How do you know if you have a slow dog? He brings you yesterday’s paper. Despite this older riddle, most dogs are not “slow.” They can learn to follow directions, perform tricks, and work at jobs, just like people.
Can you train your dog? Absolutely! There are many things you can teach your dog. You can learn to teach your dog manners, good behavior, and fun tricks. Unfortunately, they do not learn these things alone. They need your help, guidance, and patience to be successful.
Teaching your dog basic obedience commands is one of the first things you should do when you own a dog, no matter what breed it is. Make sure you are ready to be a responsible owner.
Why Train My Dog?
Training your dog helps you to bond (become closer) with your dog. The more you train him, the more he will understand you. And the more you work and play with your dog, the more you will understand him. Always remember to make training a fun and interesting game for your dog. In fact, you can make it fun for kids by having them sign a dog contract to ensure they commit to training their dogs.
In the past, dogs were bred to perform specific jobs like herding sheep, finding rodents, hunting birds and mammals, and working with firemen. But now, many dogs are left with nothing to do all day long. They can become bored and lonely. When that happens, they might chew, dig, or bark too much. Or they might sleep all day, which isn’t healthy.
Training your dog gives him something to do and helps build his confidence. Good citizens and STAR Puppies get to do lots of fun things. What’s the best reason to train my dog? A ‘good citizen’ is a person or a dog who follows the rules and is a good member of the community. Good citizens get to go to more places and do more things. People will like your dog more if he is well-behaved. Dogs can become good citizens through obedience training.
Obedience training is also fun. Yes, fun! You get to take your dog out in public and meet other dogs and new friends. You both get some exercise and you can learn tricks that are fun to show to your friends. When friends come over, they will be happy to hang out with your dog.
Who Trains Your Dog?
Many people can train your dog. A professional dog trainer can come to your house or take your dog for a couple of weeks.
You can take your dog to a class at a park, a pet store, or a humane society every week and learn good methods of dog training. Or they can train your dog at home using books and websites. You could also try an online dog trainer like Doggy Dan for an affordable solution that fits into your schedule.
Where Should I Train My Dog?
The best place to train your dog is where he can pay attention to you without distractions. If he’s watching other dogs, he won’t be able to pay attention to you. If there are other people calling his name, he will have a hard time hearing you.
How Often Should I Train My Dog?
Your first goal is to keep your dog happy while he’s learning. Teach him for short periods of time. For some, that’s thirty minutes and for others, only ten minutes. Stop the training while he is still interested. You can teach his lesson again, later in the day.
Your second goal is to work with your dog while you’re feeling good. If you start to feel frustrated or tired, stop and play with your dog. Wolves and dogs are alike. Why should I understand ‘Pack Behavior‘?
Like humans, dogs have families. For dogs, these families are called packs. In a pack, there is always one leader and several followers. The leader is the dog who makes the rules and watches out for others in the pack. When a dog lives in your house, your family becomes his family, or ‘pack’.
It is important that you let your dog know who the leader is. If he doesn’t know, he will try to become the leader. It’s an instinct (he’s born with it) to try to be a leader. When this happens, a dog may be pushy and not follow the rules. By teaching the dog obedience and giving him things to do, he will realize that a human is the leader and he will follow, instead of lead. Dogs should behave around other dogs. It’s time to start your obedience classes!
Patience & Why It’s Important
If you are patient, your dog will be happy to learn all kinds of things. Patient means that you are able to wait calmly for things to happen. Patient people can wait for their dog to learn without becoming mad or nervous. Patient people don’t lose their temper when things don’t happen the way they want them to. Be patient and your dog will learn.
Dog training classes are not really for your dog. When you take your dog to a training class, the lessons are for you. This is a time for you to learn:
1. What commands to use
2. How to teach these commands to your dog
3. How to praise your dog
4. Effective ways to reward the behavior you want, like proper potty training
It is your opportunity to see an expert in action and ask any questions you might have. After learning how to teach your dog, then you can go home and practice, practice, practice. It’s also important to be patient, especially during the early phases when your puppy is going to be teething and will need redirection to the appropriate teething dog toys to help them stay busy.
