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  • Element Dog Training

Teaching Basic Obedience Behaviors

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

Basic Obedience Behaviors for Your Dog:

  • House Training

  • Recall

  • Leave It

  • Drop It

  • Sit

  • Down

  • Stay

  • Jumping (Not Jumping on People)

  • Loose Leash Walking (LLW)

  • Crate Training


House Training

  • The key to success in house training is to prevent accidents

  • During house training, always keep your dog in eye sight and monitor for signs that he or she needs to potty

    • Preemptively take him or her out at times of the day when they will be likely need to use the bathroom

      • First thing in the morning, after a meal, when waking up from a nap, after drinking lots of water

  • When the dog can’t be monitored, limit their access to the house

    • Placing him or her in a crate or a dog safe room is recommended

    • These environments discourage elimination because most dogs naturally want to keep their “den” area clean

      • Dogs that are willing to “play” in their mess require extra patience. They tend to be harder to house train

  • Start training by periodically taking the dog outside to eliminate at relatively short intervals throughout the day

  • Keep the dog on leash when you take them out. Give him or her 3-5 minutes to use the bathroom in the desired area

  • When they finish eliminating, mark and reward the behavior

    • If he or she does not go, return inside, wait 10-15 minutes, and try again

    • Repeat until he or she eliminates outside

  • Continue this process with longer durations between trips outside until you have successfully potty trained your dog

  • If (or when) the dog attempts to eliminate inside the house – interrupt the act with a sharp noise that will startle (not scare) the dog, and then quickly usher him or her outside to do their business. Ensure to mark and reward the behavior while outside.

    • Calmly clean up and remove all traces of any accidents

    • Prior accidents can act like a beacon for future house soiling spots

  • VetStreet House Training Video

Common mistakes when house training:

  • Giving the dog to much freedom. When the dog is allowed to roam the house, he or she is likely to soil when not being monitored. This prevents us from interrupting the act AND naturally reinforces the behavior because of the relief that the dog feel afterwards

  • Not accompanying your dog outside to use the bathroom. This deprives you of the opportunity to mark and reward the behavior. Most dogs will still likely learn to go outside, however, it can take longer and leave more opportunity for accidents inside the house

  • Punishing the dog for inappropriate eliminations – during or after the fact

    • This associates the owner with punishment AND can encourage the dog to wait until the owner isn’t present or to go in locations that hide the evidence



  • Make recall fun

  • Start inside and start with only a few feet between you and the dog

  • Call the dog once and then reward the dog when it comes to you

    • After you call the dog in an excited voice, feel free to use any cajoling and encouragement needed to get him to finish coming to you

    • If you are working alone and struggle to get separation you can drop a treat and then back up a few steps before you call the dog to you

  • Start increasing the distance between you and your dog. Make sure it is rewarding each time the dog comes to you

  • When you have a reliable recall while inside the house it is time to start working on it outdoors

  • Start with recalls that take the dog from inside to outside

  • Continue working on recall outside and build up to brining the dog back inside

  • Continue to slowly add in distance and distractions one variable at a time

  • YouTube video Recall

  • Common mistakes when teaching recall:

    • Consistently using the recall command only to end a play session or to put the dog away.

    • Working in too distracting an environment

    • Not being picky enough about the dog completing the recall. We don’t want the dog to learn that it’s okay to stop 5 feet away and just out of arms reach.


Leave It

  • Identify an object that your dog is interest in

  • Show the object to your dog to get his attention

  • Once he has expressed interest, block the object so he can’t access it

  • Wait until he turns away then mark and reward the behavior

  • The more interesting the object, the more patient you’ll have to be – it will take longer for the dog to turn away

  • Once the dog is reliably turning away from the object, add in the verbal cue “Leave It” before the behavior

  • YouTube video Leave It

  • Common mistakes when teaching Leave It:

    • Progressing too quickly

      • The initial criteria may need to be as small as the dog’s head making a small turn away from the object.

      • Build slowly up to the point where the dog voluntarily turns and walks away from the object. Initially, if you wait for too much of a behavior - it is likely that too much time will have passed for the dog to have associated moving away from the object with the reward.

      • Exposing too much of the object or allowing the dog to get access to it without permission. This will slow down the learning process because each time the dog successfully reaches the item they learn that persistence or that moving toward the object gets rewarded.


Drop It

  • There are 2 methods to teach drop it. The “Trade” or the “Loss of Interest” method

  • While both methods work, the Trade method is recommended.

