Who doesn’t want a dog who’s so trained it will open the fridge and bring you a cold drink, or flush the toilet, or high five your friends when they come in the house? But there are other commands they’ll need to learn before they learn the ones that will make them viral video stars.
Dogs are very trainable, and most love to learn new commands - especially when there are treats involved. “Sit, Stay, Stop, Fetch" and "High five!" are some of the most popular commands owners start teaching their dogs, but what are the top commands every dog should know? I like to start out the dogs I train with the commands that will keep them safe. Then we move onto other commands they’ll need to know to move onto advanced training. Different trainers teach different things, but these are the commands I like to see a dog learn first.
Stop. A “stop” command finsures your dog stands still on command whether on or off their leash. You may not be able to reach them physically to have them avoid an oncoming car or other danger. By calling “stop,” you can keep them from wandering into areas that aren’t safe for them, or stop them from whatever behavior they’re indulging in that may harm them.
Recall or “Here” Command. Your dog should not only know its name, they should immediately come to you when you call them. This is a must know command before you ever venture into a dog park with your pet. They need to know that no matter how urgent or compelling a pending dog fight, or play is, that they need to stop and return to you when they hear their name.
Down. Believe it or not, this can be a difficult command for many dogs, but it’s well worth your patience to teach it. It helps your dog calm down, relax, and prepares it for many other commands that come from this position.
Sit. This is one of the easiest commands you can teach your dog. It’s a precursor to so many other commands, like “heel.” The point of getting your dog to sit, then heel, is to teach your dog not to get in front of you (a dominance and aggression behavior). It’s designed to get their attention, to keep them close to you and focused on you.
Heel. Teaching your dog to heel prepares them for learning to walk on a leash next to you instead of in front of you. This establishes you as the pack leader and the dominant one in the household.
Stay. Stay is a great command because like sit, stop, and recall, this command ensures your dog stays put and doesn’t wander away during training. It teaches your dog self-control and discipline, and to pay attention to you as it waits for the release command - critical during advanced training techniques.
Leave it. Let’s face it - there are times when that dead animal or strange piece of garbage your dog has suddenly discovered needs to be dropped. The “leave it” command tells them to drop whatever it is they’re carrying, eating, or curious about (dirty diapers, drug needles, food, dead things, etc.) and move along. Unless you like prying strange, dangerous, filthy, or disgusting things away from your dog, “leave it” is a great command to have at your disposal.
Keep your training sessions short - about 5 to 10 minutes. Puppies, and even older dogs, lose interest if you train much longer than that. You can train several times during the day, but keep your sessions short and focused on only one command at a time.