Back to Basics: Simple Dog Training Commands to Start With

Dog training is an essential aspect of responsible pet ownership.​ Not only does it ensure that your furry friend behaves well in various situations, but it also strengthens the bond between you and your beloved companion.​ If you’re a new dog owner or looking to refresh your dog’s training, starting with basic commands is the way to go.​ These simple commands lay the foundation for more advanced training and help establish a harmonious relationship with your dog.​

Sit: One of the easiest and most useful commands you can teach your dog is “sit.​” It’s a valuable command that can be used in various situations, such as before crossing the road or when meeting new people.​ Start with a treat in your hand, hold it above your dog’s nose, and slowly move it back over their head.​ As their head follows the treat, their bottom should naturally lower into a sitting position.​ Once they are seated, praise them and offer the treat.​ Repeat this process regularly until your dog masters the command.​

Stay: The “stay” command is vital for your dog’s safety, as it teaches them to remain in one spot until released.​ Start by commanding your dog to sit, then with an open palm, extend your hand in front of their face, while saying “stay.​” Take a step back and wait for a few seconds before returning to your dog.​ If they stay in their position, reward them with a treat.​ Gradually increase the duration before returning to your dog so they can understand that “stay” means they should remain until you give them the signal to move.​

Come: The “come” command is crucial for recall and keeping your dog safe in potentially dangerous situations.​ Begin by backing away from your dog and calling them in a cheerful tone while waving your hand.​ As your dog approaches, reward them with praise or treats.​ Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog to reinforce their ability to respond to the command at any distance.​ Practice in different environments to ensure they come when called regardless of distractions.​

Down: The “down” command is a useful tool for keeping your dog calm and in control.​ Begin by commanding your dog to sit, then hold a treat in your hand and lower it to the ground between their front paws.​ As your dog follows the treat, their body will naturally lower into a lying position.​ Once they lie down, reward them with the treat and positive reinforcement.​ Repeat this process until your dog responds to the command reliably.​

Leave it: Teaching your dog to “leave it” is essential for their safety, preventing them from picking up harmful objects or food.​ Hold a treat in your closed fist, show it to your dog, and say “leave it.​” If your dog tries to snatch the treat, close your hand and wait until they lose interest.​ Once they do, reward them with another treat from your other hand.​ Gradually increase the difficulty by using objects or food with stronger appeal.​

Drop it: The “drop it” command is crucial for retrieving games and preventing your dog from holding onto inappropriate objects.​ Start by playing with a toy that your dog loves and allowing them to grab it.​ Show them a treat, and as they release the toy, say “drop it” and reward them with the treat.​ Practice this command during playtime to reinforce the behavior and ensure your dog understands the cue.​

Heel: The “heel” command is beneficial for walks and outings, as it keeps your dog close by your side.​ Begin by holding a treat in your hand and placing it next to your leg.​ As you walk, encourage your dog to stay close to your side while saying “heel” in a firm yet cheerful tone.​ Reward your dog with treats and positive reinforcement when they maintain the correct position.​ Practice this command regularly to instill good walking habits in your dog.​

Building on Basic Commands: Intermediate Training

Now that your dog has grasped the basic commands, it’s time to move on to intermediate training.​ These commands will further improve your dog’s behavior and responsiveness, allowing them to thrive in various situations.​

Wait: The “wait” command is an extension of the “stay” command.​ It teaches your dog to wait until a specific cue is given before they can proceed.​ This command is useful in situations such as waiting for their food bowl to be placed on the ground or waiting before exiting the car.​ Command your dog to sit or stay, then use the “wait” cue while opening the door or preparing their food.​ Reinforce the behavior with rewards and gradually increase the duration of the wait.​

Drop: The “drop” command is similar to “drop it,” but it focuses on releasing objects from their mouth rather than preventing them from picking up objects.​

Basic dog training commands for beginners
Use a favorite toy or a safe item that your dog enjoys holding.​ Say “drop” and offer a treat or praise when they release the object.​ Practicing this command will help you keep control over situations where your dog has picked up something they shouldn’t have.​

Back: Teaching your dog the “back” command is particularly useful in crowded or tight spaces.​ It allows you to create distance between your dog and a potentially hazardous situation.​ Start by using a treat as a lure and guide your dog backward while saying “back.​” Reward them with treats and praise when they successfully move away from the situation.​ With consistent practice, your dog will learn to respond to the “back” command promptly.​

Speak/Quiet: Teaching your dog to “speak” and “be quiet” on command can be handy in controlling excessive barking.​ To teach them to “speak,” wait for a moment when your dog naturally barks, then say “speak” and reward them.​ To teach them to be “quiet,” wait for a lull in their barking, then say “quiet” and reward them.​ Consistently practicing both commands will give you better control over your dog’s vocalization.​

Fetch: The “fetch” command is a favorite for both dogs and their owners.​ It engages your dog physically and mentally, providing much-needed exercise and stimulation.​ To teach your dog to fetch, start by tossing a toy a short distance away.​ Encourage them to retrieve it by using the “fetch” command and reward them with praise and treats when they bring it back.​ Gradually increase the distance and incorporate different objects to keep the game interesting.​

Advanced Training: Perfecting Your Dog’s Skills

As you and your dog progress, advanced training commands will enhance their capabilities and solidify their training.​ These commands require more focus and practice, but they are well worth the effort as they take your dog’s obedience to the next level.​

Spin/Twirl: Teaching your dog to spin or twirl on command is a delightful trick that also improves their coordination and body awareness.​ Hold a treat in your hand and guide your dog in a circular motion while saying “spin” or “twirl.​” Reward them with the treat and praise when they complete the action.​ Practice this command regularly to reinforce the behavior and spice up your training sessions.​

Stand: The “stand” command is useful for grooming and veterinary examinations.​ Start with your dog in a sitting or lying position, then hold a treat in front of their nose and move it slowly forward.​ As your dog follows the treat, their body will naturally shift into a standing position.​ Once they are standing, reward them with the treat and positive reinforcement.​ Repeat the command regularly to maintain their understanding and compliance.​

Rollover: Teaching your dog to roll over is a fun trick that engages their body and mind.​ Begin with your dog in a lying position and hold a treat close to their nose.​ Slowly move the treat in a circular motion towards their shoulder, causing your dog to follow the treat with their body.​ As they roll onto their side and back, say “roll over” and reward them with the treat.​ Gradually reduce the hand movement until your dog can complete the roll over command with just verbal cues.​

Jump: The “jump” command is useful for various activities such as agility training or simply getting your dog over an obstacle.​ Begin by using a low object, such as a small hurdle or a low step.​ Show your dog a treat and lift it just above the object, encouraging them to jump.​ When they successfully jump over, reward them with the treat and positive reinforcement.​ Gradually increase the height of the obstacle as your dog becomes more confident and skilled.​

Balance: Teaching your dog to balance on objects, such as a balance beam or a plank, promotes body awareness and coordination.​ Start with a low, steady surface and use a treat to guide your dog onto the object.​ Reward them with treats and praise as they maintain their balance.​ Practice on various objects to improve their confidence and adaptability to different environments.​

Excelling in Specialized Training

Once your dog has mastered advanced commands, you can explore specialized training that aligns with their unique abilities or your personal interests.​ This can include training for specific tasks such as search and rescue, therapy work, or even dog sports like agility or obedience competitions.​

Remember, training is an ongoing process.​ Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are key to a successful training journey.​ Always tailor your training approach to your dog’s individual needs and temperament.​ With dedication and love, you’ll create a well-behaved and well-rounded companion that brings joy to your life and those around you.​

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