Essential Dog Training Commands To Teach Your Dog

Yes, they are cute in an almost stupid way. Their feet are too big for their bodies, their tongues are too large for their mouths, they scare themselves when they bark. All of these endearing, heartstring-tugging qualities sometimes lead people to forget that these sweet, adorable creatures grow.

When they grow, they can lose their loving awkwardness and become genuine menaces to others.

Consider this when your oversized Great Dane is tripping over his ankles and biting at your hand, growling. Once you’re done giggling at his antics, remember he is going to be one hundred and twenty pounds one day and that bite is going to land your four year-old in the emergency room. Be assured, training a seven-pound pup with few biases is child’s play compared to training a seventy-pound dog who is already set in his ways.

By the way, the latter is difficult but not impossible but that will be covered in another section.

Here are the basic dog training commands that should be taught from training day one. Be aware, the smallest breed of dog can cause the worst kind of damage. Aggressiveness and biting must be deterred early on because they are issues that are increasingly difficult to rectify over time.

1. NO

If you are already a parent, this is likely the most used word in your vocabulary. If not, it will be in a very short period of time.

This is the first lesson in dog ownership 101. NO. Say it. NO.

Say it firmly. Say it with authority but do NOT raise your voice. Now, say it calmly. Practice it in front of the mirror.

Do you believe yourself when you say no? Does the cat? Does your significant other? If not, then be sure your dog will not either and he will walk all over your commands with muddy paws and a snarl.

When you are certain that you have a solid grasp of the word, you may try it on Rover.

If you have to chase him around screaming “NO! NO! NO!” you’re not doing it right. An authoritative command should stop him in his tracks.

In fact, if you have to repeat yourself more than twice, you need to work on your delivery. Who knew such a small word could be such a big pain?

2. SIT

This is a very basic and standard command in dog training. The best way to achieve the sit position is like this:

1. Get your pet’s attention and retrieve a treat while they watch you take it from the sacred spot.

2. Have them follow you into another room while you hold the treat in your hand. Keep it in your palm and keep your palm at your dog’s nose level so he follows the scent.

3. Stop abruptly and face him. This will catch him off guard and his instinct will be to sit automatically.

4. If he does sit at that point, say “SIT” immediately and give him a treat right away. It is important that you label the command so he understands it when you use it.

5. If he does not sit and just backs up, draw closer to him, pulling the treat up toward your face. He will want to see where it is going so he will look up also.

That action will force him to sit down as a result because his body is too stout to allow for his head to go back without being in the seated position. As his bum hits the ground, say “SIT” and reward him immediately

6.Repeat this exercise five to six times per session

3. STAY

Another very important and minimal command to know, “STAY” becomes a key in more advance training as well. But first things first.  

1. Some people prefer to have mastered having their pet sit before teaching them to “STAY” but they aren’t necessarily hand-in-hand commands. It is just as easy to teach “STAY” from a standing position as it is from a sitting.

That being said, sitting dogs tend to be more patient than ones standing and waiting for a treat. Regardless, starting your pooch in one of those stances, ensure you have a treat where they can smell it. Now say “stay.”

2. Keep your index finger up and stare your pet in the eye.

3. Say “NO” if she goes to move in any way.

4. Have them hold the position for three seconds before giving them the treat.

5. After you have practiced successfully for three seconds, move onto five seconds, then ten, and so on.

6. After you have skillfully completed ten seconds, you now need to leave the room. This is considerably more challenging a task because she will try to follow you. Simply walk her back to the original room, say “STAY” and have her stay while you are still there.

7. Then go to leave, stop at the doorway and say “STAY” (again, with the index finger, maintaining eye contact).

8. If she moves at any point, reposition her back to the same spot and try again. Leaving the room will take more time and effort than the initial “STAY” command.  

4. GO

This becomes crucial at critical moments. Your dog must be able to respond to “GO” without question or hesitation. It is a command used strictly for potentially dangerous situations for him or others.

