How to Teach Your Dog 4 Training Basics
Grab your clicker and a handful of treats to get started.
Start basic dog training off on the right foot (and paw!) by using a clicker and treats. A clicker is an effective training tool that makes a precise sound your dog will only hear during training. Clicker training for dogs helps to identify the exact moment they perform the right behavior and earn a treat. Training dogs with treats is a common way to teach dogs new skills. Using a clicker and treats is an application of positive reinforcement training, one of the fastest ways to teach your dog.
Haylee Bergeland, CPDT-KA, RBT, Daily Paws’ pet health and behavior editor, shares her basic dog training instructions using positive reinforcement with treats, praise, and a clicker training tool.
How to Train a Dog to “Sit”
With your dog in a standing position, raise the treat up over their nose. When their bottom hits the ground, click and present a treat. Once the behavior is learned, add the “sit” cue. Eventually, eliminate the lure ("lure" meaning the treat that's used to help guide the pup into the desired position) and give them a treat after they respond to only the cue.
How to Train a Dog to Recognize “Down” Cue
Bergeland says to start with your dog in a sitting position. As your dog learns to master the "down" cue, this step will no longer be required. Move the treat from their nose to the ground. When they completely execute the movement, click and give a treat. Introduce the “down” cue (without the "sit") as your dog masters the behavior.
How to Teach a Dog to “Go to Place” or “Go to Mat”
After showing your dog the mat you will be using, Bergeland says to lay it down and lead them a few steps away. When the dog moves back and makes contact with the mat, click and reward with a treat. If your dog struggles to know what to do, use a hand target to direct them to the mat. Initially, she says to look for any kind of contact with the mat, but the goal is for the dog to eventually sit and lay down on the mat. When practicing repetitively, reset by throwing a treat away from the mat and then calling your dog back.
How to Teach a Dog to “Leave It”
Bergeland says to start by holding a treat in a closed hand, putting your hand to your dog’s nose, and letting them sniff. Click and produce a treat from your other hand the second they stop sniffing. Over time, introduce the cue “leave it” before extending your closed hand and advance in steps until you can simply set the treat on the floor. Never give your dog the treat you’re asking them to leave. “They should be two separate things, something they have to leave alone and the reinforcer or reward they get,” Bergeland says.