  • Drop is vital for the safety of our pets. It will provide your dog the ability to drop potentially dangerous items or foods

  • Trade

    • The Trade method utilizes an object to exchange for the one they are holding

    • Find something safe to play with – like a ball

    • Present a reward that is more interesting than what is in the dog’s mouth – like a treat

    • When the dog drops the object mark and reward the behavior. Continue to play with the dropped ball

    • Once the dog realizes that dropping the ball extends the play session, he will readily drop the ball for you

  • Loss of Interest

    • This method involves removing the excitement from the item in the dog’s mouth.

    • This requires using a toy large enough to grab

    • The dog is interested in the toy because it represents excitement. So as an owner we will grasp the toy and make it inactive

    • Eventually the dog will let go of the toy and we will mark and reward the instant they let’s go

    • Rewards other than the toy can be used each time the dog successfully drops the toy but the play session should continue as part of the reward

  • YouTube video Drop It

  • Common mistakes when teaching Drop It:

    • Consistently ending play sessions immediately after a drop or without rewarding the drop. If the dog associates dropping an item with playtime ending, they will avoid dropping the item in order to facilitate more play time

    • Not making an item go entirely dead. It’s human nature to try to pull a toy out of a drop’s mouth when teaching drop but by creating tension it keeps the toy “alive” and encourages the dog to continue playing



  • Position yourself in front of the dog

  • Start with a lure in front of the dog’s nose

  • Use the lure to move the dog’s nose up and towards its rear

    • The movement of the head up will naturally drive the rear down

  • As soon as the dog’s rear hits the ground mark and reward the behavior

  • Once the dog is reliably sitting add in the verbal command “Sit” before presenting the lure

  • YouTube video of Sit


  • Common mistakes when teaching sit:

    • Moving too quickly or too high causing the dog to jump or get overly excited

    • Not being in front of the dog or luring off to a side causing the dog to turn

    • Working in an environment with too many distractions or using too low value of a reward making it difficult to maintain the dog’s attention



  • Position yourself in front of the dog and have the dog sit. Reward the Sit

  • Start with a lure in front of the dog’s nose

  • Use the lure to move the dog’s nose straight to the floor and then slightly towards you

  • The lure will trace a backwards “L”

  • When their elbow’s hit the floor mark and reward

  • Once the dog is reliably performing a down add in the verbal command “Down” before presenting the lure

  • YouTube video of Down

  • Common mistakes when teaching down:

    • Not moving straight down. Moving away from the dog can cause them to lean and be more likely to break the sit and walk forward.

    • Working on this while the dog’s energy level is still very high. Laying down can be difficult because it requires a lack of motion



  • Position yourself in front of the dog

  • Request a Sit or a Down

  • Wait to reward the behavior – perform a sit stay/down stay. Start with just 1 second and build slowly, as little as 1 additional second at a time.

    • It can help to provide a hand signal, such as a “stop” – hand open, palm forward facing the dog

  • Once you are able to get a 5-10 second stay, start adding in the command “Stay” and a release word to end the behavior like “Free” or “Break”. Continue to slowly increase the duration.

    • It’s key that the command is not introduced until the dog will reliably stay long enough to be able to implement a release cue or the dog may learn they can choose when the behavior ends.

    • Remember to mark and reward in the “stay” position and not for the release

  • Build up to at least a one-minute stay before adding in distance and distractions.

  • Keep the criteria simple and attempt to change only one variable at a time when increasing the difficulty

  • YouTube video Stay

  • Common mistakes when teaching a stay:

    • Pushing the criteria to fast (time, duration, or distractions). Every time the dog breaks when not being released they are learning they can choose when to leave a stay

    • Not implementing a release word. If the dog doesn’t know how the behavior ends, they will learn they get to choose when it ends.

    • Attempting to teach this when the dog is in a very high energy state. Stays are best taught after the dog has had the opportunity to burn mental and physical energy first


Jumping (Not Jumping on People)

  • Dogs typically jump for attention. By jumping they are able to position themselves closer to you

  • To teach a dog to stop jumping we need to not reward the behavior of jumping

    • The dog needs to learn to greet with all 4 paws on the floor

  • If your dog has a reliable “sit stay” or “down stay”, then these behaviors can be requested at typical times that your dog jumps. This is known as teaching an “incompatible behavior”

  • If your dog doesn’t have a reliable incompatible behavior, then we need to not reward jumping

    • Reaching for the dog, pushing the dog off, walking into the dog are all ways to reward jumping – whether intentional or not – you are giving the dog attention they desire and this is rewarding

  • When the dog jumps take a step back so that the dog is able to land back on the floor. When all four paws hit the floor then we can mark and reward that position

  • Vet Street video Jumping

  • Common mistakes when teaching a dog not to jump:

    • Training in too exciting an environment. For overly excitable dogs, asking them to control themselves can be difficult. We need to set up low key environments so that they can practice performing the desired behavior.

