Training a puppy can be a fun activity but you also need discipline because you are going to have to teach your puppy the same. It is important to note from 7 weeks is the perfect stage for the puppy and the trainer to understand each other. Whether you get a professional trainer or choose to do this yourself at home is up to you. We have started with 5 of the easiest commands to teach a puppy.
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In this post, we will go through some of the basic commands your puppy needs to know and respond to. And quite often, treats are used to get them to pay attention. But before getting into that, here is another important aspect of puppy training.
Like physiologist Ivan Pavlov’s conditioning experiment, this method uses a clicker device to communicate the right kind of behaviour to your puppy. With each click, you send a message that they got it right and reward them for that behaviour. Over time, your puppy will come to associate the click with a reward. This is not so much about bribing your puppy but to make a point. It’s the finest example of positive reinforcement in puppy training.
Let’s take a look at some easy commands to teach a puppy now.
How to Teach a Puppy to Sit
There are many ways to teach a puppy how and when to sit. One of the popular methods is called capturing. This is done by standing in front of the puppy with a treat. Make sure this treat is something of value to the puppy so that you have their undivided attention. Typically, food is used to lure them into the training session.
Wait for the puppy to sit and use a word to approve that behaviour, like “yes”. Then it is time to give them the first treat. In step two, the trainer must take a step back or sideways and make the puppy stand but not move. Make them sit again and give them a treat.
Repeat this exercise four or five times till they understand the command sit and the word of approval, yes. Do not do it too many times because puppies do tend to get tired easily. But make a plan and do this every day so that they don’t forget it. At the end of a few sessions, start saying “sit” when the puppy begins to sit so that they can associate that word with their behaviour.
Another way to teach your puppy the same is a process called luring. In this method, you sit in front of the puppy with a treat. This should make them want to sit down. If not, put the treat in front of their nose and slowly lift it above their head. They will follow the treat with their head and eyes but ideally, their bottom should touch the ground at some point. When it does, they can have the treat. This method also follows the same principle. They get a treat when they sit down.
You can repeat this a couple of times with the treat and then graduate to doing it with your empty hand. However, once they do sit down, you should give them a treat. That way, the command and what is expected of them is communicated but they also do get a treat. Otherwise, it’s luring for no reason.
Once the puppy understands the hand signal, you can start saying sit beforehand. One thing to remember is to never make your puppy sit physically. This upsets some puppies and confuses some others. In any scenario, neither is the message you want to send.
How to Teach a Puppy to Stay
Once your puppy learns to stay, you will be a much happier dog parent. This happens with two cues. One, of course, is the “stay” cue which is self-explanatory. The other is a release word which tells them they are free to move. When you start training for this command, you need to teach two things. The first element of this is duration which will teach your puppy to stay in place till they are allowed to move. The second element is about teaching the puppy about distance.
While stay is the standard cue, there are a few options when it comes to the release word. You can either say “Okay” or “Free” to release your puppy. This is the first thing you must teach because it is applicable even in circumstances other than staying in one place.
Start by teaching them the release cue. Stand in front of your puppy and toss a treat on the floor in front of them. Say the magic word as soon as they start moving towards the treat. Repeat this a few times till you can say the release word, let them move and then toss the treat. Eventually your puppy understands that they should move (with or without a treat) when the release cue is given.
By this time, your pup should be able to obey the sit command. So, once they learn the release command, here’s what you should do. Make them sit, face them and give them a treat. Pause before you give the second treat and make them sit on command. Once they do, take a step back and give the release command. Give them a treat after they move to the release command.
Repeat this process by increasing the time gap between treats. This way, they are not bound to time but to commands. If your dog isn’t sitting for too long, that is okay too. They are a puppy after all. In fact, you can also go back to a shorter time so that their mind doesn’t start to wander from the exercise.
Once your pup is sitting for a few seconds, you can start working on the distance aspect of this command. Place your pup in a sitting position and say “stay”. Then the trainer must take a step back (away from the pup) and pause. Take a step forward (back towards the pup) and say the release word and give them a treat.
