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How to Obedience Train a Dog: Vet-Verfied Steps & Tips

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on May 14, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog obedience training at home

How to Obedience Train a Dog: Vet-Verfied Steps & Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Ashley Darby Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’ve only just brought a dog home, the prospect of obedience training can feel intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. The good news is that you do not need any prior experience to mold your pooch into a model canine citizen. What matters most is being consistent and maintaining a positive attitude with a dose of good humor throughout the training period. In this guide, we’ll share some simple steps and tips to get you started with basic obedience training. dogster face divider

Obedience Training Steps & Tips

What you'll need:
  • Harness
  • Leash
  • Long leash
  • Treats or other motivators (toys, etc.)
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How to Obedience Train a Dog

1. Enroll in Obedience Classes

Even before you bring your new dog home, it would be ideal to get in contact with an obedience class group to get your pooch signed up early and ask any questions you may have. This is strongly recommended because it offers you an extra support system while you’re training your dog at home. It’s also a good way to socialize your dog with other dogs in a secure environment.

woman on the couch registering her dog online
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

2. Identify the Motivator

Rewarding your dog is key to motivating them during training. Dogs are motivated by different rewards—while some like treats, others like toys, play sessions, or even just a nice scratch behind the ear. Watch out for what your dog gets most excited about and use that as your training motivator.


3. Start with Basic Commands

Basic commands are essential because they give you more control in a variety of situations. For example, if your dog is about to eat something they shouldn’t, a command like “leave it” could make all the difference. It’s best to start teaching basic commands at home in a distraction-free environment. Here are some of the most basic commands (not an exhaustive list) and some simple tips for how to use rewards to train your dog to do them:

  • Sit

Hold a treat in front of your dog and move it upwards over their head in a curve. This encourages your dog to naturally go into the sitting position.

man training viszla
Image Credit: ABO PHOTOGRAPHY, Shutterstock
  • Come

While your dog is at a distance from you, crouch down and make sure they can see the treat or toy in your hand. Say “Come” in a happy voice and reward your dog. When out in public, like in the dog park, attaching a long leash can be useful for training your dog to come back to you from a farther distance.

  • Stay

Have your dog sit, then show them the treat and give the “Stop” signal with your palm facing up. Wait a second or two and reward. Gradually increase the length of time your dog must “Stay” before they get the treat.

  • Leave

Hold a treat in your closed fist and let your dog nudge and lick at your hand to try and take it. When they back away for a second or two, reward them with the treat. Keep doing this until your dog backs off from the treat all the time, then you can start to work on the verbal cue “Leave it” and advance to having your dog leave alone a treat on your open palm.

  • Down

Have your dog sit and show them a treat. Move the treat toward the ground to encourage your dog to follow it into a lie-down position. When they lie down, give them the treat.

  • Watch me

Show your dog a treat and then hold it up between your eyes. Say “Watch me” and reward if your dog can watch you for a few seconds. Gradually increase the time they have to focus on you to get the treat.

border collie dog sitting on floor and looking up
Image Credit: smrm1977, Shutterstock

4. Work on Leash Behaviors

You can also work on good leash behavior both inside and outside the house. Teaching your dog to “heel” (walk at your side) is an important leash behavior because it is more comfortable than being pulled, and gives you greater control. There are various ways to teach “heel”, but a common way is to start by calling your dog to your side and rewarding them when they do. You can then advance to showing them the treat and having them follow it as they walk alongside you. Gradually increase the length of time they have to wait to get the treat, from a few steps to several steps.


5. Keep Practicing

Though some dogs learn very quickly, training is not an overnight job, and it’s never something that’s “done and dusted”. Training needs to be consistent. Even if your dog has started to get really good at a specific command, keep instilling it every day. If your dog takes time to pick something up, that’s fine—give it time. Keep practicing, keep being consistent, and you’ll soon start to see the rewards.

woman training a Brown Pitbull mix dog
Image Credit: Victoria Rak, Shutterstock

6. Stick to Short Sessions

Avoid overwhelming your dog with lengthy training sessions. 10–15 minutes per session is just enough to work on a command or routine. It’s better to do several short sessions than big, long ones, as dogs can only stay focused for so long.


7. Reach out for Help if Necessary

If training is not going as you expected, there’s absolutely no shame in reaching out to a professional dog trainer for help. It doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job; it just means your dog may respond better to a different method of training that you haven’t considered. If you’re finding things a challenge, drafting in a professional that uses positive reinforcement techniques is always a good idea.

man walking with his dog after training
Image Credit: romul 014, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

How you approach training your dog can make all the difference. Patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement will help keep your bond with your pooch strong and build up that all-important respect. On the other hand, harshness, punishments, and an inconsistent approach will only teach your dog to lack respect for you or even fear you, which is devastating for training and socialization efforts.


Featured Image Credit: Westend61, Getty Images

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