6 Basic Dog Training Commands Every Owner Must Know

Trained dogs get along better with their owners. Read on for a list of basic commands all family dogs should know!

Basic dog training is essential for every owner who is serious about owning a dog. Without training, a dog is not likely to last in the family for a long time.

Basic dog training can be understood as an orientation or introduction for the dog into the family. By giving them basic training, owners also establish the house rules that the dogs have to follow as they live in their family.

Before I owned a dog, I associated dog training with tricks only. I thought commands like ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘stay’ are tricks taught by dog owners to show them off. I only realized the importance of such commands when we brought our first dog home, and we found out that she was running all around the place, messing everything up.

In the following paragraphs, I will expand on:

  • The necessary pre-training preparations
  • The 6 basic dog training commands that you should teach your dog
  • Frequently asked questions by first-time dog owners and trainers

Pre-Training Preparations

To ensure that you maximize the efficiency of each training session, you should do some preparations before starting them. I recommend looking into the environment, the required equipment, rewards, and the details of the command you intend to teach.

Environment

Ideally, the surroundings should be free from distractions and disruptions when you are training these basic commands. Dogs that are learning these commands usually have no prior training. It is harder for them to maintain concentration and awareness on the training session if they notice anything more engaging than the training sessions at hand.

A way to ensure such an environment is to conduct the training session in an enclosed room. If you share the house with other members, request that they refrain from entering the room during the session.

Training Equipment

Some command and trick training require mandatory training equipment such as a leash and a collar/harness. Before you embark on these training sessions, ensure that you check that the equipment is in good condition.

For the commands listed in the guide, no training equipment is required. However, having a leash and a collar/harness will be beneficial.

Rewards

It would be best to have in mind what you intend to give as a reward when the dog achieves the goal and has it prepared beforehand.

Listed are some of the possible rewards:

  • Verbal praises such as “Good boy/girl!”
  • Physical affection such as pets, strokes, and hugs
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Clicker (if using clicker training)

Verbal praises and physical affection will require little preparation.

For treats, prepare them in portions that you intend to feed your dog for each reward session, such as cutting long treats into shorter chunks. Placing the prepared treats in a small container or treat bag that allows you to retrieve them easily will ensure a smoother training session.

Check out the fruits that can be healthy treats for your dog.

As for toys, I recommend using a toy that the dog likes but is not in the toy box that he/she can retrieve at will. The toy should be specially reserved for training so that your dog will view it as a reward and not just any other toy. However, to select such a toy, you will need to have a good understanding of your dog’s likes and dislikes.

Clickers are usually used together with treats. Get a clicker that you can hang around your neck so that you can easily reach and click it when your dog achieves the goal.

Details of The Training Command

Training your dog to react to a command requires you to have a clear idea of what you want and how you will train your dog to learn.

As such, I recommend that you decide on the following details before starting the training session:

  • The word(s) that you intend to associate with the command. The shorter, the better, and try to keep it within 2-3 words maximum.
  • The gesture (if any) that you intend to associate with the command. It should be something simple.
  • The goal you want to achieve.
  • The steps you will use to reach the desired goal.

I will give suggested word and gesture cues for each command, but it does not necessarily need to be those. Do feel free to change the word/gesture to suit your liking.

#0. Recognizing Own’s Name

Most people will not notice this, but name recognition for dogs (and any other animal) does not come intuitively for them. Dogs have to learn that a particular word is associated with them, which is a form of training.

I put this as #0 and not #1 because this is the absolute first word that any owner will have to teach their dog. Other commands can be learned in any order that the owner feels comfortable. However, if the dog cannot even recognize his/her name, it will be hard for you to request attention from your dog and expect him/her to respond to your other commands.

From past experiences, I recommend all owners to start training this command from the very moment that you acquire the dog. A dog who knows his/her name will be a lot easier to handle than one who doesn’t know.

Goal: When you call the dog’s name (e.g. ‘Cookie’), he/she will look at you.

Steps:

  1. Ensure that your dog is close to you. (You should be able to reward him/her immediately without any movement from the both of you.)
  2. Call your dog’s name out loud. If your dog doesn’t look at you, pause for about 3-5 seconds before calling again.
  3. Reward when the dog looks at you.
  4. Wait until your dog diverts his attention elsewhere, and repeat steps 2-3.

