Doggie Vocabulary: Words You Can Use When Training Your Dog

Looking to have some fun with your dog? Teaching your dog new tricks is a great way to bond and keep their minds active. Have you ever had a long day at work, and you feel exhausted even though you did nothing physical, only mental? That mental stimulation can tire out your puppy, as well. They will enjoy learning new things, and they will have a great time being with you.
Some words are practical, others are fun. Dogs have an amazing capacity for vocabulary, and you may be surprised to find out what your dog can learn and remember.

There are multiple ways to teach each of these commands. This article only gives suggestions on commands to try but does not go into training methodology. If you have never taught your dog anything before, then I suggest you seek out a professional trainer to show you how to get started. Human society and your veterinarian are good sources to find reputable trainers.

This word is common in dealing with dogs, so most people know what it means. Teaching your dog to sit is the first step in learning to communicate with your pet. In the sit the dog will put its back end on the ground with its front legs upright. The sit can be used to keep a dog under control, as in the sitting position the dog is incapable of jumping up or running away.

The down position has the dog completely lying on the floor on its belly. This position is useful for longer periods of time when you need the dog under control, and they might get tired sitting.

This command can be used as an invite-only object. Teach your dog to get up on the couch, but only on command. Without the word “up” they’ll stay on the floor and off the furniture.

If the dog jumps up on something you don’t want them on, or if you’re just ready to have them leave you alone, this word can be used to tell them to get back on the floor. Be careful not to confuse “off” with “down.” If you mix these words your dog will be left confused about which means which. Stay consistent in your use.

If you want the dog to stay in place while you do something else, or walk away, teach the “stay” command. This tells them not to move from their position until you allow them. The stay is usually done in conjunction with either the sit or down. In the beginning, keep your stays short so that your dog can be successful and get rewarded. Slowly lengthen the stay time until they are comfortable with long periods of time.

Release lets the dog out of the stay position. You can also use the word “ok” for this command, but some people prefer to avoid “ok” because it is used in casual conversation and they don’t want their dog to accidentally get released from the stay. The word “release” is used much less often in casual conversation.

This isn’t a command in itself, but more a test of how well the dog knows the word “release.” The idea is to put it in a stay, then in the same tone of voice as you usually say “release,” say a bunch of other words. Anything you can think of is fine, foods, objects, names, anything. The key is for the dog to stay put until the keyword “release” is said.

This one is also not commanding itself, but a combination of two of the above commands. Bring the dog into one room of the house where they can’t see outside the room. Put it into a stay and leave the room and find somewhere to hide. Yell “release” and see how long it takes the dog to find you. This game is one of my dog’s favorites.

Always make “come” be rewarding. If you’ve been yelling for them, and then get angry when the dog finally comes, it will not be going to want to come to you anymore. Instead, making “come” be an exciting time with lots of pets and cheery voices. Tell the dog how good it is and if you have any treats, share them. This is an extremely important command, and you always need to be able to rely on “come” getting your dog to come to you in the event of an emergency.

Leave It
“Leave it” means to ignore whatever it is the dog happens to be interested in. This command is useful if it finds something on the street that could injure it and you need to get it away from that object.

The “heel” means the dog walks immediately next to your leg and sits down when you stop. This command can be used for controlling the dog, but it is also a fun game to test your dog and see how precisely it can match your step while you speed up, slow down, and turn left and right.

Spin Left/Right
This command is strictly for fun. Spin left or right tells the dog to make a full circle in place. You can combine some heels and spins to music and do a little dancing with your dog.

Some dogs like to bark, others don’t. You can teach them to bark on command, and use that to train them to bark when strangers come to the door, or to give you any other sort of warning.

If the barking gets to be too much you may need a quiet to tell your dog to stop its barking.

“Go” or “go lay down” can be used to tell the dog to leave you alone and settle down elsewhere. I use it on my bed to tell my dog to go to the foot of the bed where he just curls up and goes to sleep, rather than trying to lay up next to me.

“Wait” can be used in place of “leave it” if you intend for the dog to have the object, but not yet. The wait can be used when giving treats, to make the dog show some restraint and not just grab the treat and run.

Time for Bed
This command, or any similar, can be used to teach the dog to go to its crate or bed and curl up there. It tells the dog its time to calm down and sleep for a while in its special sleep space.

This command can be taught with any number of objects. I give each of my dog’s toys a name and can tell him to get any one of them and he’ll come back with the correct toy. I use this when I’m on the couch and want to play fetch but don’t want to go find the toy myself.

Roll Over
This command is just for fun, when the dog is lying down you can tell it to roll over and it went onto its back, belly up, and back around into a normal “down” position.

I use “Situp” for a begging type position. My dog starts in a sit and then keeping his back end on the floor he lifts his front paws into the air. I rub his belly in this position and he loves it.

The dance is like the situp but the back legs are straightened out so he’s up higher and can move around with me. I take both his front paws in my hands to help him balance and we “dance” around the floor.

Set up a pole across two stands and make a little jump. The dog can fly over it on command. Do not teach this command to puppies, as their bones are not fully developed and they can be injured by jumping. A dog that’s a few years old may enjoy it.

Another obstacle, I have a long children’s tunnel, and with this command, my dog runs through it and comes out the other side.

A variety of obstacles such as jumps and tunnels can be set up around the yard and you can teach your dog to go through a course. Be careful to take precautions that your dog doesn’t get injured on the obstacles. If your dog is enthusiastic about obstacles, then consider an agility class.

These commands are only a sample of what you could possibly teach your dog, designed to give you ideas as a starting point. Use your imagination and you and your dog can have a great time together and never run out of things to do.