commands to teach your dog
By Juliana Weiss-Roessler
Having a trained dog isn’t the same as having a balanced dog, but if your dog knows a few basic commands, it can be helpful when tackling problem behaviours — existing ones or those that may develop in the future.
So where do you start with dog obedience training? You could take a class, but it’s not necessary; you can do it yourself. In fact, with the right attitude, it can be fun for both you and your dog!
This is one of the easiest dog obedience commands to teach, so it’s a good one to start with.
- Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose.
- Move your hand up, allowing his head to follow the treat and causing his bottom to lower.
- Once he’s in sitting position, say “Sit,” give him the treat, and share affection.
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’d like him calm and seated.
This command can help keep a dog out of trouble, bringing him back to you if you lose grip on the leash or accidentally leave the front door open.
- Put a leash and collar on your dog.
- Go down to his level and say, “Come,” while gently pulling on the leash.
- When he gets to you, reward him with affection and a treat.
- Once he’s mastered it with the leash, remove it — and practice the command in a safe, enclosed area.
This can be one of the more difficult commands in dog obedience training. Why? Because the position is a submissive posture. You can help by keeping training positive and relaxed, particularly with fearful or anxious dogs.
- Find a particularly good smelling treat, and hold it in your closed fist.
- Hold your hand up to your dog’s snout. When he sniffs it, move your hand to the floor, so he follows.
- Then slide your hand along the ground in front of him to encourage his body to follow his head.
- Once he’s in the down position, say “Down,” give him the treat, and share affection.
Repeat it every day. If your dog tries to sit up or lunges toward your hand, say “No” and take your hand away. Don’t push him into a down position, and encourage every step your dog takes toward the right position. After all, he’s working hard to figure it out!
Before attempting this one, make sure your dog is an expert at the “Sit” command.
- First, ask your dog to “Sit.”
- Then open the palm of your hand in front of you, and say “Stay.”
- Take a few steps back. Reward him with a treat and affection if he stays.
- Gradually increase the number of steps you take before giving the treat.
- Always reward your pup for staying put — even if it’s just for a few seconds.
This is an exercise in self-control for your dog, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to master, particularly for puppies and high-energy dogs. After all, they want to be on the move and not just sitting there waiting.
This can help keep your dog safe when his curiosity gets the better of him, like if he smells something intriguing but possibly dangerous on the ground! The goal is to teach your pup that he gets something even better for ignoring the other item.
- Place a treat in both hands.
- Show him one enclosed fist with the treat inside, and say, “Leave it.”
- Let him lick, sniff, mouth, paw, and bark to try to get it — and ignore the behaviours.
- Once he stops trying, give him the treat from the other hand.
- Repeat until your dog moves away from that first fist when you say, “Leave it.”
- Next, only give your dog the treat when he moves away from that first fist and also looks up at you.
Once your dog consistently moves away from the first treat and gives you eye contact when you say the command, you’re ready to take it up a notch. For this, use two different treats — one that’s just all right and one that’s a particularly good smelling and tasty favourite for your pup.
- Say “Leave it,” place the less attractive treat on the floor, and cover it with your hand.
- Wait until your dog ignores that treat and looks at you. Then remove that treat from the floor, give him the better treat and share affection immediately.
- Once he’s got it, place the less tasty treat on the floor… but don’t completely cover it with your hand. Instead hold it a little bit above the treat. Over time, gradually move your hand farther and farther away until your hand is about 6 inches above.
- Now he’s ready to practice with you standing up! Follow the same steps, but if he tries to snatch the less tasty treat, cover it with your foot.
Don’t rush the process. Remember, you’re asking a lot of your dog. If you take it up a notch and he’s really struggling, go back to the previous stage.
Just these five simple commands can help keep your dog safer and improve your communication with him. It’s well worth the investment of your time and effort. Remember, the process takes time, so only start a dog obedience training session if you’re in the right mindset to practice calm-assertive energy and patience.