Basic dog training skills are crucial to a happy life for both you and your dog, and teaching your puppy just a few simple commands from an early age can dramatically improve your relationship in the long term. Start your pup off on the right paw by teaching them these three basic commands.  

Three essential commands to start teaching your puppy today!:

  • 1. Sit
  • 2. Come
  • 3. Stay

Correction and Reward

Training your puppy can be rewarding for both you and your puppy – literally in their case, as most basic dog training revolves around the concept of correction and reward.

“This simply means correcting the behaviour you don’t want to encourage, and rewarding the behaviour you do,” explains dog training and education manager at Hanrob Dog Training Academy, Jenn Bennett.  “Of course, correction should never be physically enforced or even dealt with an angry tone – your puppy will respond best to a firm ‘No’.”

When it comes to rewarding your pet’s good behaviour, Jenn says to begin by offering them a tasty dog treat alongside lots of praise. “Puppies don’t necessarily understand praise on its own – they actually need to learn to associate praise with good behaviour,” she explains. “If your puppy does something well, you want to lavish them with praise and offer them a yummy treat at the same time, so they realise both the behaviour and praise were a good thing. Eventually, praise on its own will be enough to reward your puppy.”

So, what should you be teaching your puppy, and when? According to Jenn, you can start teaching basic commands to your puppy by the time they reach around 12 weeks of age. “If you can, it’s great to start teaching these commands from around 12 to 16 weeks of age,” she says. “But it’s important to bear in mind your puppy is still so little and will get tired easily so keep your training sessions short!”

How to Teach Your Puppy to Sit

You want to make sure your puppy won’t be distracted during your training session, so choose a confined area either indoors or outside in your secure back yard to conduct your training.

“You want your puppy to be away from furniture, toys, other animals and people, and ideally on a level surface,” says Jenn. “Then you want to get your dog’s attention and ensure they focus on you throughout the training exercise.”

To do this, Jenn recommends having your puppy’s favourite treat to hand. “Start by calling your puppy’s name and stand them directly in front of you. Then, take the treat and hold it directly above your puppy’s nose at eye level – this is so that they can clearly see and smell the treat.”

“Next, give the ‘Sit’ command whilst slowly raising the treat to just above your dog’s head.” According to Jenn, your dog will follow the treat with their eyes, which in turn will make them sit.

“If your puppy doesn’t sit, carry on holding the treat above their head with one hand and gently use the other to encourage them to the sit position,” says Jenn. “Once your dog is sitting, repeat the command and then give them the treat with praise.”

Repetition is key so, after a brief walk around the room, it’s best to try the exercise again. “As your dog gets better at this command, you can move the treat further away from them while giving the commands,” says Jenn. “If they ever try to jump for the treat, remove it from sight, regain your dog’s focus, and begin again. Eventually, your dog will not need a treat to obey the command, but they should always be rewarded with praise.”

How to Teach Your Puppy to Come When Called

To begin teaching your puppy to come when called, you will need to begin your training in a secure outdoor area, such as your back yard. “Begin by asking your dog to sit, and remember to praise them once they have done so – patting your dog helps them understand that they’re doing the right thing,” Jenn says. “Next, tell your dog to ‘stay’ and use the ‘stop sign’ hand signal then walk away slowly.”

While your puppy is still new to this exercise, it’s best to walk backwards so you’re still facing your dog. “You may need to repeat the ‘stay’ command as you walk away from your puppy – make sure you maintain eye contact as this will help keep your dog focused.”

Once you’re a few metres from your dog, stop and call their name, followed by the command ‘Come’ or ‘Here’.

“To perform the signal for this command, bring a flat hand to your upper chest as you give the verbal instruction,” says Jenn.

Then, when your dog reaches you, command them to sit. Only reward them for completing the task once they are sitting.”
Again, repetition is key, and you want to ensure your puppy has learned this command in a controlled – secure – environment prior to trying in more adventurous environments, such as the local park, bushland or a friend’s house. “The presence of other dogs or people nearby may be challenging for your dog, so keep sessions brief, to ensure they are effective and successful. Patience and consistency are the keys to getting your dog to return on command.”

How to Teach Your Puppy to Stay

Teaching your dog to stay can be one of the most valuable commands they will learn and is typically used for your dog’s safety and comfort. However, it’s not a simple command for your dog to learn so – as with each of these training exercises - patience and persistence are key.

“There are four simple steps involved in teaching your dog to stay on command,” says Jenn.

“As with the other exercises, before you start training, find a confined area of your backyard or a large room in your home with little or no distractions. This will help your puppy concentrate and ensure they are safe during the exercise.”

To start, get your dog’s attention by having them on a loose leash, and walk them around, calling their name. “If your dog looks at you when you call them you’ll know you have their attention. Motivate your dog by showing them a treat, which will be their reward for staying focused.”

Next, bring your dog to a halt and give the ‘sit’ command. “Once your dog is sitting, reward them immediately with a treat. Then, tell your dog to ‘stay’ and use a ‘stop’ hand signal.  As you do this, slowly move away from your dog. Initially, only take one or two steps back and show the reward to them from this distance. With each step away, repeat the command ‘stay’ with the hand signal. Once you’re two or three metres away from your dog, repeat the command then leave your dog in their fixed position for at least five seconds.”

After the pause, walk back to your dog and reward them immediately at the spot where they have remained seated. “If your dog jumps on you as you approach don’t give them a treat, as this would be rewarding bad behaviour,” warns Jenn. “If your dog breaks focus at any time, simply ignore their behaviour, regain their focus and start from the beginning.”

As your dog improves, move further away or leave them to sit for longer before giving a reward. Once your dog is ready, practice the command in an area with more distractions such as your local park or friend’s house.  Eventually your dog will be able to obey the command without a treat, just praise, in any location.

Top Tips

Training your puppy in each of these commands will have long lasting and far reaching benefits. During each training session, remember:

  1. 1. Come into each training session with lots of patience, and plenty of rewards
  2. 2. Repetition is key – after all, practice makes perfect
  3. 3. Combine rewards with praise, so that your puppy associates praise as a positive
  4. 4. Remember to choose a quiet area, free of distractions, to conduct your training
  5. 5. Keep your sessions short while your puppy is young

Ultimately, your dog’s underlying motivation during obedience training is pleasing you. Always give a treat and praise immediately after your dog obeys your instruction. Over time you will be able to reduce your use of treats and use praise alone to get good results.