Tuesday, April 20, 2010

11 Basic Commands Every Dog Needs to Know

By Linda Cole

We teach our children basic commands they need to know in order to stop them from running out in front of a car or putting something dangerous in their mouth. Puppies should also be taught certain commands for the same reason. Whether you adopt a puppy or prefer an older dog because it fits better with your lifestyle, there are certain basic commands every dog should know. Their safety could depend on it.

“Come” means to stop what he's doing and return to you. It's an easy command to teach, and important in an emergency, if he should break loose from his leash or pen, or rush out the front door when company arrives. The come command helps you control situations much easier, and allows you to keep your dog out of harm's way.

“Sit” is another easy command every dog should know. Dogs get excited when they're getting ready to go outside or go for a walk. Some have a hard time waiting while supper is being prepared and some dogs go bonkers when the doorbell rings. Teaching your dog to sit and wait helps subdue their excitement so you can answer the door, finish their supper or get their leash attached to their collar. The sit command also works well to keep them from jumping up on people.

“Stay” is harder for some dogs to learn, but it's well worth the time and patience it takes to teach it. Dogs don't always understand they could be in danger, and using stay can stop them from running in front of a car or grabbing something they shouldn't have. It gives you time to remove the danger or wait until it's gone. Staying can be hard for a dog to do when he sees something he wants, especially if it's a cat or squirrel in the yard across the street; however, it's an essential command every puppy and dog should know.

“Drop it.” How many times have you tried to wrestle something out of your dog's mouth? They don't know that the chicken bone clamped between their teeth is harmful for them. Instead of you prying their mouth open to retrieve whatever they've picked up, the drop it command makes life much easier for you. Knowing this command also makes playing fetch more fun when your dog returns the ball to you and drops it at your feet or in your hand so you can give it another toss.

“Leave it” is another good command for dogs to know, because it can give you peace of mind knowing they won't grab something they shouldn't have. Dogs can easily swallow whatever they've picked up if they think you want to take it away from them. And dogs have been known to swallow needles, safety pins and other small objects before their owners could retrieve the item. The leave it command tells the dog it's not for him.

“Wait.” This command is sometimes used in conjunction with stay although they are two different commands used for different reasons. A more energetic dog may need to be held in check for a short time. Wait tells him it's not time to go and he must stay where he is until you let him know he can move.

“Okay” is a command every dog should know because this releases them from any other command you've given him. Okay simply means the dog is free to move.

“No” tells your dog he can't have something, or to stop doing what he's doing. No should be used to stop unwanted behavior like chewing, jumping up on you or someone else, or biting.

“Heel” helps you control your dog while on a walk and when you are around other people or dogs. Instead of allowing your dog to pull on his leash, heel puts him by your side where you have better control of him should you meet another dog or person while walking.

“Off.” Not everyone enjoys having a dog jump up on them. This command tells them to stay down and not to jump up on you or someone else. It also keeps your dog off the furniture.

“Stand” is a command every dog should know because it makes it easier when you are trying to give him a bath or groom him. Teaching him to stand is also a big help during vet examinations or when you are trying to examine him yourself.

These eleven basic commands can help you keep your canine companion out of danger, and you will have a well mannered dog who understands and follows your wishes. For information on how to teach your dog some of these commands, read Basic Commands for Dogs: Heel and Stand, and Teaching Come and Stay.

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. I have heard it said that the command to stay shouldn't be necessary - that is, a dog should learn that when they're told to sit (or lie down) then they should remain sitting until they're given the release command ('ok'). Theoretically I agree with this, and the stay command may actually cause more confusion than good. What are your thoughts/opinions/impressions about this idea?

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    I suppose, in theory, if you teach a dog to sit and make him stay until you give him a release, the "stay" isn't needed. I haven't found it confusing for a dog to learn both commands at the same time, but once a dog has learned what you want from a sit command, telling him to stay isn't really necessary at that point.

    However,teaching your dog to stay has value and doesn't always mean the dog needs to sit or lie down. I've given my dogs a "stay" command if a wild animal wandered into the dog's pen and I didn't see it until after I let the dogs out. It's a good command for them to know if you want or need them to stop right now, whether they are next to you or not. It's a good one for dogs to know when you're playing ball in the yard and the ball gets away and rolls out in the road. Stay doesn't necessarily mean to sit or lie down, but rather, stop where you are and don't move.It should definitely be taught as a stand alone command.


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