#1. Sit

The ‘sit’ command is one of the easiest for the owner to teach and for the dog to learn. It is also considered a prerequisite for other commands such as ‘stay’ and ‘down’. Dogs in a sitting position are also easier to control than those in a standing position, ready to run in a heartbeat’s time.

For this command, using a food treat is highly recommended.

Goal: When you say ‘sit’, your dog will go into the sitting position.

Steps:

  1. Put a treat near your dog’s nose and ensure that he is sniffing at it.
  2. Slowly move the treat upwards and in the direction of your dog’s back.
  3. Reward when the dog assumes the sitting position.
  4. Tempt your dog to stand up with a treat, and repeat steps 2-3.

#2. No

As owners, we all have things that we do not want our dogs to do. Therefore, this command is relatively high on the priority list, even though it may not necessarily be the easiest to teach.

Some owners may want to use other word cues such as ‘leave it’ and perhaps have additional commands such as ‘give me’. They can be beneficial and make lives easier for the owner but can be harder to train, so it is a personal preference. For me, a ‘no’ is enough for most situations.

Goal: When you say ‘no’, your dog will stop whatever action he/she was previously doing.

Suggested gesture cue: Shake your head as you say ‘no’.

Steps (with leash and collar/harness):

  1. Let your dog sniff a treat, and place it on the floor a few steps away from him/her.
  2. When your dog walks towards the treat, pull the leash firmly and say ‘no’.
  3. Reward your dog *with a treat from your hand* when he/she stops pulling in the direction of the treat.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3, changing the position of the treat between each attempt.

Steps (without leash and collar/harness):

  1. Let your dog sniff a treat, and place it on the floor a few steps away from him/her.
  2. When your dog walks towards the treat, put your hand firmly on the dog’s chest below the head and say ‘no’.
  3. Reward your dog *with a treat from your hand* when he/she stops pushing against your hand that is on his/her chest.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3, changing the position of the treat between each attempt.

It would be best if you reward your dog with a treat from your hand in step 3. If you allow your dog to eat the treat on the floor as a reward, you send mixed messages to your dog. Your dog may even learn a wrong meaning – ‘no’ means wait for the ‘ok’ signal to continue doing what was previously interrupted.

#3. Stay

Asking your dog to stay in a position can be a difficult task, but it is an important command to teach at an early age for the safety of both your dog and others. It is also easier for you to teach your dog the following command ‘come’ if you have already taught him/her to stay at a spot.

Another possible word cue to use is ‘wait’. Although there is a slight difference between the two commands, having one is enough for your dog to keep himself/herself in check.

To train this command, I will be using both the ‘sit’ and ‘no’ command, so I suggest teaching your dog those two before introducing him/her to ‘stay’.

Goal: When you say ‘stay’, your dog will stay in his position until you give a release cue, ‘ok’.

Suggested gesture cue: Have your palm facing outwards and fingers straight as you say ‘stay’.

Steps:

  1. Ask your dog to sit at a spot.
  2. Say ‘stay’, and slowly back away from your dog 1-2 seconds after giving the command.
  3. If your dog comes towards you, say ‘no’, and repeat the command ‘stay’.
  4. After backing away for about 5-7 steps (at random), say ‘ok’ and reward your dog.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for each attempt.

You can change from backing away to turning and walking away with your back facing your dog after a few successful attempts. This is to stimulate an actual scenario whereby you may not necessarily have the opportunity to keep an eye on your dog, but you still need him/her to stay in position.

#4. Come

Training the dog to come at command is not as simple and straightforward most will think. However, it can be a life-saver at times, especially when your dog is exploring dangerous areas.

While some owners may train this command together with the command ‘stay’, I hesitate to do so as I prefer to concentrate on learning one command per session. I will also be using the ‘stay’ command to train ‘come’, so I suggest teaching your dog teaching that to your dog first.

I highly recommend owners teach their dogs both the ‘stay’ and ‘come’ command before bringing them out for walks for their safety.

