Basic Puppy Training Commands [Every Dog Should Know!]

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[Updated July 2019]

If you have a new puppy at home you’ll want to make sure to start teaching him/her the basic puppy training commands.  Every dog should know the basic commands because some of them could save your dog’s life!

When Should You Start Training Your Puppy?

As soon as you bring your new puppy home, training should start right away.

Training doesn’t have to be complex, you’ll be amazed how quickly your puppy will be able to learn new things.

Start by establishing house rules and make sure everyone in your family is on the same page.  This means if you don’t want your puppy on the furniture, it is not okay for your husband or children to allow your pup on the couch.

Making sure that everyone knows what is expected of the puppy will make things a lot easier, and your puppy will not be confused about the rules.

You may wish to enroll your puppy in a training class, or you can easily train him/her at home. It will be a good bonding experience and fun for both you and your puppy.

Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

Okay, so you didn’t bring home a new puppy you adopted an older dog, no problem.  Older dogs can certainly learn new tricks.

Older dogs might already know some of the basic training commands which will make your job easier.  If not, teaching an older dog the basics is very much possible, but it will take some time and patience.

Tips To Make Training Easier For You And Your Pup

Start Slow

Learning something new takes time.  Be sure to start off slow, only with one command at a time.  Let your puppy learn and master one command before moving onto the next one.

Be Patient

You will need a lot of patience when teaching your puppy or older dog a new command.  Your puppy may or may not get what you want him/her to do right away.  It will take time and patience.  Remember to not get frustrated or upset if your puppy doesn’t master something right away.

Consistency Is Key

Make sure to be consistent.  You should always use the same cues and techniques for training.  If you are teaching your puppy to sit by saying “sit”, but then the next day you say “sit down”, your puppy will become confused.

Always be clear and concise with your training words, and make sure that everyone in your household uses the same words.

Use Treats 

All puppies and dogs love treats, and some dogs are more motivated by food than others, like labs and golden retrievers!  You can use treats to your advantage.

There are different training treats available, but you should remember that treats add up in calories and should be part of your dog’s daily food intake.

Some healthy suggestions are using green beans, carrots, or apple slices.

Keep It Short

There is only so much learning a puppy can take at one time.  Keep your training sessions short about 15-20 minutes a day.  Any longer than this and your puppy will lose interest and become bored.

Short training sessions every day will keep your puppy mentally stimulated, which will prevent boredom and destructive behaviour.

Always Reward And Praise Your Pup

The key to success is to never lose your cool and get frustrated with your pup if he/she did something wrong.  When your pup is learning you should always praise him/her for doing a good job, and reward good behaviour with treats or affection or both.

7 Basic Dog Commands

Here are the 7 basic dog commands that you should teach your new puppy.  Every dog should know these commands as they could potentially be life-saving!  I have also included a bonus.

1.  Sit

Two dogs sitting on grass looking up at owner (not shown)

Sit is one of the first and easiest commands your puppy should know. Perhaps your puppy is already mastering this command.

When you see your puppy sitting naturally on their own, you can connect the command to the behaviour, by saying “sit” and then offering a reward or praise.

The first step is to hold a treat close to your dog’s nose. Then hold the treat up, this will make your dog follow the treat with his/her head, causing their bottom to lower. Once your puppy is sitting, say “sit”, and reward with a treat or praise.

2.  Stay

Stay, is one of the commands that could keep your pup out of trouble.  A dog who knows and obeys this command will not run out into the street after getting loose.  Stay, is one of the most important skills for any dog to learn.

Once your puppy has gotten the “sit” command down pat, get him/her to “sit”, then stretch your arm out and show them the palm of your hand (like you are saying stop).

Then say “stay”, and take a few steps back. If your puppy follows you, start again and get him/her to “sit”, then repeat until your dog stays.

Gradually increase the number of steps you take away from your dog before giving a treat.

3. Come

Small dog wearing blue argyle sweater given a treat.

You want your dog to come to you when called, as this command can keep your dog out of trouble.   This command will be helpful if your dog is off leash and you want to keep your dog close to you while hiking or to come to you at a dog park if there is a dangerous situation.

Get your puppy to “sit”, and “stay”, then when you are a few steps away from your dog say “come”.

You can clap your hands or use excitement in your voice, but usually, if you show the treat, your puppy will come running to you.

