Basic training commands

Dog owners often misunderstand the reason for, and necessity of, basic training commands. First-time owners frequently approach commands as “tricks” rather than as tools to communicate with their dogs. Others skip formal obedience training altogether because they believe it takes too much time or demeans their dog. Teaching your dog training commands should be an essential part of your interactions with him. Not only do commands keep him active both mentally and physically, they’re your only means of truly connecting with him.

Five commands for EVERY dog

There are five training commands that every dog should know. They are:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Heel

As a testament to their necessity, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has created the Canine Good Citizen program to promote their use in a variety of situations. A dog that passes the Canine Good Citizen test is considered to have good manners both at home and with other people. These commands mark the first stage in obedience training and can be a stepping stone to the AKC’s other competitive events. Learn more about the Canine Good Citizen program at the AKC website.

Other useful dog training commands

While the Big Five dog training commands can be used to teach your dog basic manners, there are others that can make life with your dog more enjoyable. Some of these include:


Use this command to train your dog to get off the bed, furniture, or you.

Leave It

Use this training command to tell your dog to drop something he has in his mouth or to leave something alone. This is indispensable on walks where your dog might feel the need to sniff at objectionable materials.

Take It

Use this command to teach your dog to take items from your hand, which can lead to more complex commands such as delivering messages to nearby family members. Take It is also an integral part of teaching a puppy bite-inhibition. See how to stop a puppy from biting for more information.

Use “Crate” to direct your dog to his crate, or teach your dog the names of particular rooms and objects to have him help out around the house. The number of dog training commands your dog can learn is only limited by your imagination and willingness to instruct.

“No” is not a command

The one word that can never be a dog training command is No. If you tell your dog No when he jumps on the furniture, when he eats your shoes, when he poops on the rug, and when he drags you around the block by his leash, the word loses meaning. Your dog can’t obey a command if it doesn’t give an instruction.

Don’t use No to reprimand your dog. Instead, use an instructional word your dog already understands like Outside or Off. Rather than guessing at your meaning, your dog will know what he needs to do to make you happy.

Be creative

After teaching the five basic dog training commands, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what your dog can learn. Find a word that best sums up what you want him to do and then train the desired response. As your dog’s vocabulary grows, you’ll be able to communicate with him more effectively. That’s the foundation for a lifelong friendship.


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