The following lessons in each link below will provide you with a brief overview of each basic command, as well as a video of the dog being taught the command.
This is a video of Freyja the American Mastiff showing off her “sit” skills. The “sit” is one of the most useful things you can teach your dog. If your dog is sitting, he won’t be jumping on someone. If he sits before you feed him, he learns that you are the leader. If your dog can sit when friends come over, they will be impressed by his good behavior.
Here’s how to teach your dog to sit:
- Be ready with a small piece of your dog’s favorite treat
- Stand facing your dog or puppy
- Holding the treat in front of your dog’s nose, move the treat up toward the top of his head.
- If your dog lifts his front feet off the ground, you are holding the treat too high
- When your dog lifts his head and shoulders to get the treat, his bottom should go down
- As soon as your dog is in the sit position, praise him or her by saying “Sit.”
- Then say “Good boy/girl, sit.” Give him or her a treat if you like.
- If you need to, gently touch your dog’s back to give him a signal that you want him to sit.
- Do not push hard on his back or rear end.
Practice this many times. It may take 10-20 times before your dog understands. When you think he knows the word “Sit”, try it without the treat. If he doesn’t sit, don’t say anything. Just try it with a treat again. Praise him or her whenever they do what they are supposed to do.
You can teach your dog to sit while he is by your side, facing you, or while you are walking him on a leash. Repeat the steps above in many different positions and places. Once your dog knows what “sit” means, he or she will be happy to please you.
When Bonnie was only three months old, I taught her to come when I called and when I blew a whistle. She did a good job and was very reliable. But then she turned four months old and she forgot how. She didn’t respond when I’d call her name. Actually, she didn’t forget. Puppies often go through stages where they are more independent and don’t think they need to pay attention. It’s normal. I just kept on training and used lots of patience to get through this period.
Now Bonnie is six months old and for about four weeks we have been working on her response to my calling her. She is doing much better. She does remember what she’s supposed to do when I call her.
All of this time I’ve been working with her in my yard and on walks in the neighborhood and she’s progressing. The next step is to go where there are some distractions and see if she will come when I call her name.
I bought a very long leash. It’s thirty 30 long! With this leash, I can go to a park and let Bonnie wander away from me and still be safe. I can let her get distracted by people, bikes, and skateboards and then call her. A long leash is a great way to practice and reinforce this command which can be very difficult.
One word of caution. Don’t use a long leash if there are dogs nearby. If one runs to your dog, you won’t have quick control with such a long leash. Also, don’t use a retractable leash for this exercise. A regular 30-foot leash works best for your dog to wander and get distracted a long way from you.
Here’s a great way to teach your dog the “leave it” command. This will help educate your dog on what’s acceptable for them to take and what you want them to leave alone. Follow these steps to properly train your dog.
- First, find 2 treats that your dog likes.
- Then take the treats and your dog over to a place on the floor or to a low table like a coffee table.
- Put one treat in your pocket and set the other on the floor or table right in front of your dog’s nose.
- As you set this treat down, you’ll notice that your dog is staring at it and drooling.
- As you set it down, say, “Leeeave It” very slowly and firmly, but in a normal voice.
- Keep your hand right there. If your dog leans in to get it, just cover it with your hand and repeat, “Leave It”
- Wait just a few seconds, then grab the treat and praise your dog.
- Then, give the second treat you have brought as a reward. Don’t give him the food he/she is learning with.
- Repeat this game several times a day, just for a few minutes.
- As your dog starts to understand what “Leave It” means, you may begin to move your hand away just a little bit farther each time.
Eventually, you should be able to leave a treat on the table, sit in your chair, and be able to trust that your dog will leave it alone.
A dog can learn to stay in any position. In order to do that, he must be taught to stay in each of those positions. You can teach your dog to sit and stay, lie down and stay, and stand and stay.
What does stay mean? Stay means DO NOT MOVE. Your dog will not move when he understands what stay means.
So first, you will teach your dog to “stay” from the sitting position. Your dog will sit and not move until you tell him it’s OK to move. Here’s the best way to teach it.
- Have your dog sit; make sure the dog is sitting comfortably.
