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5 Commands Every Dog Should Know

5 Commands Every Dog Should Know

Tucson Veterinarians - Encanto Pet Clinic

Penny Barsotti in a down-stay

Dogs can push us to the limit – chewing furniture, getting into the garbage, and running through open doors. They can be mischievous and destructive, then they roll those big eyes at us and suddenly all is forgiven. But this wild child behavior can be harmful and sometimes deadly. Just like a child, your dog looks to you for boundaries and guidance.

Cindy Morgan, co-owner and trainer of Oh, Behave! Pet Training & Behavior Solutions, LLC believes that a trained dog is a happy dog. She suggests clicker training as a positive reinforcement training tool. A clicker is used in tandem with a treat to mark a desired behavior. Once the dog identifies the behavior and learns he receives a treat when he completes the behavior, the trainer adds a cue – a word or signal such as “Come” or “Sit.” “The simplest way to use it everyday is to concentrate on the things your dog is doing right and ignoring the bad behavior if possible,” says Morgan. “It is easy to inadvertently reinforce bad behavior without knowing it.”

Morgan says the first step is to teach the dog that a click equals a treat. Have 10 to 20 bite-sized treats ready. Don’t expect your dog to perform at this point – simply click and offer a treat. Repeat until all the treats are gone.

 Next, choose the behavior you will be rewarding, such as “Sit.” Remember, says Morgan, you have created a contract with your dog – if you click, you must treat!

 Morgan suggests teaching five basic commands – Sit, Down, Come, Wait, and Leave It.


  1. Sit

A firm command of “Sit” can prevent your dog from pushing or knocking down people at the door, getting rambunctious with strangers on walks, or sniffing too close to other diners at outdoor, dog-friendly cafes.

Squish Barsotti in a down-stay.

  1. Down

The “Down” command is useful when introducing a large dog to young children, who are often intimidated by their size or boisterous behavior. But it can also save his life. Search and rescue dogs are taught the “down” command to keep them in place until a hazardous situation passes. A pet dog may be running toward his owner, but a speeding car is approaching. A “Down” command can stop his momentum and avoid an accident.

Tucson Vets Encanto Pet Clinic

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici

  1. Come

This command can save a life – the “Come” or “Recall” is used to call your dog back from any position or situation. “I had a young dog years ago that carelessly followed a car out my driveway and we were able to keep him safe by utilizing that command,” says Morgan.

  1. Wait

“If you live in an apartment or house on a busy road, teaching your dog to not bolt out the front door is invaluable,” Morgan explains. The “Wait” command can also be used at feeding time to keep an impatient dog from charging the bowl.

  1. Leave It

This command is taught to young puppies destined to serve as Guide Dogs for the Blind. Puppies are taught not to sniff or pick up pills, food or other objects in homes or on walks. The “Leave It” command can prevent dangerous ingestion of drugs or sharp objects, or contact with animals such as scorpions, Colorado River Toads or rattlesnakes.

Morgan says that sometimes a bad behavior can be “trained.” When a dog jumps on you and you push it off, you are inadvertently rewarding the behavior by paying attention to him. The clicker method and an appropriate command (such as “Sit” or “Down”) can prevent the behavior.

Bad behaviors can be retrained into tricks, says Morgan. “I will use barking as an example. Make sure you have a pocket full of treats and your clicker handy. Any time your dog barks, click and treat. Do this until your dog is doing it over and over. Once they are doing this quite a bit, add the cue right before you think your dog is going to bark. Slowly add in more time between asking him to bark. If he barks and you haven’t cued him, don’t click and treat.”

But, we asked Morgan, what about cats? “Most cats don’t care about pleasing you,” she says. “Of course each cat is different. If your cat loves treats, you are half way there. Most of my experience with cat owners is solving unwanted cat behavior. I had a client years ago that had two cats that just didn’t get along. One cat was being very mean to the other cat. I taught the client how to use play training, which builds the confidence of the cat that was being bullied. It was so powerful that the two cats became friends after several weeks.”

But Encanto Pet Clinic cat clients are a brilliant lot, so we found some commands to teach cats – with their permission, of course!

Jan - PennyBarsotti

Penny Barsotti

Oh Behave! Pet Training offers a free puppy play and socialization class, allowing puppies to learn how to interact with other dogs outside their normal environment. Group classes and other services, such as behavior counseling, obedience training and therapy dog training, are available at A Loyal Companion’s indoor facility at 4758 E. Grant Rd.

If you have questions or concerns about your dog’s (or cat’s) behavior, please contact Encanto Pet Clinic staff ; veterinarians in Tucson, AZ.