Just like every dog has different behaviors, every dog owner also has different behaviors they find acceptable in a pet. Chances are, your dog probably needs some training to help manage some misguided behaviors. And like many dog owners, you might have decided that you want to give dog training at home a try before moving on to professional trainers, classes, or online courses.
Our team of dog lovers helped create a list to guide some beginning steps to successful dog training at home. We looked at some of the more basic dog training commands and compared them to problem behaviors that many dog owners identify as reasons why they want to set aside time for training at home. If your furry friend is still a puppy, the American Kennel Club has resources specifically for teaching commands to younger pups.
While dog training aims to guide or manage a behavior, there are a few other goals to keep in mind before you start. Training is an opportunity to build a trusting relationship between you and your dog. It should be fun and something both you and your canine can look forward to doing together. Positive reinforcement with praise and treats is essential! And, as always, safety (for you and your dog) should be a top priority!
Once you have cleared some space in your home or yard, and time in your calendar, here’s a list of commands you may want to try to start dog training at home.
#1 Come when called
Teaching your dog to follow voice commands can not only help create a trusting relationship but can help reduce stress and pull your dog away from unsafe situations.
Many dog owners use the word ‘come’ to let their furry friend know when to stop a behavior and return to their owner. One way to start training your dog to understand the word ‘come’ is to positively associate it with the behavior. If your dog naturally comes running to you at the sound of their leash, food dish, or treat bag, start saying ‘come’ while your dog is in motion and heading towards you. Reward your dog after they are all the way to you. You can also follow up on the behavior by asking your dog to sit.
Once you’ve consistently used the ‘come’ command with natural activities your dog comes to, you can start applying the same training to other situations. Start with short distances across a room or two inside your home with few distractions. Reward your dog with treats and praise when they are successful and come to you. Be consistent and repeat the training technique at longer distances and outside your home.
Pro tip: Especially at the beginning, avoid using the command ‘come’ before less desirable activities like bath time or vet visits (unless your dog loves those activities and considers them a reward!)
One common method used when teaching a dog to sit is called capturing. It’s a fairly simple exercise where the dog owner stands in front of the dog and waits for the dog to sit. When the dog sits, the owner says the word ‘sit’ and gives the dog a treat. This is done several times to reinforce the idea of what the word ‘sit’ sounds like and what the dog should do when they hear the word. Once your dog has the hang of it, take a few steps back and continue practicing with some distance between you and the dog.
Pro tip: If you are concerned about your dog treat budget, try breaking the treats into smaller pieces or using dry dog food. Part of your dog’s excitement to get a treat is the praise you give along with it!
While many of the commands used for dog training at home are valuable, teaching your dog to stay can also be a beneficial safety command when you are outside of the home.
Stay is #3 on the list for a simple reason. Once your dog is trained to sit and come, it makes training them to ‘stay’ a bit easier for both of you! Start by giving your dog a verbal command to sit. Next, use the word ‘stay’ while taking a few steps away from your dog. This may take some practice for many dogs. If your dog leaves the sit position, ask your dog to sit and try the process again. Once they have successfully stayed when asked, give them the command to come and reward them immediately.
Pro tip: Many dog experts suggest starting dog training at home indoors if possible. Outside can be too distracting for some dogs making it longer for the training to be successful.
#4 Lie down
Teaching your down to lie down can be a helpful command when you have company over or when it’s time to take a break and calm your dog down after an activity.
Many dog lovers find training your dog to lie down is easier from the sit position. The sit position helps to gets your dog’s attention while they are sitting still. With a treat in your hand, hold it out of their reach and slowly bring the hand with the treat to the floor while saying the words ‘lie down’ or just ‘down’ if you prefer. Once your dog is in the lie down position, give them the treat with verbal praise to reinforce the behavior. As with all dog training at home, consistency is key to success.
Pro tip: If your dog is struggling to learn this command, Petco has more details and a short video to help. Keep dog training at home short and positive. If you or your dog isn’t having fun, take a break and try again later.
#5 Drop it
Training your companion to let go of an item in their mouth is not only a useful command for playtime, but it can also play a big part to keep your dog safe from breakable or toxic items they may find.
To help teach this command, start with a few of your dog’s favorite toys. Let your dog play with one of the toys for a while before offering a treat and using the verbal command to ‘drop it’ when they let go of the toy and head towards the treat. Follow with praise when your dog is successful. Repeat using several different toys so your dog relates the command with the action of dropping anything in their mouth instead of only dropping a specific toy.
If your dog has something dangerous in his mouth and isn’t following the command, try dropping a handful of treats on the ground to distract the dog long enough to take the object away. The most important thing is to make sure your furry companion is safe and you can reinforce drop it training later.
Pro tip: When training a dog to drop something in their mouth, don’t reach and pull the items away from their teeth. Many dogs will see this as a game or challenge and view the training as a round of tug of war with their owners.
We hope this list has provided helpful methods to begin your dog training journey at home. If you are interested in other dog training guides, we have other helpful resources for crate training your puppy or helping to stop your dog from barking.