How to train a puppy: basic puppy training

Choosing to train your new puppy yourself can be quite an undertaking! Puppies require a strong pack leader to follow or they will attempt to rank themselves as the alpha dog. Before you begin training your new puppy, figure out whom in your family is qualified to be the alpha dog (usually the parent or guardian of the household). Then, that person should perform each and every training session as well as be in charge of treat giving and praise. The rest of the family should be prepared to follow the “alpha dog’s” lead. It is important that they do not undermine the pack leader in any way. Dogs are loyal creatures, and they will come to respect their masters and their families if trained properly.

Positive Reinforcement Method

Puppy training should never involve punishment or harm to the animal. Positive reinforcement is the best training method and should be combined with the reward system. For example, if the puppy sits on the command “sit” then he should be praised and offered a treat. Quality treat choices often include snacks specifically created for puppies (these are often found in the treat section of your local pet store); you may also choose small bits of plain, cooked chicken. The treats that prove to be most effective during training sessions are bits of food or snacks that the puppy is not given regularly (in other words, their everyday kibble would not qualify as a proper treat). As the puppy realizes that performing the desired command will get him a treat as well as make you happy, then he will continue to perform that command.

How to train your puppy to sit

training a puppy to sit
Training your new pup to sit down is one of the most important commands you can teach him, and therefore it should be the first! The “sit” command is generally easy for puppies to learn and it will come in handy to stop him from jumping on guests. Many dog trainers believe that once a pup has learned to sit down on command, then he can begin to learn other commands.

Before you start, make sure that your puppy is at ease. It is also wise to allow him time to relieve himself before starting any training session. Training sessions should only last five to ten minutes as puppies do not have long attention spans. Training sessions should also take place a few hours after a feeding. This will ensure that he is not too full or tired for training. If you feed your puppy once in the morning and again in the evening, then he should be more receptive to the treats during the afternoon.

  1. Start by kneeling or sitting down in front of your new pup with treat nearby.
  2. With a treat in hand, move the treat towards the puppy’s nose.
  3. Slowly raise the treat above the puppy’s head and command him to sit down with a firm but gentle “sit”.
  4. Your pup should respond by sitting and lifting his head in an attempt to snatch the treat.
  5. He may begin to move backward or jump up to grab the treat. In this case, place your palm on his back end and gently push him into the sit position as you command “sit”.
  6. Provide him with a treat once he is in the sitting position, even if you had to guide him through it.
  7. Repeat these steps for a few minutes during each training session until he can sit on command without assistance.

This is the first suggested method of teaching a puppy to sit. However, this method may not work for you or your new pup. Luckily, there is another option!

  1. Begin by sitting or kneeling next to your puppy.
  2. Place one of your hands on his chest, palm side against his fur.
  3. Place your other hand on his rear, palm side against his fur.
  4. Gently, press into his chest upwards and downwards on his rear while simultaneously instructing him to sit down.
  5. Once the pup is in the sitting position, praise him and reward him with a treat.
  6. Repeat this motion for a few minutes during each training session until he can sit on command without assistance.

Once your pup has mastered “sit” then you can move on to other commands such as “stay”, “come”, “heel”, and “lay down”.

How to train your puppy to stay

This command is considered one of the toughest to teach because dogs want to be where their humans are. They instinctually want to follow the pack! It is also difficult to teach a pup to stay because they are full of energy and are constantly on the move! However, this is also one of the most useful commands that a puppy can learn.

