Dog obedience and training is a lifelong journey for your best buddy. It nips certain behavioral issues in the bud, prevents new ones from developing in the future, and keeps them – and everyone around them – safe. It’s also a great bonding activity between you and your puppy that helps them socialize with people and dogs, making their life richer and better.
Before you get started, here are some things to remember. Results aren’t always immediate, so don’t get frustrated if your dog doesn’t immediately change. Puppies are a lot like kids – easily distracted, uncoordinated, but lovable.
General Tips if You’re Starting Dog Training:
- The younger the dog, the easier to train
- Puppies between 8-12 weeks old are the best candidates, but training is for all
- Remember that puppies have short attention spans, so keep sessions short and gradually increase their length
- Major behavioral issues like anxiety, depression, and aggression should be resolved through an animal behaviorist
These five basic commands are the foundation to every dog’s training. Not only are they a starting point for more complicated commands, but they can also help tackle some behavioral problems.
- Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose
- Let their head follow the treat as their butt lowers
- When they actually sit, say “sit”, share the treat and show affection
Repeat this sequence a few times throughout the day until your dog has it mastered without treats. It also helps to give situational context, so ask your pup to sit before mealtimes, before opening doors, or any situation you’d like your dog to be seated and calm. Remember not to hold the treat so high that your dog jumps, but just out of reach so that your dog will stretch his neck.
- Put a leash and collar on your dog
- Let them drag the leash around to get used to it
- Hold the leash and follow them around to help them understand you two are connected
- Get down on their level and say “come” while gently pulling on the leash
- Say “come” just once instead of repeating multiple times
- When they come over, reward them with treat and affection
After a while, you can practice in a safely enclosed space without leash to train them to come over when you call. Eventually you can try this in outdoor spaces. Remember the one-word, one-command rule and just say “come” once. If your dog does not come the first time you ask, gently guide him to where you want him to be. When disciplining your dog, do not use the “come” command or they will associate it with negative behavior. If your dog behaves badly, go to them instead, and remember to never use physical punishment.
- Work on this command only if your dog has mastered “sit”
- Ask your dog to “sit”
- Open the palm of your hand in front of you and say “stay”
- Take a step or two back and reward him if he stays
- If he moves, calmly say “oops”, move him back to the starting point and start over
- Gradually increase the amount of distance between you two
- Always reward your dog for staying, even if it’s for a few seconds
- Teach your dog a “release” word for when it’s okay to move. “Okay” is a good example
This particular command is bit more difficult to master, especially for younger dogs and high energy breeds who want to be on the move all the time. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t pick it up right away.
- Hold an especially tasty treat in your closed hand
- Hold your hand up to your dog’s nose
- When they sniff, move your hand down towards the floor and he will follow
- As your dog moves down, move your hand in front of him so his body follows his head and he stretches out on the floor
- When he’s fully down, say “down”, open your hand and let him eat the treat
- If your dog sits up or lunges for your hand, say “no” and take your hand away, and start over
- Repeat every day
This command can be difficult as it’s putting the dog in a submissive position, but can be very helpful for anxious or fearful dogs. Reward your dog for every positive step he takes towards learning this command.
- Hold treats in both closed hands
- Show your dog one fist and say “leave it”
- Let your dog sniff, bark, or paw at your fist but ignore these behaviors
- When your dog leaves your hand alone, give them the treat from the other hand
- Repeat until your dog leaves the first hand alone whenever you say “leave it”
- Eventually only give your dog the treat if he leaves the first hand alone and looks up at you
When they’ve mastered this level, you can move to a more advanced level where you leave treats on the floor ranging from fully covered to not covered at all. When your dog leaves the treat on the floor alone, reward them with a tastier treat. You’ll eventually be able to practice this with you standing away from your dog.
Remember, all training takes time and repetition. If your dog is struggling with more advanced stages of any of these commands, go back to the previous stage and repeat until they’re comfortable. These five commands will keep your dog safer and improve communication between you two. Your dog can also pick up on your attitude so make sure you’re in the right mindset to assert calm-assertive energy and a lot of patience. Good luck!