Commands Every Dog Should Know

Commands Every Dog Should Know

June 17, 2018


While most people couldn’t imagine a life without their furry family member, we often wish that our dogs would listen when spoken to. Obedience training is one of the most important aspects of raising a dog. In fact, a well-trained dog is by far a happier dog! Why? Because a trained dog requires fewer restrictions, giving them more freedom and trust with their humans. Training our dogs to act on command means more than showing off at the local dog park. It strengthens your bond and develops communication skills that that most could only dream off.

Training basic commands significantly reduces unwanted behavior and allows you to stop any that may arise. It gives your pet a “job”, making them feel important while providing stimulation for their brain.  Some feel as if their beloved dog is too old for new tricks or too stubborn to learn.  If we do not take the time to train our dogs and educate ourselves we will both be frustrated and not nearly as happy as we could be. Here are the basic commands every dog should know in order to live happily among us.

Command: Sit

Starting off the easiest, sit is by far the most important command because it will be the building block to training all the others. Sit is a valuable asset to any owner because it forces the dog to focus on you and puts you in control. Whether you are in an elevator, greeting a guest, crossing the street or putting down a full food bowl, having the dog sit relaxes both your dog and everyone around you.

One of the best ways to implement this command in your daily routine and establishing yourself as a leader is meal time.  Having the dog sit and wait for permission to eat, means they have to follow two commands. This not only builds discipline but shows the dog that you’re in control of the food source.

Teaching Your Dog To: Sit

  • Step 1:Grab a delicious treat and grasp your dog’s attention. Keep the treat very close to the dog’s nose, and then slowly raise it over the top of his head. He’ll follow the treat with his eyes and nose, looking upward and in the process placing his bottom on the ground.
  • Step 2:When the dog’s bottom hits the floor, say the word “sit” and reward with the treat. Try to keep quiet until the dog physically sits. Humans tend to say stuff like “No, sit…”, this just confuses your dog. Try to keep quiet and manipulate the treat until they actually sit before saying the word. 
  • Step 3: Repeat this process for about 5-10 minutes and begin to only say the command without moving the treat behind their head. Say the command, wait for him to sit, reward and praise immediately. 
  • Step 4:As your furry student gets better, start eliminating the treat out of the picture. Place the treat behind your back and have them sit before rewarding. With each training session you can start rewarding every other sit until they master it. 

Command: Drop It

If you value anything around your home, “drop it” is the command that will save your fancy new shoes from getting annihilated. Teaching this command will not only save you money in the long run but prevent your pup from chewing on something that can potentially harm them such as batteries or an oily rag. We’ve all seen the dog that bites on their leash and plays tug of war with their complaining owner. Knowing this command can save your pets life and save you from embarrassing yourself. The idea behind this training method is to basically offer your dog a trade; let go of the object in your mouth and something good will happen.

Teaching Your Dog To: Drop It

  • Step 1:Give your dog a toy to play with, or anything that they might hold in their mouth. Either way, the toy or chew should be one your dog likes but isn’t completely crazy over. The key is to make sure that their attention shifts when we introduce the next step.
  • Step 2:While the object is still in their mouth, hold that irresistible treat by their nose and wait for the drop. The second they drop the object say “drop it”. Repeat these two steps several times until you feel your dog is responding well.
  • Step 3: Start increasing the distance between the treat and your dog. Then, try the command without the treat, praising your dog if he complies.


Command: Stay

Training this command will test both your patience and creativity. “Stay”, is by far one of the most difficult commands to train but can prove to be quite useful in daily applications. At times your dog will spot something in the distance that they would like to eat or begin to run off into the woods. Stay allows you to stop the dog from running into the house with their muddy paws, or jumping out of the car when opening the door in a busy parking lot. It allows you to walk through doorways first, further establishing yourself as the boss. The biggest mistake people make when teaching stay is rewarding at the wrong time, teaching the dog to break that position rather than hold it. For example, if you ask your dog to “stay” walk away and call him to you, you’re actually teaching him to break the position you just asked him to hold. Teaching this command can be lifesaving.

Teaching Your Dog To: Stay

  • Step 1:Have to the dog sit and kneel in front of him. Stick your hand a few inches from his face like your about to give him a high five while simultaneously saying the word stay. Wait two seconds and reward with treats and praises. Work your way up to about 30 seconds doing this method.
  • Step 2:Apply step 1 by having the dog sit and sticking your hand out saying the command, but this time stand up for two seconds and reward. Try adding a step back and reward if he stays for about 3 seconds.
  • Step 3:Begin to add distance after saying the word stay and ensure you are establishing eye contact. Reward as you make it to your desired distance. Later, you can hold that position for a few seconds and reward. Be sure to mix up your distances and say the word “yes” when you’re about to reward. Yes, is a great release word.
  • Reminder:This is one of the most time consuming commands to teach. This may take you weeks to master and for some building distance may be just a few inches at a time.

Command: Off

Your friend invites you and the dog to visit their home. The minute you arrive to the premises, your dog begins to jump on every couch/bed in sight.  Filled with embarrassment, you command the dog to get off the couch but all you get is a smirk.  One of the biggest mistakes people make when teaching this command is confusing the commands “off” with “down”. In the heat of the moment we can blur out the wrong words and now your dog is lying down comfortably because the owner said its okay. Furthermore, we worsen the situation by yelling at the comfortable dog, confusing him and everything that he has learned in the past. “Off” allows you to cut access to one part of the home. For example Sasha, my German Shepherd, is allows on the bed but never on the couch. 

