10 Commands to Teach Your Dog
There are 10 commands every dog should know, and every owner should teach. Over the years I have found these 10 commands essential to teach your dog.
If you have a new dog or puppy and unsure of how to teach them or how to train them this article is for you. Experienced dog trainers can also learn a few tricks we have learned along the way and add it to their toolbox. Before we get into teaching the specific commands lets first go over some questions you may have.
When should you start teaching Dog commands?
Every dog trainer has a different answer to this question. The key to solving some of this answer is to look at when does the mom dog start teaching the puppy.
The mother dog doesn’t know what age to start and she doesn’t care either. Right out of the womb puppies are getting a correction from the parent. What does that tell us?
Putting an age on the start date is not only irrelevant but it doesn’t even happen with dogs without the human presence. Keep that in mind. The one source we always look to for answers is what does the dog do without us and apply their logic instead of ours.
Different training methods
- Life rewards
- Positive reinforcement
- Clicker training
- Treat training
- Alpha male dog training
Honestly, the list goes on and on, but let’s dive into each of the popular methods and see if one of them may fit what you would like to do. From experience any one of these methods can work for different commands and sometimes you can use a mix of them.
Life rewards are an essential part of Train Your Own Dogs training methods. There is a brilliant article written that explains this simple concept in this short pdf. The basics are closer to a real life experience a dog can have in the wild and is the reason why we adopted the training style.
Every dog doesn’t like treats or a toy. You can always find something critics may add, but instead of bribing the dog we simply look towards things they must have for survival and train with that set of tools. That’s just the way I look at it but that is nothing but an opinion and it is perfect to have a different one.
Positive Reinforcement has its roots from B.F. Skinner, American Psychologist, who wrote a book called About Behaviorism. He did an experiment and proved that dogs will respond to a bell before feeding time and start associating the bell with eating.
When he rang the bell, the dogs would start to produce saliva. Positive reinforcement is very similar to his experiment. When something that you want you make a positive association with the behavior.
The Spruce Pets has an outstanding article about how to train positive reinforcement and the benefits of it.
Clicker Training has the same type of roots. When the dog does something positive the trainer clicks the clicker and the dog can make that same connection that happened with the bell and B.F. Skinner.
Treat training has been very popular so a very long time and no one is better than Ian Dunbar. He has an article where he stops a dog from biting him using his retreat and treat method.
Alpha Dog training is another method everyone should look at and see if it fits them. Again, the method I use the most is life rewards, but these other methods can be useful in different areas of training basic commands.
The dog always guides me into what style I should use. For example, my Rottweiler doesn’t care for treats or toys. She will never chase a ball. So, guess what? I must use something different.
Now that we know the different popular styles of dog training and know we should find one that fits our dog personally let’s take a look at the 10 commands you must teach your dog.
Dog Training Geek has a post that should interest anyone looking to gain an understanding of the basics.
Cesar Milan wrote how to be the pack leader and that should point you in the right direction
Dog Training Commands List
Secret Information: The dogs learn from our body language first and then the voice command. I find these to be the most useful commands to teach a dog.
- Drop It
This is everyone’s all-time favorite because it’s the easiest to teach.
There are several ways to teach this, but this is what we do:
- Use a treat, toy or food
- Use our body language
- Full eye contact
Treat, toy, or food
We don’t use this, but it is extremely useful tool. The position of the food will make the dog sit back on his bottom. We use this same method without a treat, toy, or food but the principle is still the same. We only use body language and eye contact.
When we get the dog to sit, we look at the dog and walk up to them close. This always makes a dog sit down putting their body in the position to sit back. If you’re pushing the dogs bottom you are doing it the wrong way. You don’t have to touch the dog at all.
Full Eye Contact
Look the dog in the eyes the entire time
When the dog finally sits, we tell the dog to sit. Remember this very simple rule from the beginning of this article. When we tell a dog to do something our body language is the indicator not the words. We teach the dog by using the same body motion or hand out signal and last we teach with words.
