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Training Diaries: 5 Commands Your Dogs Should Know


One of the first questions we had to ask ourselves before we embarked on our mission to train our dogs was, “What do we want our dogs to know?”

The answer to that question will vary for everyone and will depend largely on what type of activities you want to do with your dogs. For example, our dogs spend more time at home with us than the normal pet, so many of our “must know” commands are focused on “common courtesies.” For this reason, the first things I teach my own pets – no matter what breed or age – is the “drop” command and “easy” command. These commands are very important to me on a personal level because:

  1. I don’t want them picking anything up off the ground that I didn’t give them
  2. I don’t want them to snap food from my hand, possibly causing injury.

While these are important to me, there are other commands that are also important. No matter what your situation, whether you’re seeking the coveted “Canine Good Citizen” certification or just hoping you can take your dog into a public park without an incident occurring, these are the top 5 commands that all dogs should know:

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]No[/heading]

As far as I’m concerned, this is probably the number one command that all dogs should know. Whether it’s because they are barking, growling, picking up strange food, jumping… there are a million uses for this command and it’s something that every dog should know cold. I’m sure that many trainers will disagree by saying, “If you train your dog correctly, you’ll never need to use the word ‘No.” And in that, they would probably be right. However, not every dog has the benefit of having a professional trainer as a mom or dad, and so I still maintain this as my “first commandment” in our household.

[quote width=”auto” align=”left” border=”#8904B1″ color=”#8904B1″ title=”Stacy Mantle”]One of the first questions we asked ourselves was, “What do we want our dogs to know?”[/quote]

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Drop[/heading]

This command is very important to know on walks – particularly if you have a very “nosy” dog like a beagle or a Labrador who do all of their exploration by eating or sniffing things they find. The second you say this word, they should drop whatever is in their mouths. My own dogs used to be quite good at this – that is, until I made the mistake of playing “Keep Away” with Bree. Lesson learned (for me) that you can’t teach your pet a command, then turn it into a game. Now we are back to square one…

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Come[/heading]

Every pet parent should have a solid recall for pets. Whether your dogs are bolting out a door or playing in a park, the goal is to have them stop whatever they are doing and return immediately to you. You should eventually be able to put your dog into a “stay” command, walk at least 10 feet away, then have your dog come when called. We are working on this now with our own dogs.


One thing we have learned from trainers is that every pet should have an “emergency recall” command. This is the command you would use that your dogs will NEVER fail to respond too. If they are heading into traffic, they should know that your emergency recall is like the Voice of God – nonnegotiable.

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Heel[/heading]

“Heel” has different meanings to different people. Some prefer an off-leash heel, others prefer a loose-leash heel. Some just want their dog to quit pulling them down the street. Whatever your goal, you should work with the style of your dog and what you’re most comfortable with. In our case, Bree does just fine on a loose heel. That means (to me) that she can walk out in front as long as she remains a “good leader”. This would be a lot easier if she wasn’t so ADD about everything, but she is the best leader of our “pack” because she is the calmest. Use your judgement and trust your instinct.

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Sit/Stay[/heading]

If you’re taking the “good citizenship test,” you should be able to tell your dog to “stay” or “wait” or simply walk away, giving no instructions to your pet. The goal is to have your dog sit (or lie down) and not come until you tell him. You should also be able to offer distractions to your dog (most easily done when you’re with others). It could be a ball dropping or a bird flying by, maybe have your friend make a noise, or a jogger run in front of them. The goal is to have your dog stay sitting or lying down until you give a release command.

We know that these “must know” commands will vary according to each person. So tell us – what is your “absolute, hand of God, all dogs must know” command?

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