- Stand or sit in front and put the palm of your hand in front of his/her face and say “stay”.
- Step away using your right foot. You should always leave your dog using your right foot.
- Take only one or two steps, turn and stand right in front of your dog.
- You may repeat the word “stay” a couple of times. Wait only a few seconds, and then return to your dog’s side.
- When you finish, say “okay!”. Get your dog to move and praise the dog.
- Do this several times over the next few days. When your dog seems steady, you can increase the time that you stand in front of him.
- Then you can increase the distance, but only a little at a time.
- If you want to give your dog a treat, give him a small piece while he’s in the “stay” position.
- Don’t feed him/her until after they move, or they may think that he got the treat for moving. You can also praise by saying, “good stay” while he/she is staying.
You may practice your “stays” from a down or standing position by following the same steps.
After your dog understands how to sit and stay, you can try lying down. This might be days or weeks later. Follow the same instructions as above, but first, have your dog lie down. Your dog probably won’t understand right away. Go slowly, as though he/she has never heard the word “stay” before.
What is Proofing? Proofing is practicing “stay” under many different circumstances. Here are some things you can try:
Have your dog “stay” in the house and outside. Have him ‘stay’ when you have friends over. Roll a ball past him while he is on a ‘”stay”. Have someone call him while he is on a ‘stay’. Try practicing next to another dog. You can also have your pup stay while crate training, but just make sure you have a crate that’s big enough for your pup.
Never overdo it. Be kind to your dog. Proofing is not to tease him, but to show him exactly what “stay” means. Your dog will become more confident as he begins to understand the meaning of “stay”.
The word “off” is used when you want to get your dog’s paws off of something, like furniture, the fence, or someone’s body.
It’s best to set up a training session to teach the “off” command.
- Get your dog or puppy to put his front feet up on a box or your lap.
- You can also use a chair or anything that is comfortable for you and your dog.
- Get your dog or puppy to put his front feet up on the box or your lap.
- Praise and pet the dog.
- Shortly after, say “Off” in a firm, but gentle voice, followed by praise or a treat.
- If your dog is on your lap and doesn’t get off, you can stand up. Be sure to say “Off” as you stand up.
Tip: “off” does not mean the same as “down”!
Use off for getting your dog off you after jumping up, jumping on furniture, or jumping on the fence. Use down to have your pup lie down on the floor or lie down in their dog bed.
Here’s how you can teach your dog to lie down.
- Start off by having your dog sit while you have a treat in your hand.
- Let your dog sniff a treat you are holding, but don’t let them have it.
- Lower the treat to the floor, and as you are doing that, your dog should follow it down.
- Be sure to say “lie down” as your dog begins to lower themselves.
- Your dog should lower himself all the way to the floor. You should be now holding the treat between his front paws.
- Only give him the treat once he is on the floor.
- Repeat the words “lie down” many times: Say, “Good boy/girl, lie down. Lie down, good boy/girl.”
- Practice this several times during the day and over several days.
Now that Bonnie is five and a half months old, I’m beginning to expect more from her. She is taller and weighs more and is starting to look like a real dog. But many times during the day I’m reminded of how young she still is. Bonnie is very active and gets bored easily. I have to come up with things for her to do all day long, especially because we don’t have another dog. Luckily, there are times when she can entertain herself by chewing on a bone or playing with a toy.
When Bonnie and I were taking the puppy class, I began short training sessions with Bonnie at home. I wanted to be sure she learned things in time for the next class. Because of this, Bonnie is used to a little training each day. It’s kind of like homework; only Bonnie thinks we’re playing games. Learning is always more fun when you’re playing a game, right?
Last week we worked on the command, “down”. I want Bonnie to learn this because if she’s wild or we have company, I can have her lie down and control her behavior. Another reason is that we can take her places and she will be well-behaved around others.
Some dogs have a hard time learning down, but if you keep it fun and only do a little bit each day, your dog will learn it. Here’s Bonnie when we first started learning. She was very silly!
Go Hurry Up
Go Hurry Up is a phrase that you can use to get your dog or puppy to go to the bathroom. It’s easy to teach, but some dogs take longer than others to understand.
