We’ll forgive you, we’ve been there, planning to teach your dog all these amazing tricks to show off at the family BBQ.

While trick training can be a great way to enhance your bond, sometimes it’s worth initially focusing on some super-important commands that could potentially save their life.

Once you’ve nailed these – feel free to move on to the more glamorous dancing and performing, especially if you have a really cute dog.

First Up, Stop.

Thankfully, this is a relatively easy command to train, because they actually quite enjoy it.

Encourage your dog to come towards you. As he comes towards you, throw treats behind him. He will stop to eat them. As he does, label the behavior. Repeat.

You need to get to the stage where you can shout the behavior, he performs it and then you reward. The bonus with throwing treats behind him is that he soon realizes where they come from, so he’s likely already paying attention to you waiting for the treats.

You might use this command if he is running into traffic, or he’s a little too close to the road at the end of the park.


No matter where you live, recall is the most important command a dog needs to learn. You need to be able to get your dog back to you.

You may start with him in front of you, then walking backward luring him with a treat, calling his name and stating “come” as you do.

Start with him a couple of feet away from you and behave super-excited and jovial. He’s then more interested in you than anything else in the environment.

Reward him each time he gets to you. This is important. He needs to know that when he gets to you something good happens.

As you progress, you will increase the distance he has to travel to get to you. You may ask a helper to hold his collar whilst you move further away.

You would then add in distractions, so attempt to work on recall in a secure park, with other dogs and humans milling around. Again, you want to make sure that you are the most interesting person and something good always happens when he chooses to come back to you. Never scold a dog for not coming back – he will then learn that something bad happens. Try again but create an environment where he wants to come back to you.


Teaching leave could be the difference between you casually walking up the street, or spending the night in the emergency room because your dog ate something rotting on the sidewalk.

You should start with a tasty snack in a closed hand.

As your dog sniffs your hand, there will be a moment when he turns away. At that point, give him the treat.

Slowly, once he’s understood this, offer him the treat with an open hand. Again, reward him as soon as he shows little interest or turns his head.

Some owners work up to placing treats on the floor, or on their dog’s paw. It’s a great way to teach self-control, but ultimately you are teaching them a life-saving skill!


A great command in busy cities, especially if your front porch leads to a busy road!

It’s all too exciting for some dogs when the leash comes out; they know they are heading out, so often want to get through the door before you.

You may be able to wrestle the leash on your dog, but wouldn’t it be easier to ask them to wait patiently at the door rather than risk them bolt into oncoming traffic?

It’s super simple. Place your hand on the door handle. If Fido gets excited, move from the door and ignore him.

Try again. Repeat until Fido no longer responds to you reaching for the door handle. When he calms, label the behavior and reward him. You can teach a sit-wait or down-wait if you would rather, but for some, wait is enough.

The list of things to teach your dog can be huge, but it’s certainly worth focusing on the ones that could one day save their life. You never know when you may need them!