Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The essential dog command list every pet owner needs

When first training a dog, it can be tricky to know where to begin. Not every dog has the natural attention span to train or the instinct to please. Some respond better to reward-based approaches; others need a lot of TLC while they learn. But what should they learn first?

The best words to use for dog commands are short and heavy on consonants, which help get your dog’s attention — that’s why all the words on this list are only one syllable long. Plus, shorter commands mean your dog spends less time trying to understand and more time trying to complete the task. It’s a win-win!

Here is your essential dog-command words list — the perfect place to start.

a Rottweiler puppy runs in the grass as a trainer encourages them in the background

Teach your dog “no”

When you first start thinking about training, safety should come first. It’s important for your pup to understand a correction during training and in everyday life, not only for her well-being but also for everyone around her — including you.

Even though you’re teaching a correction rather than a command, you can go about it the same way. Rewarding your pup for responding how you want her to when you tell her “no” will help her get the idea, even though it may look different each time you say it.

Teach your dog “sit”

Not only is “sit” another essential tool for safety, but it’s a perfect starting point for obedience training as well. Later commands like “stay,” “down,” and countless others will start as a “sit” since step-by-step training is easiest for dogs. It’s also one you’re bound to use frequently, especially if your dog likes to tag along while you run errands or hang out with friends.

Teach your dog “stay” or “wait”

Once your pup learns how to sit on command, you can practice “stay.” Some pet parents prefer to use “wait,” though either should work just fine. Whatever feels most natural!

Don’t set your expectations too high the first time you practice these steps. Most dogs won’t get it immediately, let alone be willing to sit and stay for an extended period. Start slow and work your way up. Make sure that your rewards for “sit” and “stay” are completely separate — you wouldn’t want your dog to get them confused! It’s best to reward your dog every time she performs the desired action within three seconds of doing it. It may seem fast, but it will help.

Teach your dog to come when called

Whether you approach this by beginning with responding to her name or by jumping into the command, every dog should learn to come eventually. It may be more effective in high-distraction situations and could be the difference between getting your dog’s attention and actually getting her to come to you.

First, reward her simply for looking your way when you start this command. Another way to teach this process is to show your dog a toy or treat, then use the “come” command as she approaches you. Don’t forget to reward her once she gets to you!

a rottweiler on a collar and leash walks alongside a trainer and looks up at them

Teach your dog “down”

For this article’s purposes, “down” and “off” are two separate commands. “Off” might be used when your dog is jumping up to greet a guest, or when she’s getting comfy on the couch she knows she’s not allowed on. “Down” refers specifically to lying down with all legs on the floor, which is usually done from a seated position.

This is why starting with “sit” is so important! Your dog will have the confidence to know she can master commands, and she’ll already be halfway lying down. It won’t be too tricky to guide her down using a treat, toy, or hand — especially once she gets the hang of it the first few times.

Once you’ve mastered the few basic obedience commands every dog should know, you can move on to more advanced training — like leash training. Loose-leash walking is a great skill for any dog to have, especially one who may be living in a crowded city or one who loves to tag along on hikes. Your basic commands will help get your dog suited up for a walk, though many dogs act a little bonkers before they get used to using a leash. Don’t worry — just as with learning commands, you and your pup will work at it until practice makes perfect.

Editors' Recommendations

Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
Why do dogs bark? An expert guide to every yip, howl, and arf
Find out what this kind of communication means
A dog barks in front of a yellow background

Most of us hear dogs barking frequently, some even every day or multiple times. You might look forward to the sound of your pooch greeting you with a happy bark at the door or dread an angry snarl from the neighbor's poorly behaved beastie, but there's a lot more to barking than meets the ear.

This complex form of communication actually can have many different meanings both on its own and coupled with other indicators, like body language. While your dog barking at nothing might annoy you when it happens at 3 a.m., you'll be far better prepared to handle it if you understand what's behind the noise.

Read more
Velcro dogs: The pets most likely to become mini stalkers (and what to do about it)
Some pups can't get enough of their humans and follow them everywhere earning them the title velcro dogs
Chihuahua cocks his head while lying on the carpet

One of the best things about pets is they love us unconditionally: They jump for happiness when we get home, dutifully stand by our side no matter what, and beg for our attention even when we're in our PJs with unkempt hair. Velcro dogs take this to the next level. These pups stick to their humans like glue, or well, velcro. They can't get enough of their people and follow them around, even into the bathroom.
While this behavior can be common in many pets when they're young, right after being adopted, or immediately following a long separation, velcro dog breeds never seem to grow out of the tendency. Just about any beastie can wind up fitting into this category, but some types of dogs are more prone to it than others.

What makes a pup a velcro dog?
The truth is, there's no surefire way to tell if one animal will wind up being clingier than the next. However, there are some clues you can look to and make an educated guess. Essentially, all puppies go through this phase at one time or another, but that doesn't necessarily indicate they'll turn into a velcro pooch as an adult. Additionally, many, or even most, dogs will also follow you more when they first meet you or after a big life event, like a move. However, a true clinger won't ever let go, staying right underfoot all day for their whole life.

Read more
Why won’t my dog bark? Here’s when pet parents should be concerned
Can't figure out why your dog won't bark or if it's a problem? Here's what we dug up
Dog barks outside in a lawn

A dog that doesn’t bark often, or at all, seems like a dream come true to pet parents (and their neighbors). In reality, a quiet dog can be cause for concern, especially if a previously noisy pup suddenly becomes quiet. If you have a quiet pet, you might wonder, why won't my dog bark?
Barking is both a normal dog behavior and an important communication tool for dogs, so it's natural to be a bit worried if your dog isn't barking. The good news is that there are plenty of reasons your dog may not be barking, and not all of them are cause for concern! However, if you're worried about your dog, it's important to remember that even if your dog’s lack of sound isn’t from a serious health issue, you can’t go wrong by asking your trusted veterinarian for advice.

When do puppies start barking? What does it sound like at first?
According to Certified Canine Behavior Consultant Mikkel Becker, puppies begin vocalizing around 2 or 3 weeks of age. At this early stage, you’re more likely to hear whines and grunts. When your puppy reaches 2 to 4 months, these vocalizations will start to turn into barks, though each dog reaches milestones at their own pace. If you’re worried about your pup’s vocal development, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian to rule out any potential issues.

Read more