Whether you bring home a new puppy or an untrained rescue dog, you want to teach your dog the basic dog training commands that he needs to go through life as a good canine citizen.
Teaching your dog good manners and how to behave in public is not only more relaxing for you and your dog but also prevents possibly dangerous situations from happening.
What are the 6 basic dog commands? The basic dog commands are as follows:
- Lie Down
- Leave it
When to Start Teaching Puppy Commands?
You can start with basic puppy commands as soon as you bring the new addition to your family home.
Basic obedience training for puppies can start as soon as your puppy has adapted to his new environment which should happen within a couple of days.
At this young age, dogs are eager to learn and their curiosity makes them hypersensitive to their environment. This period decides if you will raise a well-behaved companion or an anxious or even aggressive dog.
Always pay attention to your puppy and show him how the world works.
During the first few months, you should prioritize crate training, potty training, and socialization to prepare him for his
I will go more into detail on when you should start training your puppy below.
Basic Obedience Training for Dogs
So, let’s dive right into how to teach your dog these 6 basic dog commands.
Sit is probably the most basic command a dog can learn and is naturally a very intuitive movement for them. It’s the first command that comes to a dog owner’s mind when thinking about basic obedience training.
How to train: Take a natural and delicious treat and lure your dog’s nose back until his head tilts and he eventually sits.
Repeat it a couple of times and add the vocal cue “sit” when he sits and reward him every time.
The down position is a fundamental command for many other tricks. It is also great to settle your dog and ensure that he stays in a lie-down position in your home or in public.
Having your dog in a relaxed position provides you with more control over the situation. The most important command out of this will be the following “stay” command.
How to train: Start with your dog in a “sit” position and lower his nose down to the ground with a treat. His paws will move forward and he will eventually lie down.
Reward and repeat and add “lie down” as the verbal command.
When your dog has already mastered the lie-down command, you can go ahead and train a “stay” with him.
Stay is among the more difficult dog commands and consists of the following three components: distance, duration, and distraction.
If one of these is increased, the harder it will be for your dog.
Stay is very important and every dog should know this command as it will save you from many bad situations.
How to train: I wrote a whole blog post on how to teach your dog to stay so check it out and then you can continue on reading.
The release command is probably the most underrated and overlooked basic obedience command out there.
It’s so important for your dog to know when he is in command and when not.
For example, when I let my dog off-leash on a field, I will get her into a sit, remove the leash and she will not go anywhere until I say “ok go” as a release command. You can choose any term, some people use “free” or “go”.
How to train: Get your dog into a sit and say your release command while motioning with a treat in your hand, so the dog will get up.
Check out this comprehensive blog post on the release command for a step-by-step guide.
“Leave it” is a perfect command for also training your dog some basic impulse control to not put everything in his mouth or running towards everyone.
How to train: Get your dog into a sit. Toss a treat in front of your dog and tell him to “leave it”.
If he goes up to the treat, cover it with your hand and tell your dog to sit again. Try it a couple of times until your dog leaves it alone and then get his eyes on you and tell him your chosen release command.
The “come” command is essential and saves your dog from dangerous situations. Especially if you let your dog off-leash, his recall has to be perfect and he has to immediately come when called.
How to train: To teach the come command, you need to be very engaging. Be interesting and grab a toy to wiggle it on the ground and get your dog’s attention.
When he walks towards you say “come” and reward him with a quick play. This also works with treats. Slowly increase the distance and always reward.
You can also put him in a sit-stay command if he already knows it and then tell him to come to you by wiggling a treat or toy in front of him.
Check my article on recall training for more.
Advanced Dog Training Commands
Now that you have trained your dog for a couple of weeks, you can start with some more advanced obedience commands.
I love heel as a command.
It is extremely effective if you have a dog that pulls on the leash and it teaches him to focus on you while walking.
I wrote a whole article on how you can teach your dog to heel.
Ask for Permission
Asking for permission is rather a behavior than a command. It’s an advanced version of the “look at me” or “watch me” command.
You can teach this by simply putting a treat between your fingers and moving it towards your face between the eyes, so your dog will be looking you directly in the eyes. After a few successful attempts, you can then add the desired cue.
We will want the dog to always check with us first before making a decision. This will prevent him from just running where he wants to or chasing anything. For this, you can start by reinforcing the command leave it and pairing it with eye contact.
If your dog wants to sniff on something outside on a walk or wants to greet a person or dog, let him sit and wait for him to look at you. You will want him to make the connection that looking means I can go there, on his own.
This will also prevent overexcitement on walks, something I definitely had to teach my own Rottweiler when she was a puppy.
Touch or targeting is perfect to redirect your dog’s attention in seconds. This command teaches your dog to touch your hand or any object with his nose.
Here’s a great video that will show you how to easily teach it.
What to Consider When Training a Dog
Mental training is very important for dogs and puppies and should be a part of your daily schedule.
To see the best training results you will always have to be patient and consistent. Always use the same words and the same rules for your obedience training and don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work out.
Always pay attention to his body language, if he starts to lay down or has a hard time paying attention at all, then you should take a break and try it again next time with a shorter session.
If you want your dog to love training, be enthusiastic and have fun yourself. Your energy will really ignite your dog and rewards will be much more powerful.
