New puppy in the house? Fantastic! So, where do you start? There are seven critical commands every dog needs to learn ASAP for their own safety (and your sanity). While everyone wants to have that super smart, obedient dog who can perform unique tricks, there are several basic words your dog must learn right away. These are actually not just words, but rather behaviors. Let’s begin.
If you’ve owned a dog before, you’ll know that every puppy is one big ball of uncontrollable energy. They want to sniff everything, chew everything, jump on everything and eat everything. There will be plenty of time to learn the fancy stuff… this list contains some of the most important for safety. The exact word used is not as relevant as the action you want them to perform when the word is spoken. Often each word will accompany a consistent and unique hand motion.
- Drop It / Leave It
- Off / Down
- Pee-Pee Time
1 – Drop It / Leave It
There’s almost no question, one of the biggest dangers to your dog is the variety of random objects they will try to eat. This particular command needs to be trained ASAP. On our very first veterinarian visit we were sternly warned about the wide variety of dangerous (but common) household objects the veterinarian has had to remove from dogs. And yes, this means objects dogs actually swallowed that became life threatening.
From Day 1 with your puppy, you want to start with this most important command. I mentioned that these commands are actually more like behaviors, your dog will learn rather quickly WHAT the word is and WHAT you want them to do. The problem is training them to actually perform behaviors that they don’t WANT to do. A walk in the local park is sure to reveal any number of random food or non-food items that have been littered about or abandoned. Some are dangerous to your dog’s health. The Drop It command needs to instill the idea that whatever object is in the mouth, needs to come out… right now!
2 – Off / Down
The second behavior you’ll likely find your energetic puppy doing is jumping up on you and everyone they meet for attention. All dogs should learn this is not an acceptable action. For large breeds in particular it will be critical to keeping you and your dog out of trouble. Small dogs don’t get off the hook here, they just tend to be less intimidating as they grow up.
Not everyone you meet will like the attention of a jumpy attention seeking dog. Spot needs to learn how to meet someone new without causing intimidation and ripping at someone’s clothing with sharp claws.
The Off command will not only apply to jumping at you or others you meet, but applies in other areas like telling Toby he needs to get his paws and licky tongue Off of the coffee table (often filled with snacks for the humans in the room).
3 – Sit
When it’s dinner time or the snack jar comes out Sparky will quickly learn that something good is coming and become crazy excited. Then the jumping and whining starts. The sit command (and associated hand gesture) gives your dog something to do and wait patiently while you prepare and serve the tasty treat.
4 – Come
There will be few opportunities if any for your puppy to be off-leash in public, such as a dog off-leash park or indoor training area. For any variety of reasons, mistakes happen. You will have a poor hold on the leash just as that squirrel darts across the sidewalk and into oncoming traffic. This is only one of a wide variety of times you will want to have a well taught ‘Come’ command.
Not only is training your dog to Come when you want him/her to do so a convenience, it’s for their safety. Milo has no concept, especially as a puppy, that there are dangers in the world that threaten his life.
5 – Stay
Similar to ‘Sit’, the ‘Stay’ command is more nuanced. Not only do you want little Sophie to sit down, but you want her to Stay there while you might have to move to a nearby area to perform some important task yourself. You’ll find this one takes a little longer to learn than a basic Sit, more on this in another post.
6 – Pee-Pee Time
With crazy schedules, it’s best to start training the ‘go potty’ command early. Before you leave the house for several hours, you want to inform Scout to do his business now rather than later.
It’s another article all together where we get into potty training and the frustrating and disastrous adventures to be enjoyed. As part of this potty training, while little Angel is learning what the puppy pad is for, reinforce a common word that will be critical for future communication. We used ‘Pee-Pee Time’.
7 – Heel
Going for a walk doesn’t need to be a circus show. You will meet people, other dogs and new situations that require your dog to simply stay by your side. There will be a time and place to chase the ball, play with other dogs and greet new people. The Heel command is one of the cornerstones of communicating to your dog that Cooper needs to rein the energy in.