How to Train a Dog to Listen to Commands

Training a dog to listen to commands means timing the correct training vocabulary, cues so he can learn, physical guidance, motivation, and a predictable release word.

Example of Dog Training Language 

The order of the words you teach your dog is most important. Every word means something different. You can either make his experience predictable or confusing. 

A Dog that Obeys Come 

A model for the come command would be a dog’s name + command + praise when it comes.

To release him would be: dogs name + release 

Verbalized, it would be “Rex,” “come,” or “good boy.” Then the release would be “Rex,” “free.”

A Dog that Disobeys Come 

For a dog disobeying come, you would say the dog’s name + command + repeat command while correcting + praise when it comes. 

To release him, again, would be: dogs name + release 

Verbalized, you would say “Rex,” “come” repeatedly every second until he comes (e.g., come, come, come), good boy.

Then “Rex,” “Free” to release him.

A Dog that Tries to Obey Come 

There’s a difference between a disobedient dog and a distracted dog

The determined dog has already confirmed several times they know the command. And when commanded, he does not go into position. Another example is when this disconnected dog starts to go in the command, there won’t be a severe distraction, but he will decide otherwise.

The distracted dog will often listen right away. It wouldn’t make sense for him to disobey. Sometimes he doesn’t hear, but he’s not at that level of training yet.

For the distracted dog, you would say: name + command + no (because he’s distracted) + command (while correcting) + praise (when he comes) + reward (variable reward ratio)

Then release him with name + release 

The Dogs Name is his “Name” for a Reason 

The dog’s name is a summoning. It cues the dog for advanced dog commands. It’s the first word in your command structure (Word arrangement for command phrase).

The Dogs Name Humanely Triggers the Dog Training Terms

Your dog’s performance will depend on how predictable your dog’s verbal commands (what you’re going to say) are. 

Your dog’s name precedes the command, which proceeds punishment if disobeyed. So if your dog pays attention to his name, he can avoid violating and discipline.

For example, instead of becoming wet from immediate downpouring rain, imagine A friendly warning that there are dark clouds outside. That would give you time to seek shelter.

And so, minimizing punishment is humane.

The Dogs Name Determines how much Punishment to Apply

The dog’s name allows you to measure the motivation of aversives you give. As it increases, his attention to his name also does. At the outset, he will want to know if a consequence is  coming

You will know because when you say his name, he will look at you!

Of course, earlier on, first, make sure he truly understands the training. But now it’s a matter of pushing him.

The Dogs Name Raises his ability to Function 

Your dog will be better at a task, anticipating what commands you’re giving him. People imagine these results in a dog that enjoys training and isn’t shutting down (learned helplessness).

Teach the Dog his Name through Dog Vocabulary 

The command structure itself is how to teach a dog its name. 

For example, Rex will think, “I better pay attention because a command is coming!”And again, for the release, “I better pay attention because I want my freedom!”

This is a vital aspect of how to bond with your dog.

When a dog has to focus, it builds sensitivity. Just make sure you are rewarding him also!

Finally, name through command structure gives the dog security, eliminating his decision-making. He waits for his leader to say his name!

Don’t Poison Your Dog’s Command with his Name

The exact cue words for dog training can be adequate or cause side effects. It’s how you use them. 

Using the name properly prevents tail tucking, only obeying because you grab the E-collar remote, being apprehensive when you command him, and other side effects.

The Dog’s Name is Not a Command nor Punishment 

Use your dog’s name to:

  • Initiate a command (Rex come)
  • Finalize a command (Rex Free)
  • Transition to a new command (Rex heel, after he obeyed “come”)

Do not repeat your dog’s name while commanding him (e.g., Rex come, Rex come). This is because if he’s receiving punishment and hearing his name, they will become tied together.

If he disobeys, repeat the command and correct him.

Repeating only the dog command while correcting will also help your dog:

  • Cut through the clutter – feels punishment but only hears one word)
  • Time the verbal cue – instead of repeating his name, he immediately hears the command; the reason he’s being punished

Don’t Say Your Dog’s Name, then “No.”

Your dog’s name means “pay attention.” The word no means “don’t do that.

