We teach our kids basic rules and instructions to follow to keep them safe or stop them from running out on to a busy street full of cars – or putting something dangerous in their mouths. And let’s face it…our dogs are pretty much our kids as well, aren’t they? Makes learning (and teaching them) the most important dog commands one of the non-negotiable steps as a responsible dog parent.

So no matter if you have a puppy or an older dog, there are certain basic dog commands that every one of them should know. Let’s get started with some of them – and what steps you should take in an emergency if your buddy’s instincts override their training.

Basic obedience dog commands could potentially save their life

A well-trained dog isn’t just a nice-to-have – in an emergency, their training can potentially save their life from dangerous situations. Because whether you take them to the park, to the vet or for a simple walk, there’s no end to the dangers that can occur.

Besides, no dog is smart enough to realize every single danger they can get themselves into. No matter where you’re living, there’s always the risk they run into: 

  • Passing bikes and cars
  • Other, more aggressive dogs (and animals) – or even people
  • Food strewn over street sidewalks, including chocolate and candy wrappers
  • Toxic substances, including poisonous plants, snail bait, and pesticide
  • Bear traps and poison bait, especially if you’re out hiking or running in nature

And this isn’t even counting the sheer possibility your buddy might end up running away just too far from safety – and get lost in the process.

A dog sitting on an empty street

💡 But if you’ve taught your dog some basic obedience commands, you’re on your way to ensuring they’re:

  • Not going to make a nuisance of themselves at dog parks, cafes, and on walks
  • Keeping safe from all the (completely avoidable) dangers we’ve covered
  • A good canine citizen

Each of these dog commands performs a specific function and will help with your pet’s daily routine. So without further ado, here are some of the most important dog commands your pup should know.

The most important dog commands for your buddy

Besides teaching your buddy these basic dog commands, you’re best off revisiting them regularly to keep your dog’s training fresh. (And help them stay mentally active – so less likely to get up to any mischief.)

Because in an emergency, regular training can be a potential lifesaver – especially if you’ve got:

  • A high-energy puppy and are curious about every darn thing they see around them – so likely to run off and get lost
  • Low on impulse control – so also likely to run off and get lost
  • A dog from a hunting breed and with a high prey-drive – so driven to run after woodland animals or even smaller pets, like cats, or even other people
  • A dog from a herding breed and with a strong tendency to “herd” around replacements for cattle, like fellow joggers, your kids, smaller animals, or even you!
A dog running after a ball in a garden

In general, we’d also recommend training your buddy a few of these commands 2-3 times per day, for around 5-10 minutes. So keep some treats at hand and let’s go!


When you teach your dog to “Sit,” it can help them…well, curb their enthusiasm a bit and let you answer the door, prepare their meal, or get them leashed without it being a struggle. (Or prevent them from knocking over Grandma when she’s visiting.)

💡”Sit” is also a better, more proactive command than “No,” – since it actually gives your dog something to do. (Rather than just communicating your disapproval.)

A dog learning the "Sit" command outdoors

How to train your dog to Sit on cue

  • Start with your dog in a quiet, familiar environment. (At this point, you both should still be standing.)
  • Hold a treat over your dog’s nose – and then move it slowly in an arc over their head.
  • This should make your dog’s nose follow the treat, which will make them sit down naturally.
  • When they’re in a seated position, make sure to clearly say, “Sit!” (so they learn to associate the command with the behavior required of them.)
  • Right after, give them a treat. (Or praise and pat them plenty.)
  • Rinse, repeat, and practice thoroughly.

Stay (or Wait)

Stay or Wait can stop your dog from running in front of a car or grabbing something they shouldn’t grab. Teaching your dog to stay or wait teaches them to stand still, control their impulses, and stay calm for a short time – until you’re finished with household chores, entertaining guests, or other tasks.

Read more: Why Do Dogs Run Away? 6 Reasons Behind It

A woman teaching a dog the "Stay" command

How to train your dog to Stay on cue

  • In a quiet, familiar environment, get your dog in the “Sit” position. (Following the steps above.)
  • Walk away a few steps.
  • Your dog will most likely try and follow you – which is where you turn and firmly tell them, “Stay.”
  • If your dog stops, wait a few seconds – and then give them a treat.
  • Rinse, repeat, and practice thoroughly.

Drop it

Drop it is a useful command if you see your favorite shoes sticking out of your dog’s mouth – or they’re about to eat something dangerous from the sidewalk. (Which could be something potentially toxic to dogs and land you both in the vet emergency room.)

The “Drop it”command also makes it easier for you to play with your dog. If they catch a Frisbee but won’t release it, simply tell them to “Drop it.”

A dog holding a ball in their mouth

How to train your dog to Drop It on cue

  • Drop It is one of the most fun dog commands to teach during playtime – especially if your dog has something (like a ball or a Frisbee) in their mouth already.
  • Now rather than telling them “Drop it!” and waiting for them to magically understand, pop a treat in your dog’s mouth (when they’re already holding something.)
  • This will make your dog drop the object on instinct.
  • Immediately say, “Drop it!” to help them associate the connection between the command and the behavior.
  • Rinse, repeat, and practice thoroughly.


