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The 5 Basic Commands for Dogs

Updated on November 28, 2013

Training Preparation

Your faithful friend has waited patiently for you to return from work all day, you finally come home and she is nothing but a ball of excitement, now you expect her to calm her mind and learn foreign concepts? It’s a little unrealistic to expect, I mean, at least kids get recess in school. Taking your dog for a walk is her recess. Not only does it help your furry friend beat cabin fever, but draining all that excess energy will put her in a calm, submissive state of mind (, 2013). Walking further establishes your role as pack leader, by actually physically leading them, but you are also tapping into an ancient primal instinct of wandering for food dogs still have from their wolf ancestors. A wolf is a wanderer by nature; they will spend up to two-thirds of their lives looking for food, sometimes covering over 100 miles in just one day (, 2013). So by taking your dog for a walk before training begins, you have helped her expel excess energy and you have also automatically put her in the right frame of mind: she’s ready to earn her food (, 2013;, 2013).

It's walkin' time!


Find a Suitable Space

Now that you have completed walking your nomadic friend she is hungry and ready to please the alpha (you!), but where shall all this wondrous learning take place? I recommend a space large enough to be able to teach come, but also, where there will be no distractions. I personally used my bedroom. The important part is to always train in this space. Routine is such an important thing to dogs and the ‘less special’ this room is, then the less likely your dog will get distracted by things she is curious about. Soon she will understand the entire process and your room will be her new school!

Have Good Treats

I am not a fan of the processed, dried up treats out there for dogs. Not only are those expensive cancer causers not in my budget, but I have found nothing motivates my dogs like cheese. I could be cooking in our kitchen on one side of the house and my babies will be on the opposite side, but once I pull that cheese out of the fridge and start-a-cuttin’ they are miraculously by side! Their noses will start to get wet and start twitching as they stand there with this focused look in their eyes. This does not happen with any other type of food I make, not even bacon. On the other hand, cheese is fattening, and I always worry about my furry friends’ health, so to alleviate my concerns I cut the cheese up as small as I can. My dogs don’t know the difference and are just as motivated by the tiny pieces than if it were a big ol’ chunk. Cheese works wonders, I taught my boy to sit in under an hour, and he’s been sitting for me for the last 12 years.

Can I have some cheese please?


What is the hardest part about training your dog?

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Before the Training Begins Review:

1.) Take your dog for a walk 20-30 min

2.) Find a quiet space you can train in consistently

3.) Use cheese as a motivator

This video is another great resource!

Walking Needs to be Fun!

Since this is something you will be doing often, I thought it would be appropriate to start with the art of leash training. Leash training can be one of the more difficult commands to teach, but it is really important if you don’t want to look foolish at the park. At first (like the first week of training) you’re probably not going to get away with multi-tasking and try to leash train plus taking Lady for her pre-training walk. Let her get her walk on and once she has worn herself out, begin.

One of the most important things concerning leash training is to never let your dog walk in front of you. The pack leader always walks in front, it is the way of the wolf and it is the way of the dog. Let her walk beside you or behind you, but not too much behind. You and your dog are supposed to be a team doing this activity so let her know that by keeping her close.

Walk at brisk, steady pace. Don’t let her stop to smell the roses, this is business. Also walking at a faster-than-normal pace keeps her mind from wandering because she needs to focus on you.

Your dog pulling on the leash is more than likely going to occur in this process. When she does pull, stop walking, give a quick tug on the lash and say “no”. Trust me, I definitely understand how embarrassing it is to just stand in the middle of the path while my dog is barking his head off at other dogs, but dogs are very similar to children and this is the equivalent of a temper tantrum, it will pass. As soon as she stops the negative behavior start moving. Dogs instinctually get that the goal of this is to wander and they are eager to get to whatever destination their alpha has in mind.

