Dogs are very smart and quick to learn. With some patience and a few treats you can easily teach your pup many important skills. While teaching your dog to "high five" and "roll over" is fun, they first need to learn the basics in order to have a base on which to build their vocabulary and skills. Learning these seven words should be top priority as your dog's understanding of them could life saving. They are: Sit, Stay, Down, Come, Heel, Off, No.
Why are these words so important?
To be a well-mannered pooch your dog needs to respond to "sit" on command. When your dog is in a sitting position it calms them down and they can be ready to focus on the task at hand. In a sitting position a dog can be taught not to jump on visitors and, when told to sit before getting a treat or eating their food, they learn patience and obedience.
The "sit"command is also a safety tool. Once when Dallas and I were out for our walk she pulled free from her leash. Once she realized she was free to run she started off down the block. As soon as I realized what was happening I yelled "Dallas, sit!" and, happily, she practiced what she learned and quickly sat down. A dangerous situation was avoided.
The "stay" and "sit" commands work together and are equally important. Like "sit", the "stay" command is also an obedience and safety tool.
In the above scenario after telling Dallas to "sit" I quickly added "stay" and she stayed sitting until I was able to go to her and reattach the leash. The combination sit and stay commands will also help to keep your dog from unexpectedly running out the front door.
When you use the "down" command you are communicating to your dog that the stay will be of longer duration than just a sit. Down is more relaxed and is used in social situations when you need your dog to lie down and stay calm and relaxed. "Down" usually follows the command "sit" and is than followed by "stay".
Teaching your dog to come when called is an essential part of being a good canine citizen. Whenever your dog is off leash you need to be sure you will get an immediate response to the "come" command. This could be a real safety issue if you and your dog are hiking in a wooded area or if your dog is out running in a yard or at a dog park.
For the safety of you and your dog while out walking the "heel" command should be enforced. This command will ensure that your pup will be right by your side. If your dog is allowed to walk out in front of you, one tug will pull you forward and you will risk a fall. If your dog walks far from your left or right side, there is a risk your pup will be out in the line of traffic. The "heel" command will allow a calm and safe walk for all.
"Off" will signal your pup their need to go back on four paws if they jump on on someone. This is both a social and safety issue for all involved. It also signals that your pup has jumped up on a surface where they are not allowed such as a couch, chair, or bed.
"No" is used to stop a behavior before it begins. When your dog starts to jump up on an unsuspecting visitor, or you see them getting ready to jump up on an off-limits piece of furniture, "no" will signal your pup to go no further. "No" can also tell your pup not to eat a piece of food that is on the ground, possibly preventing your pup from ingesting something that could make them ill.
Used both separately and combined, these words will help keep you and your dog safe in many situations. They should be the first words in your pups vocabulary. Once they know the basics, and have a foundation on which to build, they will be ready to learn more fun and exciting skills.