Sit- is one of the most basic tricks we can teach our dogs. When a dog is in a “sit” position, he knows he is meant to stay sitting until you say otherwise. If you need your dog to just chill out while you take care of something, you can put him in a sit position, knowing he won’t run off and get into trouble while you’re distracted. It’s a perfect command for situations like standing in a crowded place or if you’re loading the car for a trip and need Fido to hang out before getting in. Or on the flip side, telling your dog to “sit” before opening the door of the car to let him out gives you time to open the door, leash him up, and make sure no other cars are coming in the street or parking lot before allowing him to exit the vehicle.Sit is an important command because it puts your dog in a semi-submissive position and helps to calm his brain. A dog that goes from being excited to sitting has had to change gears mentally and refocus. This can be useful when putting on his leash or when someone wants to greet him. Sit can also be a primer for other commands such as stay and lie down. You can also use the sit command after other commands, such as “off” or “quiet“, to reinforce the change of focus.
Good Dog- On the flipside saying “good dog” lets your dog know that they’re doing what they should be doing. When you say this you should combine it with a physical gesture praising your dog for a job well done. This one should come naturally to most of us but what’s important is knowing how to use it in combination with other commands we’re going to talk about so you can positively condition your dog so he wants to follow your commands.
Lie down- The “lie down” trick is another way to have your dog stay in one place and out of trouble. Teaching your dog to lie down — especially if you teach him to drop to a down position when you signal from far away — can go a long way in keeping him out of trouble. A down position is one of increased vulnerability, so if your dog is getting too rambunctious around other dogs or is too wound up in a certain situation and simply needs to mellow out, a “lie down” command gives him an opportunity to calm down and remember his human is the one who is in control. Like the “sit” command, this is an active command, meaning your dog isn’t just lounging — he should be purposefully staying in one spot, keeping focus on you and waiting for his next command. Both the sit and lie down commands are excellent for bringing a boisterous dog back down to earth before a situation escalates out of control — such as when other dogs are around that might spark a fight, small children might get hurt, or other attention-grabbers pull your dog’s focus away from you.
Stay- What dog owner hasn’t had a dog that you loved with all your heart but for the life of you could get to stay in one place? That’s where this command fits in.
Sit your dog down and with a stern tone, tell your dog to “stay”. If he doesn’t listen, say “no” and start again. The key is repetition and consistency. If you start while he’s a puppy it shouldn’t take too long.
Come- This trick is rather obvious. After all, knowing that your dog will return to your side without fail in any situation is a big part of ensuring he will be safe. But getting that “rocket recall” can be tough. When a dog is distracted, or knows that you are much more boring than whatever trouble he is getting into, then getting him to come when called is a challenge. There are different ways to approach it, depending on a dog’s personality, but the best way to make sure your dog beelines back to you when you call is to give him the most amazing treat he can possibly imagine every time he comes back to your side. Whether it is rotisserie chicken, or liver baby food, or tripe, make sure he only gets that treat when he hears, and obeys, the recall command. Then he knows that when he hears the word “come” he’ll get a jackpot of a reward. Here’s a great video about getting a rocket recall with an example of exactly why it is so important for your dog to come back to you no matter what else is happening.
Down- This command should be used when requesting your dog to lie down with his belly to the ground. This puts a dog in a submissive position, helps you gain control, and helps his mind relax. It is very useful if he is in an excited or stressful situation such as at the vet’s office or if he needs to maintain a “stay” position for a long period of time. Be consistent with how this word is used and do not interchange it with other commands such as “off” or “lie down”.
Heel- is the first command that should be taught when training your dog to walk on the lead, and is the first stage towards teaching heelwork and enabling your dog to walk beside you safely even when off the lead. The “heel” command should be used when in close quarters to call your dog to your side, and to indicate to them that they should walk beside you, matching your pace and staying close. “Heel” is an important command to keep your dog safe when walking on the roads, and to safeguard your dog and other people and animals when passing each other in close quarters.
Your name is the most exciting word in the world- To humans, names are really important. It is embedded in us to use someone’s name to get their attention. Why bother fighting against that compulsion to say a name when needing your dog’s attention? But if it works for us to say the name, we need to make sure it works for the dog to hear his name. Teaching a dog to love his name sets the foundation for everything else in your relationship as it creates a level of trust as well as willingness to learn more tricks. And it can also be a lifesaver when out and about. For instance, if a dog is reactive to other dogs while on leash and his attention begins to zero in on a dog walking toward you on the street, you can say your dog’s name to bring his attention back to you. You can give him other commands or treats until the other dog has passed. You avoid conflict, and you etch away at that reactivity since your dog will realize that keeping his attention on you is much more rewarding than getting freaked out by that strange dog ahead. You now have an invaluable tool that can be used in situations from busy streets to chaotic dog parks to finding a dog that has wandered off out of sight.
Drop It- is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog. You are requesting from your dog that he release something from his mouth, that at least for the moment, he highly values. It can be something as simple as a shoe, as dangerous as a medicine bottle, or as delicate as a bird. It is best to teach this command long before you need to use it. Practice with lures that are just slightly more valuable than the item he currently has and he will naturally want to trade.
Stand- This command requires a dog to stand with all feet on the grand and to distribute his weight evenly. This is especially helpful at the vet’s office when a nervous dog would rather sit or lie down. It is also useful when trying to trim your dog’s nails or give him a bath. This command will be bring your dog to attention and can be a precursor for the command “come”.
Leave It- This is an especially good command for dogs who will not hesitate to grab a snake, a kitten or a dropped pill with their teeth. Some dogs will not discriminate in what they swallow.
Have your dog on a leash and drop a toy onto the ground. Walk your dog past the toy just short of where he could get it. As soon as you notice him pulling toward the toy, sharply say, “Leave it” and pull him away. When he walks away without your having to pull him, reward him with a snack and tell him what a good dog he is. Repeat this with a longer leash and later without a leash, until he listens to you and ignores the toy. Never forget to reward and praise.
Wait- The command “Wait” will help you tremendously when you have to take your dog for a checkup. In the time you open the car door and the crate door, your dog can be out and running into the street before you get the chance to put the leash on him.
Teaching him to wait lets him know that he has to stand still for a short time until you are finished with some task. Teach him to wait until you give him permission to go through a door, for instance.
Open your door and give him enough leash that he could walk through the door. When he is at the front of the door, pull the leash tight and say, “Wait.” Have him sit if he already knows that command. If he doesn’t listen, pull the leash and release a little in quick succession. Praise him and give him a snack when he finally gets it. Practice until he waits until you are through the door and then allow him to follow.
Remember that training is an ongoing endeavour, and not something that takes a few weeks to teach when your dog is a puppy and that then takes care of itself!