Start in a low distractive environment to set your dog up for success if you just started a new command. Once he is well trained in one command, you can then step outside with him and start with maybe your yard. Do not simply throw him into a public place.
You will always want to reward and reinforce positive behavior without punishing the dog. Even if your dog has performed a command a thousand times, you should at least verbally reward his behavior.
Only teach one command at a time and be very clear with your instructions. If you see your dog fail too often, you will have to take a step back and start again with the basics.
When Should You Start Training Your Puppy?
Whether or not you want to schedule obedience training sessions for the first few days, he will be learning from you the moment he steps into your house.
When can puppies start basic obedience training?
The answer is: immediately. If you bring a dog home from a shelter, he can also learn from the very first second. It doesn’t matter how old your dog is, he can still learn if he’s 10 years old.
Formal and advanced training usually starts when they are 6 months old but by then, they already have the basics down.
What we want to achieve with our puppy is to train him as many good behaviors as possible before he reaches adulthood. Every young dog goes through a phase of curiosity and fear and you will need to be there for him.
What Should I Teach My Puppy First?
There are a few principles your puppy should be learning from day one and I am not talking about sit or stay.
A key point to quickly get your dog comfortable with you and your family is teaching him your daily routine. Puppies love routines and they can quickly adapt to them.
You can grab a piece of paper and write down what a typical day of your family looks like.
Structure it like a timeline where you write the time of the day in one column and the description in the other. Now, decide on where to fit in your dog‘s schedule.
A puppy needs to be fed three times a day until the age of 6 months. At 8 weeks old, he needs to go out every 30 minutes to 2 hours. You will need to walk him and play with him to get his energy out.
Incorporate a few training sessions here and there. The attention span of a new puppy is fairly short but you should train him daily.
Ask yourself these additional questions:
- Where will my dog eat every day?
- Where will my dog sleep every day?
- Is my dog allowed on the couch or on the bed?
- Will I crate him?
- When will we go for a walk and for how long?
- How often does he need a potty break?
- Where is his potty spot outside?
- When will he go to bed?
Besides setting a clear daily schedule and routine for your dog you also have to consider his boundaries. Like I said, is he allowed to sleep with you in bed?
Once decided there is no going back. You have to be consistent with your rules because your dog won’t understand it if you suddenly stop letting him on the couch.
My Rottweiler, for example, is allowed on the couch but not on the bed. Not because we find it unhygienic or annoying but because you don’t want a 120 lbs dog to take up your whole bed.
Should I Use Treats to Train My Puppy?
Positive reinforcement is probably the best training method for a puppy and an adult dog. Treats go perfect with this training technique and most puppies love some yummy food.
Make sure to use healthy low calory dog treats for every training. If your pup is not so excited about food, you can also train him with his favorite toy.
The best way to use treats in positive reinforcement training is for luring. Luring means that you hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose and he will automatically follow it into your wished position. That way you can quickly teach your puppy basic obedience commands like sit or down.
Will My Puppy Listen to Me Without Treats?
Many new dog owners are concerned that if you always train your puppy with treats, he will eventually not listen to you without treats.
This is true to some degree but in any case, it’s best if you start to phase out the treats once he becomes a bit older as you won’t always have treats with you.
What we want to create is secondary praise besides the treats. Train your puppy as usual – put a treat into your hand and tell your dog the command.
If he has obeyed the command praise him with a vocal cue like “Good Boy” and a pat while giving him a treat. After a few times, he will associate the vocal cue with praise and we can slowly phase out the treats and only feed him every few times.
How Often Should I Train My Puppy?
A good amount of time would be at least 15 minutes spread throughout the day. You could do 5 minutes in the morning before work, in the afternoon and evening.
Frequently repeating basic obedience commands is very important for a puppy and you should always train him in different places to avoid having a “living room dog”.
But it doesn’t always have to be teaching and repeating commands. There are many situations throughout the day that offer a perfect opportunity to teach your puppy the correct behavior.
For example, if he bites too much while playing, put in some bite inhibition training. If he always watches and begs while you are eating tell him what to do instead.
Let your puppy sit when opening the door. This will prevent him from running outside and getting too excited. You should also do this when letting him out of the car.
Before he gets his meals, let him work for it by doing some commands. Every second that you spend when training him as a puppy will help you later on.
Puppies Role in the Pack
I do not agree with many dog trainers that a dog needs to be dominated for him to know his role. For me, a dog is a family member and should be treated as such.
In nature, the alpha male wolf doesn’t oppress his pack members but he earns his role with respect. They respect him and his decisions.
Parents have a role of authority towards their children. They choose the rules and terms. They live in a family and good parents treat their children with understanding and respect to be treated the same way.
You should definitely be the pack leader but to earn that role you need to be consistent in your conduct and most people forget that.
That is the reason why you should never yell or throw things at your dog. Dogs don’t understand mood swings and if you do not react appropriately, your dog will never take you seriously because you are unpredictable.
Sudden anger or frustration doesn’t happen in dog psychology and you will lose his respect.
Those are the kind of dogs that get aggression or even snap at people because they are at constant stress to decide things. They think you are not capable of clear choices and will make decisions for you.
With a basic dog obedience training for your puppy or even adult dog, you’re on the best track to raise the perfect canine citizen!