Having read through these pages - please look at GOLDEN RULES (ie the next page which explains more)


Have you ever sat down and made a list of all the commands and body signals you have taught your dog to respond to? It is quite an eye opener, I can tell you! It is also a very useful exercise, as it helps focus on all the different signals that we expect our dogs to recognise and understand. If the list seems muddled and unclear to us, just imagine how confusing these commands must be to our dogs! This list will also help other members of your family understand how to be consistent for the dog's sake.


An example of this muddle could be the command OFF

If the dog jumps up at someone, do you say OFF? you could say DOWN

If the dog is on the furniture, do you say OFF?

If the dog is chewing an item that he shouldn't, do you say OFF? you could say LEAVE/LEAVE IT

As you can see, these are 3 completely different situations as far as the dog is concerned but the dog will probably take the hint from the tone in your voice.


This list consists of 4 items -

  • the verbal command you use
  • the body movement or signal you use
  • when you use the commands
  • what the dog's response should be.


This is not a definitive list, just a few suggestions to give you an idea of what dogs are capable of learning, as long as the handler's commands and signals are consistent. If they are changed (such as different words used or change of signal), do not be surprised if the dog does not respond - the dog is not a mind reader!


This list below belongs to a six year old dog that has built up the amount of words and signals that it can understand over a period of years, and the list was added to as and when the need and situation arose.


By making a list such as this, you will be able to analyse what verbal and body signals you already give your dog, and under what circumstances. The list will then help you to memorise and be consistent with the signals and the words you use, so that your dog will find it far easier to understand. You will also be able to add new commands, as and when you need to, and be able to cross-reference whether similar sounding words, or similar signals, have been used before, so as not to confuse the dog.





(Dog's name) Rover   To catch the dog's attention or to alert it that you are going to ask it to do something. Give your next command once you have eye contact,  eg. "Rover, Catch" when you are starting a game of catch Look at person who said their name and give them eye contact.
Yesssss (said softly and with excitement and feeling) Smile with eyes as well as facial muscles To mark the exact point when the dog is getting it right (similar to using a clicker) - the timing is very important. Unlike a clicker however, this command is not directly followed by a reward, otherwise the dog will come to look at it as a release command and will stop the behaviour and wait for the motivator. Understand it is doing the behaviour or exercise correctly and continue to do it.
Ah (sharp sound) Point at dog and look directly at it, perhaps raising the eyebrows as well.

The opposite of Yesssss, with timing being crucial once again. Used to communicate to the dog at the exact point when it goes wrong in an exercise (eg moves from a Wait). This command should only be used once the dog is very sure of what it is supposed to do, and has had a lapse of concentration or is being mischievous. To be used very sparingly, particularly with dogs of low self esteem.

Correct itself and return to the correct behaviour it was doing beforehand.
No (said deeply and sternly but not shouted) Very stern face and a look of real disappointment and disapproval.

To tell the dog that what it is doing is totally unacceptable behaviour. Only used for very serious misdemeanors (eg where a human or a dog is in danger). I use this command very sparingly so that it has a much stronger impact on the dog as it is heard so rarely. Dogs that hear "no" all the time for petty reasons soon ignore the word when it is really needed. Dogs should treat the word as though "the sky has fallen on their head"!

Stop whatever it is doing AT ONCE and never repeat that behaviour again.
Working (see On & Off Switches) Often accompanied by taking out and holding the piece of equipment that will be used in the exercise (eg harness, or clicker)


The "On Switch". To signal to the dog that it is about to be asked to do a series of exercises and that it must now concentrate and behave (eg said once the harness has been put on after the dog has finished exploring the training area and has relaxed.)

Dog must concentrate and listen to the handler's commands.
Good (said quietly and with feeling - not too deep a tone) *Dog, *Boy, *Girl

Pleased look on face. Reach or look for reward in their pocket etc.

Bend down and pat/stroke the dog.

To praise the dog and give it a reward or motivator. This is, in fact, a RELEASE COMMAND as the dog will stop the exercise and look for its reward. Both handler and dog should be aware of the difference between "Good" and "Yes". It has done something right and is about to be rewarded. Dog will not necessarily continue the behaviour it was doing.
That'll Do (see On & Off Switches) Break eye contact with the dog. Can use pushing away gesture with hands, as well The "Off Switch". Means game over. No more! And it's no use you trying to work us humans, we won't play anymore. Wait till we initiate a game on our terms, later. If you say this, MEAN it - it really is the end of the game. Be consistent and the dog will learn to give up and relax - it realises that you will play with it later on.

End of the exercise. Dog can relax, wander off, and "go and do its own thing". It will not be asked to do any more work for the time being.



Be Quick  Be Clean  Hurry up

  To begin with, said when the dog is in the process of relieving itself. The dog will eventually associate the command with the action it is doing when it hears it. It will begin to automatically respond to the command as long as it has a need to relieve itself. Relieves itself
Sit Pretend to have tit bit in between your right thumb & forefinger, other fingers of hand curled into a loose fist - Bend your arm at the elbow in an upward movement When you want the dog to sit where it is at that moment. Not to be used when you want it to sit by your left or right side until you have given the Close/Side command


Dog lowers its bottom to the floor. The word means to do the movement - not stay in the position (which would be Stay or Wait).