You should not say “Rex” or “no” but his name and a command. So you’re not saying “don’t” but “do.” 

Of course, when commended, there is punishment for disobedience.

How to Tell a Dog “No”

Let’s start with what “no” means. It’s a conditioned punisher. That means it is associated (secondary) with real punishment (primary). 

It is the opposite of praise (praise being associated with good things but not the good things themselves)

How to Use “No” in Dog Training

After positive reinforcement training, we begin with a starmark or prong training collar. In this second phase, the word “no.” is introduced. 

For instance, suppose you trained your dog to be accountable and commanded him to sit. He begins to sit (his body language indicates so), but he gets distracted. 

You would now say “no.” If your dog obeys you, praise him. If not, repeat the command and correct it. 

Illustrated it would be:

“Rex,” “sit” (tried but failed), “no,” “sit” (correction added), “good boy” (praised because he obeyed).

Another instance would be the dog initially obeying “sit” but then breaking. 

In that case, say “no” and praise when he obeys; or command (followed by punishment) after saying “no.”

That would look like this:

“Rex, sit” (he sat), good boy (praised because he obeyed), “no” (because he breaks), “sit” (correction added), “good boy” (praised because he obeyed).

So as you can see, “no” should not be used as a scold. It does not have to be firm. Dog training backs it up.

Lastly, use it to minimize punishment. Use it correctly, and it will be humane. 

How to Make a Dog Obey You 

If the command structure (the dog cues) creates performance, the continuous punishment schedule gives reliability.

This fixed punishment ratio means you hold your dog accountable every time you command him. 

For example, if your dog does not listen when commanded, you would repeat the command and correct it until he responds. This is how to use a dog training collar on a dog

In contrast, improperly, one might call his dog; the Dog disobeys, and the human raises his voice the second time but still doesn’t hold the dog accountable. This is inhumane because the dog learns to play the lottery with Punishment, making it a long-term endeavor.

Dog Release Words

“Ok,” and “free” are choice dog training release commands

“Ok” releases your dog with the expectation to be commanded again (usually on leash). One example is “ok,” -ing your dog to sniff the grass, then commanding him back into “heel.”

Another example is commanding the dog “out” and then saying “ok” for him to grab his ball again.

“Free” is an off-leash command, and the dog should not anticipate being called (at least immediately). This command is an excellent reward for dog compliance training.

Why I Don’t Tell the Dog “Break”

I don’t use “break” as a release cue because the vowel is not as high and enticing as “free.” Also, “break” tightens the throat while “free” opens it up. 

Lastly, “break” insinuates breaking a command. If that were the case I would hold the dog accountable. He is released from the command only because I say so. attitude does lead to behavior

Your Dogs Release Word Strengthens the Obedience Command

When you release your dog, you remind him that he was not released until now.

Think of visiting a friend or family member. When you go to leave, they say ok; it’s safe to leave now. Just then, you realize it wasn’t safe from an end statement.

So, there is no need to say “stay” because, with advanced training, the dog has to remain in command.

The Release Word Lowers stress levels 

Technical dog training allows the dog to predict good things. If you use your dog’s release command correctly, his training will be smoother.

Think about it, the first time you do aversive training, the dog does not know when you will release him. Is it going to be for hours? Of course not, but he does not know that.

What Tone Should You Have with Your Dog?

Dogs naturally understand a lot of tone and emotion. However, you would do well to let the training do the work for you. 

If you hold your dog accountable every time you command him (continuous punishment schedule), he will see you are consistent. There will be no need to raise your voice from frustration. 

Should You Say “Good Sit” to Your Dog?

Avoid mixing praise and a command in the same clause. 

Praise marks the desired behavior. It’s like telling your dog, “yes, do that!” And punishment should follow the command if disobeyed.

So imagine your dog hearing praise, then a command without being reinforced.

You guessed it. It’s confusing to the dog. 


The audible part of your dog training is a communication line. if your dog cannot understand what you were saying, he cannot perform

The command structure is one of the most critical areas of dog training and is neglected. Words are invisible and less attractive. The language takes work but it’s worth it.

-EDT Team

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