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5 basic commands and how to teach them

When a new pup joins our lives, often they don’t tend to know any commands at all. You see dogs solving problems and doing all kinds of tricks all over tv and maybe even at your friends places, but how to start teaching your dog?

Below we will dig into 5 of the most basic commands to start that will prove useful in certain circumstances.

Before starting, make sure to plan short training sessions and integrate them in your daily routine. Do not put any pressure on yourself or your dog. Provide him with the opportunity to learn at his own pace. This will give you results in the fastest and most stress free way. An extra bonus is this training will make the bond between you and your dog much stronger.

The 5 basic commands:


‘Sit’ seems to be the one command every dog understands, but how to teach your dog how to sit?

  • Get your reward up to the nose of your dog so he sniffs you’ve got something interesting

  • Move the treat upwards. This will make the head of your dog follow the treat and thus hit but will probably move downwards making him sit

  • Treat!

  • Repeat this process multiple times without any commands

  • Once your dog gets the hang of it and you are sure he will sit down when you make your movement, give the command ‘sit’ just before he tends to sit down


The recall teaches your dog to come when called. This is the number 1 most important command to teach your dog as it can save their lives in dangerous situations.

  • Put your dog on a (long) leash

  • Squat and lure your dog enthusiastically. You can use a treat or a toy to convince your dog to come to you. When he starts making his way back, give the command you want (‘here’ or ‘come’ for example). If the dog doesn't return, you can use the leash to gently guide him back

  • No matter if he came straight away or not, reward him when he reaches you.

When your dog's recall is going very well on a leash, you could try to train this off leash. Make sure to start training in a safe environment.


‘Down’, ‘lie down’,... is in most cases a little bit harder to teach than a ‘sit’. This is because it’s a position in which your dog has less mobility. The dog is not ready to react to a possible threat when lying down.

  • Keep a reward in your hand

  • From the stand position: Move your hand back- and downwards starting from the nose between his front legs From the sit position: Lure your dog with a treat, starting from the nose to the grond and a bit forward to give your dog enough space to lie down

  • When he lies down, give the command and the treat


Before teaching this command, your dog should already be able to consistently sit or lie on command.

  • Put your dog on a leash

  • Make sure your dog is in a sit or lie down position

  • Ask him to stay (some dogs might benefit from showing them your hand with the palm facing them to enforce your command) and remain next to your dog for a few seconds

  • Reward your dog if he stays in position

  • If this proves to be no problem, you can start moving away from your dog one step at a time after giving him the ‘stay’ command

This is a difficult exercise because your dog really wants to follow you when you leave. So be very patiently and reward every little advancement.


In obedience the dog’s head should remain at the knee of his handler during the whole heeling exercise. Depending on your goals with your dog, you can choose how demanding you will be for this command.

  • Once again, put your dog on a leash

  • Bring your dog to your left side, whilst keeping the leash in your right hand and holding a treat in your left hand

  • Use the treat at the height of your thigh to keep your dog from moving forward too fast

  • Take one step and reward your dog if he follows

  • Gradually increase the number of steps you take

  • Should your dog move too fast, just turn around and continue in the opposite direction

Make sure to take time when teaching these commands. Try not to get frustrated as this will not make it easier. The state of mind you are in, definitely affects your dog and your training.

But most of all: Enjoy spending time with your dog! Keep it fun!

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