  1. The first step is to ask your dog to sit down
  2. Once he is seated, reward him with a treat
  3. Next, ask him to stay. Do so with a firm voice and your palm out in front of you facing towards the dog.
  4. If he stays, reward him. If not, try again.
  5. Repeat these steps until he stays. Do not do this for more than 10 minutes at a time.
  6. If he has mastered the “sit” and “stay” with you there, begin to increase your distance from him slowly. Each new distance that he “stays” for should be praised and rewarded with a treat. Slowly approach him and request that he “stay” until you give him the treat. At this point, you can pet him and praise him.
  7. If he gets up at the sight of you approaching with the treat, then he must start again.
  8. Continue this method until he is able to “sit” and “stay” while you are out of the room. Never command your dog to “sit” and “stay” before you leave the house! If he has mastered these commands and you request him to “sit” and “stay” before you leave, then he is likely going to remain in that spot until you return.

training a puppy to stay

How to train your puppy to come

The “come” command is a critical tool for your pup’s safety. If your pooch were to break his leash in an attempt to chase a squirrel across the street, then he could be hit by a car if he is not taught to “come” when called.

  1. Command your dog to sit down and stay
  2. Attach your dog’s leash to his collar (he should be wearing his collar at all times)
  3. Hold the leash and request that your dog “come”
  4. As you say the command “come” move backward one or two steps
  5. You may pat your leg while you say “come” to help him see that he should be moving towards you.
  6. If he comes to you, then reward him with praise and a treat. If he does not then repeat the above steps.
  7. Increase your distance from him after each time he “comes” when commanded.
  8. Reward him with praise and a treat each time he reaches you.

How to train your puppy to lay down

In order for most puppies to grasp the concept of laying down on command, he should be taught to “sit” and “stay” first. If he has mastered these two commands, then he could be ready to learn “lay down”.

  1. Grab a treat or food and have it in your hand ready to provide when necessary.
  2. Ask him to sit down and once he does, reward him with praise and a treat.
  3. Then, ask him to “stay”. When he does, reward him with praise and a treat.
  4. Now, hold a treat a little above his head, close enough for him to touch with his nose if he were to look up.
  5. Once he looks up at the treat, reward him with praise and a treat.
  6. Next, place another treat above his head for him to touch with his nose. This time, do not give him the treat. Slowly move your hand towards the floor. If he follows your hand to the floor with his nose, then reward him with praise and a treat. If he doesn’t, then express “no” in a firm tone and start again.
  7. Once he has mastered following the treat to the floor with his nose, then you can move on to the rest of the training.
  8. This time, once the treat reaches the floor, move it along the floor and encourage him to lie down. If he does, reward him with praise and a treat.
  9. Eventually, he will hear the command “lay down” and associate it with the action of following the treat to the floor. Once he does this, provide various treats and a lot of praise!

training a puppy to lay down


Use the heel command to teach your dog to walk beside you while walking rather than pulling ahead or lagging behind.

Teaching Your Dog heel command

  1. Put your dog on their leash and hold the leash in the hand furthest from your dog.
  2. Hold a treat in the hand beside your dog between your thumb and index finger. Make sure that your dog is aware of the treat.
  3. Begin walking while keeping the treat in sight of your dog but not allowing them to eat it.
  4. As you begin walking give the command “heel”.
  5. Try to keep the leash slack without tugging it repeatedly, this will create a negative association with the leash.
  6. Walk a short distance and reward your dog with the treat if they have stayed close to you while walking.
  7. Practice while walking for longer distances at a time.
  8. If your dog begins to pull away or fall behind during this command training, encourage them to your side by using the treat as a lure.

Note: Some dogs have real difficulty learning this command. Most often these are hunting dogs that are bred to follow scent or sight. If your dog has difficulty, try utilizing a different tool to teach such as a front lead harness. Teach your dog to heel with this harness and then go over it again with a regular leash once your dog has mastered it in the harness. Never use choke chains or prong collars while teaching this command.

These commands are examples of typical beginner training for puppies. They are the building blocks for their everyday lives. As they master each basic command, they become more loyal and more receptive to their owners. This respect and bond that is formed with basic training are then carried through when it is time to begin advanced training sessions. Advanced training is often started once basic commands are mastered or by the time the pup reaches a year old and is no longer a puppy. Advanced commands may include “speak,” “quiet,” “drop it,” “leave it,” as well as “shake,” “roll over” and many others.