When you think of training a puppy, you may imagine teaching him to do tricks like “shake,” “stand,” and “fetch.” While those can be fun to watch and to show others, you have to start with something simpler. There are five essential commands that you must teach your pup before you can move on to bigger and flashier things.
Today, you are going to learn what these commands are, why they are important, and how to properly train your puppy through positive reinforcement.
Command #1: Sit
The “sit” command is perhaps the most basic and the easiest one to teach. It comes in handy when training your pup to do more difficult actions and stunts, and it helps you out in your everyday routine, too! Why is this command so important?
- It keeps your puppy from running off before you can put on a leash
- Your pup will learn to not jump on other people or rush to his food bowl before you can fill it up.
- It holds his attention when other exciting or stressful things can be around such as other people or animals.
How to Do It
- Hold a treat in one hand and kneel down in front of the puppy
- Let your pup smell the treat, but do not let him lick or eat it
- Lift the hand with the treat upward or hold it out behind his ear
- Say “sit” as his bottom touches the ground while he looks for the treat. If he tries to get back up, gently guide his bottom back down
- Every time he sits, say “sit”
- When he eventually does stay seated, encourage him verbally by saying something like, “Good boy!” or “Good job!” You should then give him the treat
- Repeat the process until the command is learned. You should practice this command at least a few times daily
Command #2: Stay
Your puppy can now sit, but the next thing you should teach him is to stay, whether he is in a sitting position or standing. This is a great thing to teach for many reasons, most improving his self-control and keeping him more subdued overall.
- It keeps him from running toward other people, animals, vehicles, or objects that you perceive to be unsafe
- This command makes it easier for you to put on his leash, open the door, give him food, and introduce him to other people and animals
- You can leave the house without worrying that he will run after you
How to Do It
- Tell your puppy to sit
- Hold out your palm in a “stop” gesture
- Command him to hold his place by saying, “stay”
- Walk backward a few paces. You can increase the distance between you and your pup over time as he learns to stay put for longer
- If he does stay in place, give him a treat. It does not matter whether he stayed for only a few seconds or for longer. The more you reward him for good behavior, the more he will learn to do it
Command #3: Down
The “down” command is, of course, short for “lie down.” Now that the puppy knows how to sit and stay, this is the next step that you should teach him. It is the easiest progression, though the training process is a little more involved. Do not give up! He’ll eventually get there, which is beneficial for both of you. Here is why:
- Lying down can calm an anxious dog. When your puppy seems tense, you can use the command to help him relax before he gets upset or over excited
- If you are riding in the car together, making him lie down will keep your rear view visibility from being obstructed while keeping him safe. This is not always necessary, but it helps you if your pup grows into a rather large dog
- This command helps you when your puppy is getting under your feet while you are completing chores or other household duties. Lying down and staying down prevents him from being stepped on or tripped over
How to Do It
- Place a treat into your hand, making sure that your puppy can see it and/or smell it before closing your fist
- Place it near his nose to make sure that he can smell it
- After he knows where the treat is, slowly guide your hand down to the floor
- Your puppy will follow your hand down. When he is eventually lying down, say “down”
- Give him the treat and verbal encouragement
- Repeat the process, and your puppy will eventually learn to lie down for longer periods of time
Command #4: Heel
Taking a puppy for a walk can be exhausting. They are excited, energetic little creatures that grow up into big, excited creatures who drag you behind them. To save yourself some energy and keep your pup in line, teach him to “heel.” This command means that he should walk beside you instead of going before you. This is a great command, and you should teach it because:
- It prevents your puppy from running ahead and getting into something you can’t stop him from doing
- It keeps him out of traffic or from other people and animals until you are with him to protect him
- You may eventually be able to let him off of the leash because he’ll walk beside you instead of running away. This isn’t true for every situation, but it certainly points you both in the right direction
How to Do It
- Put a collar and leash on your puppy
- Tell him to sit
- Walk with the leash in your left hand while holding a favorite toy of his in your right
- Hold the toy out in front of you where he can see it. This will get his attention and keep him walking
- While you are doing this, say “heel” repeatedly
- If/when your puppy gets ahead of you or gets distracted by something else, stop walking immediately
- Get his attention again. When you do, praise him and give him the toy that you were holding
- Your puppy should give you 30 seconds of attention before you begin walking again. As you go on, he should do this longer
- Repeat the process multiple times daily
Command #5: Leave It
This is one of the most vital commands that you can teach a pet. This is because it could save his life. When you perceive an object to be particularly dangerous, you should command your puppy to “leave it” before it can hurt him. Puppies get excited and don’t realize the dangers of ingesting or touching something, so you have to step in and protect him.
How to Do It
- Put a treat in both of your hands
- Hold out one of your hands to your puppy
- When he tries to get the treat, tell him to “leave it”
- Afterward, give him the treat from your other hand
- The second time around, wait for the puppy to move away from the fist with the “bad treat” inside. Again, tell him to “leave it”
- Make sure only to give him the treat when he does move away. Keep eye contact for the best results
- Repeat the process until your pup learns to stay away from an object when you say “leave it”
These commands will help you with so many others later on; by then, you can train safely and efficiently while keeping your puppy’s attention! Remember never to use force or physical punishment with him. Dogs only understand to fear you through these methods; you want him to understand the command, not understand that if he does not do it, he will experience pain.
Bringing a new family addition into the home is extremely exciting! Becoming a new puppy parent comes with a ton of new joys, challenges and responsibilities. PupBox was created to help new puppy parents like yourself, by providing all of the toys, treats, accessories and training information you need, when you need it. CLICK HERE to learn more about PupBox.
And remember, puppyhood is fast and is gone before you know it. Make sure to savor the time when your pup is young, and take lots of pictures along the way!