Puppy Command Training

When it comes to training: start early, keep calm, be consistent, stay positive, and repeat.

Having a well-trained puppy will bring a lifetime of happiness for your family.

It isn’t always easy, though, and takes some learning by both you and him. Beginning his training early will help your family get off on the right paw. (Click here to learn more about when to begin puppy training.)

Here are some basic commands you and your pup should know to help get your started:

Training Tactics

  • Tone
    Use the same low, neutral tone each time you say the command.
  • Praise
    Praise your puppy in a higher-pitched voice than you use to command him, but try to praise him calmly so as not to overexcite and distract him.

“Sit”

  1. Start by getting your puppy’s attention.
  2. Hold a kibble of food in front of your puppy’s nose.
  3. Use the command “Sit.”
  4. As you say the command, draw the kibble toward the back of your puppy’s head, which will cause his back end to go down. As soon as he sits give him the treat immediately and praise him.
  5. Timing is important, so when you start training give your puppy praise and the kibble of food as soon as his behind touches the floor. Be ready. You are trying to create a connection between the verbal command “sit” and the reward.
  6. Phase out the hand motion once your puppy is reliably sitting.

“Stay”

  1. Once you've got your puppy sitting, put your hand flat in front of his face and give the command: "Stay."
  2. Slowly take one step away from him, but continue to face him.
  3. If your puppy gets up, step back towards him.
  4. If your puppy remains in the sitting position, reward him with a treat and praise.
  5. Repeat until your pup stays put consistently.
  6. Now, try stepping back a step or two. If your puppy follows you, begin again, gradually increasing the distance, always while using the command.
  7. “Release” your puppy by asking him to come to you.
  8. Remember to praise, but do it calmly. Too much enthusiasm excites him and makes it difficult to stay.

“Down”

  1. Start by getting your puppy in the sitting position.
  2. Hold a kibble of food in front of your puppy's nose.
  3. Move the food down to the ground, just in front of his front paws, then pull the treat slowly out along the ground, as if you are drawing an ‘L’ with the treat. With food in your hand, your puppy is likely to follow.
  4. As your puppy lies down, say “down” and praise him calmly.

“Come”

  1. Attach your puppy’s leash to his collar.
  2. 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 get away.
  3. Command him to come, and then praise him calmly.
  4. Start extending the distance and remove the leash when your puppy seems to have learned the command.

“Heel”

  1. If you can, burn off excess energy by playing with your puppy before your walk.
  2. As you walk with your puppy on his leash tightly by your side, say “heel,” and start walking.
  3. Give him slack gradually. When your puppy is walking at your side, interact with him (make eye contact) and you can give treats and praise when he does it correctly. When your puppy finds himself behind you, he'll run to catch up. Engage with him and make it fun.
  4. Praise him warmly when he catches up.
  5. You can practice sitting and also work with him in small clockwise circles or figure eights. This encourages him to pay attention.

Things to Note

  • You can start working on the sit command with puppies as young as seven weeks of age, and work your way up from there.
  • Mealtime is a great chance to reinforce training. When it is time for his meal, call him to his feeding area and ask him to sit before letting him eat.
  • Don't scold or use a threatening tone when your puppy doesn’t get something right because it will scare and confuse him rather than motivate him.

These are some of the basic guidelines that have helped pet owners train their puppies. But every puppy is different, so you may have to shake things up a bit to get your training technique just right for your pup. 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.

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