As with all training, try to be patient, positive, and consistent. Begin by taking your dog to a place that you would like him/her to go. This should be a positive experience for both of you and your dog should be rewarded with praise, treats, or both.
Here’s how to teach it:
- Starting when you first get your pup or dog, every time your dog eliminates outside where you want him/her to, say “Go Hurry Up”.
- If you say it every time he/she goes, they will eventually associate going to the bathroom with the words, “Go Hurry Up”.
- Be sure to say those words every time and every day that he goes to the bathroom.
- Later you can say, “Go Hurry Up” and he/she will!
Be sure that you always praise your dog every time he/she goes, if it is at the right time and in the right place.
Teaching”Move, please!” The words, “Move, please” let your dog know that he needs to change position and move out of the way.
“Move, please” is a command that helps your dog understand what you want. It teaches your dog that you are the leader and in charge. You can use the word, “Move” instead, if you prefer. You can teach your dog to move any time of the day. You do not need to plan a special time for this lesson.
- When your dog is sitting or standing facing you, just walk into him while you are saying, “Move, please”.
- He/she will think you are going to step on him (but don’t!) and will move out of the way.
- Do this a few times each day, and it won’t take the dog long to learn it.
- Practice “Move, please” in different places – outside, in doorways, at friends’ houses.
- Show your friends and family how to do it, so your dog moves for everyone.
If your dog is bigger than you, “move, please” is a great thing for him to know. You won’t have to push or pull or even put on the leash. Just say, “move, please”!
Wait is a lot like stay, only your dog doesn’t have to be still. Wait means: don’t go past a certain point. You might use wait if you want your dog to stay in the kitchen while you go to the living room. With the “wait” command, your dog can move anywhere in the kitchen, but cannot leave.
Think carefully about whether you want your dog to stay (don’t move a muscle!) or wait (you can move, but don’t follow me!) Some situations require that you tell him to stay and some require that he wait.
Here’s how to teach the “wait”:
- Let’s say you want your dog to stay in the kitchen, and you don’t want him to go into the living room, which is right next to it.
- Stand here at the doorway to the kitchen. Hold the palm of your hand toward your dog and say “wait”.
- Say it slowly and raise your voice at the end. Say “waaaaiiiiit“.
- Then stand in the doorway facing your dog.
- Don’t let him out.
- He can go anywhere in the kitchen but not out the door.
- Repeat “wait”.
Remember the difference between wait and stay. Which one do you want to use? A little bit at a time, start to back up farther away from the door. If your dog tries to come through the doorway, walk back to the door, with him in the kitchen, and repeat “wait”.
Stay close to the door until you feel he understands; then back up a couple of steps. If he does that well, then you can back up more. Remember, these steps should be done over several days. Don’t expect your dog to learn it the first day.
Teaching your dog to pay attention to you is very important. If you can get your dog to ignore things around him and focus on you, it will be much easier to teach basic commands. Teach ‘Watch me’ just like you would any other command or trick. If you spend time teaching your dog to pay attention now, he/she will be a much better student for all training later.
Never stare into a dog’s eyes. Staring is when you look directly into a dog’s eyes for too long. Dogs interpret staring as a challenge, and some dogs can get aggressive.
Looking at your dog’s eyes for a moment or two is fine if your dog is a trustworthy pet. When your dog looks at you, it helps you to feel closer to him/her. This will help your relationship and can encourage faster learning.
Here’s how to teach the “watch me” command:
- Put some of your dog’s favorite treats in your pocket or closed hand.
- Stand or sit facing your dog.
- As soon as he/she looks right at your face, quickly say, “Watch me,” provide the treat, and then say, “Good boy/girl!”
- If your dog just won’t look up at you, you can use your treat by holding it up by your eye.
- It’s important that you don’t show your dog the treat first.
- If you do, he/she will want to look at the treat instead of you.
- At first, you might hold the treat up to your eye to get him to look up at you, but once he understands, only give him the treat after he/she looks at you.
- Practice “Watch me” many times during the day. It may take a while before your dog understands.
