How to Train a Puppy With Obedience Commands

Positive reinforcement training is a fast and effective training method that you and your dog will both enjoy.
Positive reinforcement training is a fast and effective training method that you and your dog will both enjoy. (Image: Images)

Every dog should know at least four commands; sit, down, stay and come. These commands not only help you control your dog and keep him safe in potentially dangerous situations, they are the building blocks you need to teach your dog advanced tricks in the future. You can start teaching your dog basic obedience commands when he is a young pup. Thanks to positive reinforcement training techniques, you can even do this without punishing your puppy, injuring him or damaging your relationship.

Establish a training schedule. Plan three or four sessions per day. Each session should last about five to 10 minutes. Your puppy’s attention span won’t last much longer than that. Teach or practice just one basic command at each session to avoid confusing your pup.

Use dog treats to lure your puppy into the desired position for each command. For example, hold a treat about an inch in front of your puppy’s nose. Raise it slowly over her head and say “sit.” Her nose will follow the treat. Watch for her tail end to dip toward the floor.

Reward your puppy with the treat as soon as she moves correctly. Don’t wait for her to completely obey the command. She doesn’t yet know what you expect her to do. Using sit as an example, reward her as soon as her rear end lowers toward the floor, even if it is only an inch. Praise your puppy excitedly to help her learn that she did something right.

Repeat steps 2 and 3, rewarding your puppy each time she moves correctly. Gradually wait longer and longer to reward her. Instead of rewarding her instantly, wait until she is halfway into position, and then after she has fully obeyed the command. It may take several sessions for her to learn to do this consistently, so have patience.

Start withholding treats as your puppy learns each command (and can obey it consistently). Reward her for sitting twice, and then for sitting four times and so on until she obeys your commands even when you don’t have a pocket full of snacks.

Use a hand signal each time you give your puppy a command. As you use treats to lure her into position, she will learn to associate the movement of your hand with your verbal command. After she learns to obey each command without the promise of a treat, try gradually eliminating the use of the verbal command as well. Rely on the hand signal alone. The verbal command and hand signals will become interchangeable and your puppy will learn to respond the same to both.

Tips & Warnings

  • Incorporate your puppy's basic obedience commands into her daily routine to give her extra practice. For example, require her to sit and wait before going out the door or before getting her meals.
  • Don't punish your puppy or scold her for doing things wrong. This will confuse her and can spark fear, aggression and behavior problems. Consistently use positive training methods to show her what is expected of her.

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