One of the most common dog training questions I always get asked is, “I’m getting a dog; what are the basic commands I need to teach them right off the bat?”.
We all know of the obvious dog training commands - sit, stay and come. I truly believe everyone knows that these are essential for every puppy to know. However, coming from experience, there are some dog commands that I believe are tremendously important and that should be considered basic for dog owners who wish to have even a minimally disciplined trained dog down the line.
Now even if these are considered basic commands in my books, don’t panic if you have no idea how to teach your dog these or what they really mean. Before getting my Golden Retriever, Diesel, some of these had no significant meaning to me, and I did not understand their usefulness. Nowadays, I couldn’t live without them - and I’m not alone. Many dog owners have shared the incredibly positive impact these dog commands have had in their lives and within their households.
Now let’s dive right into it.
1. The "Place" Command
Does your dog get extremely hyper when guests are over?
Does he or she welch at the dinner table?
Does your dog have separation anxiety?
Or is it their witching hour, and you need your dog to calm down before you lose your sanity?
The place command will be your lifesaver.
This is truly the one command that has completely changed my life - and Diesel’s - for the better. I’m not too sure where I’d be without it. I remember when I first heard about it, I had no idea what it even meant.
Easily put, the place command is simply a spot that your dog knows to go to when told to do so. You determine where this place is, whether it's their bed, cot, or any other object placed on the floor, like a floor mat or blanket. Your dog can have many different “places” around the house, in the backyard, and in different locations outside the house.
If taught properly, the minute you say “place,” your dog should go to their place and lie down.
This really is one of the most important dog training commands you can add to your toolbox, and it goes hand in hand with crate training. Check out our crate training basics post to learn more.
2. "Look At Me"
Wishing you could get your dog to focus on you and not what is happening around them by making eye contact with you?
Does your dog lack self-control and get hyper when you walk by other people or dogs on a walk?
Teach your dog to “look at me.” This way, no matter what situation you are in where you need to deviate your dog’s attention to you, “look at me” will totally rock your world and end these unwanted behaviors!
One example where I use this dog training command a lot is when I am about to let Diesel sniff around and get out of his heel or wait command on a walk using the extendable leash. I ask him to "sit" and "look at me," and once he does make eye contact with me, I say “ok,” and he knows that he is now allowed to run around and sniff without having to heel. The same goes for when I’m ready for him to come back into a heel position. I stop, ask him to look at me, then I say, “heel.” There is truly no better way to get your dog’s attention on you and switch their mindset.
Practice this during your training sessions - it is one of the most wonderful commands to teach, and don't forget positive reinforcement - reward your dog with a yummy treat for doing a good job. The Wolf In Winter dog treat bag is a lifesaver with ample storage space for treats and your dogs' favorite toys - I use mine every day.
3. The Famous “Heel” Command
Every single owner and/or dog trainer wants their dog to walk properly. Every single dog owner wants their dog to follow their pace and not pull. Every single dog owner doesn’t want others to think they don’t have control of their dog.
We all know the word “heel.” We all want our dogs to hear these words and slow their pace down, and stop pulling. We all want a well-behaved dog.
Not only does it make walks more enjoyable by developing good walking habits with our dog, but it also saves us from risky and dangerous situations. The last thing we want is for our dog to lunge at someone or something.
The problem with the heel command? Many struggle to teach it! Why? The biggest mistake many of us make during dog training, including a mistake I used to make repeatedly, was saying the word heel when Diesel was pulling but then continuing to walk in the direction he was pulling in.
THIS IS WRONG!
I realized that doing this only gave Diesel what he wanted, giving no value to the word heel and enabling this undesirable dog behavior.
So what did give me results quickly?
Every time your puppy or dog pulls in one direction, say the word “heel” as you turn around in the other direction, with your leg gently but firmly touching their body. Be sure to continue walking in the opposite direction. You may only turn in circles at first, you may not even leave your street, and that is a good sign! It means you are being consistent, and your dog will get the hint quickly, believe me.
4. The Obvious "Lie Down"
I’m sure we can all agree that “lie down” is an obvious basic dog training command. But I never realized just how important it actually is. Teaching a dog the sit command is one thing, but teaching them to lie down is far more important. Why? Because it forces your dog to be in the calmest state.
For example, you ask your dog to go to their place as a way to calm them down. If they go to their place and sit, this is not as calming as asking them to lie down. The chances of your dog staying longer in their bed will most definitely increase if they are in a lie-down position.
The “lie down” command is also a great way to teach your dog self-control. If you have a dog that jumps up on people or other dogs, asking them to lie down and stay until you give the release cue can help immensely.
I can't emphasize enough how important these basic dog training commands are and how much they can help end behavior problems. Start teaching now!
5. "Leave It"
I love this one! I discovered this command and started using it a lot when I noticed Diesel was resource-guarding. A perfect scenario is when he would take my sock as a puppy. I discovered quickly I couldn’t just take the sock from him. Think of this dog training command as doing a “trade-off” with your dog. In other words, it shows your dog to leave something, give it to you, and in return, you will give them something else, like a treat or a toy. In my example with the sock, I’d ask Diesel to “leave it,” and in return, I’d give him a treat.
Eventually, your dog learns, and they will associate the words “leave it” with something better coming their way, that is, yummy treats!
To summarize, during your training process, teaching the command “leave it” shows your dog that when he does something you want, he gets something he wants and highly values. It can serve you in many different situations, not just with resource-guarding problems.
Say Yes To Dog Training Success
In theory, this all sounds great; however, I learned the hard way as teaching my dog these commands didn’t come easily, and I didn’t see results right away because I made two big dog training mistakes.
Firstly, the entire household needs to be on the same page. When you begin training, organize a quick family meeting, and ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of teaching your dog a command. Consistency is key!
Secondly, start right away with your new dog. I can’t emphasize this enough. Even at 8 weeks old, your puppy is ready to learn these basic dog training commands. It’s harder to teach them new dog commands and tricks as they age. It’s also harder to break bad habits!
Founder, Dogs Made Simple
Seeking help in teaching these commands? Needing a step-by-step guide? Get in touch with Jessica by messaging Dogs Made Simple on Instagram!