Probably the most important of the basic dog commands, “Come,” means that your dog should stop what they’re doing and return to you. This can potentially save your dog’s life since it can prevent them from running off too far – and encountering a dangerous situation.

How to train your dog to come when called

  • Get your dog in the “Sit” position – and to “Stay” as you walk away a few paces.
  • Hold out a treat or one of their favorite toys.
  • Tell them “Come!” while gesturing your dog to come to you. (Getting down low can help.)
  • Repeat this until your dog comes to you – and immediately give them a treat.

Read more: Dog Recall: How To Teach Your Dog To Come When Called

A woman giving her dog a treat for coming when called

Training your dog to come back when called is probably the most important of the dog commands when you’ve got an escape artist dog at home. (And let’s admit it, every dog has a bit of an escape artist in them – even the biggest couch potatoes of them all.)

⚠️ Unfortunately, some dogs’ recall training can go down the toilet if they’re sufficiently motivated (and high-energy enough).

Which is where it makes sense to plan ahead for an emergency – and ensure you can always find them, no matter how far they’ve run off.

💡 It’s why dog parents around the world – just like you – are strapping GPS trackers to their buddies’ collars. Meaning you can track your dog:

  • In real-time
  • Over an unlimited range
  • While on vacation (or 175 countries, if you’re on a Premium subscription)

…all from just a glance at your phone.

brown dog wearing gps tracking collar

So you can have an extra layer of security, knowing you can always find your dog, no matter how far they’ve escaped.

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How to make the most of your training sessions

Teaching your buddy the different dog commands can be a fun and rewarding experience for both of you. So here are a couple of FAQs we’ve run into when it comes to making the most of your training sessions together.

When should you start teaching your buddy these dog commands?

Ideally, the younger your dog, the easier it is to teach them – and the faster they learn. The best time to start training your new puppy, or adult dog, is as soon as you bring them home.

Besides, refreshing your dog’s training throughout their life helps keep their brains sharp. But of course, you can always mix it up by teaching them some new commands and more advanced tricks as well – like high-fiving, playing dead, rolling over, or fetching.

A puppy following their owner for a training session

💡Got more than one dog at home? Make sure to train them separately – so they learn all the basic dog commands best by themselves.

How often should you train your dog?

Ideally, you should be revisiting and repeating these dog commands daily – or at least as regularly as possible. (Think of it like flossing your teeth before going for a dental checkup. It only makes sense the more frequently you do it, right?)

Besides, even a few minutes of daily training can help your dog behave better and control their impulses when you’re both out and about. Meaning they can more easily socialize at dog parks, be allowed inside cafes and restaurants, and not make a nuisance of themselves outdoors.

So if you’ve just taught your dog a new trick or command, repeat it as often as possible. Teach the trick in small steps and be creative with the spots chosen for your training.

A woman training her dog to fetch a stick

How long should training sessions be?

Short and sweet – no more than 5-10 minutes, tops. A rule of thumb: practice 15 min for a trick and then wait a few hours until you try a new one.

Besides, it’s better to do a few 5-minute sessions per day than one 30-minute session with all sorts of commands, back to back.

Much like us humans, dogs can also get bored and distracted. Meaning all your effort can go down the drain if you over-train them all in one go rather than distributing it throughout the day.

A dog getting bored in the middle of a training session

What kind of environment do I need for training?

If you’re just starting out, somewhere quiet, familiar, and with few distractions (if any.) Your dog needs to learn how to focus on you and you alone while their brains build the connections they need to make the command a familiar action.

With time, it’s smart to switch up their training environment to somewhere with more “distractions.” So your buddy can learn to focus on you and following your lead in different environments.

Besides, we’d also recommend only training when you’re in a relatively good or neutral mood. If you’ve had a bad day, either take some time off – or focus on an easier command. (Else your poor dog is likely to pick up on your stress.)

A smiling man training his dog outdoors

Do I need to use treats as a reward?

Nope, not necessarily. There’s always the risk you accidentally over-feed your dog – and now your vet is telling you off because your buddy’s gained a few extra pounds!

(Besides, some food-motivated dogs can easily overdo it and follow commands from just about anyone who offers them a “treat.”)

So mix up your rewards by going for healthy, low-calorie treats (like dry kibble) – as well as giving your dog plenty of pats and praise or even some extra playtime.

Always end your training sessions on a positive note with an exercise you know your dog can do easily. Finishing with success keeps you both motivated!

A couple hugging a dog outdoors

Uh oh – what to do if your dog’s instincts override their training?

