How to Train an Adult Dog

The key to owning a well-trained dog is to start off on the right track when he is a puppy. If you have an adult dog, however, who has not been trained or whose manners leave something to be desired, then he needs to be taught the basic areas of obedience. This article explains how you can train your adult dog in the basics of good manners, from walking to heel on the leash to sitting, staying and behaving well in the house. Some people take these things for granted, expecting a dog to know what is required of him, but that isn’t the case. He has to get to know your way of doing things, while you have to get to know him and what makes him tick.

Leash manners

These are important: walking a dog should be a pleasurable experience, not one you dread because the dog pulls you along eager to investigate, or because he dawdles sniffing every post or tuft of grass along the way, full of curiosity.

Adult Dog

At first use the word ‘heel’ only when your dog is in the required position so he learns the word by association. Reinforce the command with a treat or praise so he learns this position is a pleasant one. Once he has learned where ‘heel’ is you can use the command to return him to that position.


Once your dog knows his name, you need to train him to come back to you (recall) the instant you call him. This is essential for safety when he is off-leash and running free. If the dog knows that coming back to you means he will be rewarded, he is more likely to comply. Initially, the reward should be of high value, such as a really tasty treat or a prized toy. As your dog becomes conditioned to return to you on command, praise will probably be sufficient, but you can give occasional high-value rewards to maintain immediate response.

When your dog is obediently coming back to you the first time you call him, try the recall exercise in a group of one or two quiet dogs you both know. Approach the other (leashed) dogs with your dog on an extended, long leash. Before they meet and greet, call him back to you. If he responds, reward him lavishly; if not, simply reel him in, drop to one knee as he approaches, reward him as he reaches you and then try again. Once your dog is recalling well in this situation, try him off-leash, but use the leash if necessary. Eventually try the exercise with all the dogs off-leash.


Four principles apply to training your dog in the sit position, and these may also be applied to heel-training – the acronym ACER will help you remember them: attention, command, execute and reward. Be patient when teaching the sit: dogs feel vulnerable in this position and, depending on your dog’s history, he may not be very comfortable with it.

If you wish to use treat training to teach your dog to sit, then follow these instructions. Stand beside your dog with a treat in the hand closest to him. Offer the treat, then give the command ‘sit’ and at the same time move the treat up towards the dog’s nose and over his head. Move the treat back past his head slightly so your dog is looking up; he will automatically move into the sit position. As he does, reward him with a treat.


The ability to get your dog to stay where you want him, both indoors and out, is very useful. For instance, you can use this command if you have visitors and you want your dog to remain in his bed out of the way, or if he needs to stay put for his own safety and that of others while on a walk.

The free stay

Once you are happy with your dog staying on the leash, you can progress to teaching him the free stay. To do this, move away from your dog, command ‘stay’ and drop the leash on the floor (put your foot on the leash if you are worried about him running off). Wait for a few seconds, then walk to and around your dog, finishing by his right side. Reward him with a pat or a treat -don’t hold the treat so that he tries to jump up to get it.

Adult Dog


Throwing a toy for your dog to retrieve is a good way to see that he gets adequate exercise, and it comprises a game that you will both enjoy. If a dog won’t retrieve for you, how do you get him interested in playing ‘fetch’ in the first place?

If your dog won’t let go of the toy, don’t get into a tug-of-war situation. To make him release it, put him on the leash and command him to sit. Take hold of the toy, but do not pull it; place the thumb and forefinger of your free hand under the dog’s muzzle. Apply gentle pressure to his jowls, pushing them up and over his bottom teeth. At the same time give the command ‘give’. The dog will then release his grip and you will be able to take the toy. The intention, of course, is not to hurt the dog, but just to make him a bit uncomfortable until he releases the toy. After repeating this exercise a few times, you will find that as soon as you put your finger and thumb under his jaw, your dog will respond to the command ‘give’ and allow you to take the toy without a fuss. In future, you will simply be able to call the dog into the sit position, reach for the toy, say ‘give’ and he will release it.

Road safety

Knowing how to cross a road correctly with your dog is vital for everyone’s safety. He should cross with you, not be dragged across by you, or you by him. There is obvious danger in an owner struggling across a road with a dog that is out of control. In order to be able to cross a road safely, your dog must obey the ‘heel’ and ‘sit’ commands. Only when your dog is sitting calmly and quietly by your side can you concentrate fully on the traffic to make sure the road is absolutely clear before you cross.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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