8 Important Commands to Teach Your Dog
You cannot expect your pet to natually understand your language; this is something that is taught over time with the use of repetitive wording. By teaching your dog certain commands, they will become more obedient and structured. For best results and faster learning, it’s always best to start teaching right from those puppy days. The younger they are, the easier they are to teach. Puppies will retain the information a lot quicker as it becomes ingrained in their learning habits.
Maintaining clear communication with your pet may be challenging at times, but not impossible. The key to teaching your dog is patience. Know that they won’t learn their commands overnight. You will need to show them the commands over and over until it becomes a natural response to them. Often, the use of treats and toys help the teaching process. We know dogs will do anything for a treat, so use them to your advantage, just don’t overuse them or they won’t do anything unless a reward is given.
Listed below are eight important commands to teach your dog:
Although not a ‘command’ per say, your pet’s name is the most important thing they should know and react to; it is also the easiest to teach them. Knowing their name can also come in handy if they happen to escape your care or get lost.
- This is taught by calling out your dog’s name in an upbeat, happy voice. The more you repeat their name when speaking to them, the sooner they will be aware that it’s about them. When your dog responds to their name and reacts to it, you can give them a treat as a reward, if you choose to teach with this method. Once they get used to responding to their name, you can stop the rewards as it’s now just common knowledge to them.
Teaching your dog to sit is important for many reasons, obedience being number one. Sitting for their meals, when guests come over, when encountering another dog/human on a walk, or even if they are acting wild, will help teach them to be calm in times of excitement or stress, it will also teach them manors. It’s the most common command that dog owners teach their dog.
- The best way to teach your dog to sit is to use a treat reward. By placing the treat in your hand, closed grip, you allow your dog to sniff it but not eat it. Slowly raise your hand up and over your dog’s head, this will naturally prompt them to sit. If your dog refuses to sit, and instead just follows your hand movement, gently place your hand or finger (depending on the size of your dog) on their backside and lightly press down, implying they sit. Reward them, so they know they did exactly what you wanted. Repetition is key. You want to keep repeating this command until they do it without your help or a treat.
The word ‘stay’ can be used in a situation requiring safety or disciplinary measures. It could be utilized as your dog is about to cross the street and you want them to ‘stay’ before crossing. It could also be used if something they shouldn’t eat or something hazardous fell on the floor, if the doorbell rings and you don’t want them running, or even if they did something wrong and you need to give them a moment to think about what they did. ‘Stay’ can be quite the cautionary word.
- When teaching your dog to stay, use your hand as if it is a stop sign. Place your hand upwards in a stopping position and tell your dog to stay. Sit and stay, if your dog already knows that command. As your dog ‘stay’s, walk backward and see if he moves. If yes, continue to say and indicate ‘stay.’ If your dog stays for you, reward them with praise or a treat. Remember to use a ‘go’ word when you no longer want them to stay.
4. Down / Lay Down
According to many dog owners, ‘down’ can be quite a daunting command to teach, especially if your dog is easily excited. It can be taught two different ways: ‘lay down’ and ‘down.’
Lay down teaches your dog to relax and lay on the ground, limiting their ability to jump or run, but also sets up certain tricks you could teach your dog, such as roll over. Down is used to reference getting off should your dog be jumping or standing somewhere they shouldn’t be.
Lay down comes in handy when you’re on a walk and someone or another dog is reaching near; it teaches them to relax and be calm. If your dog greets you or others by jumping and getting excited, down will show them that they need to behave and get off.
- To teach ‘down’ you simply use the word repetitively when they are jumping or are on an object you do not approve of. If they aren’t grasping the concept, gently remove them from the object, or lightly push them off of you while using the word.
- To teach “lay down,” use your finger and touch the ground insinuating that they should be low down. If using a treat, hold it in your hand as you point to the ground using the appropriate wording. If your dog doesn’t understand, very gently touch your dog’s front paws and slowly move them outward until they slide into a down position. Reward them with a treat and positive reinforcement.
‘Come’ is a term your dog will grow to understand based on the tone of your voice. It can signify that you are excited and want your dog to be near, or it can suggest that your dog did something wrong and is in trouble. So when you are teaching this command, be sure you are paying attention to how you are verbalizing the term. The command is also necessary to know in case your dog ever gets loose. Calling out “come here” could prevent your dog from running further away or leaving the area. It can be taught two ways.
- The first is by having distance between you and your pal. With a treat or a toy get your dog’s attention and speak the words ‘come’ or ‘come here.’ If your dog isn’t naturally inclined to ‘come,’ use the treat/toy to gather their attention. And as your dog reaches you, reward them with positive reinforcement.
- The second is by using a leash. Give it a bit of slack and with it in your hand go down to your dogs level. Then speak the words “come,” while pulling at the leash very gently. Once your dogs gets to you, use positive reinforcement or a treat to praise a job well done. After the command is mastered with a leash, try removing it and practicing it in a safe place without.
This command is good for keeping your dog out of trouble or bringing him back should he escape from you.
6. No / Leave It
This command is important to know, especially in a potentially hazardous situation. Dogs are naturally attracted to anything lying on the ground, whether it’s food, clothing, shoes, toys, etc… Knowing this command can prevent your pal from picking up something they shouldn’t. It is also good to use the word as a disciplinary action when they defecate or do something they shouldn’t indoors. ‘No’ and ‘leave it’ go hand in hand. Although the two terms can mean something completely different, they provide the same result and are taught the same way.
- To teach this, you simply use the tone of your voice to dictate that what they are doing is bad. If they are going towards an object they shouldn’t, use your arm as a barrier to stop them from taking. When they stop doing whatever it is you ask of them, reward them with positive reinforcement or a treat; never use physical punishment.
‘Wait’ is an obedient command; it teaches your dog that they should not move until you allow it. If you are bringing in the groceries, answering the door, getting ready to take your dog for a pee/walk, etc… ‘Wait’ will teach them to remain and be patient. It’s especially useful to know if your dog is a runner and likes to bolt out of the crate, door, car, yard, etc…
If your dog knows how to ‘stay,’ ‘wait’ will be easy to learn, also similar to teach.
8. Drop It
‘Drop it’ and ‘give it’ are commonly used when your dog picks up something or has something in their mouth that they shouldn’t. It could be something they found on a walk, food that fell on the floor, or a personal belonging they have a desire to chew. It’s an important command to teach because it could potentially save their life should they pick up something harmful.
- To teach this command, you just need to use the preferred term whenever your dog has something in their mouth that they shouldn’t. If they don’t release the item, gently open their mouth and take it from them while using the term. Never pull or be rough with your dog’s jaw, as it is fragile. When they drop or release the item, use positive reinforcement to let them know they did well. Once they know the term, they will naturally drop the item upon request.
Note that all commands need to be taught with patience. Time, practice and repetition are essential when training your dog. Never use force or rough teachings, as this can cause bad or aggressive behavior. Don’t yell at or scold your pet if they are taking awhile to learn. Show them love and positive reinforcement; it will make the training process better for the both of you.