The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Skills to Teach Your Puppy

By Heather Burdo

husky puppy giving a high five

People often wonder when to start training a puppy – the answer is as soon as possible. Young puppies have short attention spans, but you can start teaching them basic commands around 7-8 weeks of age. Here are six commands to teach your puppy:

1. Teaching Your Puppy Their Name

Teaching a puppy their name should be at the top of your list of basic puppy commands. Always make their name a positive experience by rewarding them and showing praise when they respond.

  • Have their favorite treats handy and go somewhere with little to no distractions
  • Whenever they look at you, say their name in a cheerful tone
  • Give treats
  • Interact with your puppy and wait for them to look away
  • Repeat

2. Teaching Your Puppy “No”

To begin teaching your puppy “no,” you will need to have treats (Pro tip: Make sure the treats are extra tasty).

  • Get your puppy to respond to you by having them walk or sit beside you to ensure their focus is on you.
  • Set your dog up for something they will want to do (i.e. grabbing a piece of food the floor, getting on the sofa, etc.)
  • Take your dog over to the desired item
  • When they look at what you are teaching them to not do, say “no.”
  • Reward your puppy when they leave the area

You should practice this technique with many distractions besides food on the floor. And remember to keep practicing. Do not teach this command with food in their bowl or other things that they are allowed to do.

3. Teaching Your Puppy to Sit

When you teach a puppy to sit, it’s important that you never physically place them into a sitting position.

  • Stand in front of your puppy while holding a treat
  • Position the treat so it’s right in front of their nose
  • Slowly lifting it above their head – this should encourage them to sit to continue watching the treat
  • Let your puppy have the treat once they are fully sitting on the ground
  • Repeat a few times with treats, then use just your empty hand while still rewarding them after a successful sit

Over time, they will understand when you say “sit” right before you give the hand signal.

4. Teaching Your Puppy to Lie Down

Before you begin to teach your puppy to lie down, remember that you shouldn’t force them into this position. Doing so could make them aggressive.

  • Put a treat in your hand and ask your puppy to sit
  • Position your hand so it’s about one inch above their nose to try and get them to touch it
  • When their nose is on your hand, move your hand toward the ground so it’s about two inches in front of their feet. Be sure their nose is on your hand the whole time
  • If your dog gets up or his or her nose gets away from your hand, say “no,” and stand up so the treat is away from them
  • Once you have lured your dog’s nose to the ground successfully, slowly move your hand along the ground until they lie down
  • When their elbows touch the ground in the full down position, give lots of praise and the treat between their paws
  • Keep treating to hold the position

5. Teaching Your Puppy to Stay

Training your puppy to “stay” can be one of the most overwhelming basic commands but it’s one of the most useful, so it’s important to master it.

  • Begin by asking your puppy to lie down
  • Say “stay,” and put your hand in front of you while positioning your palm toward them
  • Once they stay for a few seconds, reward your dog for staying put.
  • Repeat

Add to the command by taking a few steps back and saying “stay.” When they stay for a few seconds, reward them again. As you teach this command, increase the length of time and the distance of the “stay.” Take it at a slow pace and your puppy will catch on.

6. Teaching Your Puppy to Come

Teaching your puppy to come when called is important for when your puppy gets away from you.

  • Put a leash and collar on your puppy
  • Get down to their level and say “come” while gently pulling on the leash
  • As soon as your dog gets to you, reward them with a treat and affection
  • Repeat

Once your dog has mastered this command, remove the leash and practice without it. Make sure you are in an enclosed and safe area when the leash is off.

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