Training for this command can’t be done half-heartedly. If there is one order he must understand without question, it is this one. How to achieve this:  

1. Arm yourself with a generous stash of treats. This may take a while.

2. Show your dog the treat and with his eyes on the treat, throw it ten feet from where you are standing.

3. As he goes for it, say “GO” while pointing in the direction of the treat. Repeat this exercise five or six times.

4. Then, make the motion that you are throwing the treat but do not. Again, say “GO” and point as he runs for the treat. When he can’t find it, he will come back, looking sheepish.

Do this again. Most dogs won’t fall for this more than three or four times. When he refuses to go for the fake throw, forsake the pretend throwing motion and simply say “GO” while pointing.

5. You may need to practice this several times before he clues into what you are asking. As soon as he does, reward him instantly and praise him well. Again, repeat this five or six times per session.  

5. COME

More than likely, this is the easiest thing you will ever teach your dog. Generally speaking, he wants to be near you. He’s like your shadow anyway so getting him to respond is not that difficult. It is even more simple if he has learned “GO” first because that is the only really difficult aspect of this command – getting him to leave you alone.  

1. Contrary to the other lessons, wait until your pooch is off distracted by something else. It works best if you have another person help you with this. Have someone throw the ball with him in the living room while you situate yourself in the kitchen.

2. In a loud voice say “COME.” Of course he will likely not respond because it is a new word and he does not know what is expected of him.

3. Reach for the treats and make a lot of noise opening the bag while again saying “COME.”

4. He will race into the kitchen like a bat out of hell. Praise him and hand him the treat. Then order him to “GO.” He may resist, which is normal, but if he has been properly trained in “GO” he will eventually skulk off. He likely won’t go very far.

5. Once he is out of view, say “COME” again and rattle the treat bag. He’ll appear in seconds.

6. Repeat this a few times even though it’s hardly necessary. You had him basically off the bat.  

6. DROP IT/LEAVE IT

She loves that stuffed bunny rabbit. She loves it so much, she has disembowelled its cotton insides. And now you’re going to test her love for you by taking it from her.

This is clearly important for moments when she is gnawing on your favorite sneakers or going after your newborn’s rattle. She needs to understand that she does not own anything – it all belongs to you.  

1. Use one of her most dear playthings.

2. Put her on a leash. A leash gives you control of the situation in case she gets a little bit too possessive.

3. Give her the toy and let her get good and riled up with it. Once she is in a frenzy, reach down, snatch it from her and say “DROP IT” or “LEAVE IT.” Depending on her personality she may either look up at you with a baleful expression or she may instinctively snap at you.

Don’t take it personally but do be on guard. It is her nature to protect what’s in her mouth. If she nips or bites at you, quickly jerk sideways on the leash to refocus her attention. Have her sit and if she obeys, reward her.

If she struggles, wait. Continue to jar the leash in short, fast motions when she does unwanted behavior (whining, attempting to jump etc.) and once she relaxes, feed her a treat.  Do NOT pull her upward, only to the side toward you. Do not hold pressure on the leash – just a series of quick, abrupt jerks.

4. Give her the toy again (once she is calm). Again, snatch it while saying “LEAVE IT” or “DROP IT.” Repeat this as many times as it takes for her not to be surprised by you removing it from her jaws. Of course, give her treat rewards every time.

5. Finally, simply say “DROP IT” or “LEAVE IT.” If she does not respond by letting the object go, physically remove it from her mouth. Repeat the first four steps again a few times and try again.  

Final Words

Keeping the commands short and sweet is also a good idea. Using too many words will upset his attention span. Repetition and consistency is what training is based upon.

If you find yourself getting impatient at any point (at any time) you need to stop the training, take a deep breath and try again at another time when you are relaxed and looking forward to it.

You will not do yourself or your dog any good while trying to continue in a frustrated state. In fact, he will be less apt to follow your direction if he senses a tense energy from you or he will accept the lessons but by associating the exercise with negativity. Either way, it will be counterproductive for everyone involved.

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