Goal: When you say ‘come’, your dog will come from wherever he/she is to you.

Suggested gesture cue: Have your palm facing upwards/downwards and bend your fingers twice as you say ‘come’.

Steps (with leash and collar/harness):

  1. Ask your dog to stay at a spot, preferably in a sitting position.
  2. Move away to a spot about 10 steps away from your dog.
  3. Say ‘come’ and tug gently on the leash.
  4. Reward your dog when he/she comes to you.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4, changing the place you are at between each attempt.

Steps (without leash and collar/harness):

  1. Ask your dog to stay at a spot, preferably in a sitting position.
  2. Move away to a spot about 10 steps away from your dog.
  3. Say ‘come’ and wave the treat bag/toy.
  4. Reward your dog when he/she comes to you.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4, changing the place you are at between each attempt.

#5. Off

This command will come in handy when you want to get your dog off areas that he/she should not be on, such as the sofa or your bed. Some owners will also use the same command for dogs to get their paws off something or someone.

The best time to teach this command is not in a training session but when the behavior has already happened.

Goal: When you say ‘off’, your dog will jump off the platform he/she was previously on.

Steps:

  1. When you spot your dog on areas that he/she should not be on, go over to him/her, point at the floor with your finger, and say ‘off’ in a firm voice.
  2. Use a treat to lure your dog off where he is, and the moment he jumps off, repeat ‘off’.
  3. Reward your dog when he is on the floor.

If you want to train this command, it is best to bring a small treat bag around to use as a reward whenever you spot this behavior.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Dog training may seem simple enough, but there are many details that one should take note of.

Listed below are some of the common questions asked by owners who have just started training their dogs.

How do I know if my dog has learned the command?

When your dog responds to your command correctly about 8 out of 10 times, you can be pretty sure that your dog has learned the command.

However, do note that learning the command may not necessarily always mean that your dog will obey your commands at all times. Under extreme situations, such as when your dog is agitated by something or someone, he/she may not obey the ‘stay’ or ‘come’ command from you.

How long should each training session be?

There is no ideal length for training sessions as it depends on the command taught. However, do keep in mind that although longer sessions do not necessarily mean better results, sessions too short might have little to no results.

The commands in this post are relatively easy to teach, so about 15 to 30 minutes is sufficient. For more complicated commands that are not in this post, longer training sessions may be required.

How many commands should I train in a session?

The answer depends on your familiarity with your dog and what is being trained.

If your dog is new to you and the environment, and you are training one of the commands above, I recommend keeping it to 1 or 2 commands per session. A dog that is not used to training may have a shorter attention span and requires more energy from you per training session.

However, if your dog has been with you for a couple of years and you have trained him before, then you can try to teach multiple commands in each training session.

What should I do if my dog bites me?

This is a genuine question that new owners face. When new owners use treats to lure their dogs to do an action, they may face the situation whereby the dog nips and bites the owner’s fingers to get the treat.

When you face this situation, you should retract your hand immediately and tell your dog ‘no’ in a stern voice. Ignore your dog for about 1 to 2 minutes. Then, resume the training as though the incident did not happen. If your dog continues to bite you a few more times, repeat the process.

Ignoring your dog removes any attention given to your dog in response to the biting behavior instead of giving negative attention (which is still attention) when you scold or punish him/her.

If this behavior persists for quite some time, you may want to consider bringing the dog to a dog therapist as professional help may be needed.

Commencing the Basic Dog Training Process

Remember that you have to do the pre-training preparations before any training sessions to ensure a smoother training process. Pick a suitable environment, prepare training equipment and rewards, and familiarize yourself with the commands you intend to train your dog with.

Before training your dog any commands, ensure that your dog recognizes his/her name. Name recognition will significantly reduce the difficulty of future training sessions. Start with the more straightforward commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘no’ before proceeding onwards to more complicated commands.

If you have any other queries regarding dog training, contact us here and we will get back to you!

Lim Jia Le
Lim Jia Le
An owner who has owned 4 dogs for over 15 years, she had encountered many different situations and issues regarding dog ownership. She hopes to help other fellow dog owners out there with the experience she has gathered over the years.
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