8 Basic Commands To Teach Your Dog
Southerners pride themselves on good manners and that goes for pets, as well as humans. In fact, a well-trained dog reflects well on its owner. A well-mannered dog knows when to sit and stay off the furniture, how to wait patiently for dinner, and knows better than to jump on guests when they arrive at the front door.
That said, dog training can be difficult. It takes consistency, time, effort, and discipline for owner and dog alike. And despite all the work, some dogs just don’t quite get it—or just ignore the rules when they see fit – and the couch looks comfy. Then there is my dog Steve, a low-riding moppet that the vet at the shelter claimed was a Corgi Papillon mix, two breeds that are supposedly some of the smartest. Steve adamantly refuses any direction that doesn’t sound conversational. For example, when I say, “Stop!” in a commanding voice, he ignores me. When I say, “Hold up there, rug rat,” he stops in his tracks. A stern, “Fetch!” results in the canine equivalent of an eye roll, while a friendly, “Where’s your ball?” results in a fierce search and retrieval mission of his tiny pink tennis ball. Basically, I think he’s trained me not to bark commands at him.
This is all to say that if you’re not a professional dog trainer or if you’re just content to let your dog be itself, commands may not come naturally. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in the effort to have a well-mannered dog—or at least a pup that will not jump on guests.
Here are a few commands that every dog should know and how to try and teach them properly. All you’ll need is a handful of treats, a collar and leash, patience, and a commanding alpha dog voice:
How to teach a dog to sit:
According to dog trainer Cesar Milan, a.k.a. The Dog Whisperer, teaching a dog to sit involves a three-step process: Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose; Move your hand up, allowing his head to follow the treat and causing his bottom to lower; Once he’s in sitting position, say “Sit,” give him the treat, and share affection. Repeat until the dog knows the word.
How to teach a dog to walk nicely on a leash:
First, according to the AKC’s website, decide whether you want your puppy to walk on your left or right side, and then stay consistent. Next, arm yourself with treats and “stand next to your puppy with the leash in a loose loop”. Give Fido a treat for sitting or standing nicely and calmly. Then, take one step forward and give the dog a treat if or when he follows. From there, continue giving treats to your puppy as you walk. If, or more likely when, the dog gets in front of you, “simply turn the opposite direction, call him to you, and reward him in place. Then continue.” Gradually, start doling out fewer and fewer treats, rewarding your pup every other step and then every fourth step or so until they just walk nicely.
How to teach a dog not to jump on visitors:
According to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, the trick is to ignore the bad behavior. When you come home and your dog jumps on you, immediately leave again. “Wait 30 seconds to one minute, then, walk back in to calmly greet your dog. The moment your dog jumps, walk away again and close the door,” they write. “Keep doing this until your dog no longer jumps, at which point you can reward him by not leaving and petting him.” You can also keep treats on hand to reward the pup for not jumping.
How to teach a dog to come:
Per Cesar Milan’s website, put a leash and collar on your dog, lean down to his level, and gently pull his leash while saying, “Come.” If he follows you, give him a treat and a pat on the head.
How to teach a dog to stay:
Have your dog sit and give him a treat. Then, give him another treat for staying in a sit, which could take some practice, according to the AKC’s website. When your dog can sit for several seconds, start adding distance by saying, “stay”, and taking a step back. If the dog manages to stay, give her a treat, and then do it again with a greater distance. Per the AKC, “Continue building in steps, keeping it easy enough that your dog can stay successful.”
How to teach a dog to leave something alone:
According to Dr. Natalie Waggener at the South Boston Animal Hospital, teaching a dog to “leave it” can help keep a pup safe if it gets a little too curious about something dangerous. Start by putting a treat in your hand. Show your puppy the treat and then close your fist around it. If, or rather when, your dog tries to get the treat, don’t give it. Say, “Leave it” and wait until the dog stops. Then give them the treat from the other hand. Start over. This time, wait for your dog to move away from your first fist. Then say, “Leave it” and give your dog the treat when it moves away, making sure to make eye contact with your pet. Repeat until the dog associates “Leave it” with a reward.
How to teach a dog to drop something:
Like the leave it command, drop it can save your dog from eating something that it should not—whether chocolate or your favorite shoe. Like “leave it”, tell your dog to “drop it” and when it does, reward it with a treat. According to The Spruce Pets, “replace what you took from your dog's mouth with something very rewarding, such as a toy or delicious treat.”
How to teach a dog to lay down:
Grab the best smelling treat you have (like cooked chicken or liver bites), and keep it in your closed fist. Then, according to Cesar Milan’s site, hold your closed hand up to your dog’s face and when the pup sniffs it, move your hand to the floor. The pup should follow the scent downwards. Use your hand to gently encourage the dog to put their whole body on the ground.
Once the dog is laying down, say “Down,” and give him the treat and lovable scratches.