Now on the subject of choke collars, I personally am not against them. When they are used appropriately they are an excellent tool for your ‘doggy training tool belt’, and it can also prevent injury. Not every dog is going to require the aid of a choke collar, but some dogs just won’t get it. I have a little girl who is exceptionally stubborn on the leash, when she pulls, the firm tug I give just won’t do the trick and she will end up just pulling and pulling until she starts to choke herself. I find the use of a choke collar wakes her out of her doggy trance and she stops pulling and is no longer at a risk for injury. Still keep the regular collar on, some dogs will still continue to pull even with the choke collar. This can be dangerous, in this situation grab the regular collar with your hands so your dog doesn’t seriously hurt herself.

Sit, girl, Sit!

This is the easiest command to teach a dog. It will be a welcome break from the leash training. Now get your cheese and show it to your dog, put the piece of cheese between the meat of your lower thumb and palm of your hand in order to hold it in place. Kneel in front of your pup, put your palm up, and then bring it in a downward motion as you say “sit”. She’s probably not going to understand this at first; all she knows is she wants that cheese in your hand. Take your free hand and put it on her behind (while still saying “sit”) and push down until she sits. As she does this praise her and give her the treat. Repeat until she is able to complete the command, on her own, at least once.

Teaching lie down


Take a load off

Another simple command is ‘lie down’. When your dog is already in the ‘sit’ position take the cheese in your hand, put it in front of her nose, and then slowly lower your hand to the floor. Your dog will instinctively follow your hand because of that yummy treat. Praise her for her good work! Once these two commands are mastered you can now move on to ‘stay’.

The Most Important Command

Teaching your dog to come when you call her should be top priority. This command will come in useful and may even save her life. One time I caught my baby out in the middle of the road with cars whizzing by him, it was one of the most terrifying moments of my life, but somehow I didn’t panic and called him to me when there was a miraculous lapse in traffic. I was extremely thankful that day that I took the time to train my boy to come when he’s called because he only had a split second to obey me and it saved his life.

For this command you are going to need another human. You’re going to need someone to hold your pooch as you walk away (otherwise she will follow you). When you reach a distance of around 5 feet turn around and kneel down. As you crouch to a kneeling position you will see you’ve really gotten your dog’s attention. Now take the piece of cheese and hold it in your hand the same way you did with the ‘sit’ command. Extend your arm out laterally and then bring it to your chest as you say “come, followed by her name”. At this moment your partner is to release your pup and she will come running to you. Immediately give her the treat and praise her extensively, saying “good come, good come”. Whenever your dog completes the task you commanded of her always say the name of the command over and over to her when you are praising. She will associate the command and the task more clearly. As your dog gets more and more adapt to this command you can move further and further away from her. Pretty soon you will be able to command her from yards away and she will quickly come to her alpha and master.

Stay Right There

The command stay is something to teach your fine furry friend after she has the concept of sit down. You are going to start by commanding her to sit, when she does, reward her with a treat, but no praise, because you don’t want her to break her concentration. Also, keep a piece of cheese on you, but don’t let her know you have it. While she is sitting take a step behind you while repeating “stay”, use the “stop” hand signal for this one and maintain strong eye contact. Most commands you only want to repeat once, then she should be expected to perform, but with this one keep repeating because it’s hard for dogs to concentrate (and sit still), and this helps. Only expect her to stay for a second or two, this is a hard one for dogs to comprehend. If she messes up and follows you, that’s alright, just place her back in her previous spot, command her to sit and repeat the process. As with the come command, over time you will be able to move further and further away. Pretty soon you will be able to combine sit, stay and come and you will feel like a rock star!

What a Smart Dog You Have!

With time and practice your dog will master these commands. The most important things with dog training are patience and consistency. Even the most unruly dog wants to please her master (and that cheese smells oh-so-delicious) and if you just give her time she will impress you, these dogs just live for that! Pretty soon you will be able to take your best friend on peaceful walks and have a dog with impeccable manners! It’s a proud feeling knowing you trained your animal, almost like the same satisfaction an artist has taking a raw hunk of clay and molding it into something beautiful and orderly. Keep an eye out for my next hub on potty training (I tried to fit it in this one, but it’s such an extensive topic I decided it needed its own) and remember to give your dog lots of hugs and kisses!




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