Caitlin UltimoTraining / Training Tips

How to Train Your Dog to Follow Basic Dog Commands

Anyone who has ever had a furry four-legged canine friend has most likely wondered how to train your dog to learn simple dog commands. While it’s true that certain pups take to training more easily than others, there’s no need to shy away from dog training completely just because you think it may be too difficult. “There are certain tricks that are easier to teach than others, and it also depends on the dog’s motivation to learn the trick,” says Annie Angell, CPDT-KA and co-owner of My Two Dogs, Inc.

Luckily for many owners, if your dog is motivated by food or toys, you’ll likely have an easier time training her as well, Angell added. Plus, there are tons of helpful training products on the market these days, like the PetSafe Big Dog Remote Trainer, the PetSafe Little Dog Remote Trainer and the Four Paws Cotton Web Training Dog Lead.

So—want to learn how to train your dog? We tapped Angell for dog training tips that will help even the most stubborn of dogs learn at least these five basics.

The Command: Sit

What It’s Good For?

Angell suggests teaching your dog to sit as a control, as well as a way for your dog to communicate “please” with you. “As a trainer, I would teach the sit and stay as a basic manner or behavior,” says Angell. “That will help you build on other behaviors and tricks.”

When to Use It?

Angell suggests using the sit command before you go in and out of rooms, when putting on collars and/or leashes, before people pet your pup, before meals and when you need to pick up after your dog on a walk.

How to Teach It:

  1. Use one of your pup’s favorite dog treats (Natural Balance Mini-Rewards Lamb Formula Dog Treats are a good option) and show her the treat as you hold it in your fingers.
  2. Place the treat above her nose and make an imaginary line going back over her head. “She should automatically put her backside on the floor as she follows the treat,” says Angell.
  3. When her backside hits the floor, quickly add the word “sit,” then give her the treat and tell her she’s a good girl.

The Command: Stay

What It’s Good For?

Helping your dog behave (and potentially remain safe) in situations when you need to move away from her.

When to Use It?

When you need to pick up after your dog on a walk, or walk away from her for a short time. Angell usually teaches stay to dogs in two parts—one for duration and another for distance.

How to Teach It:

  1. To teach duration, Angell says to first put your dog into a sit position, and then ask her to stay.
  2. “Keep her there for about 10-15 seconds, with her making eye contact with you the whole time,” says Angell.
  3. When you are ready, release her using “okay,” tell her she’s a good girl and reward her.
  4. From there you can slowly increase the amount of time you have her remain in the stay position. “Work on getting her to stay for 30 seconds—that’s big!” says Angell. “If she breaks the stay, say nothing, move a few feet away and try again. You always want to release her before she releases herself.”
  5. When it’s time to add distance to a stay command, Angell says to put your dog in a sit and ask her to stay.
  6. Slowly take a half step backward, then go right back to her, release her, tell her good girl and give her a treat.
  7. “Slowly increase the distance, make the half step a full step, then put your feet together and add another step,” says Angell. “Always go back to release her, and do it before she releases herself.”

The Command: Lie Down

What It’s Good For?

Getting your dog to relax and remain in place in a hectic environment.

When to Use It?

When people are over, around young or small children or any time you don’t want your dog underfoot.

How to Teach It:

  1. Start by putting your dog in a sit position, and with a treat in hand, lure her to look down at the treat, bringing your hand down to the floor and creating a straight line in front of her nose to the floor.
  2. Slide the treat along the floor so she reaches forward to lie down to get the treat.
  3. When your dog is in the down position, tell her she’s good and give her the treat, then add the word “down.”
  4. “If she does not go all the way, start treating at the position right before she pops up and slowly work her to the down position,” suggests Angell. “As your dog starts to get it, you need to begin to straighten up your body as well. The goal is to be able to give your dog a hand signal as you stand straight up and she goes into the down position.”

The Command: Roll Over

What It’s Good For?

Fun!

When to Use It?

Whenever you want to entertain, or show off your expert dog training skills. Angell does warn, though, that not all dogs are actually comfortable rolling over. “If she doesn’t like this trick, then find another one,” she said.

How to Teach It:

  1. Start with your dog in a down position on a soft surface (at least at first), and kneel next to her with a treat in hand.
  2. Lure her snout toward her hind legs and then across her body. At this point her own body weight should finish the roll.
  3. Tell her she’s wonderful and give her the treat.
  4. “You may have to do this trick in stages,” says Angell. “Some dogs will not roll themselves on their back. If this happens, give her the treat when you get her snout to her hind legs and slowly move it to the next step.”

The Command: Give Paw

What It’s Good For?

As with roll over, shake a paw is basically a fun way to show how great your dog is at obedience training.

When to Use It?

Around little kids—they’ll love it!

How to Teach It:

  1. Start with your dog in a sit position and sit in front of her with a treat in your fist.
  2. Wait until she raises her paw up to touch your hand and say, “paw.”
  3. Tell her she’s a good girl and give her the treat from your other hand.
  4. “When she is consistently raising her paw when asked, put the treat in your other hand from behind your back, hold one hand up in front of her and say ‘give me paw,’” says Angell. “ When she puts her paw in your hand, tell her she’s wonderful and give her a treat from your other hand.”
  5. To turn “give paw” into a high-five, Angell says to ask your dog to give you her paw, and when she does, move your hand up to the high-five position so her paw will come up and hit yours.
  6. Tell her she’s a good girl and give her a treat.

With a little patience and these expert dog training tips, your pup will be the pride of the dog park in no time at all.



Cheryl Lock is a writer and editor who lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, daughter and cat, Penny. Her work has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines and websites, and she’s written about everything from pets and politics to parenting, travel and food. Find more of her work at CherylLock.com, or follow her passion for travel on her blog at WearyWanderer.com.

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