You’ve done your homework, stayed on top of your basic dog commands training…and you can still run into a situation where your dog bolts off the leash because they’ve:

  • Gotten spooked from a sudden, loud noise – like a passing car, fireworks, or even a coming thunderstorm
  • Sniffed out a female in heat nearby (or are a female in heat, looking for a mate)
  • Caught wind of “prey” and need to hunt and track them down
  • Gotten threatened by another dog or animal and need to show them who’s boss

…and the hundreds of other reasons dogs can end up running away too far from safety.

A dog running away into a forest

So here’s what we’d recommend you do to plan ahead for an emergency.

Inform your neighbors & loved ones in advance

Besides it being a generally nice thing to do, it’ll help if you and your buddy are familiar faces in your neighborhood. Meaning in a missing dog situation, your neighbors can:

  • Alert you if they spot your buddy wandering around their backyards or in the neighborhood
  • Keep an eye out in case your dog does come wandering back
  • Help you actually, physically look for your lost dog
  • Spread the word on social media, if necessary
A group of friends walking their dogs together

Read more: How To Find A Lost Dog: Tips To Bring Your Missing Dog Home Fast

Make your dog easily identifiable

A collar and ID tag might seem like the bare minimum, but in an emergency, they can work wonders in reuniting you with a lost dog. Besides, if your missing buddy is picked up by a shelter, it now means they can contact you to inform you they’ve found them.

But since ID tags can fall off or get smudged, we’d also recommend getting your dog microchipped. It’s a quick, painless, relatively affordable procedure that your vet can perform in under 10 minutes, implanting a microchip between your dog’s shoulder blades.

  • Make sure to update your contact details on the microchip worldwide registry.
  • Now if someone finds your dog and takes them to a vet or shelter, they can scan your dog for a microchip – which contains your contact details.
  • Then, they can get in touch with you and inform you they’ve found your lost dog.
A vet scanning a dog for a microchip

⚠️ Just remember: a microchip can’t actually track down your dog in real-time or help you actively find them. All it can do is help someone else identify your dog.

So if you want to take a more active role in tracking down your lost dog, you should:

Strap a GPS tracker to your dog’s collar

Which, with its connection to a sky full of satellites, now means you can follow your dog’s every step – as they make their every step.

So imagine the relief and peace of mind from knowing you can track your missing dog – no matter how far they wander?

It’s where your Tractive GPS can be a lifesaver – specifically, its LIVE tracking, pictured below.

Tractive GPS app feature screenshot LIVE Tracking
Lisa van Roon and Charlie the Basenji

“The LIVE tracking is my #1 recommendation when it comes to peace of mind.

Besides that, Tractive’s Family Sharing feature is super helpful. Both let me monitor how (my dog is) doing even if I’m not around.

…I can get anxious wanting to know where he is at all times. So I check the LIVE tracking to see where he’s being walked.

Once I see my parents and Charlie are back home safe, I have my peace of mind because the tracker helps me see his location even if I’m not there.

This helps me feel more confident I can let him off-leash in specific areas. Especially ones that don’t have other dogs walking off-leash, who might end up chasing or biting him, and that are fenced in – to make sure he stays safe.”

– Lisa van Roon & Charlie, NL

Read more: Lisa & Charlie the Basenji: Adventuring With Tractive

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Nail these 4 dog commands – for a safe, happy life together

Your dog might be the good-est boy or girl in the world – but there’s no substitute for regular training, plus planning ahead for an emergency in case their instincts override their training.

So make regular sessions for these basic dog commands a priority – and you’ll be well on your way to a safer, easier, headache-free life together.

  • Sit, which can help them learn to control their impulses when someone’s rung the doorbell or you’ve got visitors or just got out the food bowls. (Or leash.)
  • Stay, preventing them from running into a busy street after a ball or chasing down a smaller animal (or child!)
  • Drop it, which comes in handy if you don’t have a picky eater at home, preventing them from eating something they really shouldn’t. (Or chewing your slippers to bits.)
  • Come, which can be a lifesaver if you’ve got an escape artist dog at hand. Or who’s busy chasing down “prey” or running out of sight.

Keep your training sessions short, sweet, regular – and ideally focused on 1-2 commands at a time.

A woman training a dog in a field

And besides regular training…

Plan ahead for an emergency – especially a “missing dog” situation. No one ever anticipates an experience like this until they find out the hard way, so you’re best off preparing much in advance.

  • Keep your friends and neighbors in the know, so they can alert you and/or help you physically search for your missing dog.
  • Ensure your dog is identifiable with a collar, ID tag, and ideally, a microchip.

And if you’ve got an escape artist, puppy, hyperactive, anxious dog at home – or just one with poor impulse control?

  • Strap a GPS tracker to their collar.
A man hugging his dog who's wearing a Tractive GPS collar

💡So you can track your buddy’s movements in real-timeno matter where they are. (Or where you are.)

packaging of the Tractive GPS DOG tracker

Always know where your dog is

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your dog too.

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Want to see basic dog commands training in action? Here’s a quick video on how to teach them to any dog:

And if you’ve liked this post, share it with a friend or a loved one – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together.