The 10 Most Important Commands to Teach Your Dog

by | Mar 23, 2022 | Puppies | 0 comments

As cute as puppies are, they don’t come with a human rule book. So training your puppy well can mean the difference between a difficult dog and a sensational one. Learning how to train your pup can also make your life easier. This article lists the top 10 most important commands to teach your dog, describes how to teach them to your dog and provides training tips to help you.

Understand how dogs learn new commands

Before introducing new commands to your dog, it’s important to understand how puppies and dogs learn. In short, dogs learn through association. When you teach your puppy a new command, you are teaching it to associate the sound of a word with a particular behaviour. The differing intelligence levels of various breeds and individual dogs means some dogs can make associations quicker than others, but with repetition, all dogs can learn in this way.

Dogs make associations through voluntary and involuntary conditioning. Voluntary conditioning is where the puppy learns that if they perform a certain act after a cue or stimulus, there will be a positive or negative consequence. For example, if they learn to sit on hearing the cue ‘sit’ they receive a reward. Involuntary conditioning is where the dog associates two cues involuntarily. For instance, if you ring a bell at the same time as your dog eats food, the dog may associate the bell with the positive reward of food and even salivate at the sound of the bell in future.

Your List of the 10 Best Commands to Teach Your Puppy

Here is a list of the 10 best commands to teach your puppy, remembering that early learning leads to long-term rewards:

  1. Sit
  2. Down
  3. Come
  4. Stay
  5. No
  6. Gentle
  7. Fetch
  8. Drop
  9. Quiet
  10. Shake

1. Sit

Teaching your dog the command sit is essential to harmonious cohabitation with a canine and luckily it’s also one of the easiest commands for your pup to learn. Sit is also interchangeable with other commands if your pup proves a slow learner. For example, your pup might be slow to understand that ‘down’ means you don’t want them jumping on your leg, but if they already know the command sit you can use this instead.

You can teach your pup to sit by holding a treat above its nose and slowly pulling it upwards and backwards. At the same time, say the word ‘sit’. Your dog may sit naturally at which point congratulate them wholeheartedly and give them the treat. Some pups might need a gentle physical prompt to sit. Alternatively you can use the words ‘good sit’ anytime they are sitting on their own, be sure to heap on the praise and treat them if convenient. The more often they make the association between the word sit and the action, the quicker they will respond to the command.

2. Down

Down should be a key command in every puppy owner’s playbook. You can start teaching the cute version of this command to your pup at the same time that you teach ‘sit’. Once your pup is sitting, say ‘down’ and move the treat in front of them to the ground. The easiest way for them to retrieve it is if they’re lying down. Once they’re down, hand over the reward!

The goal is for your pup to associate the word ‘down’ with all downward movements. So when they jump on your leg, the command ‘down’ directs them to move to the floor. When they jump up at the coffee table, the command ‘down’ is signally them to take their paws off! Even without treats, you can put your fingers together the way you would if you were holding a treat and pull your fingers to the ground when saying ‘down’. This will give your dog another cue to help them with the word association.

Related: How to Stop Your Puppy Jumping Up on You

3. Come

A cute puppy being trained by its owner to come.

Come is an extremely important command to teach your new puppy both for their safety and your peace of mind. Once they know this command, you can use it at the first sign of mischief. More importantly, this command can keep your dog safe out of the house. An off leash puppy that won’t come when it’s called can be at risk of running on roads, running away or running into trouble.

You can use a leash to teach your dog ‘come’. Simply tug on the leash at the same time as saying the command ‘come’ and when they come to you reward them with a treat. The leash takes away all other exciting options for them when they first learn this command.

4. Stay

To be a good canine citizen, it’s ultra important that your dog learns how to stay. The younger they learn this command, the easier life with your new friend will be. You can teach your dog this command once they understand sit. When your dog has sat on command, move backwards slowly, saying stay. You might choose to add a visual cue as well by holding your hand up like a stop sign (this can backfire if someone has hit your dog before as they may see the open palm as threatening). If your dog follows you when you back away, say no and start the game again. This time, only move a short distance away before rewarding your pup. You can gradually increase the distance before calling come and giving a reward.