Teaching Your Dog: Off

  • Step 1:This is when you go undercover and wait for her to him on the couch/bed.  Rather than planning training sessions, you need to wait until your dog is behaving inappropriately to train her the “off” command.
  • Step 2:Grab a treat in another room and go to your dog with it behind your back. 
  • Step 3:Show her the treat and say the word “off”. If she gets off the bed reward the behavior and praise. You can shake the treat and call her name to get her attention, but make sure she physically gets off before rewarding. 
  • Consistency:In order for this to work, you must be consistent in your training. I you allow her to get away with not following this order, she might get the idea that sometimes it’s worth taking a rick. If you want the dog off the couch, NEVER allow them on the couch. If you want to only have her get off at certain times then practice regularly. 

Command: Down

If you’re planning to turn your pooch into a service dog, mastering “down” is extremely important. People nowadays love to point fingers at dogs that can’t seem to stay still inside the local cafe or inside the airport. Down is a powerful relaxing toll to keep your dog calm down in certain situations. If you can teach him to lie or sit down at a distance, you can keep your pet safe if they run off across a busy street. It’s a fantastic tool to keep non-dog people calm in a busy location. Teaching this command is a little harder than sit, but can also be sued as a foundation for all other commands.

Teaching Your Dog : Down

  • Step 1:Have the dog sit with a delicious treat in your hand. Like with the sit command, you want to put the treat by the dogs nose but make them follow it to the floor.  As your dog begins to go down, reward.
    Step 2: Your dog should fully go down so reward the behavior as soon as they hit the ground.
  • Step 3:Remove the treat motion out of the equation and reward the dog when he sits after saying the command. Add duration to the amount of time you have the dog down.

Command: Come

With years of dog park experience, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen dogs run to the gate as an alpha approaches with clean signs of aggression. You’ll hear every owner in the park shout their pets name, begging for them to come away from the gate with no answer. Teaching the “come” command is not only a great obedience exercise but a safety protocol. Dogs love to run off after something and if you can’t get them to come back, he or she might end up as road kill. It allows you to walk your dog off leash with confidence knowing that you can avoid any potential dangers ahead or even losing your pet. Remember to use an extremely good motivator when rewarding during this training. 

Teaching Your Dog To: Come

  • Step 1:There are two ways you can initiate this training. One is solo and the other is with a friend using the ping-pong method. Basically, you want to call your dog’s name in an extremely enthusiastic voice while saying “come” and reward heavily. When using a partner, you would both take turns doing this thus like playing ping pong with the dog. 
  • Step 2:Take some steps back as your dog comes towards you as you say “come”. Keep rewarding your dog like crazy. If he does not listen, try to lure him with treats while walking back rewarding him along the way. You can also have him chase you by running away saying “come” and reward when they get to you. You can also use the game of fetch as your weapon. As the dog runs back with the stick or ball, say the word “come” and reward. Remember to be super enthusiastic. 
  • Step 3:Introduce minor distraction like dropping a ball next to them. Get their attention immediately while saying come as you run back and reward heavily. 
  • Reminder:This takes a long time to master so consistency is vital. Don’t remove treats out of the equation until you get them to come even with the biggest distractions. Always reward rather with treats or high pitched voices and praises. Watch the video below to get a better idea of how to train “come”.


Command: Leave It

Leave it, is one of the most essential tools in your command arsenal that will save you countless trips to the vet. Sasha, my German Shepherd, has eaten old bones, dead birds, food, and countless other items that caused her to get critically ill. Not only was this incredibly annoying but quite expensive. You may drop a harmful chemical in the garage or spill bleach while cleaning the house, without proper training the dog has already drank some.

Teaching Your Dog To: Leave It

  • Step 1:Put a treat on the floor and hover your foot nearby. Immediately ask your dog to “leave it.” If they go for it, put your foot over the treat before they get to it. If he leaves it, reward with a treat from your hand. Repeat. In the dog world, once you put your foot over something, you have claimed it. It’s important to have two types of treats for this exercise, one that she can’t live without and another that is a lot less appealing. Reward with the treat she wants to eat the most.
  • Step 2:After mastering step 1, drop one of the less appealing treats on the floor and say “leave it” while getting ready to step on it. As your dog gets better, begin to throw the treat further away from you. Begin to use other items like their favorite toy.
  • Step 3:Make a small trail of toys and less appealing treats. Strap your dog to the leash and walk with her next to each item saying “leave it”. Reward after passing each item successfully and begin to walk the other way if they try to go for it and say “no”.
  • Step 4:Increase the difficulty by using more appealing items to leave. Begin to repeat each step but now without any treats to reward with. Always praise and use high pitched voices when something is done correctly.


When adopting a new puppy or an older dog, owners should invest heavily into teaching these critical commands in order to have a obedient and friendly companion. Non-dog people respect the ones that follow orders. It provides mental stimulation which helps to keep your dog happy, and if combined with morning exercise your dog will be mentally and physically tired at the end and far more likely to sleep during the day. Trained dogs spare their owners countless headaches and in return, they get to roam around freely without being confined to a crate or strapped to a leash during hikes. Keep in mind that training should be consistent and while they may not be able to roll over or fetch you a beer, they will respect you more and live in harmony with society. Stay tuned for our next blog where we go over how you can implement these training techniques in your day to day life no matter how busy your schedule. 


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