All footage was filmed pre-COVID-19.

How to master the basic dog training commands

When you first start training your dog, there are a few simple commands that it’s well worth mastering. Here’s how...

Some commands are pretty much essential for every dog and their owner. And, though the thought of getting an unruly pooch to follow instructions might sound daunting, it can actually be great fun.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide on mastering the basics. Learning the techniques is easier than you’d think, and working through the list is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your dog.

First up, here are a few general pointers:

1 Start with short, five to ten-minute sessions in a familiar environment.

2 Master the ‘sit’ command first and progress from there.

3 Start practising in a quiet, familiar place. Once you’re confident, move on to the garden, before trying public places.

4 Remember—just like humans, dogs learn at different rates. So don’t get disheartened if they’re not getting it at first.

5 Take regular breaks, include plenty of playtime, and keep training fun!

The ‘sit’ command

With your dog standing up, hold a treat near their nose.

Slowly move the treat in an arc up and over the dog’s head. As they follow the treat, the dog will begin to sit. As soon as they do this, give them the treat.

Your dog will start to sit for longer once they get rewarded every time. Now it’s time to add the cue word: ‘sit’. Say the word each time they go to sit—but be careful not to say it before they move into position.

Teaching your dog to ‘stay’

First up, ask your dog to sit.
Now, give a clear hand signal—something like a ‘stop’ signal (where you hold up your palm) is perfect.

Wait a few seconds, then reward the dog. It’s important to reward them while they are still sitting down. If they’ve moved, they don’t get a treat.

Steadily increase the length of time that your dog will sit for.

The next task is to increase the distance between you and your dog. Do this one step at a time, and don’t be tempted to move too far, too quickly.

The ‘lie down’ command

With your dog standing up, slowly lower a treat to the floor—they’ll follow it down to a lying position.

Once your dog is easily following the treat down, start saying the word ‘down’ just as they get into the lying position.

Try giving the dog treats as they are lying down. Over time, this will increase the amount of time they spend lying down.

Getting your dog to come to you

First, show your dog the reward (a tasty treat or a favourite toy will work).

Take a few steps away from the dog and call out ‘come!’ in an enthusiastic, friendly voice. Sometimes it helps to lower yourself to their eye level, too.

As they come over to you, gently hold their collar and reward them with the treat.

Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. Soon, you’ll be able to call them in and out of the garden or from a different room.

You’ll need to draft in a friend or partner for this next step. Take it in turns to hold your dog’s collar while the other person walks away. Then call the dog over. Reward the dog for every successful attempt.

Feeling confident? Try practising the command in a quiet public place. If you’re worried about your dog making a break for it, think about investing in a long training lead—it’ll give the dog freedom, with peace of mind for you.

Teaching your dog to ‘leave’

Start by offering your dog a treat, instructing them to ‘take it’ in a friendly voice.

Hold the treat in your hand, but with your fist closed. The dog will try to nudge or lick your hand to get to the treat—don’t respond to this.

Wait, without saying anything, until your dog backs away. When there’s a gap between your hand and their nose, offer them the treat, giving lots of affection.

Repeat these steps until your dog moves away from the treat every time.

Next, start to say the word ‘leave’ in a gentle but firm tone as they back off. Then, open your hand to offer the treat, being sure to give lots of affection.

Mastered the basic commands? Let’s keep going!

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