5. No

No is easily one of the best commands to teach a puppy. Having a dog that understands the word ‘no’ can make your life as a dog owner a lot simpler and your dog a lot calmer. It can also help your pup stay out of mischief and danger. You can teach this command by putting your dog on a leash and having it walk next to you. Pre-plan your walk to go past a treat you’ve previously placed on the floor. When your dog reaches for it, pull them back and say no at the same time. Then reward them for forgoing the treat with another treat from your pocket. Adding this to your daily training routine is something you’ll thank yourself for later!

Related: How to Stop a Puppy from Biting in 7 Quick Steps

6. Gentle

Young pups are naturally exuberant and full of life. They can be mouthy, jumpy and hyperactive. So teaching your dog to behave gently toward yourself and others can result in a much more enjoyable relationship. You can use involuntary conditioning to help your pup associate the word gentle with a peaceful, relaxed state. Start when your pup is tired. Pat your sleepy pup and say ‘good gentle’. You can reward her with treats or just pats. Slow down your movements and keep your tone of voice soft and gentle too. Use this command often during peaceful moments and as the association forms for your dog, you can then use the word gentle as a command to calm her down when she is over excited.

7. Fetch

Sometimes your dog just won’t calm down. So you can help your dog release excess energy with intermittent games of fetch. Most dogs are natural retrievers so getting them to chase after a toy isn’t that hard. By associating this fun game with the word ‘fetch’, you can help your puppy anticipate this joy when you suggest ‘fetch’ in the future, which might help you divert them from a less desirable activity.

8. Drop it

Teaching a puppy to ‘drop it’ can save your shoes and belongings! This is easily one of the best commands to teach a puppy!

While getting your dog to fetch may be easy, teaching them to drop a toy is another thing altogether. Your dog’s first instinct may be to engage in a game of tug-a-war, chase or even to give you a nip when you try to retrieve the toy. So it can be a good idea to use treats to teach your puppy to drop items. You can start the game by offering your dog a toy that they aren’t protective of. This will make it easy for them to give it up. Let your dog play with the toy for a short time before waving a treat in front of their nose, saying ‘drop it’ at the same time. When your dog drops the toy for treat, congratulate them with the treat and a pat and then throw the toy for them again – double reward! With luck, they’ll be willingly dropping toys in no time.

9. Quiet

A dog that can stop barking on command is a dog that can win many friends! Teaching your dog the command ‘quiet’ isn’t always easy. You can start by rewarding your dog when in naturally stops barking by telling it ‘good quiet’ and rewarding it with a treat. The next step is to say ‘quiet’ loudly when they bark. If they stop barking, give them a treat plus loads of praise. You may need to repeat this several times.

10. Shake

Ok so shake probably doesn’t cut it as an essential dog command, but it’s super cute and a fun way to finish up your puppy training session. After commanding your puppy to sit, simply shake their paw while saying shake and reward them for their troubles with a treat. They’re likely to pick up this trick with ease, but good luck teaching them the Covid-safe elbow bump!

Tips to teach your dog essential commands

  • Aim to set aside 10 minutes 3 times a day to practice these essential commands with your pup. It may take a few weeks for your puppy to get the hang of things, but once they do, the difference in their behaviour and your happiness should prove worth the effort.
  • Be patient and empathetic. When your pup is naughty, it can help to remind yourself how young he or she is. If you commit to training, the naughtiness will pass and if you’ve been patient and empathetic, the bond you share with your dog will strengthen.
  • Try a few different treats to find out what works best to motivate your puppy.
  • Have fun with it! Pups love fun and sometimes they help remind us much we enjoy a bit of fun too.

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