Teaching your pup these basic dog commands will make you both happier, your home calmer & your relationship stronger. Start today
There are a handful of puppy obedience commands that every pup needs to know if they're going to grow up to be a well-behaved dog.... but your little guy won't learn them without some help from you!
Puppies are baby dogs and their natural instincts are canine ones. They include barking, nipping, chewing, digging and other similar pastimes.
When you first bring your new puppy home he'll be operating purely on instincts and inclinations. Although these are perfectly designed for the doggie world, many of them are not such a great fit in the human one.
To help your pup learn how to be a well-behaved and socially acceptable member of your family it's important to get some basic puppy training started right away... and this will include teaching him basic dog training commands such as:
So, let's take a look at these one at a time.....
This is probably the first, and easiest, dog commands to teach, and it's very versatile being the starting point for many (more advanced) lessons.
1. Start out by getting a pocketful of tasty dog training treats, then attach his leash and get his attention focused on you by saying his name.
2. Show your puppy one of the treats and let him sniff it, then slowly raise the treat up in front of his eyes and backwards over his head. Say 'Fido sit' in a firm, encouraging voice - don't make it a question, it's a command, but say it lovingly too!
3. He will try to follow it with his nose and instinctively his little bottom will go down as his head goes back (most times!). As soon as his butt hits the floor, say 'Good sit!' in a happy voice and give him the treat and a little bit of petting. Then get him standing up and repeat the whole thing.
Helpful Tip: Sometimes a puppy will back up his whole body rather than just move his nose up and his head down. If this happens, encourage him to come back towards you with the treat and then try again. Patience is the key when it comes to any type of puppy and dog training!
If you've tried several times and your pup still just doesn't seem to get it, you can use the hand that's not holding the treat to gently press down on his rump at the same time as the other hand raises the treat over his head and you say 'Fido sit'.
This is a last resort, but sometimes it's necessary for the first couple of times.
Then get him up and repeat. Soon he'll understand and you won't need to help him into the sit position.
This basic puppy obedience command is the natural next-step after teaching 'sit', and although it's a little trickier most puppies get it very quickly.
1. Start off with your puppy in the sit position, then hold a treat in front of his nose as you did when teaching 'sit'.
2. Then slowly lower the treat to the floor in front of your pup moving your hand away from him just a little as you get closer to the floor and say 'Fido down'.
The idea is to get your pup to stretch forward and down naturally which will make him slide his front legs forward and end up in the down position. Your hand with the treat in it should be on the floor between his front two paws.
3. As soon as his tummy is on the floor you can let him have his treat and tell him how wonderful he is!
Helpful Tip: Again, as with many dog commands, a lot of pups follow it quite naturally, but some don't. If your pup tries to get up and follow the treat forward, or remains sitting up while reaching down with his head don't worry, many pups do that at first, they just haven't quite understood what you want yet.
Simply raise the treat to his nose and ease him back into the sitting position (if he stood up), and then try again, lowering the treat even more slowly. You may need to try 3 or 4 times, but if after that he still isn't catching on, you may want to give him a little physical help as you did with the 'sit' command.
You can help shape your puppy's response to this command, if needed, by using your treat-free hand to gently push down between his shoulders which will slide your pup's front legs forward.
If he still resists, use the hand with the treat to gently pull his front legs forward while giving some light pressure on his shoulders. Again though, only do this if your pup is getting confused and doesn't understand what you want, and only for the first couple of tries until he's got a grasp of the concept.
This isn't a wrestling match though and the pressure shouldn't be enough to cause your pup to fight it.
If you do it gently, while encouraging
him to 'down' in a happy voice and reward him as soon as he is in the
right position he will figure it out pretty quickly.
Remember your puppy wants to please you, and to obey the dog commands you are giving him... but he doesn't always understand what it is that you want right away!
Teaching your puppy to 'stay' means helping him to understand that you expect him to sit, or lie down, in one spot for short (or later on, extended) period of time.... and that you don't need to be right next to him while he 'stays'.
Most pups grasp this puppy obedience command pretty quickly, but you'll need to build up the amount of time he'll stay put, and how far away you can go (eventually you'll be able to go out of his line of sight) slowly and carefully.
Go too far, too fast and he'll get anxious.
1. Start with your puppy in the sitting position beside your left leg, reach down and hold your palm hand in front of his face, but don't get too close or you'll distract or scare him. At the same time tell him to 'Fido stay'.
2. Keeping your hand as still as you can, step around until you're directly in front of your pup, facing him then raise your hand to chest height with the palm still facing him and repeat the 'stay' command, while maintaining relaxed eye contact. If he doesn't move to follow you, immediately tell him 'Good stay' and give him a treat. Then step back to his side and try again.
Do this 3 or 4 times and then move on to practice one of the other dog commands and come back to the 'stay' later in your next puppy obedience training session.
3. Once your little guy is reliable about staying put when you step around to stand in front of him, it's time to move to the next stage which involves you stepping backwards away from him while repeating the 'stay' command. You don't need to keep saying 'FIDO stay' after the first time as you don't want him to move towards you and hearing his name might trigger that.
There are two aims now, one is to have him accept you moving away from him without trying to follow, the other is to make sure he stays in the sitting position for as long as you want him to.
SO, now once you've stepped around in front of him and then stepped backwards one step keep your hand raised, palm facing your pup and repeat the 'stay' command, then take a deep breath and count to 5, if he hasn't moved, step forward, praise him and give him a treat - mission accomplished.
After that it's just a matter of gradually increasing the number of steps that you take backwards, and the length of time you ask him to stay put.
