The 7 Most Important Dog Training Skills

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Dog training is a lifelong process, but some skills are more important than others.  Think of mastering these essential dog training skills as laying the foundation, and preparing your dog for a lifetime of good behavior and companionship.

Whether you just brought home a puppy, adopted a shelter dog, or want to brush up your old dog’s training, these are the absolute most important skills to teach your dog (and yourself).

Before you start, it’s a good idea to review the basics of dog training: be patient, be positive, mind your body language, work in bursts (10-15 minute training sessions at a time), and add variety to help your dog respond reliably in any situation.

1. House Training

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Potty training is all about consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. Start with the basics:

  • Supervise your dog. When you’re just starting to house train her, limit her access to other parts of the house, whether that means closing off doors to bedrooms or crate-training so she has her own space.
  • Set a routine. Dogs are creatures of habit. By feeding your dog at the same time each day and offering regularly spaced walks and outside potty breaks, you can condition her to “go” at set times each day.
  • Never punish your dog for eliminating indoors. Accidents happen, and dogs don’t understand cause and effect the same way people do. Clean up the mess, remind yourself that it will get better the more consistent you are and move on.
  • Reward your dog for getting it right. Give her a treat as soon as she goes potty in the designated spot.

For more detailed tips on housetraining a puppy or dog, check out this trainer’s complete guide.

Successful dog training is all about consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement.

2. Come

Coming when called is one of the most important skills for your dog to have on lock, because it can keep her safe in potentially dangerous situations. “Make it a party” every time your dog comes when called. No matter what they’re leaving behind, coming to you should be the best thing that happens to them all day!

To train your dog to come when called, start on leash in a quiet area. Back away from your dog while enthusiastically telling her to “come!” Only give the command once, but be enthusiastic, and keep your body language relaxed and open. You can show your dog a treat to encourage her to head your way. Once she starts towards you, say “yes!” (or click) and reward her with a treat.

Over time, you can gradually increase the distance between you and your dog, and start practicing in a variety of situations. View our trainer’s guidefor more tips to teaching your dog to come when called.

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