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When to Start Teaching Puppy Commands (and the First 5 to Teach!)

Laura Day

May 15, 2019

When to Start Teaching Puppy Commands

Getting a new puppy is exciting! You get to watch them learn and grow under your guidance. You will create a strong bond that lasts fur-ever; however, that bond requires training and hard work on your part. This is why you have to train your pup properly as he grows. The best way to do this is to start at an appropriate age and use the right methods. How early is early enough, and where should you start? You will find all of the answers you need right here!

The Best Time to Start Training

Puppy training begins a lot earlier than some dog owners would think. Most start around twelve weeks, but the truth is that you should begin at about eight weeks instead. As soon as they open their eyes, puppies start to learn about their new world and how to navigate it. The best way to help them is to be their guide!

How to Train Your Puppy

At such a young age, the ideal thing to do when training your pup is to keep your sessions short and sweet. Each session should last for about five to ten minutes. Remember, puppies do not yet have the ability to pay attention for a long time. Don’t push it; be patient!

You may have heard of many different methods of teaching a puppy commands, but the only one that has consistently shown positive results while keeping your pup happy is “positive reinforcement.” What is positive reinforcement?

  • This method encourages good behavior by rewarding it, as opposed to using punishment when you don’t get the results that you wanted to see. This means no spraying, no shocking, and no hitting. Doing those things only makes your dog fear you, leading to behavioral issues later on.
  • These rewards include training treats, petting, playing, and words of encouragement. Find the combination that works best for your puppy and stick to it!
  • Positive reinforcement involves a lot of repetition. Use your command word every time you train the dog’s behavior, and train the puppy, in the same way, every time. If you change it up too much, he may not realize that you are trying to get the same behavior from him.

The First 5 Commands to Teach Your Puppy

When training your puppy, you need to start with the basic commands. They provide the foundation you need to make further training with more complex commands go smoothly.

#1: Sit

There are two ways to teach a puppy how to sit through positive reinforcement.

Luring

  1. Hold a treat in your hand and bend down in front of your pup
  2. Let the dog smell the treat by putting it in front of the dog’s nose
  3. Raise the treat above his head slowly
  4. The puppy will then lift his head to try and get the treat, lowering his bottom to the floor
  5. Repeat these steps
  6. After your puppy associates the food with the hand signal, you can start training without the treat in your grasp
  7. When the pup sits this time, say “sit.” He will come to understand this word as you go on
  8. When he sits, reward him with a treat and words of encouragement

Capturing

  1. Stand in front of the puppy with a treat
  2. Wait for him to sit as he looks at the food and say “yes” when he does
  3. Step back and wait for him to stand again
  4. Wait for the pup to sit again. This time, give him the treat you are holding
  5. Repeat the process, saying “sit” this time as he begins to sit down

#2: Stay

Puppy Command Stay

After training your furry little friend to sit, you can teach him to stay. You do this in two parts.

Release

The first thing you do is teach your puppy the “release” command. That may be confusing; why start backward? You do this to let him know when it is okay to move. Once he understands it, the puppy will know that without the word, he should do what? Stay! Here’s how to do it.

  1. Stand with your puppy while he stands or sits
  2. Throw a treat on the floor and say your release word as he starts to walk toward his treat. This could be “go,” “okay,” or “free.” Really, any word you want is fine. These are just the most common training commands used
  3. Do it again for a couple of times
  4. Now, say the release word before throwing the treat down. Your puppy begins to associate it with a cue to move his feet

Holding

Now you can begin teaching the puppy to stay still until you give him the release word.

  1. Make sure your pup is sitting
  2. Face him and give him a treat
  3. When the puppy stays still, give him another
  4. Release him after a short pause
  5. Repeat, but make him sit for longer before giving him the second treat
  6. After he sits for a while, start to put distance between the two of you gradually
  7. Say “stay” as you back away, then release him once you get to your final distance
  8. Reward him with the treat

#3: Lay Down

Training your puppy to lay down is beneficial because it helps to calm him in stressful situations. You do it similarly to the way you teach the “sit” command.

Capture

  1. Wait for him to lay down on his own
  2. Reward that behavior with a treat
  3. Give him a release cue like the one you use with the “stay” command, but make sure that the word is different enough that he won’t confuse the two
  4. Repeat the process, eventually saying “down” when he starts to do so

Lure

  1. Hold a treat in your hand and slowly lower it to the floor. As the puppy lowers down to get the treat, give it to him
  2. Repeat the process until you can do this without a treat in your hand
  3. When you do not have the treat in your hand, make sure you give one to him after he lays down
  4. When he follows the hand signal you set, start saying “down” when he performs the behavior

#4: Come

This command is easy to teach! Your pup already wants to come to you for love, so he will gladly comply.

  1. Sit down in front of the puppy
  2. Call his name and say “come!” as he starts to walk toward you
  3. When he gets to you, give him a treat
  4. After he learns to do that, put the treat on the ground and call him to you. He will eat that one, so give him another for the good behavior
  5. Begin adding distance between yourself and the treat. After the puppy eats the treat on the floor, call him to you, using his name less, and the “come” command more

#5: Heel

Training a dog to “heel” means to command them to walk beside you instead of in front of you.

  1. Place the puppy beside you with his leash loose in your hand
  2. While he stands beside you, give him multiple treats
  3. Eventually, take one step ahead and encourage him to walk forward beside you again. Repeat the reward
  4. Repeat the process while moving until your puppy is walking beside you
  5. Remember to use your word consistently, whether it’s “heel” or “let’s go!”
  6. With time, give him treats less frequently while you walk together. It will become a learned behavior that does not always require a reward

Once you train your puppy to follow these simple commands, the rest will be a breeze! You have effectively laid the firm foundation he needs to live a happy, enriched life.


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!