The next time, you can take a couple of steps back and only one step forward. Encourage them to take a step forward only after you say the release word. You should also try this exercise with your back facing them when you walk away because that is how it is likely to play out naturally.
With this step, you teach them to stay for a certain period of time and also walk a distance upon hearing the release word. This logic can be used for the sit command too. The more they learn that the commands are meant to be followed, the better it is for you to take care of them when you are outside the house. But you must always be gentle and keep the sessions short enough for them to follow your instructions.
Punishments like yelling and leash corrections do not really achieve much. And that’s not the way to do it. You will notice that your efforts in positive reinforcement will work in increments but will certainly work.
How to Teach a Puppy Recall
This is one of the most important parts of your puppy training schedule. This can be very helpful when you are outdoors. To begin with, make the puppy sit or stand in one place. Take a couple of steps back and make them stay in place using a flat hand. Stay that way for about five seconds. Then, call your puppy towards you and give them a treat.
The first step is to get the dog to acknowledge the command. You can work on distances, duration and back and forth at a later stage. This step must be practiced in a calm environment so that there is no pressure and no distractions.
Once you have the basic command in place, start increasing the distance. If you have a partner to help, get them to hold your dog while you walk a few steps away and call the dog towards you. When the puppy reaches you, hold them gently by their collar and give them a treat. It is important to keep your arms open when you call for them and keep your tone energetic and not threatening. It is important for them not to feel like they are in trouble.
Once you master this, you can ask whoever is helping you to call the puppy back to them. This is called split recall. Once you are confident that your dog has a grasp of the command, you can try this out in an open space like a garden or a small park with minimum distractions. With time, you can introduce more distractions and see if you have their attention.
You can also get a long training line when practising this command outdoors. The lines are typically 30 to 50 feet long and can help in guiding the dog back to you even if they fail to respond to the command. This command is about teaching your puppy not to ignore your voice.
How to Teach a Puppy “No”
Commands like “No” and “Leave it” will go a long way in saving your furniture indoors and terrified bystanders outdoors. While teaching this command, you should communicate to your puppy that their actions are either hurting them or someone else. It is a big part of self-control.
Once again, yelling is not the way to go about it. And since this is about stopping certain types of behaviour, you need to go into this reminding yourself to be patient with the puppy. While it is a test in patience for you, it is also an exercise in strengthening your dog’s relationship with positive reinforcement.
Start with a treat in your hand and let them notice it. Say “No” and then close your fist. Let your dog sniff and lick your hand but do not give them the treat just yet. Once they stop doing the sniffing and licking, pause a second and praise the pup and give them a treat from the other hand.
Eventually, they will learn to look at you when they see that the treat is being kept from you. This means they are waiting for your instruction. Be firm, meaning neutral and not happy, in your commands but don’t make your dog feel like they are being punished.
Space out this exercise so that neither of you ends up getting annoyed. Do this a few times every day for several days till they get a hang of it. Body language is also an important part of this command. You must stand straight and give the command from a position of authority without scaring your pup.
This is not just about stopping them from ripping furniture apart or barking to no end. It is also about following your voice and obeying the command. This command is also used with a release word if what the puppy is doing is harmful to them. But you must start by making them understand “No”.
How to Teach a Puppy to Lay Down
This is a rather easy one and is similar to the “Sit” command. Wait for your dog to lie down and say the release word so that they stand up. Wait for them to lie down again. This time, say “Down” just before they are about to lie down. You can use a treat for this too to lure them down from sitting or standing.
If you use a treat, you can show it to them and start lowering it your hand and hint at them to follow it with their head. Give it to them only after they are completely down. Repeat the command a few times during the process if it looks like it helps. Once they start to follow you, do the same without a treat. Let them follow your empty hand. But be sure to reward them because they’ve been such a good boy.
These are just about following specific commands. There are many other things to note when training a puppy. Be sure to do your research on the subject. Typically, puppy training starts at seven to eight weeks of age. The best way to get started is to be gentle and aim to always use positive reinforcement. And keep the sessions brief because little puppies, like human babies, have a short attention span.
We hope you enjoyed the 5 easy commands to teach a puppy, if you want to learn about training your dog on the lead, check out that post too.