Basic Obedience Training for Dogs




Mastering basic obedience commands is a vital part of being a responsible dog owner.  These basic commands make navigating the relationship between animal and owner much easier and keep both you and your pet safe in emergency situations.  

From an outsider's perspective, basic training can look either very simple or extremely difficult.  Recognize that training can take a lot of work.  Also recognize any dog can learn at least the most basic and necessary commands.  Dog owners occasionally run into road blocks when training, don't become frustrated.  Seeking assistance from a professional trainer benefits first-time owners or individuals struggling with teaching commands or correcting problem behaviors.  Don't ever hesitate to ask for help!    

Training takes a lot of time and patience, even if you aren't trying any complicated or 'fancy' tricks.  The responsibility of pet ownership includes properly training and socializing your animal.  Before considering adopting an animal, please take into account how much time you will need to dedicate to making sure you have a happy, healthy, well-socialized and well-trained animal.

Finally, dog ownership and even training should be fun!  Don't be too serious and make sure both you and your pet have a good time so you will look forward to future sessions!  

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Step 1: What You Will Need

1. A dog!

2. An area in which to practice where it is free from distractions when you are first training your dog. As you and your dog master commands, you will want to move to areas with more distractions, such as outdoors, to continue improving your dog's ability to focus on you and the commands.

3. Treats or a toy as rewards. Figure out what works for you and your dog. Some dogs are very food driven, and some dogs prefer toys and play as their reward. Additionally, consider the size of treats you use during training! Treats that are too large fill a dog up quickly, so seek out small treats for training.

4. A short leash, and a longer training leash for distance work.

5. Realistic expectations!
  • Don't expect to get it done on the first few tries. Some commands take a lot of time to teach and perfect.
  • Try to make training sessions about 15 minutes long at the most.
  • There will be times when both you and your dog are frustrated. When struggling with a certain command, simply move on to another or better known command. Come back to the one you are struggling with later.
  • ALWAYS end training on a positive note. This keeps training sessions fun for you and your pet. Next time, your dog will be excited when it is time to practice!

Step 2: Sit Command

1. Make sure you have your dog's attention and a treat in hand. Stand or kneel in front of your dog and hold your hand a little higher than your dog's head.

2. Use the treat to guide your dog into position by slowly moving the treat straight back over the dog's head and towards the tail. Your dog should point his nose up and his rear should drop towards the ground.

3. As the dog moved into the sit position firmly say 'Sit' and make the hand signal shown in Picture 2.

4. As soon as the dog moves into position reward your dog with a treat and some praise, like saying, 'Good sit!'

5. If your dog is having trouble understanding, you can help guide them with a gentle push. Place two fingers on his hips and gently push his rear towards the ground while firmly saying 'Sit'.

Step 3: Down Command

For this trick, your dog should already know the Sit command. This command can be a little more difficult to master because it is a very submissive position for your dog to take.

1. With your dog in the Sit position, kneel in front of your dog.

2. Hold a treat in front of your dog's nose and guide him by lowering the treat slowly to the ground. Firmly say 'Down' and make the hand gesture shown in Picture 2.

3. As your dog moves downwards he may only slouch. If this happens, move the treat towards or away from your dog as needed to further guide him.

4. As soon as your dog is down in the correct position, reward him with a treat and praise.

5. If you are having trouble guiding your dog into the Down position, you can physically guide him by placing a hand on your dog's shoulders and lightly pressing it down to the side while saying the command. Praise your dog as soon as he drops to the floor.

Step 4: Stay Command

To master this command, your dog should already be able to do either the Sit or Lay positions. You will need both a short lead (6') and a longer lead to assist in training.

1. Begin with your dog in the Sit or Down position.

2. Standing in front of your dog, firmly say 'Stay' while making the hand signal in Picture 2.

3. Move a short distance away while keeping eye contact with your dog.

4. If your dog remains in position, then step back towards him and reward him with a treat and praise while he is still sitting. As your dog's response improves, you can move to a longer lead and distance. Eventually you can begin practicing off-leash in a fenced area.

5. If your dog breaks position, guide your dog back to the sitting position in the original spot and try again.

Step 5: Come Command

To begin working on this command your dog should already know the 'Sit' or 'Down' and 'Stay' commands.  You will need a longer lead for this command.

1. With the dog in the Sit or Lay and Stay position, walk a few distance away from the dog on the long lead.

2. Firmly, but pleasantly, say 'Come' and make the hand gesture shown in Picture 2. Then reel your dog in with the lead if necessary. You should only say this command once!

3. As soon as your dog reaches, reward him with a treat and praise.

4. As your dog improves, you will be able to begin practice off-leash in a fenced in area. If your dog refuses to come off-leash, then return to using the long lead until he begins responding appropriately and consistently to the come command.

Step 6: Credits and Thanks

The Tutorial:
This tutorial was put together by my group and I as a project for Technical Communication English 314 at Iowa State University.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding the tutorial please feel free to leave a comment.

The Credits:
All photos were taken by Brittany Stine (author). 

A Special Thanks To:
My group members Gregory Yu, Jay Hong, and Josh Moore.
Our professor, Jacob Rawlins.
My fiance, Daniel Burkard, for posing in the pictures.
My dogs, Phooka and Cinder, for being cooperative (most of the time).

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    19 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Being a dog owner, I found this
    blog post to be highly useful to me. Even, I truly appreciate the writing way
    of this blog which has helped me to understand that which are the points I was
    missing to train my dog. Thanks for sharing this information!


