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Emergency dog commands

Teaching your dog safety cues and commands will help keep them from danger—from ingesting random items on a walk to running into traffic. Other benefits to this training include: safety for the dog (other dogs and humans), avoiding the need for emergency veterinarian visits, and preparedness for any situation of scenario.

One of the most important things you can teach your dog is an emergency recall command. This command can be a literal lifesaver and one that should be at the top of every pet parent’s list of must-do items whether you’re training your dog yourself or working with a trainer.

Certified Dog Trainer, Michele Lennon, explains that in addition to the emergency recall command, there are four safety cues every dog should know:

  • Come
  • Leave it
  • Drop it
  • Stay

“When your dog knows these cues, you’ll be able to steer them away from danger with the use of a single word,” Lennon said.

What Is An Emergency Recall Command?

Distinguished from a “sit” or “stay” or “come” command, emergency recall is only used in emergency situations. An emergency recall command should be used with a word or sound you don’t use every day and should also involve the use of a hand signal.

When you say “come” your dog will usually obey, but if there is something exciting and distracting occurring around you—an off-leash dog, wildlife, a crowd of people, etc.—he may forget his training and continue chasing the item that caught his attention. When you use the emergency recall command, you are telling your dog to immediately stop what he is doing and come to your side.

Training The Emergency Recall Command

“It’s our natural instinct to panic if our dog heads toward, or is in, danger,” Lennon says. “The more you panic, the more danger you place on your dog. It’s better to prepare for any situation that may arise by teaching your dog these important safety cues before you need them.”

Choose a word such as: eureka or triangle—something odd you don’t use regularly. Once you’ve chosen your word, choose a hand signal to accompany it. Don’t use a word or hand signal you use for other commands, as they need to be unique to the emergency recall command.

Stock up on high quality treats your dog doesn’t typically receive. Give him hot dogs, lunch meat—something he will associate with tasty treat and training reward. For this training you will want to have enough of the treat for him to snack on for about twenty seconds.

Begin the training in a quiet, small area. Let your dog stay involved in whatever activity he is doing prior to the training. Walk a few steps away from him and use the emergency recall command word and hand signal and pat your leg excitedly. Make a big deal when he comes over to you and give the high reward treat. Make him feel like he’s hit the treat jackpot during this training! Your aim is for him to associate the command and hand signal with your excitement and the high reward treat.

After he’s eaten his treat, let him go back to doing what he was before you used the command and signal. That way he doesn’t associate the emergency command with having to stop the previous, fun activity. Let him go back to what he was doing for a minute or two.

Practice the emergency recall again. Do this once or twice a day, each time you will want to increase the distance you are from him when you call the command and use the hand signal. Reward him every time he comes to you.

Four Emergency Dog Commands

Leave it. This command means, don’t go near something or turn away from something. This, Lennon says, is used frequently on walks when you don’t want your dog to eat something found along the way.

Drop it. A pet parent will use this command to get her dog to spit something out of its mouth. Drop it means, now! This command is used when your dog has something in her mouth that you need to get out immediately. You need your dog to spit out the item so you can get it back and discard it. This is a command therapy dogs understand and for those who work in hospital settings – if a pill drops on the floor, you will want him to drop it if he picks it up.

Come. When you use this with your dog you want him to stop what he’s doing and return to you quickly. Come is trained prior to the emergency recall command; once your dog has mastered “come” you can amp up the training to the emergency recall command. Note: Emergency recall is a more urgent version of “come.”

Stay. Your dog should learn that when you tell her this, you’re saying, “don’t move until I give you the magic release word,” Lennon says. “You will use this command to keep your dog still, resting or relaxing.” “Stay” can also be used in emergency situations when you need your dog to stay right where she is until you come back to retrieve her.

Other Dog Training Commands That Are Important

“Many other cues and behaviors are important for your dog to learn as well such as sit, down, off, heel, bed and go to your crate,” Lennon says. “The more you teach your dog, the better prepared they’ll be for any situation.”

It is a sad fact that many dogs are surrendered simply because they weren’t trained in simple things like, sit or down or even to walk on a leash. Take time to train your dog, whether a puppy or an older dog; it will make him a better family member and make your lives together happier!


Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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