You can gradually increase your distance each time.

4. Down

Boston Terrier pup laying in grass looking up at owner (not shown).

The “down” command, can be a little more difficult. You are asking your dog to be in a submissive position.

  • First, get your dog in a sitting position.
  • Show your dog a treat, in your hand.
  • Lower the treat in your hand to the ground toward you. Your dog will follow the movement, lowering his/her head, and stretching toward the treat.
  • When your dog is in the down position, say “Down”, and give the treat.

5.  Leave It/No

The “leave it” command is definitely one that you will want your dog to know, as it can keep them from getting into trouble.

For instance when you are out walking, and your dog gets curious and sniffs at something that he/she may want to eat that is potentially dangerous.

  • You can start by having your dog in a “sit” position.
  • Place a treat on the floor in front of them and say “leave it”.
  • If your dog tries to grab the treat, cover it with your hand and say “no” “leave it”.
  • Try again, uncovering the treat with your hand.
  • Say “leave it”.
  • Wait until your dog ignores the treat, and looks at you.
  • Then say “okay”, and let your dog have the treat.

You can also try this command when your dog is in the “down” position, and place a treat on one of their paws, and ask your dog to “leave it”.

6.  Off

When your puppy jumps up on you, you may think it is adorable, but when your puppy grows up to be 80 pounds it’s not so adorable anymore!  You certainly don’t want your puppy jumping up on any guests or visitors to your home.

The off command is essential for instructing your dog to keep calm when visitors arrive, and for keeping off the furniture.

This command is not something that can be planned, like sit, but rather you have to catch your dog doing it.

When you see your dog jumping up on the counter, you need to react quickly.  Firmly say “off”, you will have to get your dog’s attention by calling his name or by luring him with a treat.

Once you see that all 4 paws are on the floor, you can reward your dog with a treat.

7.  Heel

Dachshund walking on "heel" beside owner.

The command heel is used when you want your dog to walk next to you instead of walking behind you or in front of you, pulling you in all directions.

I am sure everyone can relate to having their dog “walk” them at some point or another.

To begin teaching this command you will need to leash your dog and have treats in your hand.

  • Start by having your dog sit next to you on your left side.
  • Hold your dog’s leash in your left hand.
  • Hold a treat in your right hand close to your dog’s nose.
  • Say “heel” and begin taking a few steps forward.
  • If your dog gets distracted or pulls in front of you, stop immediately.
  • When your dog pays attention again, praise and give a treat.
  • After 30 seconds of attention, begin walking again.
  • The idea is to take a few steps and reward your dog with treats every few steps.
  • Start adding more distance to when you give treats, eventually you can start to phase the treats out.

**Bonus** Give Paw

Dog paw and human hand shown.

The command “give paw”, is not a life saving one, but it is a fun one for your dog to try.

This command was actually my dog Ellie’s second one that she learned after “sit’. I remember it took her probably a week or two to learn, but after she learned it she was doing it all the time, even when we didn’t ask her to.

  • Start by having your dog sit.
  • Reach for your dog’s paw, and hold it up into your hand.
  • While holding your dog’s paw, say “give paw”, and offer a treat.
  • Keep repeating this, and eventually, your dog will give paw on his/her own.

Final Thoughts On Basic Puppy Training Commands

Keep in mind, that the above commands are the basics, and should be incorporated into your dogs daily routine.

Training should be fun and rewarding for both you and your dog. Never get upset with your dog if he/she is not getting what you are asking, it is a process that takes a lot of time and effort.

Also remember, that there will be times when your dog will not listen to you, just like a teenager not listening to their parents. Dogs do have a mind of their own, and when they want to do something like chase after another dog or squirrel, they will do it, no matter what you have instructed.

I can’t even count the number of times my dog Ellie has disobeyed me and gotten herself into trouble while having fun at the same time. As a dog owner, you just have to try to keep your dog as happy and safe as possible. We as humans are certainly not perfect, and shouldn’t expect our dogs to be either.

When your puppy has mastered the basics, have some fun and try some other tricks.

What About You?

Has your puppy mastered the basic commands?  Which command did you find the easiest to train your puppy?  What other commands can your puppy do?  Share your thoughts and comments below, I would love to hear from you.

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I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Peterborough, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.

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