Basic Commands Done Right
Training your dog basic commands helps your dog balance his or her energy with yours. The first step in addressing any behavior problems with your pup (existing or ones that develop in the future) is to train them basic commands.
Where can you start? Taking a class can be helpful but a class is not essential. It is possible to do it yourself. With the right attitude, you can have a great time as you teach your dog on our own. Relax and have fun and your training will be a positive experience for you both.
Where to Begin
The easiest and most common first-step is for your dog to learn to respond to "sit."
- Hold out a treat
- Motion upward with the treat. Your dog's bottom will lower as his head follows the treat upward.
- Once the dog sits, say "Sit" and give him the treat with affection.
Repeat a few times daily every day. Ask your dog to sit before mealtime, before leaving for a walk as you open the door, during any other situation when you need him to be calm and seated.
Bringing your dog back to you keeps her out of trouble. This command can avoid accidents or difficult situations if you happen to lose grip on her leash or leave your door open.
- Connect a leash to your dog's collar.
- At the dogs level, say "Come" while pulling on the leash.
- Reward her with affection and a treat when she gets to you.
After your pup has mastered this on the leash, practice the command without it in a safe area.
Of the basic commands, this sometimes can be most difficult because it is teaching your dog to be submissive. Relax and keep your training positive, especially with fearful or anxious dogs.
- Hold a treat in your closed fist. (Best if the treat has a strong scent.)
- Bring your hand to your dog's nose and move your hand down to the floor. As he sniffs your hand, he will follow.
- Slide your hand along the ground in front of him to encourage his body to also follow his head downward.
- Once he's all the way down, say "Down" and give him the treat with affection.
Repetition daily is always best. If your dog sits up or lunges toward your hand, say "no," and take it away. Don't push your dog into position. Just encourage him as he goes down himself.
This command can only be taught after your dog has mastered "Sit."
- Ask your dog to sit.
- Open the palm of your hand out flat toward her, and say "stay."
- After taking a few steps back, reward her with a treat/affection if she stays.
- Gradually increase the number of steps back before you reward her.
- Always reward your pup for staying even if it's just for a few seconds.
This command exercises your dog's self-control, so don't give up or become frustrated if this command takes time to master. Particularly for puppies or high-energy dogs, this command can be more difficult. Stay positive.
This command is very helpful for safety when your dog is curious. The key is to teach your pup he gets something better for ignoring the item he is supposed to leave.
- Place a treat in both of your hands.
- Show him one enclosed fist with the treat inside and say "Leave it."
- Let him lick, sniff, mouth, paw, bark to try to get it but ignore his behaviors.
- Once he stops trying, give him the treat from your other hand.
Repeat this until your dog moves away from the first fist when you say the command. Then only give your dog the treat when he moves away from your first fist, looking up at you. Once this is consistent, you're ready for the next step: Use two different treats - an alright treat and a particularly tasty favorite treat.
- Saying "leave it," place the less attractive treat on the floor, covering it with your hand.
- Wait until your dog ignores the treat and looks at you. Remove the treat from the floor and give him the better treat with affection.
Gradually increase the difficulty by not completely covering the treat with your hand on the floor. Instead, hold it a little above the treat. Over time, your hand can be farther and farther away from it when you say "Leave it." Eventually, you can start practicing these steps while standing up. If he tries to snatch the treat, cover it with your foot.
Don't rush this one! Remember, this is a lot to ask from your pup. If he really struggles when you up the difficulty, go back to the previous stage.