- When you think he/she knows the words “Watch me,” try it again. If he/she doesn’t look at you, don’t say anything. Just try it again another time.
- Praise your dog whenever he/she does what they are supposed to do.
Once your dog has truly learned “watch me,” you can take them anywhere, and he/she will turn all of his attention to you! Never punish your dog or yell if your dog is not learning as fast as you think they should. Your puppy may be tired and need a break and may not understand what you want.
Take a break and think about what you can do the next time to have more success. Remember that your dog is not being stubborn, he/she is just learning.
Uhtred is a well-behaved mastiff. Because he is a more stubborn breed, he took several times to attempt training him with the “heel” command. He now understands what it means, even if he sometimes tries to pull or gets more interested in other dogs or humans.
First, you need a 4-foot leash and a collar that won’t slip off.
- Start by having your dog sit on your left side facing the front just like you.
- As you say “Heel”, take a step starting with your left foot.
- Using your left foot all of the time will signal your dog that you are about to walk.
- Walk at your normal walking pace and talk to your dog while you walk.
- Praise the dog – You want them to be happy walking with you. Keep talking and make it fun.
- Go a few feet, then stop. Give more praise, or you can have her sit and then praise…as long as the dog stays with you.
- Practice for 5-10 minutes several times a day. Keep it fun!
Walk On A Leash
It’s not always easy to walk a puppy. Puppies like to run, pull, bounce around, and investigate everything. Bonnie has days like this. When she was very young, she walked very nicely because she wanted to stay close to me. But now that she’s five months old, she’s becoming more independent. She has been pulling ahead to the end of the leash and trying to go places as fast as she can.
Pulling on the leash is just plain bad manners. If I let Bonnie pull on the leash, she will learn that if she pulls, I’ll follow her. It’s my job to teach her not to pull.
The method I’m using is simple to understand but not always easy to do. Here it is. Bonnie pulls (leash tightens)…I stop. Leash loosens…we walk.
If Bonnie pulls on her leash, making it tight, I stop immediately. I just stop. Eventually, she’ll turn around to see what’s going on. If she doesn’t, I may call her or make a noise, in the beginning, to help her take a step toward me. As soon as she does that, her leash loosens and I start walking again. Leash tightens, we stop. Leash loosens, we walk.
Some days, in the beginning, my walk with Bonnie took a very long time. Sometimes we didn’t get where we wanted to go. But soon, Bonnie caught on. She now knows that she can’t get anywhere while pulling. She does know that. But she still pulls because she forgets. So until she grows up, I’ll have to remind her. We get where we want to go these days – it just takes a little longer sometimes.
Why does a dog need to learn to stand? It is easier to do many things when your dog is in a standing position. It is also helpful for your dog to stand up and stay still during a veterinarian exam. Bathtime is also easier with a dog who is standing!
Here’s how you teach the “stand” command:
- If your dog is lying down, gently slide your hand under the belly until standing.
- As soon as your dog starts to move, say “stand” and then use verbal praise.
- If your dog is sitting, you can slide your hand under their belly, or you can start by facing your dog, holding a favorite treat.
- As you step back, your dog will most likely stand up to try to reach the treat. As the dog does, praise and stay “Stand.”
- You may need to keep your hand under your dog’s belly until standing and steady.
When teaching the “stand” command, the key is to make your dog stand still and learn the word, “stand”. If you slowly put your hand under your dog’s belly, this will make the dog stop moving. Move and talk slowly so your dog stays calm.
If you’re interested in learning to show your dog, teaching “stand” is very important. While your dog is standing, the judge will check the coat, teeth, and general health. The judge will also see that you have a very well-behaved dog.
“Be Gentle” is a very important command. It teaches your dog to take things from you gently, without grabbing or being rough. You can say, “gentle”, or “easy”, if you prefer. You can teach your dog not to grab wherever you are.
With a command like “be gentle”, it is best to plan your teaching session. This means that you decide when you are going to teach it to your dog. Follow the steps below to teach your dog to be gentle. You should teach “be gentle” soon after a meal so that your dog is not hungry.
Here’s how you teach it:
- Get a dog treat that your dog likes.