    3 years ago

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    3 years ago

    This is a very helpful post! Us, too, are pet enthusiasts who desire for a better world. We invented a product that could make our dogs happier! Check it here!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    your dog or puppy’s not doing what you want, right?

    Just Click on the link

    Feeling like owning a dog or puppy is no longer enjoyable? Well relax and let the stress disappear as you create a beautiful new relationship with your best friend. The techniques are so simple even the kids can get involved - just the way it should be!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    It's been awhile that I and Inuh had so much fun walking around the neighborhood though at first she refuses to! So I start working and playing with her on basic commands at home and one of it is this one HowTo Teach A Dog To Come and it works perfectly fine for us .. :-) And gradually things run so smooth with us on her. :-)


    It takes a lot of patience to train our dogs just like to me towards my bestfriend

    Buddy... but then the hardwork pays off as she is now so adorable and very
    pleasant.. Let me share with you so far what helps me with her... try checking
    out this information it will help you as it did to me..:-) .. No Harm if you try checking it


    6 years ago on Step 2

    I don't ever advocate pushing on a dog's back. You never know what dog is harboring a back or joint problem that's gone undetected. You can easily just capture a sit. There's no force involved. It also makes the dog think instead of you working them like a puppet.

    Remember if you are doing a fun activity, like teaching fetch don't use treats, play with your dogs as a reward. This will help the dog be more interested and excited about training. Also no dog wants to eat while playing

    Tip for those of you with overweight pets or a fear of your pet gaining too much weight: Set a portion of your pets food aside as treats. Usually, it's not so much the treat at hand as it is the prospect of gaining praise and getting something from you. :)

    1 reply

    Excellent suggestion. Yes, always make sure you subtract the amount of treats from the meals you give to your dog to make up for those extra calories they're getting.

    If you're still worried about weight problems you can also use low-calorie, healthy treats like a cubed apple. :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    A nice, clear and informative instructable.

    What would be the best way to teach a dog where to poop?

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    As in going outside? If you're trying to housebreak a dog I found it helpful to always take my dogs out on a leash during the training period. Walk your dog around and pay close attention to their behavior, most dogs do a circle or some movement before they go (mine didn't, it was a little tougher). As soon as your dog begins making these movements or begins going give them the command you choose like 'Go potty.' As soon as they finish reward them with a small treat and praise.

    If your dog doesn't go potty outside on that particular trip take them back indoors and stick them in their kennel for a few minutes before returning outside to try again. The key is to get them to understand that outside is for potty-time.

    If you're going for them only going in a specific area of the yard it helps to try to mark that area off with a visible marker. Then use the leash to take them to this spot and use the same routine as above. Reward them when they use the correct area.

    For either housebreaking or using a specified spot in the yard, if your dog goes in the wrong area you can immediately stop your dog by scooping them up in your arms. Then take them to the correct spot. Reward them if they finish up there, if not use the kennel for a few minutes and then return the dog to the correct spot until they do go.

    Thanks for your question! Let me know if anything there was unclear. I'll try to make a full tutorial soon. :)


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the detailed answer.

    How many times a day do you take your dog outside to go potty? I'm asking because my dog got used to do it inside the house during the nights, when theres noone around to get mad at him. Some times he still does it, even if we went for a walk outside and he did his business.

    He's a small dog, so ugly hes beautiful, if that makes any difference. Being small, I mean; not the lovingly ugly part :D

    Thanks again.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I know smaller dogs can sometimes be more difficult to house-train. My dogs tend to let me know when they need to go outside which is quite convenient. Before my dogs were house trained we literally took them out once an hour and slowly moved to longer intervals as they got older. Those first few weeks were exhausting! Older dogs should be able wait longer, but if you're worried then I would recommend trying once every two to four hours.

    If you're having a problem with your dog going in the house at night it can help to kennel your dog. Sometimes the fact that a dog has too much room at night can lead to accidents or other mischief indoors when unsupervised. Kenneling provides a dog a safe place where they can't get into much trouble. :) Just make sure to keep the kennel a safe place as opposed to a punishment place; it should be a haven not a scary place.

    This reminded me of when we first trained my beagle! Taught her multiple signs through ASL (American Sign Language) just in case she ever went deaf we wanted to still be able to communicate with her.
    The only thing she won't do is jump through or over things (she got over excited as a puppy when my mom came home one day & jumped over the fence & managed to land on her bum & fractured her tail) but she'll do the basic commands & then some cute tricks, like rolling over & shaking hands & high fives.

    It's a great idea to teach your animals signs/hand commands in case either you loose your voice or the dog looses their hearing, or the environment is just too noisy.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful Weimer, I had one. She had a rock head but eventually settled down after a couple of years. She pointed and retrieved her first pheasant at four months of age when I took her out just to get her used to high grass and brush. Put her to work right then and there and we hunted together for the next twelve years. She died when she was fourteen and a half. She was my best dog ever and I still haven't replaced her.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I do love my Weim. She's wonderful at pointing and is so enthusiastic. She did fantastic her first year out in the field but during our second year she suddenly became gun shy. Kind of a bummer, but first and foremost she's our wonderful pet and our bird-dog second. We still take her out, not to hunt now, but to let her hone her skill and just have a good time. I definitely try to appreciate every day we have with her and my other dog because time flies by so fast. :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I have used hot dog slivers to treat my dogs. They will do anything just just a sliver. And they never seem to tire of them like they do of the store-bought treats.