The 7 Most Essential Dog Commands

Everyone wants a dog who can open the fridge and bring you a cold drink, flush the toilet, or high five your friends, but basic commands are important for building and maintaining a bond with your dog, and for ensuring their safety.

Dogs are very trainable, and most love to learn new commands – especially when there are treats involved. Sit, stay, fetch, and high five are some of the most common beginner commands, but I like to start out the dogs I train with the commands that will keep them safe. Different trainers teach different things, but these are the commands I like to see a dog learn first:

  • Stop
  • Here
  • Down
  • Sit
  • Heel
  • Stay
  • Leave it


A “stop” command ensures that your dog stops whatever they’re doing whether on or off their leash. This can be a Sit or Down command at a distance. You may not be able to reach them physically to keep them away from danger or stop them from engaging in some undesirable behavior (rolling in smelly grass, anyone?). By training them to respond to a stop command you can keep them from wandering into situations that aren’t safe for them, and stop them from engaging in problem behavior. 

Here (the recall command). Excellent recall is extremely important, especially when your dog is off-leash. Your dog should not only know their name, but should immediately come to you when you call them, regardless of distraction of temptation. 


This is one of the easiest commands you can teach your dog, and it’s also one of the most important. A sit command will get your dog’s attention, keep them still,  and keep them focused on you.


Believe it or not, this can be a difficult command for many dogs, but it’s worth your patience to teach it. Laying down helps your dog relax and stay calm, and prepares them to learn other commands that come from this position.


Teaching your dog to stay at your side prepares them for walking on a leash next to you instead of in front of or behind you. This also reinforces you the foundation your dog will need to be off-leash safely.


Stay is a great command because like sit, stop, and here, this command ensures your dog stays put and is calm and focused. Ideally, this is an implied command. Meaning when you tell your dog to Sit or Down, the “Stay” is implied. It also allows your dog to practice self-control and pay attention to you as it waits for the release command.

Leave it.

Let’s face it – there are times when that strange piece of garbage or neighborhood cat needs to be left alone. The leave it command tells them to ignore whatever they’re interested in and move along. Unless you like prying dirty things away from your dog, leave it is a great command to have at your disposal.

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