How To Teach Your Dog Basic Commands



As much as we would love to think it, no puppy comes fully trained. You need to work hard with your new best friend to earn the ‘best behaved’ badge of honour. The war between getting your dog to listen and learn, rather than just play lead actor for the treat, is very real for most owners.

If you’re struggling to get Fido to listen or sit still, and you’re feeling like you adopted a little terror, rather than that sweet furball, here are some tips:

Before You Start Training

  1. Find somewhere away from people, dogs and literally any possible distraction. Find the plainest room in the house, where no one ever goes. Or even a park that isn’t often used, to make sure you get the full attention of the eager learner.
  2. Don’t overwhelm your furry friend, like humans, too much information can be pretty stressful and hard to retain. Keep the training sessions short and sweet, but stick to a routine. Avoiding changing the focus of the training session too much, and having plenty of breaks, will give you the best chance for Fido to learn.
  3. Mix up rewards and keep it interesting. It’s not all about the yummy treats and head pats, you also need to give a good amount of praise verbally; for best chances, use all three reward systems. The more you reinforce that love and support, the better Fido will respond to commands.

To Teach A Dog To “Sit”:

How To Teach Your Dog Basic Commands
  1. Make sure your dog is in their natural ‘standing’ position. 
  2. Grab a treat and hold it near your dog’s nose.
  3. Move the treat from his nose, to above his head.
  4. Repeat until your dogs bottom sits on the floor.
  5. When your dog sits, use multiple forms of praise.
  6. Reinforce with the word “Sit” or another chosen word command.
  7. Repeat a few times to reinforce, before having a break.

To Teach A Dog To “Lay Down”:

How To Teach Your Dog Basic Commands
  1. Stand directly in front of your dog.
  2. Use the sit command on your dog.
  3. Show the treat to your dog.
  4. After letting your dog have a taste of the treat, lower the treat to the floor.
  5. If your dog lays down, let them have the treat.
  6. Reinforce with the word “Lay Down” or another chosen word command.
  7. Remember to give plenty of praise. 
  8. If your dog will not lie down, make sure they are sitting and repeat the above method. 
  9. As always, repeat a few times to reinforce this command, but don’t overdo it.

To Teach A Dog To “Stay”:

How To Teach Your Dog Basic Commands
  1. Start by getting your dog to lie down.
  2. Decide what signal to use as the ‘Stop sign’, a flat palm is common.
  3. Make your dog aware of the treat, but say “Stay” a few times first.
  4. After your dog has waited for a moment, and if they are still in the ‘lie down’ position, offer praise.
  5. If your dog moves, changes back to sitting or standing, don’t offer a treat and repeat method above. 
  6. You can extend the ‘stay’ period time as the dog gets more familiar with the command.
  7. Keep practicing but remember those breaks and rest periods, this one is the harder command of the three!

What happens if your dog is still refusing to respond to commands?

Some dogs, depending on their breed and age, can prove more difficult to train. However, with time, patience and a good route, as well as a healthy relationship with the owner, pretty much any dog will learn these commands eventually. 

Some people opt to get a professional dog trainer for dogs with those permanently dancing paws, others may go to a vet for advice. 

More advice can be found on websites made by notable animal lovers, such as the Blue Cross.

Images – credit to Kristida Photography


About the Author Kiri Nowak

Hi, I’m Kiri. I am a writer and love what I do. But I couldn't do it without my dog by my side. I have always loved dogs and they have been the topic of a lot of my writing. It has become a passion of mine to share my knowledge and help people give their dogs the best life possible.