Three Essential Commands Every Dog Owner Should Train Their Dog

keendog essentials training tips Feb 06, 2024
dog recalling to owner

Building a strong bond with your dog begins with effective communication. Training your dog not only ensures their safety, but also enhances the life both of you lead together. It can be overwhelming knowing where to start and what commands to focus on when you add a new four-legged family member into the mix, so we put together our top three essential commands every dog owner should train their dog.


1. A Solid Recall: a reliable recall is a cornerstone of dog training, emphasizing the importance of your dog coming when called promptly no matter what distractions are present in their environment. Most dog owners fear their dog rushing out the front door if it is left open and could never imagine dropping their dog's leash in a park to allow them freedom to explore as that exploration may lead to a night out on the town. 

It is every dog owner and dog trainer's goal to make a dog's recall as reliable as possible. In this video we share six exercises to strengthen your dog's recall that you can add in no matter what age and stage your dog is in:

  1. Snuffle mat recalls to front and to heel  
  2. Recall to ball reward using a retractable to build speed and motivation  
  3. Get it to name recall - tossing food out and then calling back  
  4. Using a friend to lure your dog and then calling them off of that challenge  
  5. Restrained recalls  
  6. Recall to possession game (tug) reward

Some common mistakes to avoid if you are struggling with your dog’s recall: Rewarding your dog when they come back the third, fourth, fifth time you call them. They should be rewarded for recalling the first time you call them, every time you call them. Practice and proof. Set your dog up for success, not failure! Before you let your dog off leash in a new environment make sure you have practiced multiple times and begin with having a long line dragging on the ground to ensure you can hold them accountable with the leash if needed. If you give your dog too much freedom too soon they may think it’s party time. 

Don't take it personally if your dog doesn’t come back, even when you practice *all* the time. Remember you're competing with other high value motivations in the environment - other dog’s urine, prey creatures, trash on ground, good ol’ smelly smells… so when your dog does come back the first time you call them, make it a big deal! And if they don't come back the first time you call them, make sure you're prepared to step in and hold them accountable.

2. A Loose Leash Walk: walks should be an enjoyable experience at both ends of the leash, but this isn't the case if your dog is pulling you around like crazy, reacting at other dogs and people as they pass by, or if they're too scared to walk beyond your block. Teaching your dog to yield to leash pressure versus pull against it is one of the most important training concepts you will ever teach your dog. This will benefit you beyond just enjoying your walks more; it will also be beneficial for teaching other behaviors to your dog.

Some tips to get you started with improving your walks:

  • Start walks with a harness versus a collar so that you don’t desensitize your dog's neck to leash pressure.
  • Teach your dog to yield to leash pressure versus pulling away from it when on a collar. Start this in less distracting environments at first, then slowly build up to more distracting environments.
  • Teach your dog a switch command (a right side heel) so that when you are passing distractions that may arouse your dog, you can put yourself in between your dog and the stimuli.
  • Don’t focus on long walks at first; short successful walks paired with intentional play will ensure physical needs are being met.
  • If your dog is reactive to other dogs in the environment, do not stop and have them sit when another dog is approaching. This only allows them more time to fixate on the dog, increasing the likelihood of an explosive reaction. Instead, as mentioned above, work on a switch command and build more space between you and the other dog while continuing to walk.

We recorded a live webinar and mini course on leash walking to help you start changing those walks from unpleasant to what you look forward to every day!

3. Extended Down/Stay and/or Place Command: the ability for your dog to stay in a prolonged down/stay or place command is beneficial in various situations, from social gatherings to ensuring safety during outdoor activities. Teaching your dog to have a calm state of mind in different environments will balance out the active side of your training.

Begin by teaching your dog a reliable "down" command. Gradually increase the duration, distance and distraction level (the big 3), reinforcing with treats and then transitioning to praise. This command instills discipline and challenges their impulse control, while allowing you to feel comfortable and relaxed taking them on your life adventures.

If you want to unlock our secrets to attaining this base, download our free Key Principles handout with secrets to raising your dog to have a calm mind.

You have your dog's entire life to teach them *all the things,* so instead of focusing on teaching them everything right from the jump, we suggest focusing on these three essential commands before overloading yourself and your pooch. These are the most important for building a strong foundation, along with developing your relationship through play and a teaching a reliable "no" for safety and manners.

Have a puppy? Check out our blog post, "5 Top Tips for Puppy Raising".



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