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Dog Training Commands

5 Essential Dog Training Commands: Come, Sit, Down, Place, Heel

Every dog owner dreams of a well-behaved, obedient dog. Effective communication with your canine companion is at the heart of the man’s best friend relationship. Yet, the intricacies of dog training can be as complex as the individual personalities and breeds of dogs themselves.

However, amidst the vast array of skills and techniques, there are five fundamental basic commands that every dog owner should strive to teach their four-legged friend:

  1. Come: The ultimate recall command that ensures your dog returns to you promptly.
  2. Sit: A basic command that teaches your dog to sit on cue and stay in position.
  3. Down: Teaches your dog to lie down on command, promoting calmness and relaxation.
  4. Place: Directs your dog to a specific spot and helps manage their behavior in various situations.
  5. Heel: Ensures your dog walks calmly by your side, making walks more enjoyable for both of you.

In this guide, we turn to professional dog trainer Don Murray to dissect the importance, execution, and nuances of these essential commands.

The Five Essential Commands For Dog Owners

Mastering the five core commands is crucial for your dog’s safety and your peace of mind. These essential dog commands lay the foundation of obedience, enabling more complex training, reducing the likelihood of behavioral problems, and ensuring your dog can respond effectively in potentially hazardous situations.

1. Come Command

The “come” command is the linchpin of dog training. Don Murray, co-owner of Train Pro Dogs, explains its importance: “Come. When the dog hears the job issued by their owner, it is the job that translates into stop what you’re doing, turn around, and come right to your owner. No other interpretation is acceptable.”

This command is paramount in preventing potentially dangerous situations where your dog might be heading towards a busy road or engaging with an unfriendly animal. A reliable recall can be a lifesaver, ensuring your dog returns to you promptly when called, regardless of distractions or distance.

Don emphasizes having a reliable recall, not just luring the dog with treats. “We’ll use some treats with our puppies to introduce concepts for recall, but once we get to six months, it’s the job the dog gets to do. We’re done with the cookies. This is a new method of communication for the human and the dog.” Consistently practicing and reinforcing the “come” command in various environments and situations is key to developing a solid recall response.

2. Sit Command

The “sit” command is a precursor to many other disciplines. Don explains, “Sit. which means put your hind legs and your butt to the ground and stay as implied. You don’t have to say stay. When I say sit, I should be able to walk away, and the dog sits right there.”

Teaching your dog to sit on command is a fundamental aspect of obedience training and a pivotal moment in training sessions for establishing your leadership. It serves as a basis for instilling discipline and prepares your dog for moments when calm behavior is required, such as during grooming sessions or when greeting people.

Mastering the “sit” command also opens the door to teaching more complex commands and tricks. By consistently reinforcing the “sit” command and rewarding your dog for compliance, you strengthen your bond and establish a clear line of communication between you and your pet.

3. Down Command

The “down” command requires a level of trust and comfort from the dog. Don explains, “Down, all four, basically belly on the ground, all four legs down. Why do we teach that? Because it’s a hard one for dogs. Dogs like to operate in a hierarchy … when you teach a dog down, they actually have to sort of be a little bit more subservient than a sit.”

Lying down is a more vulnerable position than sitting, and it demonstrates your dog’s trust and submission to your leadership. This command is particularly useful when you need your dog to settle for a few minutes or extended periods, such as during family meals or when you’re working from home.

To effectively teach this command, Don recommends a gradual approach, starting with the dog seated and then gently guiding them into the down position, rewarding them for compliance and calmness. With patience and consistent practice, your dog will associate the “down” command with relaxation and positive reinforcement.

4. Place Command

The versatility in the “place” command makes it incredibly useful for managing your dog’s behavior in various settings, fostering an understanding of boundaries and safe spaces. 

It not only aids in behavior management but also in situations requiring your dog to be stationary and out of the way, ensuring their safety and the convenience of others. By incorporating the “place” command into your training routine, your dog adapts quickly to different environments, making every outing more manageable and enjoyable for both you and your dog.

Don emphasizes the importance of consistency in teaching this command, “The place command is where we want our dog to go and be stationary on something. You can use a bed or mat, but it needs to be consistent. We don’t want them jumping up on the couch one day and not the next.”

This command aids in managing behaviors, establishing boundaries, and providing a safe, designated spot for the dog to calm down. By teaching your dog to go to a specific place on cue, you can effectively manage their behavior in various situations, such as when guests arrive or during high excitement.

The “place” command not only helps keep your dog out of trouble but also provides your dog with a sense of security and routine. Consistently practicing this command in different environments and gradually increasing the duration of stays will help your dog associate their designated place with positive experiences and reinforce their understanding of your guidance.

5. Heel Command

Walking to heel means the dog walks alongside you with its head or shoulder, even with your leg. Don says, “The heel command is about respect and focus. It’s not just about not pulling on the leash; it’s about paying attention to where I am and matching my pace, whether I speed up or slow down. It’s a dance of sorts.” This command enhances the walking experience, making it safer and more enjoyable by preventing pulling, lunging, or distractions. It demonstrates mutual respect and understanding between you and your dog, ensuring a harmonious relationship.

The “heel” command is crucial for the dog and handler’s safety. It prevents the dog from pulling on the leash or getting too far ahead, ensuring a controlled and enjoyable walk. When your dog learns to walk calmly by your side, you can quickly and confidently navigate crowded streets, parks, and other public spaces.

Don underscores the importance of consistency and patience when teaching your puppy this command, starting with short training sessions and positive reinforcement. By consistently rewarding your dog for maintaining the correct position and gradually increasing the duration and distractions during walks, you’ll develop a strong foundation for a lifetime of enjoyable, stress-free walks together.

Five Core Commands for Well-Behaved Dog

Mastering these five essential commands  – come, sit, down, place, and heel – lays the groundwork for a well-behaved, obedient dog and strengthens the bond between you and your canine companion. As Don Murray emphasizes, “Consistent practice and reinforcement are foundational to effective dog training. Success is unlikely without a structured system and method to begin training.”

Investing time and effort into teaching these commands will make your dog’s life much easier and give them a sense of security, knowing they can look to you for guidance and leadership. Remember to approach training with patience, love, and a willingness to learn alongside your pet. 

As Don wisely states, “We have to make sure that humans understand that if a dog approaches something scary, they recognize the need to stop and give their dog time to get closer to the loud, scary, and disturbing thing that’s bothering them.”

The importance of a patient and understanding approach to dog training cannot be overstated. Every dog is unique, with its own set of fears, preferences, and triggers. Recognizing and respecting these differences is key to fostering a trusting relationship between you and your dog. 

When faced with new or frightening situations, dogs look to their owners for cues to react. By remaining calm and patient, you signal your dog that it is safe and can rely on you for protection and guidance.

This methodology extends beyond merely teaching commands; it’s about building trust and mutual respect. Dogs are incredibly perceptive creatures, capable of reading our emotions and reacting to our body language. 

Our response to their fears and uncertainties can exacerbate or alleviate their stress. Training should always be approached as a cooperative endeavor, not a battle of wills. 

By adopting an understanding attitude, consistency, and clear communication, dog owners are more likely to see their efforts reflected in the positive behavior of their furry companions. 



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