Basic Dog Training Commands

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July 31, 2023
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Dog Training - Basic Commands

Dogs are known to be a constant companion. They can bring so much happiness and peace into our lives and what makes them the ultimate addition is when dogs know how to properly behave. 

On the flip side, a misbehaving dog can lead to frustration, embarrassment, and oftentimes exhaustion if you get to the point of simply not knowing how to move ahead. In such cases, it’s common that a well-intentioned addition to your family can sometimes lead you to second-guess your decision.

However, the good news is that most dogs can learn how to be receptive to basic dog training commands while in the hands of an educated owner. Most dogs have an inherent desire to please, and a well-trained dog is typically a happy dog that you can trust to behave in desirable ways. 

Keep reading to learn about the many benefits that often go unnoticed when thinking about obedience training. Plus, as you read, you’ll get the tips and tricks you need to teach your dog some basic commands.

Training Preparation

Before training can begin, certain foundations must be laid to ensure a successful training experience happens. This topic could be an entire blog series, but for the purpose of where we are now, we will keep this brief – just know preparation carries great importance!

Healthy Relationship

First and foremost, you and your dog must have a positive relationship rooted in trust. Your dog must learn to see you as the dominant figure in the relationship – one that he or she can rely on for a safe training journey. 

This dominance cannot be established through fear tactics. Rather, a dependable and predictable owner is one that nurtures a healthy relationship. As you read, you’ll see how consistency plays into this!

Education & Consistency

It’s unlikely that a dog will become obedient when the owner has not taken the time to educate themselves. And if you are reading this blog, you can give yourself a tap on the back because this is all meant to teach you how to teach your dog!

Part of the preparation is the owner also taking time to understand how to properly use an e-collar. E-collars are meant to be a training tool and with any tool, there is an educational piece that comes with responsibility using it. After learning the mechanics of the e-collar, owners must work to make sure the e-collar properly fits the dog.

E-Collar Conditioning

It’s important that you don’t rush directly into training with the e-collar. Instead, give your dog the needed time to simply wear the e-collar and familiarize themselves with it. Your goal at this point is for your dog to make positive associations with the e-collar so that when training time comes, he or she is not intimidated by the device!

As we said earlier, we just laid out the basics here in an effort to keep things brief – training preparation is paramount to the success of your training. 

And, as you move into teaching basic commands, keep in mind that these training sessions should be short and have a positive tone! Positive reinforcement should have prominence in each session and consistency is key! 

Obedience Training Benefits

Often when people think of obedience training, what they seem to think about is simply a dog that listens. And that’s it.

While that is one benefit, there are so many more great rewards that come with successful obedience training for your dog. Below we lay out a few. 

Safety: One of the biggest benefits of obedience training is there’s an added layer of safety for the dog, the owner, and others around the dog. This is because when a dog learns how to sit, stay, come, heel, etc, he or she becomes less of a risk in times of potential accidents. 

When your dog knows how to listen to you, you better ensure their safety by teaching them how to listen to your commands in order to avoid hazardous situations (like running into the road or getting nosey with another dog). 

Dogs do not always understand the inherent danger in some situations, so their ability to listen to a command will help guide them during such times. 

Healthy Relationship: A well-trained dog is one that shares a healthy relationship with his or her owner. Effective obedience training helps to facilitate effective communication between a dog and the owner – each learns how to understand each other’s cues which is huge in a relationship. 

Training also builds a trusting bond between owner and pet while all the while being a productive time to establish healthy boundaries. By committing your time and effort to help your dog develop healthy life skills, you are showing your dog attention – and let’s be honest, our dogs love spending time with us! 

Fitness: Training your dog provides a platform for your dog to exercise, both physically and mentally. It’s often that destructive behaviors are a result of a bored dog, so by training your dog, you are giving him or her the mental stimulation they need in order to exert some needed energy.  

Dogs are also given opportunities to problem solve during training – this is one more great pathway for establishing mental well-being in your dog. 

Most dogs are people pleasers so you can think of obedience training as a double win – one for mental stimulation and one for providing your dog with a way to please you with a job well done!

How to Teach a Dog Basic Commands

So, now that you know some of the lesser-known benefits of teaching your dog basic obedience, let’s dive into just exactly how to train your dog so you can start to feel these benefits!

Achieving a Feeling

A seemingly counterintuitive idea that is fundamental to obedience training programs is that the training begins without actually verbally naming a command while teaching your dog a specific behavior. 

Yes, you’ve got that right: when you begin to teach your dog to sit, you will not actually start by saying “sit.” Give us a moment to explain why!

In the beginning parts of obedience training, what you are teaching your dog is how to achieve a good feeling. With our training philosophy, we use the dog’s food as their reward. This teaches the dog that good choices are rewarded with something we all love: our food!