The transition will happen eventually, and the dog will be able to understand what sit means but before we get to that point the dog will be reading how we are moving and not what we are saying
If you can pay attention to what you do when the dog sits make sure you repeat this because this is what the dog learns long before he learns English.
Tell the dog to sit 10 times in a row. Remember whatever you do with you body continue to do that and tell the dog to sit.
How long does it take to teach my dog to sit?
The dog should understand what you are asking in two to three days max.
This command gets the life reward often. Before they leave the crate, come out of a door, come into a door, put the leash on, get a bath, eat food, drink water etc. they will sit every time before it happens.
Dogaholics.com has a fantastic picture that shows the body language and the angle you need
Once they understand that sitting is the key to all life’s activities, they will sit in a heartbeat.
Lay sounds like stay so most people say down instead. You can choose what you want. I haven’t had a dog have an issue with stay or lay because of what we will keep reminding you of in this blog.
The dog is looking at what I’m physically doing as an indication of what I’m asking.
So, with the lay command I will be pointing down. This command is used with the second most frequency.
This is what we do
- Take the dog on a long run or walk
- Get them tired so we know they want to lay down already
- Use our body language and tell them to lay on a pillow or in the crate
This can be tricky for some people to teach but what we learned over a few decades. People will use force because the dog simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about or doesn’t want to lay.
We get rid of both by giving them a great workout. Great meaning when you stop at a red light the dog is laying down by themselves or sitting down as often as possible. That’s what we mean by a great workout
Exercise the dog and watch how easy this command can be taught without treats or anything else. Create the demand for the position.
Since we know the dog is tired, we will tell them to lay 5 times and end the training
Train like this for a few days and the dog will catch on with no issues.
Like the sit-down training. Once they learn it over the next few days continue to use lay in different situations but continue the exercise and then lay principle.
Remember: They will learn from our bodies first and our voice last. Try this use the same body language and tell your dog Cheddar Cheese. Without any doubt if you physically do the same thing the dog will lay.
After hearing lay every time, they do the activity you will be able to say lay without the body language and the dog will be finding a place to lay quickly.
Check out this addition source for a positive reinforcement style
How long does it take to teach my dog to lay?
I would give this command 3-4 days and you should gain some serious traction.
Consistency is how you get a stubborn dog to lay down.
Now, I use a treat for this one. As noted earlier I will use different methods if they are the best and easiest to communicate. Stay is best with some type of food.
This is what we do
- Tell the dog to sit
- Tell the dog to stay
- Put the hand out like a stop sign
- Take a few steps back and throw the food where they are sitting
First thing you want to do is tell the dog to sit.
Next, telling the dog to stay will get their attention
After that I put my hand out like I don’t want them to move. For some reason the dog is always frozen and just sits there. Probably wondering what the hell is going on.
Taking a few steps back always does it. You can choose however many steps back and then throw the treat at their feet.
I have been saying treat but, I don’t buy treats, it is a piece of steak or some chicken. I have cooked steak just for this purpose but would happily use left overs if we have any.
Start increasing the steps back and the dog learns that they get the treat if they just sit there. When they get up, they get no treat.
Very quickly I take food away. I may use food once or twice and throw several pieces. After that the dog quickly picks on the body language and I give them a good boy/good girl.
Give this method a try it works very well.
How long does it take to teach the dog to lay?
In my experience one day. Results may vary.
When a dog has something in its mouth tell them to drop
What we do
- Tell the dog to drop it
- Once the dog drops it make them clear out
- If they look at the object again tell them no
Once a dog picks something up we have arrived at the party and it is too late.
Telling the dog to drop it is a last second effort because you should have corrected the dog before when it was sniffing or walking towards the object.
Remember you aren’t going to pick the item up quickly and hide it. You want the dog to know the item is right there and no you can’t touch it.
Dog Commands Training Session
Put a hot item around the dog and make sure it is something the dog likes. It can be a shoe they just ate or a toy that they need to act more domesticated with.
Drop the object right by the dog and tell them no
When they look tell them no
If they step once towards the item tell them no
Following that rule of thumb will clearly communicate you own the item and that they can’t play with it at all.
