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dog sitting

If you’re living with your pup in an apartment, giving them some basic training helps ensure a smooth and healthy living situation for you, your neighbors, and other pets in the building. Commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “down” aren’t just for show – they actually play a big role in keeping things relaxed and friendly, especially when the inevitable challenges of apartment life come up.

Having your dog trained in the basics is like having an insurance policy against unexpected door dashes or awkward interactions with folks in shared spaces. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. So if you’re curious about which six commands can make life easier for you, your four-legged buddy, and fellow residents, read on.

6 basic commands every apartment dog should know


The “sit” command is one of the first behaviors to teach your dog. It establishes a basic level of obedience and control and helps prevent unruly behavior. The most common way to teach this command is with the lure and reward method.

To start teaching the “sit” command, crouch down to your dog’s level, hold a treat near their nose, and gradually move your hand in an upward motion. As your dog tracks the treat, their rear will naturally lower to the floor. The moment their butt touches the ground, give them the treat as a reward.

Over time, you can start to “fade the lure” — in other words, stop using the treat to motivate them. Once they can reliably sit without the treat, you can start saying the “sit” command right before you give the hand signal. 

Some pet parents prefer to use clicker training, which uses a clicker to “mark” the exact moment their dog completes the action rather than giving them a treat. This is another form of positive reinforcement training you can use if you’re trying to nail down the basics. 


Whether you’re waiting for the elevator or answering the door, there are plenty of situations where you’ll want your dog to follow the stay command in an apartment building. Teaching your pup how to stay in a designated spot ensures their safety and minimizes stressful interactions with other people and pets.

To teach this command, first ask your dog to sit or lie down. After they’re in position, extend your hand forward like a stop sign and say the word “stay”. Wait briefly, then reward your dog with a treat. Give them a release cue such as “OK” or “yes” and give your dog praise when they move. 

Gradually increase the duration of the stay by adding a few seconds each time. Once you’ve reached about 10 seconds, reinforce the command with multiple treats, intermittently reminding your dog to stay using the cue and hand signal.

Leave it

The “leave it” command is one of the most vital when it comes to your dog’s health and safety. Perhaps you dropped some unsafe food on the ground or caught your pup eyeing a small, potentially hazardous object in a common area — training them to ignore these things will certainly come in handy.

To train the “leave it” command, begin with two treat types, one high-value treat and one low-value treat. Place the low-value treat under your hand on a surface. If using a clicker, hold it in the other hand. Let your dog approach and sniff your hand. Say “leave it” and wait until your dog finishes sniffing and moves their nose away. Click or say “yes” and give them the high-value treat. Repeat this until your dog stops sniffing at “leave it”. 

Once they’ve mastered this, you can try the command while your dog is leashed. Toss a low-value treat just beyond their reach and wait until they stop pulling. Say “yes” or click and reward with a high-value treat.


The “down” command is a useful tool for when you want your dog to settle in and stay calm. This will come in handy when you’re in common areas like elevators and lobbies or need to answer the door.

Start by getting your dog to sit. With a treat ready, move your hand down from their nose to their chest and then to the floor. Your dog should lie down as they follow the treat. Once they’re down, give them some praise and the treat. Continue this exercise in short, frequent sessions. When your dog easily lies down, say “down” as they do so. While your dog is down, offer treats to extend their down time.


Even the most well-trained dogs will occasionally give into their desires and put their paws on the table or excitedly jump on a stranger, and that’s where the “off” command comes into play. 

👉 It’s important to remember that “off” and “down” are two different commands. Using “down” for both of them can confuse your pup on what you’re asking of them.

When your dog’s paws or body are on something like a counter or table, say “off” and use a treat to guide them down. When all paws are down on the floor, use the clicker or a verbal marker like “yes” and give them the treat. As your dog consistently responds to the “off” cue, you can lessen the use of the click and treat, replacing them with praise and occasional treats.


Dogs are curious creatures and can sometimes run off and find themselves in dangerous situations — that’s why teaching your dog to come when called is vital for their safety. 

To teach this command, you’ll need an enticing treat or toy to motivate your dog. Start by showing them the reward, then step back and call their name in an upbeat tone. Once they come to you, gently hold their collar and give them the treat or let them play with the toy. Start inside your home and increase the distance gradually. After they’ve mastered the command inside, you can use longer leads for outdoor practice.