Basic Obedience Training for Dogs

Obedience training for dogs varies depending on what each individual trainer thinks is important. However, every basic obedience class should include leash walking, recall, sit, stand, down and stay.

Basic Commands

The basic positions all dogs should know are sit, down and stand. "Sit" is usually the first taught because it's the easiest, and teaching it solves many behavior problems, such as bolting at the door and jumping during greetings. To teach sit, hold a treat directly above your dog's nose and move it slowly toward his rear. As your dog lifts his head to follow the treat, he will drop into a sit.

From there, you can add the "Down" by pulling the treat slowly toward the ground and then out away from the dog's nose. From the sit, you can also teach "Stand" by pulling the treat out away from the dog's nose so that he must stand.

When teaching each of these positions, don't say the word until your dog has completed the position. Your dog will learn the hand signal before the word, so don't keep repeating it. This will teach the dog that the word means nothing. Once you say the command, then say "Good" or another reward word, which will eventually allow you to phase out the treat.

Before your dog leaves the position, give a release command, such as "Okay" or "Release." This is how you begin to teach "Stay," as your dog learns he can't leave the position until given the okay. Just remember to gradually build up the amount of time before you give the release. If your dog breaks, you're moving too quickly.

After two or three repetitions of the command with the treat in your hand, use the hand signal without the treat. This will take your dog longer, but it's an important step. Once your dog does it, reward with three treats from your pocket.

Polite Leash Skills

Basic obedience can either include a "Heel" command, loose-leash training or both, depending on the goal of the class. Heel is used more frequently in competition but can be useful on walks. To be a true heel, your dog must be even with your leg, looking at you.

Loose-leash walking simply means that your dog isn't pulling on the leash. To teach this, just stop each time your dog pulls. Don't move another step until he does something to make the leash loose, either turning to look at you or walking back toward you. Once he does, praise and move forward again. Don't let your dog pull you to anything.

Reliable Recall

A reliable recall may be the most important thing you teach your dog, because it may save his life. You must teach it in small steps and build slowly toward off leash. If you don't know whether your dog will come, don't use the word. You want him to learn he can never ignore it.

To teach, toss a treat away from you so your dog's back is to you. Then, say his name and run backward. When he is running happily toward you, say "Come!" When he gets to you, hold the treat over his nose so he drops into the sit and then praise, pet and reward profusely.

Do this on a 6-foot leash in your house and gradually build up to calling him off distractions. Then, teach it on a 30-foot leash. When your dog can be called off any distraction from 30 feet, you are ready to try off leash training.