This will help a lot of people with dogs who are always too close for comfort. For example, you are on the couch and the dog continues to put his head on you and you need some space.
What we do
- Say go
- Use of body and walk towards the dog
- The dog should pick up some speed and get out of the area
- Finish up the command by making them lay down or sit down away from you
Once again, the word “Go” will simply be a by-product of us moving our bodies toward the dog. Once the dog starts clearing out, we want to make sure we make our point.
If the dog barely moves if you do it pick up the pace and the dog will at the same time. The dog may look like it is doing a slight jog away and that’s what you want
Follow up by following them where they stop and stand there until they sit or lay down.
Go to an area the dog likes to crowd around you and tell them to go get up and follow the instructions. Once you are done go back and sit down.
Repeat this until the dog completely gives you a bubble and doesn’t return. This works best if you tire the dog out so they will have less of a fight to put up and want to lay down anyway.
People have a hard time teaching this one because they only do the verbal part of it. Try following the instructions that a puppy would get from the mother.
What we do
- Tell the dog no
- Follow the dog
- Wait there until they sit or lay
That is it folks! The last two parts of the correct are the only parts most people need to focus on. And remain relaxed at the same time. You don’t have to get out of character.
Make sure you watch how the puppy sits and then lays at the end.
This session is for the owner and not the dog. As you can see from the example dogs do this from day one, so it is not something that needs to be taught.
You need to learn the how to get them to do something that they naturally already do.
Tell your dog no and go through the entire process. If you have multiple dogs make every dog you have all sit or lay down when you say no.
You will be surprised but you will have 2, 3 or 4 dogs laying or sitting just from correcting more.
Remember: When teaching this command saying no is only 50% of what you need to do. Make sure they sit or lay for a complete correction.
The Easiest Commands to Teach Your Dog
What we mean by the word easy is this. The dog is already doing the behavior and now you are giving a command at the exact same time. Works like a charm!!
Short example: Your dog has prey drive and when it sees people or another dog it barks. You can teach the dog at that point to bark on command. Simply by tell the dog to bark on time. You may know a house with dogs is coming up just tell him before you get there.
The rest of the commands and others you may think of will be the easiest to teach.
This is an exercise you will already naturally do with the dog if you need to include crate training because it is needed and works for your situation.
What we do
- Dog already goes in the cage
- Tell them cage when they are going in
- You can leave treats inside if you want
- Increase the distance
The dog is already going inside the cage so make this a command. They already know what to do when you open it up so add a word to the mix.
Treats can encourage a dog to go inside. You should exercise the dog until it is tired and then put them in there with food and water. The dog will rest and not cause any problems if you exercise and then put them in there.
Once they are getting the hang of it increase the distance
This one is like the cage command. The dog is already going outside so make it a command. When you open the door tell them to do what they are already doing.
Once they understand the word increase the distance. Tell them outside from the kitchen or living room and watch them walk right outside the open door!
If you are like most dog owners, you need a treadmill to get that extra energy out of younger dogs between puppy and 3 years old
Once they start getting older you may want to decrease the time they spend on there. That’s up to you but we follow the exact same guidelines from the last two commands.
The dog already jumps on once he sees the treadmill just tell him treadmill and increase the distance with time.
This one is always going to come after exercise. Get the dog nice and tired take them to the sleeping area you want them at give them the command. Again, this is another command that falls under the same rules.
They’re already doing it you are just adding communication to the behavior.
These are the ten basic commands you should teach your dog right away. There is no evidence to prove that dogs need to learn at a certain age. If the puppy is following instructions and rules from the mom then there is no reason for us to wait.
Take the time to learn all of these commands and remember these things take time. You should expect around 3 days of teaching them multiple sessions before you can expect constant responses.
Use every style of dog training that makes sense. Remember what style you use doesn’t matter the results matter. Don’t forget to throw everything out the window and try something unique. Long as your dog gets it!
What style of training works for you? And when it doesn’t what else do you use?
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