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Home Training and BehaviorBasic Training Essential Dog Training Commands: Mastering the Heel for Happy Walks

Essential Dog Training Commands: Mastering the Heel for Happy Walks

by Kimberley Lehman

Training your dog isn’t just about teaching them cool tricks; it’s about establishing a line of communication between you and your furry friend. I’ve found that mastering a few basic commands is crucial for fostering a healthy relationship with your dog.

It’s not just about obedience—it’s about ensuring their safety and your peace of mind.

Starting with commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “heel” can make a world of difference in your dog’s behavior. I’ll guide you through why these commands are essential and how they can make your daily walks, vet visits, and interactions with others more enjoyable. Trust me, a little training goes a long way, and I’m excited to share these insights with you.

Importance of Basic Dog Training Commands

When I first got my furry friend, I was over the moon, but soon realized that without basic commands, we were both in for a wild ride. Training my dog wasn’t just about making my life easier; it’s fundamentally about keeping him safe and strengthening our bond. Let’s jump into why these commands are non-negotiable for every dog owner.

Safety first, folks. This one’s a no-brainer. Training your dog basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” or “come” can literally save their life. Imagine a car speeding towards your dog, and a firm “stay” command stops him in his tracks. 

Then there’s socialization. A well-trained dog isn’t just a pleasure to be around; he’s also welcomed in more places. Whether it’s a friend’s house, a public park, or a dog-friendly café, knowing commands like “heel” or “leave it” means stress-free outings. No one wants to be that person with the unruly dog, right?

  • Essential Commands:
  • Sit: The foundation of all training.
  • Stay: Keeps your dog in place when needed.
  • Come: Calls your dog back to you.
  • Heel: Teaches your dog to walk calmly by your side.
  • Leave it: Prevents them from picking up unwanted items.

Training boosts your dog’s mental stimulation too. Learning new commands is like a brain workout for your pup. It keeps them engaged, reduces boredom, and helps prevent destructive behaviors. Trust me, a tired dog is a happy dog.

Finally, it’s all about communication. Training establishes a language between you and your dog, allowing for clearer interaction. It’s amazing how a few basic commands can transform your relationship, making your daily lives smoother and more enjoyable.

So, if we’re talking about the essentials of dog ownership, mastering these basic commands isn’t just beneficial; it’s crucial. They lay the groundwork for a harmonious life with your furry friend, paving the way for not just obedience, but a deeper connection. 

Command: Sit

When I embarked on this journey with my furry best friend, I quickly realized that patience and consistency are my best allies.

The “sit” command is essential for several reasons:

  • It serves as a foundation for other commands.
  • It helps in managing excitability and impulsiveness.
  • It can be a lifesaver in dangerous situations.

To get started, all you need are some tasty treats and a quiet space free of distractions. I always choose my dog’s favorite snacks to keep his attention laser-focused on me. The step-by-step process I follow is simple but effective:

  1. Hold a treat close to my dog’s nose to get his attention.
  2. Slowly raise the treat over his head; his natural instinct is to sit to keep it in sight.
  3. As soon as his bottom touches the ground, I say “sit” clearly and give him the treat along with plenty of praise.
  4. Repeat this sequence until he understands the connection between the command and the action.

It’s important not to rush the process. If he doesn’t sit, I never push his bottom down. Instead, I show patience and try again. I’ve learned that positivity and encouragement go a long way.

Gradually, I reduce the frequency of treats and introduce new environments and distractions to ensure he can obey the command everywhere. Now, our walks in the park are more enjoyable, and I feel confident taking him to pet-friendly spaces, knowing he can behave and stay safe.

Teaching my dog to sit didn’t happen overnight, but the effort was worth every minute. Now, we’re moving on to more advanced commands, but “sit” will always be our go-to for a quick reset or when we need a moment of calm.

Command: Stay

After mastering the “sit” command, teaching your furry friend to “stay” is the next step towards developing a well-mannered dog. This command isn’t just a party trick; it’s crucial for safety and control in various situations.

The Basics

 Here’s how I usually approach it:

  • Have your dog sit.
  • Firmly say “stay,” using a hand signal if necessary (I like to use a flat hand facing my dog).
  • Step back slowly. If they stay, reward them with a treat and affection.

Patience is key here. Initially, I only step back a foot or two, gradually increasing the distance as my dog becomes more comfortable with the command.

