Owner training dog

Key takeaway

Teaching Fido basic dog commands can promote safety, mentally stimulate your pet, and build a stronger relationship between the two of you. Commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “come” are especially important and can be taught using a variety of training techniques rooted in positive reinforcement.

When you get a new pup, there’s a lot you have to teach them. You have to teach them to go to the bathroom in certain places. You have to teach them how to socialize with other animals. You have to teach them where their food bowls are.

And once you teach your dog these simple tasks, then comes the exciting part: teaching them commands. Teaching your dog commands is a great way to keep them disciplined and well behaved, but it’s also a way to strengthen your bond with your pup and improve your communication.

There are many dog commands that you can teach your pup, but it’s good to start small and work your way to more complicated commands. Your dog should master simple commands, like sit, stay, and come, before they can even attempt something more difficult.

So to help you get an idea of good commands to teach your dog, we’ve compiled a list of 15 basic dog commands that your pet should know. In this blog post, we’ll discuss these 15 dog commands and how you can go about teaching your dog to learn them, as well as the benefits of command and trick training. Read on to learn more about dog commands, or use one of the links to jump straight to the section that you need.

Dog performing sit command

1. Sit

The first and most basic command you should teach your dog is sit. Not only will “sit” come in handy on a daily basis, but also it’s the foundation for many other commands, like shake.

You can teach your dog to sit by holding a treat in your hand and putting it close to your dog’s nose, right above their head. You’ll want to make it clear to them that you have a treat in your hand, but it's important to not let your dog actually get the treat from your hand, or else this will confuse the learning process.

Once your dog knows you have a treat in your hand, you’ll want to slowly move the treat behind the dog’s head until they go to reach for the treat. At some point during this, your dog’s rear will probably reach the ground, and as soon as that happens, reward them with positive vocalization and the treat.

Repeat this until your dog sits as soon as the treat hovers above their nose. You’ll also want to start saying the command “sit” at this point as well, so that they begin to associate the word “sit” with the action of sitting and then receiving a treat.

Dog performing stay command

2. Stay

Another important command to teach your dog is stay. Stay is very useful in everyday life as it can help your dog behave both inside and outside the home.

To teach your dog “stay”, you’ll want to start with them in a sitting position. Once they’re sitting, slowly start to move away from them. If they follow you, say “no”, and when they stop moving, say “stay”. As soon as they listen to you and stay in place, reward them with a treat. Soon enough, they’ll begin to associate “stay” with receiving a treat and they’ll do it on command.

Dog performing come command

3. Come

Come is a very useful command to teach your dog for their safety. If your dog gets loose from your leash, it’s important that you can say “come” and they’ll return back to you.

To teach your dog “come”, start by putting your dog on a leash. Stand a little distance away from them, and say “come” while gently tugging on the leash. When they come towards you, reward them with a treat. Repeat this training a couple of times a day and your pup will be coming right to you in no time.

Dog performing down command

4. Down

Down can be difficult to teach a dog, but it’s important for dogs to know, especially for those who tend to get excited in certain situations.

To teach your dog “down”, start by holding a treat directly in front of them and wait for them to smell it. As soon as they smell it, bring the treat down to the ground and your dog will most likely follow. Once their entire stomach is on the floor, say “down”, and reward them with the treat.

This may take some trial and error, as your dog might not lay down successfully on the first attempt, but it’s important to keep trying. Your pup will get the hang of it eventually.

Dog performing leave it command

5. Leave It

It’s not unlikely to see your dog come running to you with a strange object in their mouth. And in times like that, it’s useful for them to know the command “leave it”. “Leave it” will teach your dog to leave an object where they found it, rather than dragging it with them.

To teach your dog “leave it”, start by holding one treat in front of your dog so that they can see it, and hide another treat behind your back. Keep the visible treat in your fist and repeat “leave it” until they lose interest in the treat.  Once they’ve lost interest, reward them with the hidden treat.

Owner calling drop it command

6. Drop It

Similarly to “leave it”, “drop it” can help you stop your dog from carrying strange, and potentially harmful, objects in their mouth. “Drop it” is especially useful for puppies who might be curious and pick up random objects throughout your house.

To teach your dog “drop it”, you’re going to need two identical toys. Give one toy to your dog, let them play with it for a bit, and then show them the new toy. As soon as they see the new toy, say “drop it”. Once they’ve dropped the old toy, give them the new toy to play with. If you keep practicing this, your dog will get a better understanding of what “drop it” means and you can use the command in other situations.

Owner calling off command

7. Off

Off is an important command if you don’t want your dog on your bed or furniture. It’s also useful if your dog tends to jump up on strangers.

