My dog commands

These are the cues that I have taught my dog so far.


Sit: Dog must sitand stay there until I release him.

Couchhhh’ (lie down): (pronounced ‘kooshhhh’) Dog must lie down and stay there until I release him. Traditionally, the cue for a dog to lie down is ‘down’, but we borrowed ‘couch’ from camel handlers instead, as we find the ‘ch’ sound a much stronger marker.

Flat: Dog must lie down on his side. Super handy for clipping his nails plus they say it naturally relaxes dogs. I never noticed myself.

Stand: Dog must stand


Come here: Dog must come close to me.

Roll-over: Dog must roll over from its side.

Wait: Dog may wait in any position it likes (sitting, lying on its side, standing) but must not move further than a square meter its original position.

Hop: Dog must jump over, into, against or onto something. For example, I like it when he stands on two legs and rests his front paws against my legs (with permission) for a cuddle. That is the cue I would use for that. I also like to occasionally allow him on the couch. This is also the cue I use to get him to jump or climb onto something to find a treat, or to get him to jump in the boot of the car.

Down/Off: Dog must come dog from a higher position. e.g. the couch. Traditionally, ‘down’ is used for lying down, and ‘Off’ for this one, but in our trilingual household, we get muddled at times, so we got into the habit of saying ‘down’ for this one.

Next: From a remote position, dog must come to me and stand next to me, facing in the same direction as me, with his head at knee level.

Straight: Dog must go (preferably run) in a straight line towards a target object.

Back off: Dog must take a step back (he generally adds a spontaneous sit). This is handy when he is crowding me (he is very nosy) when I am setting up a game for him. He now knows that the game shall not start until he has backed off on command.

Stick (loose leash walking): As in ‘Stick to me’. It means walk next to me and pay attention to me while walking, regularly looking at my face. Essentially, it is a slack version of heel walking. The ‘stick’ is done with or without the leash. If on-leash, the (short) leash must stay slack. Not an ideal word as many dogs play with sticks, but as ours didn’t, that one ‘stuck’ (excuse the pun).

Cross: He is allowed to cross the street – always in the most direct route to the opposite pavement. No bee-lining allowed.

Pavement: He must return to the nearest pavement.

This way: It means get closer to me, you have taken the wrong path. This is handy to untangle him from a tree when took a left and I took a right, for example. It is also handy when he is heading in the wrong direction, like using another path that I intend to use.

Out: When, once again, he has taken it upon himself to invade the kitchen which is (in theory) strictly off-limits to him.

Other actions

Touch: The dog must touch something with his nose or paw. I have started developing this one when I saw he was getting nervous at the presence of unfamiliar objects. With this instruction, I egg him on to become bolder (always staying in his comfort zone, of course). It has worked wonders and he is now a very inquisitive dog.

Losssss (Let go): I think the Dutch expression ‘Los’ has much more impact, so we use that one instead of ‘let go’. It basically means that he must let go of whatever it is he is mouthing/has grabbed.

Fetch: He must go after an object we have just thrown, and return it to us.

Grab: It allows him to grab an object to mark the beginning of a tug-of-war game, for example.

Through: The dog must walk/crawl through a tunnel.

Where is it?: The dog must use his nose to find a hidden treat.

Watch out: The dog must move left, right, or faster, to avoid our pram touching his bum.

Paw:  The dog must put his paw in the palm of my hand. Works wonders for nail clipping.

Keys: The dog must find my (hidden) keys, and paw them when he has found them.

Give me 5: The dog must give me a high five.

Watch me: He must look me in the eyes until I release him from that position. Super handy when I want him to focus on me rather than a sight that would scare or annoy him.


OK: The dog gets released from his previous cue (e.g. sit)

Good boy: A reward mark indicating he has done well.

Shame: A ‘no reward mark’ (to use Jean Donaldson’s expression) to indicate he has not performed my request

Perfect: A gushing reward mark indicating he has done remarkably well.

Uh uuuuh: A pre-emptive ‘no’. Kind of means ‘Don’t even think about it’

No: The dog must stop what he is doing at once.

Enough: The dog is getting reprimanded for not stopping what he was doing after being told ‘no’