Making It Stick

Consistency and repetition are your best friends when it comes to cementing this command. I practice with my dog several times a day, and here are some pointers I keep in mind:

  • Keep training sessions short and sweet.
  • Gradually increase the distance and duration of the “stay.”
  • Introduce different levels of distractions to test and strengthen their resolve.

Even though the urge to start big, I’ve learned it’s essential to build up challenges slowly to avoid overwhelming them. It’s also important to practice in various settings to ensure your dog understands that “stay” applies everywhere, not just at home.

Real-World Application

The “stay” command has countless practical applications. It can prevent your dog from running into dangerous situations, like darting into traffic or approaching unknown animals. It’s also valuable during vet visits, during grooming, or when guests visit your home.

To effectively use “stay” in the real world, I’ve gradually introduced more distractions and increased the duration. I’ve practiced at parks, with friends acting as distractions, and during family gatherings. The goal is to ensure my dog responds reliably, regardless of the environment or situation.

Training my dog to “stay” has not only improved their safety but has also strengthened our bond. The trust and communication involved in this training have brought us closer and made our adventures together more enjoyable and stress-free.

Command: Come

Teaching your dog the “come” command is like finding a lifeline when you’re adrift at sea. It’s crucial. The “come” command brings control back to your hands, literally.

Starting simple is the key. In a quiet room with no distractions, call your dog with enthusiasm—make coming to you the best part of their day! Use a happy voice, and perhaps hold their favorite treat or toy as an incentive. When they arrive, lavish them with praise and that delicious treat. 

Here are some quick tips for the “come” command:

  • Start in a distraction-free environment.
  • Use a cheerful tone.
  • Reward them immediately upon arrival.
  • Practice regularly, but keep sessions short and sweet.

Practice in places with more distractions. Always ensure they’re safe, like a fenced yard or on a long leash. Gradually increase the difficulty by adding new challenges, such as calling them away from play with other dogs or while they’re exploring interesting smells. Remember, the goal is to make listening to you more appealing than whatever mischief they’re contemplating.

Training your dog to “come” does more than just improve off-leash reliability. It fosters a deeper bond between you two. It tells your dog, “I’m your safe place, no matter what catches your eye.”

Incorporating games into training can make learning even more enjoyable for both of you. Hide-and-seek is a fantastic way to practice “come”. Hide somewhere in your house and call your dog. The joy on their face when they find you is priceless, and it reinforces the command in a fun, memorable way.

As you progress, remember to phase out treats gradually and replace them with verbal praise and physical affection. 

Command: Heel

Teaching your furry friend the “heel” command is a bit like mastering the art of walking with a dance partner. It’s all about rhythm, mutual respect, and understanding.

At its core, “heel” instructs your dog to walk beside you, neither lagging behind nor pulling ahead. It’s a game-changer for both sidewalk strolls and bustling park adventures. Let’s jump into ensuring your pup becomes a top-notch heeling partner.

The Basics: Getting Started

  • Find a quiet, distraction-free area to start.
  • Equip yourself with plenty of treats and a comfortable leash.
  • Use a consistent verbal cue and hand signal.

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Stand with your dog on your left side, treats in hand.
  2. Say “heel” and step forward. If your dog moves with you, reward them.
  3. Gently guide them back to your side if they stray. Instantly reward any successful heeling.

Remember, patience is your best friend here. Dogs learn at their own pace, and it’s the shared experiences that truly matter.

Adding Complexity

  • Gradually introduce distractions.
  • Vary your walking pace.
  • Practice in different locations.

Incorporating turns and stops keeps the exercises fresh and challenges your dog to pay attention.

Transitioning Out of Practice

As your dog becomes a seasoned heeler, you can begin reducing the frequency of treats and instead offer verbal praise and petting as rewards. But, always be ready to mix things back up if you notice their attention waning. Consistency and adaptability are key.

Engaging in these training sessions fosters a deep bond between you and your dog. 

So, grab those treats, lace up your shoes, and get ready to take the art of walking together to a whole new level. Your dog is not just a pet; they’re your partner in this wonderfully waggy world of adventures, ready to heel and make every walk a harmonious journey.


Mastering basic commands like “heel” is more than just training—it’s about enhancing the bond between me and my furry friend. It’s been a journey of patience, consistency, and lots of treats, but seeing the progress we’ve made together is incredibly rewarding. Walking side by side, without tugs or pulls, has transformed our daily strolls into moments of true companionship. I’ve learned that with a little effort and understanding, we can achieve a harmonious walking experience that’s enjoyable for both of us. 


Kimberley Lehman

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