To teach your dog “off”, start by holding a treat in a fist in front of your dog’s nose. Make sure they know that there’s a treat in your fist, and they’ll try to get it from you, but don’t let them get the treat. After a little bit, they’ll stop trying, and as soon as they do, say “off” and reward them with the treat. If you want your dog to associate “off” with getting off of furniture, you can practice this command with them around furniture.

Owner calling no command

8. No

No is a very important command for all dogs and it can help seriously keep them out of trouble. 

To teach your dog “no”, put your dog on a leash, place a treat on the floor in front of them, and start walking towards the treat. As soon as your dog starts to sniff the treat, say “no” and pull the leash towards you. If your pup successfully stops and doesn’t go on to eat the treat, reward them with a treat and repeat the exercise until they get the hang of it.

Dog heeling

9. Heel

Heel is a useful command to teach your dog in order to establish good walking habits.

To teach your dog “heel”, you’ll want to take them for a walk and tell them to sit multiple times throughout the walk. Once they sit, show your dog a treat, and then continue walking. Make sure they’re tight on the leash and the treat is above their head. Keep saying “heel” throughout the walk to teach the dog to walk beside you. Whenever they follow, reward them with a treat.

Dog following go potty command

10. Go Potty

“Go potty” is arguably one of the most important useful dog training commands that will be used on a daily basis. “Go potty” is basically how you’ll potty train your dog and get them to start going to the bathroom at specific times and in specific places.

To teach your dog to “go potty”, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them to monitor when they need to go to the bathroom. When they need to go outside, say “go potty” and open the door to let them know they can leave and do their business. Once they’re finished, reward them with a treat for a job well done. Potty training your dog isn’t easy, and it will likely take a couple of months before you have it down pat.

Dog following bed command

11. Bed

Teaching your dog “bed” is crucial so that they understand when and where they need to go to sleep, especially if you have a dog bed or specific place you want them to sleep in.

To teach your dog “bed”, start by putting your dog on a leash and leading them to their bed. Once they see the bed, put a treat on the bed and say the word “bed”. You can then allow them to get into the bed and reward them with a treat.

Owner calling quiet command

12. Quiet

If your dog is more on the talkative side, “quiet” will come in handy more than once.

To teach your dog “quiet”, you’ll need to loudly and clearly say the command when they’re barking, so that it’s louder than their bark. You may have to repeat yourself several times, but once they stop barking, reward them with a treat. Repeat this exercise as many times as necessary.

Check out our blog post on how to train your dog to stop barking for more tips related to excess vocalization.

Dog following speak command

13. Speak

Speak can be a useful command in the case that you can’t find your dog and need them to bark to locate them.

To teach your dog “speak”, you’ll want to closely watch your dog and try to say “speak” every time you think they’re about to bark. You want to try to say it right before they bark so that they can associate “speak” with barking. If they successfully bark after “speak”, reward them with a treat.

Dog following watch me command

14. Watch Me

Watch me can be a handy command for your dog to know, especially in situations where you're around a lot of people and they might get overwhelmed.

To teach your dog “watch me”, start by holding a treat near your dog’s nose. Then, slowly bring the treat towards your face while repeating “watch me”. Stop when the treat reaches your nose, and if your dog is successfully watching you, reward them with the treat.

Dog and owner shaking hands

15. Shake

While “shake” might not be all that useful, it’s definitely an impressive trick to show off to friends and family. Plus, engaging in training sessions is a great way to mentally stimulate your pup, not to mention build an even stronger bond with them.

To teach your dog “shake”, start by having them sit. Hold a treat out in front of them until they see it, and then close your fist. After your dog knows that there's a treat in your fist, they’ll try to paw at your hand. If your dog successfully paws at your hand, say “paw” and reward them with a treat.

Benefits Of Command And Trick Training

There are many benefits of command and trick training, beyond just teaching your dog to be obedient and well behaved. Some of the many benefits include1:

  • Facilitates bonding between dog and owner
  • Provides opportunity for enrichment
  • Some tricks promote concentration and balance
  • Certain commands, like sit and stay, promote safety
  • Increases flexibility
  • Improves your dog’s confidence in him/herself and you
  • Provides mental stimulation
  • Results in better health for your dog2

Dog jumping to catch frisbee

Final Notes

When you get a new dog, one of the first things you should do is teach them some basic dog commands. Basic dog commands are a great way to strengthen your bond with your dog, while simultaneously training your dog to behave well both at home and in public. If your dog suffers from any type of behavioral or health problem that may interfere with their ability to learn commands, you should contact a vet so you can get to the bottom of it.

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