    • Not managing their environment properly and allowing them to practice jumping. While your dog is still learning the proper behavior, we need to use management techniques. Management techniques include using a leash to keep the dog off people entering the room, putting them in a crate or room to separate them from guests, or using enrichment items such as stuffed Kongs, lick mats, or other types of games or toys to keep their interest on something other than your guests.

    • Utilizing our hands, legs, or body to separate ourselves from the dog. Pushing can be considered reinforcing and an invitation to play. Creating space and providing a very low energy demeaner will help the dog realize that being calm is the correct response in the current situation.


Loose Leash Walking (LLW)

  • Start training at home by rewarding the dog for being in position (head next to your hip)

  • Add in the command “Heel” and start walking, mark and reward after 1-2 steps

  • Continue adding distance until you are able to walk for 15-20 steps with the dog at your side

  • Start to add in changes in direction. Reward often enough to keep your dog excited to follow you, in a heel position, around the house

  • Add in the leash so that the dog gets used to having the leash included as part of the exercise

  • Add in low level distractions like the posts of an awning, chairs, and other items that the dog will be minimally interested in. Continue to mark and reward for successfully walking past distractions

  • Slowly start increasing the difficulty level of distractions by using moderate distraction (toys, plants, trees) and then high level distraction items (food, people, dogs) until your dog is able to walk calmly past all items

  • If desired, the dog can be taught to sit each time you stop as opposed to just standing by your side. Do this by first rewarding the dog for stopping, ask it to sit, and then reward the sit. After enough repetitions the dog will start to automatically offer a sit each time you stop walking

  • Ø TransPaw Gear Loose Leash Walking

  • Common mistakes when teaching loose leash walking:

    • Working in too distracting an environment

    • Expecting too much from the dog and not rewarding enough in the early stages

    • Punishing the dog for pulling. The dog should look forward to walks and providing a punishment can create anxiety for the dog when it’s time to go for a walk

  • Tips for Transitioning Outdoors

    • Remember pulling is a self-rewarding behavior when it results in moving forward

    • The key to working outside is to maintain proper distances from distractions, utilize a “leash walk” and perform a “U-turn” to counteract when your dog becomes distracted

    • Each time the dog pulls – Stop and provide a verbal cue such as “this way”, then head in the opposite direction. This needs to start from the moment you start the walk

      • We are teaching the dog that in order to go where they want, they need to maintain a loose leash

      • For dogs that do not turn on command and need our help, use the following procedure:

        • When the dog is on a fully extended leash and pulling - Start with a “Leash Walk”:

          • Maintain tension in the leash while working up the leash using a hand over hand motion. This results with you moving yourself toward the head of the dog. The dog should not move forward.

        • Next perform a “U Turn”

          • Now that you are positioned near the dog’s head, use your body to slowly turn the dog’s head/shoulders in the direction that you want them to turn

        • Release the tension in the leash each time the dog moves in the desired direction


Crate Training

  • For dogs that happily go in the kennel, let you shut the door, and relax – your dog is crate trained. For dogs that are hesitant or nervous, we want to create a positive association with the kennel

  • Start by opening all of the kennel doors to create as wide open a space possible

  • Reward the dog for going near the kennel. Slowly move the rewards closer and closer to the kennel entrance

  • Transition to placing the rewards in the kennel. Start with it just far enough inside the kennel that the dog has to lean in to get it

  • Continue to place the treat farther into the kennel until the dog has to walk all the way into the kennel to get it

  • Start closing the auxiliary exits so that the dog only uses the main entrance. Continue providing a reward to entice the dog to enter the kennel

  • Start holding on to the reward and use it lure the dog into the kennel. Wait 1 or 2 seconds before rewarding the dog and then let the dog leave the kennel

  • Continue extending the duration inside the kennel

  • Once the dog is happily going into the kennel you can start the process of closing the door. Start by partially closing the door and then immediately reopening it. Reward liberally as you gradually move the door closer and closer to being fully closed

  • Continue to build the duration until the dogs learns to happily enter and relax while in the kennel.

  • VetStreet video Crate Training

  • Common mistakes when teaching crate training:

    • Only using the crate as a punishment

    • Only putting the dog in the crate when they are going to be left alone

    • Using a flooding technique to train the dog. Flooding is where the dog is forced into the kennel before they are comfortable and left in it while they are forced to adjust. This technique risks making the dog’s fear or anxiousness with the kennel significantly worse

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