The Most Important Commands to Teach Your Dog

Dogs are very trainable, which is good news for pet owners who want to keep them from soiling the carpet or destroying the furniture. There’s so much that you can teach your dog that it can become overwhelming. Don’t try to teach him everything at once; begin with some basic commands that can keep him safe and that he can learn fairly quickly. Once your dog has mastered the basics, you can teach him more advanced commands and even train him to do tricks.

The most basic command is “sit.” Dogs who have been taught to sit will sit still next to you rather than continuing to move. This command keeps both your dog and passersby safe. For example, you can tell the dog to sit when strangers approach or when you stop to talk to someone. Dogs can also be taught to sit outside stores while you are inside.

Sit should be the first thing taught because it is the easiest for dogs to learn; starting with an easy command helps both you and your dog build confidence. To teach a dog to sit, hold a treat high over his head. Say, “Sit!” in a firm voice and gently push him into a sitting position. When the dog is sitting, give him the treat. If he jumps up to get the treat, pull it out of reach and firmly say, “No! Sit!” and put him in a sitting position again before giving him the treat. After several repetitions of this type of training, your dog should be able to sit on command.

Once your dog has mastered “sit,” the next command to teach him is “down.” Dogs who successfully learn this command will lie down on command. This is harder to achieve than sit because dogs know that they are more vulnerable when lying down; you have to build trust with the dog and make it clear you are the authority before you can teach this command.

You can teach “down” similarly to teaching “sit.” Instead of holding the treat over the dog’s head, hold it down so that he will lie down. After he has done this several times, introduce the command by saying, “Down!” before holding the treat down. Make sure to pet the dog and give him the treat when he complies.

The third basic command your dog needs to learn is “stay.” This command will allow him to sit quietly where he is for two to three minutes.

“Stay” is the hardest basic command to learn because your dog really need to learn two commands: stay and get up. Start by saying, “Stay!” firmly when your dog sits or lies down. Wait a few seconds, then give him a treat. As you practice, gradually increase the time he must stay until he is staying for two to three minutes at a time. When your dog gets up to get his treat, say, “Okay!” or “Come!” so he learns to associate getting up with these commands. You can also play hide and seek with your dog by telling him to stay, then going to hide and saying, “Okay!” so that he comes to you.

Once your dog learns these three basic commands, there are a number of things you can teach him. Take some time with these easy commands; teach your dog in several 10 to 15 minute sessions and repeat the training as often as necessary until he learns his first command before moving on to the next one.