I usually work on the distance first, then add the extra time frame,
I've found if I try to add both at once the pup can get confused or
worried and we slip backwards a bit.
Eventually you can progress to having your puppy in the 'sit' or 'down' position and then moving out of his line of vision, then coming back in and returning to him without him moving.
Helpful Tip: Puppies often find it trickier to stay in the 'down' position for long periods, so I'd recommend getting him totally reliable with the 'sit' first.
As with teaching all dog commands, it takes time, patience and a lot of practice, but these obedience commands teach very valuable skills.... if your puppy or dog ever picks up something that's a danger to him (or tries to), understanding and obeying the 'Leave It' or 'Drop It' dog commands could be a lifesaver.
Now this is a puppy obedience training command that is maybe the most important of all, but it can also be the most difficult one to teach!
Your little guy needs to learn that when you say 'Fido come' he HAS to come, he doesn't have the option of thinking about it, or refusing... if he thinks it's optional you're in for a long, difficult ride!
The trick to it is to make sure that you NEVER call your pup to come to you if you can't actually make him do it!
'Easy to say, not so easy to do' you might be thinking, but actually it IS quite easy to do this, but you'll need to pay attention and be very mindful when you use the command 'Fido come'.
Until you've done some serious work on learning the recall, you'll need to go TO your puppy instead of calling him to you. This will prevent him from getting 'deaf' to the word because he's heard it a million times and yet has no idea what it really means.
1. When you're ready to begin you're going to need is a long dog training leash, a dog training tether cord or even a length of lightweight nylon rope. Attach this firmly to your pup's collar and then either go outdoors or into a room where there's plenty of space for him to roam around.
2. Give him a minute or two to potty (if you're outside only!), then while he's busy sniffing and exploring call his name, when he looks up (your name recognition practice pays off here), crouch down, open your arms and say 'Fido come' in a happy voice. Holding out a tasty treat doesn't hurt either.
3. If he doesn't start moving towards you, or worse ignores you or walks away, repeat the command and give a gentle tug on the leash/rope to reinforce your point.
When your puppy looks up to see why you're tugging on his collar, clap your hands, wave the treat... do whatever you can think of to encourage him to come to you. You probably won't need to repeat the tug-and-encourage routine more than a couple of times before your pup comes scampering up.
4. When he gets to you, give him his treat right away and tell him 'good come'. Make him think he's been just the best little puppy ever!!
This is definitely one of the dog commands that you'll need to practice over and over (and over) again, but it's totally worth the time and effort.
Once your puppy is coming to you at home it's important to practice in other locations and with distractions other dogs, noises, cars and so on. But always while he's on the leash or training cord.
Helpful Tip: Actually, practicing ALL dog commands in different locations and with different distractions is essential. You can read more about why this is so important on my Puppy Obedience Training page)
Your goal is to have your puppy come without hesitation, every time you call him, no matter where you/he is or what's going on around him. Obviously this is a tall order and that's why it takes so much time and effort to get right.
Don't be overwhelmed though, this is a long way down the puppy training road, and your little guy will be at a much more advanced stage of dog obedience before this is even remotely expected.
This is one of the dog commands that can be tweaked just a little bit to make it fit your application.
The 'Leave It' is basically used to tell your pup that you want him to leave something alone.... whether it's the toad he's harassing, the electrical cord he's chewing on, or the chicken drumstick your toddler gave him.
It also tells him that you want him to let you have that particular item... regardless of how much HE wants to keep it.
But, with a little 'twist' you can turn 'Leave It' into 'Drop It' (or 'Out') which means that you want him to open his mouth and drop whatever it is he has in there onto the floor (or into your hand).
Here's how to teach both of these dog commands.....
1. When your pup is playing with one of his toys, walk up to him slowly and show him a tasty treat in your hand.
2. Say 'Drop It' and gently remove the toy from his grasp (or mouth) and IMMEDIATELY give him the treat while saying 'Good Leave It'!
3. As soon as he's swallowed the treat, give him back the toy or whatever it was you took from him, and let him play with it some more. Then repeat the whole procedure just one more time. You don't want to overdo this one at first or he may get a little grumpy.
When you're teaching the Leave It or Drop It dog commands it's a good idea NOT to start when he's playing with an 'edible' toy or has a really favorite treat... otherwise he might be very upset when you take it away, and a lot less willing to give it up!
1. Make sure you have a couple of really special treats on hand and then get your puppy into the sit position.
2. Put one of the treats on the floor in front of him and tell him to 'Leave It'. You can put your hand in front of his face, palm facing him, to re-enforce the message.
3. Repeat 'Leave It' one more time, then move your hand away and tell your puppy 'Okay, Take It!' and encourage him to pick up the treat and praise him for doing so.
If you've put a treat on the floor then taking it is his reward :)
Although they're an essential part of the learning process, puppy training isn't just about teaching dog commands.
Your pup also needs to understand some basic house rules, practice potty training and manners and learn what behavior is acceptable in his new home.
You can find tips and advice on all of these topics right here on my site. Successful puppy training is within your grasp!
When you're learning how to do something new it often really helps to see how to do it as well as reading about it.
So, here's a great video that will walk you through teaching your puppy some basic dog commands such as the 'Sit', 'Stay' and 'Down' that I talk about above.
Bear in mind that all professional dog trainers, and long-time dog owners, may have slightly different styles of training due to their own individual experiences.
BUT, the basic principles of positive puppy training remain pretty constant and once you've had some practice and have got to know your own puppy, you'll also be able to adapt what you've learned to teach him a whole host of things.
Hope this helps you get started on your puppy training journey...