- Take the treat and your dog over to a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. You and your dog need to be very calm.
- If your dog is not calm, wait until another time to teach this.
- Because your dog may be impatient for the treat, ask him or her to sit or have someone hold them.
- Hold the treat in the palm of your hand, and while saying the words, “be gentle”
- Move the treat closer to your dog’s mouth. Say the word calmly and slowly, “beeeee g—e—n—-t—l—e”
- If your dog starts to reach for the food, pull your hand away and say
- “Nooo” very softly. This should be a very calm time.
- Since you will be pulling your hand away when your dog grabs, he should stop trying to grab.
- Keep bringing your hand toward his mouth and if he is being very gentle, and not grabbing at all, let them take the treat.
- Try this a couple of times a day for short periods of time, and before you know it, people will be amazed at your incredible, non-grabbing dog!
Your dog will be less likely to grab things from other people when he/she learns to be gentle, especially if other members of your family practice it, too.
This command is helpful when you give your dog a bone to eat or play with. It helps when you are giving him anything that he/she might put into their mouth.
With a little time and practice, you’ll begin to see results. One key to remember when teaching a dog commands is to keep sessions short and focus on one skill at a time. Dogs can get confused if you try to mix in too many things at once. We hope these tips and our experience help you and your dog on the path to becoming a better-behaved doggy.
April 10, 2023 at 1:26 am
Very informative and gentle training .would like to know how to train an 8yo JRT with visiting toddlers ,thank you
March 8, 2023 at 3:32 pm
Thank you. I saved the article
April 15, 2022 at 4:59 pm
I also taught my last dog “stop” . It was one of the best commands for her because we were at a groomers and she didn’t want to go in. She slipped her collar, got away, and ran towards a busy road. I immediately yelled for her to stop! She did! Then I yelled for her to come and she did that! So I was so happy that we had both put so much time in the training and in love.
January 24, 2022 at 12:40 am
Great article! I plan on implementing many of these with our newly adopted year old puppet. My question is regarding jumping on the furniture. Our dog is allowed in the couch, but I’d like to teach him when and where to jump up. For example not jumping over the arm of the couch, but only from the front and not when company is on the couch. Doable, or no??
January 24, 2022 at 12:11 pm
While it may depend on your dog's desire to learn and obey, this seems like expectations you can work on with your dog. Patience and consistency will be key.
January 17, 2022 at 6:26 pm
Don't be too hard on your dog. When a puppy, it takes time to train your dog to go out. The bladder is not fully developed!
Just little babies. Be kind!
Sherrie Mae Plotkin
October 14, 2021 at 11:57 pm
You are informative, however, I would like to learn how to stop my puppy from biting me. She is very active and I live in an apartment, the puppy is a German Shepard/ Husky mix. I walk her 4 times a day.
October 15, 2021 at 10:07 am
These article may be helpful for you:
- Bad Behavior in Dogs: How To Stop Chewing, Biting, Digging and More
- Why Does My Dog Mouth Me All The Time? How Can I Stop It?
September 22, 2021 at 8:05 pm
My dog is likewise quite cute, but his conduct is quite different from his personality. He occasionally chews my slippers and also tries to eat the sofa and other items. His most annoying thing is that he pooped everywhere, but I love my dog because he is so innocent. I wanted to train him, so I hired a trainer, but one of my best friends suggested that I buy a dog training book, which I did, and it helped me a lot.
January 5, 2021 at 2:26 am
How do you distinguish free time for dog walking to use potty? In other words, not having him heel. Years ago (30 years ago) I was taught to use "free dog" as unstructured time. It has been a long time since I've trained a large dog.
January 6, 2021 at 4:59 pm
Hi Ouidette, when we are training heel, we are also carrying over our housebreaking at the same time. Our dogs know "hurry up" when we tell them to go outdoors into our backyard (we live on acreage). We don't do much "unstructured free dog time" when they are on-leash walking in a neighborhood. Instead, we keep them on-leash but take them to a grassy area. We then give the command "hurry up" and walk in circles. Usually takes no more than 5 minutes. Hope this helps, and good luck!