How To Teach Your Puppy Basic Commands

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Labrador retriever puppy

When it comes to training, you want to start your puppy off on the right paw. When we talked to one of our PetPlace contributing authors, Dr. Ilana Reisner, she has some useful insights to share when it came to training puppies. First, Dr. Reisner explained that a lifetime of good manners can start with training even the youngest of puppies. From Dr. Reisner’s standpoint, if a puppy is old enough to be away from her mother and littermates, she’s old enough to learn simple commands. Starting your puppy’s training early will not only result in a well-behaved dog, but it will also enhance your puppy’s quality of life in the long run.

So you want to start training your puppy, but where to start? And what can you expect performance-wise from a young pup? First, really young puppies will need several sessions to learn a new skill. Puppies at this age are easily distracted and tire quickly, so we recommend that you start training your puppy in small sessions lasting no longer than 15 minutes. You can realistically try 2-3 of these sessions in one day. You’ll need to do some experimenting to discover which treats work to grab your puppy’s attention. If you have a hound puppy, this may be a little harder because you’ll need to find a treat that smells strong enough to get your puppy’s nose off the ground and his attention on you.

We always recommend a positive reward based training approach. Whether you use treats, toys, or praise, we believe that a gentle hand is preferred to a harsh one. So what are some of the basic commands that you can begin to start working on with your new puppy? We recommend you start with sit, down, and come.

Sit

  1. Settle yourself on the ground in front of your puppy with your puppy’s favorite treat.
  2. Reach out and hold the treat right in front of your puppy’s nose. Then slowly raise your hand with the treat towards the ceiling. Most likely, as your puppy’s head follows the movement of the treat its butt will sink towards the floor.

2.5. If your puppy backs up instead of dropping his butt to the floor, gently place your hand on his behind and guide him into the proper position.

  1. When your puppy’s behind hits the floor, say “sit” and immediately reward your puppy.
  2. Keep repeating the process until your puppy can confidently sit without the use of your hand.

Lay Down

  1. Kneel on the floor and have your puppy perform his sit in front of you.
  2. Grab a treat and place it in front of your puppy’s nose as he is maintaining his sit.
  3. Draw your treat hand to the floor and then towards yourself, encourage your puppy into the “down” position.
  4. Once your puppy’s stomach touches the floor, praise him with your reward of choice after saying “down” or whatever term you decide to use. Most go with down, lay down, or drop.

If your puppy is struggling to understand the down command using the techniques above, try this alternative fashion:

  1. Kneel and have your puppy perform a sit next to you on your left, facing the same direction that you are.
  2. Place a hand gently between your puppy’s shoulder blades and praise him after he performs, and then maintains, his sit.
  3. Again, use your right hand to hold a treat in front of your puppy’s nose, and then pull your hand slowly to the ground. Keep your hand on the ground in front of your pup until he lays down on his stomach to get at the treat in your closed hand.
  4. Once down, praise your puppy and repeat.

Come

The come command will be acquired slowly over a few days or weeks. The key to learning this command is to practice throughout the day. Carry treats with you and treat your dog when she comes to you on her own, we also recommend you do surprise lessons throughout the day. Make sure that you stay consistent with your word choice, you shouldn’t switch between “come,” “come here,” “her girl,” or any other “come” varieties. Choose your command word and stick to it.

  1. Start in a quiet indoor area when training your dog to come on command.
  2. Distance yourself from your puppy and hold your arms open wide.
  3. When your puppy starts to walk towards you, say “come” and use additional verbal praise.
  4. Once your puppy reaches you give her a treat and more praise.  

You can also practice this command with the help of a partner.

  1. Have your partner gently hold back your puppy as you walk a few feet away.
  2. Get in position then order your puppy to come, at which point your partner should release the puppy.
  3. Just like above, when your puppy reaches you issue praise and treats.

Get The Training Help You Need With PetPlace

Starting your puppy’s training early will help your dog learn positive behaviors that will last a lifetime. We know that training can be hard, that’s why we’ve dedicated an entire section of our site to this ever-evolving topic. Keep up with all the latest training and puppy news here or PetPlace.

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