The following commands are available from the command line to interact with dbt.


dbt init [project_name] performs several actions necessary to create a new dbt project:

  • creates a new folder at ./[project_name]
  • generates directories and sample files necessary to get started with dbt


dbt run executes compiled sql model files against the current target database. dbt connects to the target database and runs the relevant SQL required to materialize all data models using the specified materialization strategies. Models are run in the order defined by the dependency graph generated during compilation. Intelligent multi-threading is used to minimize execution time without violating dependencies.

Deploying new models frequently involves destroying prior versions of these models. In these cases, dbt run minimizes the amount of time in which a model is unavailable by first building each model with a temporary name, then dropping the existing model, then renaming the model to its correct name. The drop and rename happen within a single database transaction for database adapters that support transactions.

Specifying models to run

By default, dbt run will execute all of the models in the dependency graph. During development (and deployment), it is useful to specify only a subset of models to run. Use the --models flag with dbt run to select a subset of models to run. Note that the following arguments (--models and --exclude) also apply to dbt test!

The --models flag accepts one or more arguments. Each argument can be one of: 1. a package name 2. a model name 3. a path hierarchy to a models directory


dbt run --models my_dbt_project_name   # runs all models in your project
dbt run --models my_dbt_model          # runs a specific model
dbt run --models     # runs all models in a specific directory
dbt run --models my_package.some_model # run a specific model in a specific package

# multiple arguments can be provided to --models
dbt run --models my_project other_project

# these arguments can be projects, models, or directory paths
dbt run --models my_project a_specific_model

Additionally, arguments to --models can be modified with the + and * operators. If placed at the front of the model specifier, + will select all parents of the selected model(s). If placed at the end, + will select all children of the selected models. The * operator matches all models within a package or directory.

dbt run --models my_model+          # select my_model and all children
dbt run --models +my_model          # select my_model and all parents

dbt run --models my_package.*       # select all models in my_package
dbt run --models*   # select all models in path/to/models

dbt run --models my_package.*+      # select all models in my_package and their children
dbt run --models +some_model+       # select some_model and all parents and children

Finally, dbt provides an --exclude flag with the same semantics as --models. Models specified with the --exclude flag will be removed from the set of models selected with --models

dbt run --models my_package.*+ --exclude my_package.a_big_model+

Run dbt non-destructively

If you provide the --non-destructive argument to dbt run, dbt will minimize the amount of destructive changes it runs against your database. Specifically, dbt will:

  1. Ignore models materialized as views
  2. Truncate tables and re-insert data instead of dropping and re-creating these tables

This flag is useful for recurring jobs which only need to update table models and incremental models. DBT will not create, drop, or modify views if the --non-destructive flag is provided.

dbt run --non-destructive

Refresh incremental models

If you provide the --full-refresh argument to dbt run, dbt will treat incremental models as table models. This is useful when

  1. The schema of an incremental model changes and you need to recreate it
  2. You want to reprocess the entirety of the incremental model because of new logic in the model code
dbt run --full-refresh


dbt test runs tests on data in deployed models. There are two types of tests:

  • schema validations, declared in a schema.yml file.
  • custom data tests, written as SQL SELECT statements.

dbt test runs both types of test and reports the results to the console.

The tests to run can be selected using the --models flag discussed here

dbt test --models one_specific_model  # run tests for one_specific_model
dbt test --models some_package.*      # run tests for all models in package

Model validation is discussed in more detail here.


dbt archive records snapshots of specified tables so that you can analyze how tables change over time. See here for more information.


dbt deps pulls the most recent version of the dependencies listed in your dbt_project.yml from git. See here for more information on dependencies.


dbt debug is a utility function to show debug information.


dbt clean is a utility function that deletes all compiled files in the target directory.


dbt --version is a utility function to check the version of your installed dbt client.