5 Commands That Could Save Your Dog’s Life

4 min read
Jun 12, 2023

January is National Train Your Dog month and that’s why we want to share these five commands you can train your dog that could save his life.

When you teach your dog these commands and he understands your cues, you are keeping him safe from harm. Safety commands could keep your dog from running into the street, eating random items or not coming when you call.

Pet parents who train their dogs may be able to avoid emergency vet visits because their dog was injured. Some of the commands provide preparedness for scenarios you may not have considered.

Many dog trainers believe one of the most important commands your dog should know is the “emergency recall.” The emergency recall command could save your dog’s life and should be one of the first things you train after he has mastered the “come” command.  

Top 5 Commands:

  • Emergency recall
  • Come
  • Drop it
  • Leave it
  • Stay

When your dog knows, understands and unfailingly responds to these training commands you can keep her away from danger by using a single word, hand command, or both.

Why is Emergency Recall so Important and How do you Train It?

Emergency recall, it must be noted, should ONLY be used in an emergency.  

Teaching your dog to “come” is a command most dogs will obey. If, however, there is an exciting scent or sound or major distraction, your off-leash dog may forget his training and will ignore your command. In that instance, his knowing the emergency recall command, is his signal he needs to stop what he’s doing and return to you immediately. The emergency recall command is one he knows not to ignore.

To train emergency recall choose a word you don’t say regularly. For example choose a word like: Oklahoma or eureka – an odd word that isn’t regularly said in your household. After you’ve chosen the word, choose a hand signal to accompany it that is unique to other hand signals you use. When training this command, use a high quality treat your dog doesn’t get for “regular” training sessions – chicken, hot dog pieces, etc. – it needs to be a treat your dog will associate as a high training reward. For this type of training, make sure the treat is one he can enjoy for more than one bite.

Start the training in a small, enclosed area. Don’t stop your dog from what he’s doing – exploring, playing with a toy, etc. Walk away from him then use the emergency recall command and the hand signal while excitedly patting your leg. Make your dog feel as though he has hit the pinnacle in treats for this “trick” The aim of this training session is to have him associate the unique word, hand signal, leg patting and high reward treat.

Once he’s eaten the treat, let him go back to what he was doing before; leave him to his own devices for a few minutes before practicing the emergency recall again.

Practice two or three times a day, increasing the distance you are from him each time you use the emergency recall command. Eventually you will want to move to another, larger safe area and practice until he unhesitatingly returns to you no matter how much fun he’s having.  Note that emergency recall is a more urgent version of “come.”


This command is trained prior to emergency recall. The “come” command is designed to get your dog to stop what he’s doing and return to your side.

When training come, you can do it indoors or outdoors (in a secure area). With this command you can use the word, “come” or another word, you can whistle, clap your hands or use a hand motion in conjunction with a word.

Make “come” a treat for your dog. If you’re in the house and your dog is in another room, say come and her name and clap or whistle if that has been part of your training. Give her a treat and pet her and make it a positive experience. If you holler “come” only to punish her or point to a mess she’s made, she will associate the word with a negative action and will be unlikely to obey.   

Drop It

This command will be used to get your dog to drop something out of her mouth and it means you want her to drop it now! Because dogs “test” the world around them with their mouths, they will pick up items you just don’t want them to eat – because they’re gross or dangerous. Drop it is a command therapy dogs learn because if they’re in a hospital setting, you don’t want them to pick up and ingest any dropped pill, for example.

To train this command, when your dog picks something up you don’t want her to have, immediately say, “drop it.” Hold your hand under her mouth and repeat the command until she opens her mouth. If she’s being stubborn you may need to gently pry her mouth open, then say drop it. Drop it also works if your dog is picking up your shoe or some other object you don’t want her to have.

You can also practice this with a toy. Use the same command, put your hand under her mouth. Practice until she drops it without hesitation. Praise her and reward her with a treat when she drops the object.

Leave It

This is a command used when you don’t want your dog to go next to something or pick up something from the ground. This is used before your dog has the item in his mouth.

To train this, if you’re on a walk and there is something on the ground that is luring your dog, say “leave it” and use a hand signal if you like, then move away from the object. Praise and give your dog a treat when he ignores the object.


Stay can be used in emergency situations, where you need your dog to stay put until you retrieve her. Stay is also used to keep your dog still or in a relaxed position; this is ideal if you travel with your dog or he is in public settings or even at a family gathering.

To train “stay” you can get your dog into a “sit” or “down” position, say the word “stay” or another word you’ve chosen and a hand signal. As soon as your dog’s butt comes off the floor, she has broken the “stay” and you need to start over.

Praise your dog every time you walk away and she doesn’t follow. Increase the distance you are from her after you’ve said “stay.” Increase the time you have her in the stay until she sits without squirming around until you use your release word.

These are a few of the basic commands pet parents should teach their dogs. Training your dog is a great way to bond with him because dogs naturally want to be with us and please us. Use treats and praise to positively reinforce the behaviors you’re teaching. Remember, too to keep training sessions short, but frequent.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.