5 Basic Commands to Teach Your Dog

We marvel at show dogs who show off their fancy tricks and agility skills, but before you can teach your pup how to jump through an obstacle course, it’s important to teach the basics. Many dog owners like to start with the following five obedience commands: sit, stay, come, lay down and leave it. These simple commands will be helpful in everyday interactions with your pup, and will serve as the foundation for training later on. Let’s get to work!

Sit
There’s more than one method for teaching your dog commands such as “sit,” so keep in mind that our suggestions are just that, and you’re free to use whatever method works best for you and your pup. The “sit” command is especially useful when combined with “stay” for times when you want your puppy to keep still.

1. Lure your pup with a tasty treat (or one of her favorite toys, if she’s not very food motivated).
2. Hold the lure above your pup’s head, causing her to lower into a sitting position. If necessary, guide her down by placing soft pressure on her rump.
3. As soon as she is sitting, say “sit!” while offering the treat and praise.
4. Repeat the practice a few times a day with breaks in between. Begin to reward her for sitting on the first attempt, and make rewards less and less frequent until she sits consistently on command.

Stay
Once your pup is an expert sitter, you can teach her “stay.” This command might be a challenge at first for a jumpy young puppy, but it’s a valuable tool in teaching obedience.

1. With treat in hand, have your pup sit in a familiar area with few distractions.
2. Hold out your palm towards her and back up, saying “stay!”
3. This next step involves a bit of luck. If she stays when you move back, then reward her with a *treat, even if the stay only lasted half a second. If she does not stay, repeat the process until she stays, and then give her the treat.
4. Repeat this exercise, moving a couple steps farther back every time your pup obeys consistently at a certain distance. Eventually, she’ll be able to stay at a distance with your voice command alone!

Come
The “come” command is helpful for retrieving your pup and making sure she doesn’t get far from your sight or grasp. It can also help keep your pup from getting into a dangerous situation, such as if an aggressive dog approaches her on the street. Practice this command indoors or in a fenced area where your pup can’t escape.

1. While holding a treat, squat down in front of your pup, making eye contact and holding your arms outstretched before her.
2. Waving the treat in front of you, say “Come!” in a happy tone of voice. (Optional: If your dog is wearing a leash or collar, give her a gentle tug towards you.)
3. This position will most likely draw your pup towards you. When she approaches you, reward her with the treat and lots of praise, then let her get back to what she was doing before.
4. Repeat until your pup responds to the command without a treat, gradually increasing the distance every few times.

Lay Down
The “lay down” or “down” command is a common choice for dog owners to utilize, but it can also be difficult to accomplish since your dog may see laying down as a sign of submissiveness. Like all new tricks, this command will take some patience.

1. With a treat enclosed in your hand, start your pup in a sitting position.
2. Let your pup sniff the treat in your fist while using your other hand to gently hold down her shoulders.
3. Keeping your hand on her shoulders, quickly lower the treat to the ground while saying “Lay down,” and your pup’s body should follow.
4. This might be an uncomfortable position for your pup at first. As soon as her belly hits the floor, reward her with the treat and offer her soothing praises while slowly stroking her back.
5. Practice this command every day until your pup gets the hang of laying down without you making direct contact with her.

Leave It

Last on our list, the “leave it” command is not only useful when training your pup, but it can also be lifesaving. For example, if your dog gets her nose into a bag of chocolates or something contaminated by bacteria, you can use the “leave it” command to make your pup drop the object, sparing her from potential harm. This command will hopefully teach your pup that if she drops whatever interesting object she finds on the ground, she’ll get something even better in return!

1. For this command, you will need a “boring” treat and a tasty, more enticing treat. Hold the boring treat tightly in your fist while having the tasty treat nearby, but out of your pup’s reach.
2. Put your fist with the hidden treat near your pup’s nose and ignore her attempts to get at the treat.
3. Once she stops trying to get the treat, praise her and offer her the tasty treat instead.
4. Repeat steps 1-3 until your puppy ignores the first treat on her own. Next time you hold the boring treat out in front of her, say “Leave it,” then pause a second before handing her the tasty treat.
5. Once you feel your pup is ready for this next step, place the boring treat on the floor while keeping your hand hovering above it, then practice the “leave it” command, quickly covering the treat before she can snatch it.
6. Keep practicing until your pup can ignore a treat that is out of your reach!