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8 Basic commands you should teach your dog

Updated: Jun 25, 2021

There are expectations in place for humans in our community, and some of these expectations overlap into what we expect for our dogs. We have all been around a dog that has poor social skills and manners but it's all out of love. To paint you a picture, the dog is in a zone of jumping on someone or something exciting, barking and crying to get attention, and may even start to become mouthy just to get attention. This behavior, though is out of love, is unacceptable.


These are all behaviors that owners come to me about to train out of their dogs, and I always suggest we start right at the basics.


The Basics

Basic obedience encompasses hundreds of simple commands that allow you to obtain control in distracting situations resulting in a dog that focuses on you. Most of the commands that we start with can be taught at home and off leash. So grab your treats, your positive energy and get started!


  1. Sit

  2. Watch Me/Look

  3. Come Touch

  4. Stay

  5. Okay/Break/Release

  6. Down

  7. Off

  8. Leave It

Let's dive in to each one:

  • Sit

"Sit" is one of the most common basic commands that owners teach their dogs. Not only is this command a building block for many other basic and advanced commands it also allows dogs to regroup and refocus on you during distracting times. How to teach your dog to Sit:

  1. Grab some of your dog’s food, favorite treats, and a favorite toy

  2. Do training in a non-distracting location

  3. Allow your dog to sniff the treat while they're standing and slowly bring up and over their head (tracing their snout) while asking them to "sit"

  4. As soon as your dog’s butt touches the floor, give them a verbal marker like "Yes!", and reward them with the treat, toy, or piece of food

  5. If successful, repeat the process above. If not, you can try hovering the treat above the dog’s nose while pushing their butt gently down while saying "sit" then continue from step 4

  6. Once your dog gets the hang of the command you will want to incorporate a hand signal that pairs with the command

  7. Continue to use this command before and after your dog goes in or out of a door, when they goes up or down the stairs, before they go in or out of the car, before being greeted, etc.


  • Watch Me

"Watch Me" is another command that is super useful when you need your dog to redirect to you during a distracting time. It's helpful for dogs make eye contact with you when a dog, bike, or car goes by especially if they show signs of reactivity. Eye contact is also another way to bond and connect with your dog. How to teach your dog to Watch Me:

  1. Grab some of your dog‘s food, favorite treats, and a favorite toy

  2. Start training in a non-distracting location

  3. Put a treat in between your thumb and pointer finger, allow your dog to sniff and then follow your movement as you bring your pointer finger and thumb up to the tip of your nose

  4. As soon as your dog makes eye contact, give them a verbal marker like "Yes!", and reward them with a treat, toy or piece of food

  5. Once your dog gets the hang of the command you will want to incorporate a hand signal that pairs with the command (I use my pointer finger and place it at the tip of my nose while saying the command to my dog)

  6. Continue to use this command while a distraction passes or even before they get some love


  • Come Touch

"Come Touch" is a command that helps your dog with their recall but also with items that they might be afraid of! If your dog is scared of the vacuum or a pothole outside you can use this command to help them positively interact with it. How to Teach Come Touch:

  1. Grab some of your dog‘s food, favorite treats, and a favorite toy

  2. Start training in a non-distracting location

  3. Place the treats in your palm, and close your hand into a fist, from there tell your dog to "Come Touch"

  4. As soon as your dog‘s snout touches your fist, give them a verbal marker like "Yes!", and reward them with a treat, toy, or piece of food

  5. Once your dog gets the hang of the command you will want to incorporate this into their daily lives, whether it be outside, in the house or while placing your hand on an object that your dog is afraid of


  • Stay

"Stay" is a command that we use with our dogs when we want them to be a specific place until we "release/break" them. How to teach Stay:

  1. Grab some of your dog‘s food, favorite treats, and a favorite toy

  2. Start training in a non-distracting location

  3. Have your dog do a command like "sit" that they know well, while facing them slowly walk backwards and say "Stay"

  4. If your dog does not move, give them a verbal marker like "Yes!", and reward them with a treat, toy or piece of food

  5. With time you can begin lengthen the amount of steps that you back up

  6. When you're ready for them to move from the "Stay" position give them a break command like "Okay/Break/Release"

  7. Continue practicing "Stay" before they get food, before they go outside, before they go downstairs, etc.


  • Okay/Break/Release

"Okay/Break/Release" is a command that we use for our dogs when we want them to focus on us during situations where we need to give them the okay to do something after staying/waiting. How to teach Okay/Break/Release:

  1. Grab some of your dog’s food, favorite treats, and a favorite toy

  2. Start training in a non-distracting location

  3. Have your dog do a command like "sit" and "stay" then after waiting a few minutes, tell them "Okay/Break/Release"

  4. With time you can begin lengthen the amount of time that you have your dog stay for

  5. Only give them a verbal marker like "Yes!", and reward them with a treat, toy or piece of food if they moved on your command

  6. Continue practicing "Okay/Break/Release" before they go in the kennel, after going in the kennel, before going outside, before coming inside, etc.


  • Down

"Down" is a command we teach our dogs when we want them to lay down. This is one of the most common basic commands that we teach them in basic obedience. It can be helpful when you want your dog to lay down to meet a smaller dog or even a child. How to teach Down:

  1. Grab some of your dog‘s food, favorite treats, and a favorite toy

  2. Start training in a non-distracting location

  3. Have your dog do a command like "sit"

  4. Allow your dog to sniff a treat in your hand and slowly lure them to lay as you say "down"

  5. As soon as your dogs lays down, give them a verbal marker like "Yes!", and reward them with a treat, toy, or piece of food

  6. Continue practicing "Down" before they can be pet by children, before getting their food bowl, before fetching their ball, etc.


  • Off

"Off" is a command we teach our dogs when we do NOT want them to jump on us, the counter, other dogs, etc. It's important not to interchange this command with "lay down". How to teach Off:

  1. When your dog goes to jump on you lift your knee to your chest and say "off"

  2. When your dog goes to jump turn your back to them and say "off"

  3. When all four are on the floor, give them a verbal marker like "Yes!", and reward them with a treat, toy or piece of food


  • Leave It

"Leave It" comes in handy when you do not want your dog to get into something they aren't supposed to have. You can ask them to perform this command before they decide to chase a cat, or go after a squirrel, or even if you want to prevent them from eating goose poop. How to teach Leave It:

  1. Grab some of your dog’s food, favorite treats, and a favorite toy

  2. Start training in a non-distracting location and with the lowest value reward

  3. Have your dog "Sit" and "Stay"

  4. Place the dogs lowest value reward on the floor while saying "Leave It", anytime your dog moves towards the reward tell them "No" and start over

  5. As soon as your dog leaves the object on the floor for a small amount of time, give them a verbal marker like "Yes!", and reward them with a treat, toy, or piece of food

  6. With time you can begin lengthen the amount of time that you have your dog leave the object for

  7. Continue practicing this with low value rewards and higher value rewards, that way you can begin to implement this with high distractions outside of the house

Dog training is not a one and done type of deal, you will always be working or re-working on something with your dog. Be patient and pay attention to how best your dog learns different commands. Some commands may take longer than others, so in those cases remind yourself to be patient and know that it's okay.


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