Pet owners usually invest in dog training to fix problem behavior or brush up on manners, but training can do more than promote polite behavior. A few key commands could one day save your dog’s life. I love it when people ask me about the most important commands a dog should know.

There are three go-to commands that I believe every dog needs to know — for his own safety and the safety of other people and canines he comes into contact with. Click through the gallery to see what these commands are and why it is so important to teach them.

3 Crucial Commands

Although there are many behaviors that promote pet safety, there are three basic commands that are especially critical: “down stay,” “drop it” and “come.” Not only should every dog be familiar with these behaviors, but dogs should be trained to perform them anywhere, anytime.

Down Stay

A dog who immediately drops his body into a down, regardless of distance from his owner, will be better able to avoid danger. Search-and-rescue dogs are taught to respond to this command even if they are running at top speed toward a victim or are on top of a pile of rubble. Pet dogs can see similar safety benefits from this training.

There are occasions when your dog may find himself in a dangerous situation but calling him to you could actually create a bigger hazard (for example, you’re on one side of the street and your dog is on the other and there’s a car coming). Directing him into a down stay can keep him out of the way and safe until you can get to him.

Drop It

Everyday household items can be dangerous for dogs — ladies’ underwear is a common choking hazard, but other typical offenders include chicken bones and apple cores. And the most common poison hazards for dogs are human over-the-counter and prescription medications — for some drugs, even a single pill can have devastating effects on a dog.

This is why the “drop it” command is so important: Unless a dog has been taught to drop whatever is in his mouth immediately, he may play keep away and swallow the item before you can retrieve it. A dog that understands “drop it” will let go of the item, which can then be taken away, averting a potential disaster.

Come When Called

Dogs are often happily oblivious to potential threats around them, like traffic or poisonous plants, and can easily wander into dangerous — or deadly — situations.

Teaching your dog to always come when he is called can help minimize the dangers for a dog prone to dashing out of doors or pulling out of his collar — or one who is simply curious about the world around him.

Even the best-behaved dogs may find themselves in dangerous situations and it is truly risking life or death to not instill a reliable recall.

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