Flat Sweep hand downwards, palm flat & facing towards the ground - a pressing motion towards the floor

When you want the dog  to lie where it is at that moment. Can be used while it is moving, if the reward afterwards is chasing a ball


Lie down instantly - once again it is the movement that is required, not staying in that position.


Point to it

Its bed is not a punishment area or a sin bin!  This is where the dog can relax and NOT

be disturbed by anyone. This could be the only place that it is given its chews, Buster Cubes, Stuffed Kongs etc
Go to its bed and relax.
Wait Forefinger pointing upwards and towards the dog

Wait means another command will be given soon which means you will move - eg. "Wait ... Find It"  Best done in a sit or flat - Rover very rarely waits long when in a Stand!


Dog keeps the position it is in (ie sitting, lying down, standing) and does not move until it hears the next command/sees another signal.


  An exciting release command - usually used after a Wait and will make Rover run after something like the wind! Dog released from its Wait and allowed to run after the ball


Open palm pressed towards the dog (Not to be confused with Wait)

Dog must stay where it is, and not move until the handler has returned and releases it with another command.

Do not confuse the dog by doing Waits and Stays in the same training session

Dog must stay in the position it is in and not move under any circumstances (ie ignore any accidental signals or words the handler may use) until the handler has returned to its side and given a release command.
Come Stand upright, facing the dog, feet slightly apart. The dog will come when you raise your arms up to your side. Help guide him in by drawing your hands together and towards your body as he comes closer to you

Return to the handler. Use a happy, welcoming voice. Never tell the dog off if it comes to you when you give the command - whatever it was doing before hand!


If the dog is distracted, chasing something, use its name first to get its attention before you say Come. Otherwise it will begin to associate the word "come" with what it is doing at the time (ie running away from you!)

Run in a straight line towards the handler and ignore everything in its path. The quicker the response, the bigger the reward!


Slap the side of your left leg Come to the handler's left side (Rover usually sits there & looks at you for the next command). Also used for walking on the handler's left. Dog places itself on the handler's left side and stays there.


Slap the side of your right leg

Come to the handler's right side (Rover usually sits there & looks at you for the next command). Also used for walking on the handler's right

Dog places itself on the handler's right side and stays there.


Hold out your hand to be "shaken" A trick to give the dog something to do, particularly if it is becoming bored and needs to "work" Dog puts its paw in your hand


Offer your hand to the dog so that it can give you what is in its mouth When the handler wants the dog to release what is in its mouth and drop, place it in their hand. Not hold on to what is in its mouth but place it in the handler's hand


  Make the dog drop whatever is in its mouth. Open its jaws so that whatever is in its mouth falls out.


  Only used when Rover is not sure whether the article should be in its mouth (eg when teaching it to retrieve something new that it has never been allowed to hold before) Hold whatever is in its mouth (without crushing or bruising it) until given another command (such as Hand or Drop)


Flick your hands away from yourself and towards the dog in a repelling gesture. Ignore it by giving no eye contact and turning away (Calming Signals)

Used to stop the dog jumping up at you. Ideally, the dog should be given an alternative behaviour to do (eg. Sit or Flat) before it jumps up, and reward this behaviour instead. Rover is an old hand at getting attention by jumping up at people. By ignoring him and turning away every time he does this, he soon realises it is not a rewarding behaviour to do, and will stop. All four feet should be on the ground - ie the dog should not be jumping up at people.

Find It

Sweeping gesture with hand towards area where "it" is hidden Used to find a specific object close by. The dog uses its nose to find an object, toy or food and either bring it to you or, in the case of food, eat it. Any game involving nosework is very satisfying for a dog and tires the brain out as well as the body.

Go Find

Said as you undo the lead/let the dog through the door to search for a number of things

Not to be confused with Find It. Used when there is generally more than one article (such as sprinkling of tit bits over a wide area) and the dog has to search all areas to make sure he has got the lot. This is an ideal game to play when a dog has to go into an indoor kennel, or the back of a car. When you open the door, throw in a handful of dried tit bits for the dog to find while you quietly shut the door & leave him to it - all my pups learnt this game at a very young age & looked forward to being put in an indoor kennel or back of a car.

Dog looks for more than one object. Understands it is worth its while to keep on sniffing as there is bound to be more around.


/Get It

Point at article Very strong command - means go and retrieve. Something Rover loves to do! Remember to say Hand when he brings it to you, otherwise you'll find yourself bending down & picking it up as he often drops it at your feet Retrieve and return it to handler.


Using your left hand with index finger extended, make a circle going anti-clockwise To make the dog turn on the spot in an anti-clockwise direction. Dog turns to its left and does a spin.


Using your right hand with index finger extended, make a circle going clockwise To make the dog turn on the spot in a clockwise direction Dog turns to its right and does a twirl/spin.


Move arm closest to dog sharply upward To make the dog jump. Dog jumps - over obstacles, jumps, low fences, into the car, your arms, etc


When your dog gets any of these tasks right, remember to reward your dog with  heart-felt praise, or a titbit, or a stroke, a smile or a game.



This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).


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