Whether you’re bringing home a new puppy or an adopted adult, training is essential to the health and well-being of your canine companion. Training strengthens your bond with your dog and can also make your life a lot easier. Here are a few basic dog commands you should teach your dog.

8 Essential Commands To Teach Your Dog

“Watch Me” Command

To teach your dog the “watch me” command, keep eye contact with your dog. Offer a treat to your dog, moving your hand from your dog’s nose up to your face. When your dog makes eye contact, give them the command “watch me.”

This command is essential to teach your dog to pay attention to you. This behavior is also a crucial bridge enabling you to teach your dog other behaviors.

Sit Command

To teach your dog to sit, hold a treat above your dog’s head. They will naturally drop into a sitting position to see the treat better. When they sit, reward them.

Sit is one of the most useful and most versatile basic dog commands to teach your dog. You can utilize this command to prevent other, less desirable behaviors like jumping on people.

Down Command


Down is another command you can teach by guiding your dog with a treat. This behavior is easier to teach if your dog has already learned to sit. Put your dog in the sit position, then present the treat in front of their nose. Slowly drop your hand holding the treat to the floor, and your dog’s nose will follow. Next, pull your hand back towards you along the floor. Your dog should extend their legs to keep pursuing the treat with their nose. Once your dog’s paws extend fully, say “down,” and reward them with a treat or praise.

Like sit, down is an essential basic dog command for your pooch to learn. You can put your dog in a “down” if you need them to calm down or remain in place. This behavior can be useful for getting weight on a scale at the vet, brushing teeth, etc.

Wait Command

“Wait” is an incredibly useful command, especially when combined with sit or down. To teach wait, put your dog in a sit or down, say “wait,” and do not reward immediately. After a couple of seconds, give your dog some type of reward. 

As you work on this behavior, gradually extend the time you withhold the treat. Then progress to backing away from your dog. When you get really confident, you can even move out of your dog’s sight before returning and rewarding.

One of the best uses of this command is in doorways, especially doors to the outside. Teaching your dog to wait in doorways can prevent them from running through an open door and getting lost or hurt.

Stay Command

Like the wait command, you use a stay to keep your dog in one place until you release them. Put your dog in a sit, then tell them to stay. After a few seconds, reward their patience.

This behavior can teach your dog patience and self-control. It can help your dog learn to control their impulses, especially in high-energy or exciting situations.

Come Command

The come command is the opposite of the stay command. Instead of your dog staying in one place while you move away, this behavior instructs your dog to come to you. To teach this behavior, we strongly recommend a long leash and a collar. Put your dog in a stay, then move away. Call “come,” give a slight tug on the lead, and move backward in an excited manner. Reward your dog for coming right to you. For more, see How To Train a Rock Solid Recall.

This behavior can help keep your dog out of trouble. Recalling your dog away from unwanted or even dangerous situations is invaluable if they escape the house or if you ever want to take your dog somewhere off-leash. 

Off Command

To teach “off,” take a treat in your closed hand. Let your dog smell your hand; they will probably lick it. Once your dog realizes they cannot get to the treat, they will take a step back. Once this happens, say “off,” then open your hand and give your dog the treat. 

This command is useful for teaching your dog to get off furniture, guests, other dogs, etc.

Okay Command

The okay or release command is excellent for letting your dog know when they are free to do as they please. This is useful for behaviors like stay, sit, and down, to let them know they are released from holding that behavior. 

Training Basic Dog Commands Is Never Finished

Remember, training your dog is a life-long process. Your work is never done. If you do not work on these and other behaviors periodically, your dog may forget them or simply not listen the next time you ask for their cooperation. This is by no means an exhaustive list either; what other behaviors do you like to teach your dog?

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