October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month! After adopting a new dog, it’s important to get off on the right paw by spending some time training your new pet. In addition to helping you keep your dog under control and strengthening communication between pet and owner, an understanding of basic dog commands will also give your dog a confidence boost and a sense of structure.
It’s never too late to implement obedience training, even if you’re adopting an older pooch or you’ve already had your furry friend for a while. You don’t even need to teach your dog to jump through hula hoops or walk on his hind legs—simple dog commands and cues are sufficient when it comes to making both of your daily lives easier and more enjoyable.
5 basic dog commands every pet owner should teach their pooch include:
“Sit” is one of the first basic dog commands many people teach their pets. If your dog is able to sit on command, you will have an easier time keeping him from jumping on guests or reacting to other dogs. Plus, it’s a good foundation to prepare your dog for more complicated, interactive commands.
Never force your dog into a sitting position—this can be confusing and upsetting for your pup. Instead, put a treat close to his nose, gradually moving the treat up as he follows it with his face. Once he is in a natural sitting position, give the “sit” cue. Give your dog his treat and plenty of praise, and repeat the exercise until the command is mastered.
Once your dog has learned to sit, you can teach him the “stay” command. Similar to “sit,” this dog command is useful for controlling your pup. For example, you can keep him out of the way while you clean up a kitchen mess, or keep him still while you clean up after him on a walk.
When your dog is in a sitting position, teach him to “stay” by opening up your hand and giving the command. Take a few steps back, rewarding your pooch anytime he stays put. Make sure he knows how to distinguish between praise and words such as “no” so he can tell whether he’s successfully followed the dog command.
Teaching your dog to “come” can keep your dog out of trouble and spare you from having to chase him down if, for example, you lose hold of his leash or accidentally leave the front door open.
This command is best taught with a collar and a leash. Give a tiny tug every time you give the cue and reward your pup with a treat and praise when he comes toward you. Once he’s mastered the command, try without the leash in a safe, enclosed space.
Teaching your dog the “down” command can be difficult, as it requires him to be in a submissive, passive position. However, it’s an incredibly important dog command. “Down” can be useful for calming a hyperactive dog, whether stressed or excited. If your dog gets anxious during thunderstorms, teaching him to lie down on command can be a familiar tool to promote relaxation.
As with sitting, don’t physically force your dog to lie down. Instead, place a treat on the ground after your dog is already sitting—or wait until he naturally lies down—and give the command with a treat as reinforcement. Repeat until he has made the connection between the command and the action.
“Leave it” is a helpful basic dog command that can keep your dog from eating or chewing something he shouldn’t, such as a toxic kitchen ingredient or your expensive new shoes. For those instances when your dog picks something up before you can tell him not to, this dog command can be supplemented with “drop it.”
The “leave it” command can also be helpful if you’re got an avid sniffer who likes to make several stops on your daily walks. Teaching your dog when he can explore and when he needs to move can be helpful for easing your frustration; it will also give your dog an added sense of confidence when you finally do give him permission to sniff around.
Other Words Your Dog Should Know
In addition to understanding basic dog commands, your dog should be able to understand certain words as they pertain to his daily life and routine. For example, teach him the word “no” and use it diligently during training to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
Chances are, your dog will naturally pick up some of his favorite vocabulary words, such as “good boy/good girl,” “treat,” and “walk.” Being able to recognize praise is crucial for positive reinforcement and association, so be consistent in your word choice and tone of voice.