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Top 25 Essential Service Dog Commands

Effective service dog commands include essential cues like "sit," "stay," "heel," and "come," providing the handler with control and assistance in various situations. Consistent training, positive reinforcement, and personalized commands tailored to the handler's needs contribute to a well-trained and reliable service dog.

April Brightman
January 12, 2024
May 15, 2023
8 minute read
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Grant FiddesGrant Fiddes
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May 15, 2023
August 18, 2021
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Looking to train a service dog? This list of the top 25 service dog commands will help you teach your dog the skills to be a successful service animal.

Becoming a service dog requires them to undergo special training. They have to develop skills that enable them to perform specific tasks to support their handlers best. In addition to those specific tasks, they’ll also learn a standard set of service dog commands.

Service Dog Commands

Service dog commands are essential for a dog to perform its duties well. These commands can range from basic ones like 'sit' and 'stay' to more specialized ones like 'alert' and 'retrieve'. It's important to train your service dog thoroughly and consistently using positive reinforcement. By doing so, your dog can become a valuable asset in assisting with disabilities or medical conditions.

What is a Service Dog?

Service dogs are faithful (and professional) companions that work with their handlers in various ways to support the handler’s disability. They’re trained to perform tasks that aid in completing everyday tasks, helping to relieve struggles individuals with disabilities or mental health conditions might experience.

How Service Dogs Can Help

Service dogs can be a huge help to those with either psychiatric conditions or physical disabilities in a number of ways. They can help retrieve objects or physically assist individuals who have challenges with mobility, alert those who experience loss of hearing or vision, and help get their handlers to safety in overwhelming or dangerous situations.  

The Goals of Service Dog Training

Service dogs need to be able to follow commands and perform certain tasks to assist their handler with their disability. Their behavior needs to be consistent and predictable, and they have to be able to keep calm in unfamiliar surroundings. All of this is to best support their humans in essential tasks.

  • House Manners

Service dogs don’t become distracted by behaviors like shoe chewing or ripping up the garbage pail either, and use consistent alerts to communicate their needs. For example, when your dog is hungry they sit next to their bowl to send the signal that they want food. If they need to use the bathroom, they sit by the door to signal they need to go out. House manners come down to good behavior, which comes from good training. 

  • Basic Obedience Commands

Following basic obedience commands is an essential part of service dog training. To be a successful (and qualified) service animal, your dog has to be able to sit, stay, come, lie down, and leave it at your signal. Being able to follow these commands without fail is important for service dogs to ensure they’ll be able to remain focused enough to provide the necessary support to their handler. 

  • Socialized in Public Environments

Being socialized in public environments means service dogs are able to handle social situations without losing focus on the task at hand: supporting their handler. Exposure to socialization is important for service dogs because they need to be able to work and perform tasks in public places to assist their handler with essential functions. 

  • Trained on Disability-Specific Tasks

The most important aspect of service dog training is learning disability-specific tasks. These duties directly support the success of the individual with a disability. These tasks can be anything from medication reminders to item retrieval, and physical assistance to providing deep pressure therapy.

List of 25 Essential Service Dog Commands

  1. Sit - being able to sit on command is essential for being out in public with your service dog. There will be plenty of instances where your dog will need to sit and wait patiently, and having this command down will ensure they're able to do so.
  2. Stay - key for letting your dog know to remain exactly as they are, this command tells your service dog to stay in their current position until your signal.
  3. Come - plain and simple, this command gets your dog to come to your side and be alert and ready for your next direction. 
  4. Go - this command lets your dog know that it's time to be ready for you both to leave an area or situation. It puts them on alert to be on the move alongside you.
  5. Wait - usually a temporary pause followed by another command soon after, "wait" lets your dog know to stop moving until your next signal.
  6. Heel - when it's time to get going, this command tells your dog to keep by your side, keep up, and keep pace with you.
  7. Name - a dog's name is a command in itself. It calls for immediate focus on the handler and redirects the dog from any possible distractions. It communicates that the dog's full attention should be on their handler at that moment.
  8. Down - giving this command lets your dog know you expect them to lie down on the floor. This can be important in public when waiting, too.
  9. Off - different from down, which asks your dog to lie down. Off should be used for things like getting your dog off the couch or the bed, and if necessary to keep them from jumping on another person.
  10. Under - used with or similar to down, giving the command of "under" tells your dog to position themselves underneath something and keep their paws and tails out of the way, like a table or chair. 
  11. Stand - when your dog is in the sitting or lying down position, this command tells your dog it's time to get up and be ready for the next task or command.
  12. Watch Me - giving this command tells your dog to keep an eye on you and ignore any distractions that might be present. Following this command is also important for success in public situations.
  13. Go Now - an essential command for potty training, this phrase lets your dog know it's time to use the bathroom and that they're good to go.
  14. Leave It - this command lets your dog know not to leave something alone. Whether it's walking by an item you don't want them to pick up, lick, or eat an object.
  15. Settle - good for times when your dog may be over-excited or overstimulated, this command tells your dog to calm down and be present.
  16. Don't - this command is used to signal your dog not to engage in undesired behavior, like jumping. 
  17. No - similar to "don't," this command also lets your dog know that their behavior needs to change immediately. Follow up with a redirected command.
  18. Follow - slightly different from "heel," this command indicates to your dog that it's time to follow behind you.
  19. Back - another movement command, giving this cue tells your dog to take a few steps backward.
  20. Go Around - this command tells your dog to navigate around an object or another person before returning to your side.
  21. Go To (name) - include a person's name in this command to tell your dog when it's time to move toward someone other than you.
  22. Careful - this command tells your dog to be gentle as they approach you, to take something from your hand, or to pick something up, for example.
  23. Quiet - used to stop your dog from making sounds, this command tells them to end behaviors like barking or whining. 
  24. Closer - important to know for navigating public spaces, this command will signal your dog to position itself closer to you.
  25. Release or Break - the last command you'll use in a working dog's day, this phrase indicates to them that work is done.

How to Get a Service Dog

To get a service dog, you’ll want to start by determining the specific needs of your condition. Consulting with a licensed health professional like a doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist is the first step in determining your eligibility and needs. They’ll provide you with the documentation needed for the next steps.

Once your paperwork is squared away you can contact organizations that train service dogs and match working dogs with individuals, or look into options for training your service dog at home.

Training a Service Dog at Home

Training a service dog at home has to start with the basics. House training and following commands at home is the first step, and establishing those lines of communication with your dog will be hugely helpful in more extensive service dog training. 

Socializing your dog early on to get them used to exposure to unfamiliar people, places, and experiences. Being able to focus on their handler and ignore distractions is what makes a good service dog.

Finally, training for disability-specific tasks is of course the goal of service dog training. There are a number of options for training your service dog at home, including private in-person instruction with a certified dog trainer or online service dog training.

Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training with Pettable

Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training is a breeze with Pettable’s self-paced programs. Designed and led by certified trainers and with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, our online lessons will give you the tools to train your service dog at home. Take our online assessment to get matched with a health professional, and be on your way to your PSD training certificate.

Meet the author:
April Brightman

April Brightman is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for traveling and hiking with her rescue pup, Marley. She's written for pet-centered sites like Outward Hound, as well as outdoorsy adventure brands like BearVault, Hipcamp, and Explorer Chick.

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