This is the most basic command that can be taught, and is also a great starting point. Start by working with your dog in the privacy of your home where you are more likely to have their full attention. Sit next to your dog and hold a treat above their nose. As you say "sit", move the treat directly over their head toward their hind end. They should lower their hind end as their head raises to try to reach for the treat. Once their bottom is sitting give them the treat and praise them for "good sit!" For smaller wigglier dogs, you may have to guide their bottom to the floor, do this gently and immediately praise them as soon as they sit. Repeat this multiple times a day. As your dog begins to respond more quickly, start to request them to sit without treats, just praise.
Teaching your dog the down command may be a little harder than sit, especially if the dog is younger and more playful. However, it's an extremely important command for them to know and respect. From the sit position, this will be a somewhat easy transition for your dog to grasp. Once they're in the sit position, hold a treat in front of their nose and move it towards their feet while saying "down". Hold your palm loosely closed with the treat secured so your dog can smell it but can't get it. Let your dog follow the treat all the way to the floor and rest your closed hand on the floor until they lay down. Once they lay down give them the treat and praise "good down!" Repeat this multiple times a day each day until they lay down without having to follow your hand.
If your dog has the sit or down command mastered, either of these positions are a good place to start. Have your dog sit or lay down, then slowly back away a few steps. If your dog stays positioned, praise them ("good stay!"), and keep backing up. The instant your dog gets up to come to you, walk back to them and say "sit, stay" and start over. Work up to walking 10 feet away and them staying seated for 20 seconds, then 30, then 60 and so on. Once they've mastered that distance and length of time, move further away. Soon you should be able to leave the room and your dog should stay where they were told to "stay."
It's important to familiarize your dog with the "come" command as early as possible to avoid a detrimental mishap. Keep positive associations with the command so that no matter what has your dog's attention, when you say "come" they obey. Have a friend help you with this training. While you are sitting across the room from your friend, have them lightly restrain your dog, and then excitedly repeat "come Fido" until you have the dog's attention. Once they run to you praise them verbally, give them a treat and take a minute to play tug-o-war with their favorite toy as reward. Practice this back and forth so they associate "come" as a very good thing. Once you feel comfortable with their response, start adding distractions into the training.
While training these essential commands to your dog, it's important to remember that these will likely take some time for your dog to learn. With lots of patience, repetitiveness, and positive reinforcement, you can succeed in training any dog these basic commands. While it's best to train them as early as possible, don't let that stop you with your older dogs - after all, old dogs can learn new tricks too!
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