You just brought home a new dog and are not sure where to start. Sure you need to make sure you have the right food, a collar with ID tag, and leash along with a comfy place to sleep but you will also need to teach it how to behave in your home and around others.
Sit, stay, down, release — these are all important obedience commands that you will need to communicate with your dog properly, so we think it is essential to explain how to train these desired behaviors.
Use the menu below to jump to the command you wish to learn more about (or keep scrolling to read them all). We also have an infographic that summarizes all the commands.
If you aren’t having any luck or need extra help, we recommend using an online dog training course. It’s an affordable and effective way to improve and advance your dog’s obedience.
The “sit” command is the most desired command. It not only allows you to interact in public with a well-behaved dog but it also gives your dog knowledge of what it is expected to do.
Teaching your dog to sit is a relatively easy command when using treats to teach the command. Take a treat between your thumb and pointer finger and hold it directly over your dog’s nose while saying the command “sit.” Then move the treat back while keeping it close to your dog’s nose.
As you move the treat backward, your dog should follow the treat with its head causing it to sit down. Not every dog will sit immediately but repeat the process until your dog does as it is asked to do. When your dog does sit, quickly give it a treat and provide praise.
The “sit” command can also be done without a treat using the same motion. Be sure to use even more praise as the reward for a completed “sit.”
When you have become a veteran of the “sit,” you can tell your dog to sit without a treat. However, if your dog ignores your first command, you should sit your dog in position without repeating the command.
The “down” command is usually the second obedience command taught in obedience class because it easily follows the “sit” position. After your dog has learned “sit,” the “down” command adds just one new step.
As your dog is in “sit”, hold the treat in front of your dog’s face and slowly move it to the ground saying the word “down.” It may take a few tries to get your dog to follow the treat down to the floor, but if you hold the treat close enough to the dog’s face, it will lie down.
The “stay” command is one of the more difficult commands for your dog to grasp and one of the more frustrating commands to teach. You should always teach the stay command after “sit” has been mastered. To get your dog to “stay”, place it in a “sit” and make a “stop” gesture with your hand in front of your dog’s nose while saying the word “stay” and take a step back.
To begin, your dog will only be able to hold a “stay” for a few seconds. Try to break the “stay” by saying “good boy/girl” and giving your dog a treat. To teach a good “stay,” you should slowly extend the amount of time that you expect your dog to “stay” beginning with a couple of seconds. If your dog breaks their “stay” before you allow it, take your dog back to its original place, command it to “sit” again, and request your “stay” again.
The “come” command is generally taught after “stay” to invite your dog to return to you. This command is relatively easy after your dog has perfected “stay.” When your dog is in a “stay” command put a reasonable distance away, you can either use praise like “good boy/girl come!” or offer a treat to encourage your dog to return to you.
The “wait” command can be a complicated command for dogs that are food driven. The most common use of “wait” is to teach your dog not to dive nose-first into its food, not to take treats from strangers or not to jump straight out of the car when the door is opened. Teaching a “wait” command is more of a matter of discouragement, unlike most other commands.
Put a treat on the floor in front of your sitting dog, tell it to “wait” and hold up an index finger. If your dog leans down to try to take the treat, place your hand between your dog and the treat or take it away, and repeat the process. Some people choose to make a discouraging noise when they see their dog moving towards the treat (such as “ah ah!”), this can be helpful in making a transition from placing your hand in front of your dog to being able to perform a “wait” command until release.
Release (After Wait)
The release is the second half of the “wait” command. After your dog is successful with “wait” you need a way to signal to your dog that it is free to break the command.
The “release” command does not have to be the word “release” it can be anything such as “okay,” “let’s go,” or whatever you please. Releasing your dog from any command is as simple as offering a treat or offering praise.
Often people smack their knees and use an encouraging voice or wave a treat to get their dog to break the command. Just be sure to be consistent in your use of the established release word.
The “off” command has multiple applications but is generally used to get your dog off furniture or other places it should not be. The “off” command is generally easier to teach when your dog is somewhere you do not wish them to be. For example, if you aim to keep your dog off the bed wait until it is sitting on it and tell it “off” while pulling the dog off the bed. Make sure to pull gently or use a shooing motion to make sure that the dog understands it should not be “on.”
The “on” command can be taught using the opposite technique, usher your dog “on” while saying the word “on.” Always be sure to reward the behavior you are asking your dog to perform.
Somewhat similar to the “off” command is “leave it.” This command is usually applied to items found while walking. For example, if you are walking and your dog makes a move for a piece of trash you should exclaim “leave it” and pull your dog’s leash lightly to pull it away from the trash.
The key to the “leave it” command is to pull your dog away from the item you want your dog to leave and eventually your dog will associate the moving away from the item with the “leave it” command.
The “place” command is not always taught in basic obedience classes; however, it can be a helpful command. The “place” command is used to encourage your dog to stay in a certain place. Usually, the “place” in question refers to the dog’s bed.
Another example of using the “place” command is to discourage dogs from begging. If your dog is begging, lead it over to its bed and exclaim “place” in a firm tone. You can also follow this command with “stay,” but it should not be necessary.
If your dog follows you away from its “place,” take it back and walk away again. Just like with “stay” this can be a frustrating command to teach, but perseverance is the key.
The “no” command is an important one to teach your dog, just like it is with young children. “No” should be used to discourage any behavior that you don’t want your dog to engage in.
For example, if your dog is begging for food, you would exclaim “no” in a firm voice and take it to its “place.” The key to the “no” command is to remove your dog from the item you are discouraging it from.
The “heel” command is important in maintaining control over your dog in public. Some dogs are particularly headstrong and can pull you down the street if they are not taught to “heel.” While your dog is on a leash, begin walking. When your dog begins pulling, exclaim the “heel” command in a firm voice, and pull your dog close to your leg.
The goal of “heel” is for your dog to walk alongside your leg without pulling forward or dropping back. Encourage your dog to “heel” by gently pulling the leash to align with your walking stride. Working on the “heel” command while carrying a treat in your hand is an effective way to encourage your dog to pay attention.
Here’s a summary of the tips above for easy reference.
Patience Is Key In Training Your Dog
There are a significant number of commands that you can teach your dog, but the important thing is to look at your life and see what the most important ones are for you and your dog. While the basics such as “sit” and “stay” are important for any lifestyle, commands such as “place” are not needed for every family.
Whatever you decide to teach your dog in obedience training it is critical to act as a leader, be consistent with your requests and teaching techniques and, most importantly, make sure that you remain patient! If you have a puppy, check out our puppy training tips and if you need an expert’s help, we recommend this online training.
Which dog training command do you find most useful for your pet?