Basic Puppy Training: Learn How to Start Training Puppy Commands
Basic puppy training will yield years of happiness for you and your dog. You may encounter some challenges on your training journey, but if you begin early and stick to it, you can start your puppy off on the right paw.
Read on to learn more about puppy training with treats and other techniques, as well as how to teach basic commands.
Your Puppy’s Motivation
Just like humans, dogs are social animals naturally accustomed to living in packs. Even if you’re only a pack of two, your puppy will be a member of your family. With some effort, they’ll follow the rules you and your family set for them.
Punishment vs. Positive Reinforcement
It’ll take some time for your puppy to learn the ropes. Show them positive reinforcement along the way.
Many people reprimand their puppy during training when they do something “wrong.” Punishment will make your dog fearful and won’t necessarily teach them a command. Instead, motivate them with praise or by petting them when they follow the rules.
If praise doesn’t provide enough motivation, that’s okay. Try using dog treats in moderation or playing fetch as a reward for doing a good job.
Basic Puppy Training Tips
Start Right Away
The best time to start training your puppy is the moment they enter your home.
Show them right from wrong the first day and continue to teach the rules as they grow. If you miss something along the way, don’t worry—you can still teach an old dog new tricks. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any problems during training.
There’s a strong connection between you and your puppy, so clear and consistent communication is key during training. Reinforce positive actions by rewarding them and say “No” or remove attention to guide them when they misbehave.
Make sure you’re explicit in teaching right from wrong; otherwise, they’ll get confused. If you’re not consistent, they won’t be either.
Reward with Treats
Giving your puppy a treat or piece of kibble can be a good way to reward them for learning. Just remember that treats should be earned, and should make up no more than 10 percent of their daily calories. Also, it’s ok to start off with treats, but over time gradually replace them with praise. Pretty soon praise will be all they need, and treats can be used intermittently.
Catch Them in the Act
Misbehavior from your puppy is expected, probably because they’re still learning how to be the dog you want. It’s up to you to teach them what is expected.
Remember to address the issue the moment it happens and not to punish for past behavior. They won’t understand your guidance unless you connect it to an action that occurred very recently.
Important note: Never hit or scold your puppy. Instead, say “No” in a sharp tone as soon as you see them doing something wrong. Wait a moment then ask them to do something good and give praise when they do.
Use the same low, neutral tone each time you say the command.
Praise your puppy in a higher-pitched voice than you use to command them. Let them know they did something good in such a way that they feel encouraged.
Puppy Training Commands
If you’re wondering how to start training a puppy, here’s a list of basic commands with practical steps to accomplish them.
- Start by getting your puppy’s attention.
- Hold a piece of food in front of your puppy’s nose.
- Draw the kibble toward the back of your puppy’s head, which will cause their back end to go down. As soon as they sit, offer the treat and praise immediately.
- Repeat until your dog understands what the hand movement means.
- At this point, you can use the command “sit” while doing the hand movement.
- Be patient and don’t be afraid to repeat the process as needed until they get it.
- Reward your dog immensely the first time they get it right!
- Timing is important. You are trying to create a connection between the verbal command “sit” and the reward.
- Phase out the hand motion and use the command “sit” once your puppy sits reliably.
- Once your puppy can sit, put your hand flat in front of their face and give the command "Stay."
- Slowly take one step away but continue to face them.
- If your puppy gets up, step back towards them.
- If your puppy remains in the sitting position, reward with a treat and praise.
- Repeat until your dog stays put consistently.
- Now, try stepping back a step or two. If your puppy follows you, begin again, gradually increasing the distance, always while using the command.
- “Release” your puppy by asking them to come to you.
- Remember to praise but do it calmly. Too much enthusiasm excites them and makes it difficult to stay.
- Start by getting your puppy in the sitting position.
- Hold a piece of food or treat in front of their nose.
- Move the food down to the ground, just in front of their front paws, then pull the treat slowly out along the ground, as if you are drawing an ‘L’ with it. With food in your hand, your puppy is likely to follow.
- As your puppy lies down, say “down” and praise them calmly.
- Attach your puppy’s leash to their collar.
- Back a few steps away with a toy while still facing your puppy. You may need to put your puppy in a sit or stay position to step away.
- Command them to come, and then praise calmly.
- Start extending the distance and remove the leash when your puppy seems to have learned the command.
- If you can, burn off excess energy by playing with your puppy before your walk.
- As you walk with your puppy on their leash tightly by your side, say “Heel,” and start walking.
- Give them slack gradually. When your puppy is walking at your side, interact with them (make eye contact). Give treats and praise when they do it correctly. When your puppy finds themselves behind you, they’ll run to catch up. Engage with them and make it fun.
- Offer warm praise when they catch up.
- You can practice sitting, and also work with them in small clockwise circles or figure eights. This encourages them to pay attention.
Other Training Tips
- You can start working on the sit command with puppies as young as seven weeks of age.
- Mealtime is a great chance to reinforce training. Call them to their feeding area and ask them to sit before letting them eat.
- Don't scold or use a threatening tone when your puppy doesn’t get something right. This will scare and confuse them rather than provide motivation.
Tailor Training to Your Puppy
Remember that every dog is different. You may have to modify the basic puppy training techniques from this article to fit your puppy’s learning preferences. You might even want to seek the assistance of a qualified puppy trainer or behavior professional if your puppy doesn’t seem to be making progress.
Want more tips and guidance for your puppy? Get insights from our experts. You can also visit our Pet Expertise page.