And food is something that creates a good feeling for dogs. Therefore, training a dog to achieve a good feeling is how dog obedience training should be approached. 

The Beginning Steps

With that frame of mind, as the owner you begin by using food to shape your dog’s attention and behavior.  Read the step-by-step approach to see just how to do this:

  • Step One: Get some of your dog’s food in your hand. 
  • Step Two: Put the food by your dog’s nose so that he/she can smell the food. 
  • Step Three: At this point, you’ve caught your dog’s attention. Now take your hand with the food and slowly move it from the nose to their forehead. Naturally, this should cause your dog to move to a sitting position as their backend lowers to follow your hand upward with their nose. Be careful not to lift your hand too high as this might encourage your dog to jump!
  • Step Four: Immediacy is key here. Once your dog hits the floor, give them the food that is in your hand. 
  • Step Five: Build on the success of the moment and keep practicing! You’ll get to a point through this repetition where your dog will sit faster and not necessarily need your full motion of moving the food from their nose to forehead.

At this point, your dog has learned that sitting results in getting their food, which is a splendid feeling for them! In other words, they’ve learned how to achieve a good feeling by sitting. Now it’s time to add the verbal cue! 

Verbalizing a Cue 

Notice that at this point in the game, you haven’t said anything to your dog in terms of giving a command. Still, though, in going with the above example, your dog is doing what you want him or her to do: sit.

Now is the time to add the verbal cue by naming the command. Keep reading to see how to do this next stage:

  • Step Six: Just before you are about to move your hand (with their food) from their nose to their forehead, say sit
  • Step Seven: This is where the magic happens! Quickly move your hand to their forehead and reward them with their food. In this step, your dog is now learning to perform a task – sitting – with getting their food and hearing the word sit. That pivotal association has been made!
  • Step Eight: Give your dog more opportunities to repeat this routine in order to engrain the pattern of performing a task with achieving a good feeling!

With some modifications, the above steps can be replicated for other obedience tasks such as:  come, loose-leash walking, lie down, stay, etc. 

No matter the command, consistency & timing are key! 

Behavioral Responses

In dog obedience training, we see two practices being foundational to the success of the training: positive reinforcement and enforcement of a consequence. A balance between both must be struck!

Positive Reinforcement

Simply put, positive reinforcement is used to shape behaviors by pairing a desired behavior with a positive response – like food. It means that when a dog does something that you want him or her to do, that their choice to comply is met with a reward. 

You can see that playing out in the above step-by-step training of the sit command. When the dog makes the appropriate movement to the seated position, the owner responds by giving the dog a nibble of their food. 

Your goal is to have your dog consistently move toward the sitting position. And of course, the reward of the food nibble will eventually be removed when you move on in the training process to pair the verbal command of sit with the giving of the reward. 

By the end, sitting will become a learned behavior that was acquired through the dog’s desire to get the reward.  

Consequence Enforcement

Positive reinforcement should be paired with the practice of enforcing a consequence when the dog fails to comply. Unfortunately, dogs cannot understand a lengthy lecture to get them to redirect their behavior – this is where following through with a consequence comes into play. 

Just as powerful as learning the association between choices resulting in good feelings is learning the association between failure to comply and enforcement of a consequence. 

It’s the same learning pattern that exists in both scenarios: the dog will learn that not listening to a command results in something not totally desirable happening. Very important to note here is that this must not be fear-based or painful – something like a quick tap on the backend is all that’s needed. 

In both situations of enforcement, the dog learns that if I do “abc”, then I get “xyz.” In positive reinforcement, the behavior is encouraged. In consequence enforcement, the dog learns to stop doing the undesired behavior in an effort to avoid “xyz.”

And just as timing is key in positive reinforcement, the timing must be just as immediate with the enforcement of the consequence in order to bring about the desired behavior change. 

No matter what, as the owner you have to find the “sweet spot” with the enforcement of a consequence. Over-correcting and under-correcting lead to a whole new situation that you want to avoid! Corrections should be immediate, quick, and without lingering fear. 

When it comes to teaching anyone just about anything, consistency and follow-through are so very important. In that way, dogs benefit from predictability which lends itself to successful training experiences. 

Conclusion - Basic Dog Training Commands

Effective basic dog training requires the owner to do some preparation work but there are many payoffs in the end when the training is complete!

In regards to the training process itself, the steps are not that complex – it’s a matter of consistency and timing that creates the magic!

At Minnesota Canine Consulting, we are ready to assist should you find yourself in a situation where professional trainers are needed. We understand that not all dogs take to training as well as others, and that’s okay. Rest assured, we are here to help!

Call to schedule your basic dog training session today! 651-505-3585.


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