5 Essential Basic Commands to Train a Puppy

A man training his white puppy at the beach

Training your new puppy can be a fun experience for both you and your dog. The key is being patient and understanding while always offering positive reinforcement.

Ultimately, there’s no need to take your dog to a pet trainer, as you can teach it all these commands by yourself.

So, for all you new dog owners, here are the five essential basic commands to train your puppy.

5 Basic Commands To Teach Your Dog

Basic Command #1: Come

puppy trained to come by command

One of the most essential dog commands is “come.” In fact, this command can help both you and your pup out of a sticky situation.

For instance, it can come in handy if you accidentally lose grip on its leash, or your dog somehow manages to escape from your backyard while in pursuit of a squirrel. All you would have to do is say “come,” and your pup would be right back at your side.

Step 1: Teaching Your Dog to Come Using a Leash

Start by putting a collar and a leash on your dog. Keep the leash loose, and distance yourself from your pup (while still holding on to the leash). If you have a small dog, kneel down so your pup doesn’t get intimidated by your size.

Next, tell your dog to “come,” and slightly tug on its leash at the same time. Do so gently, or you’ll scare your dog.

You can also say “come, [your dog’s name]” if you prefer. Some dogs respond better when they hear their name being called. However, that’s entirely up to you.

Since your dog doesn’t know what “come” means yet, you will need to be patient. Say “come” and then immediately give your dog a treat. Repeat this a few times.

Next, drop the treat on the ground in front of you, and say “come[your dog’s name].” Let your pup come to you, and allow it to eat the treat. Once it’s gobbled it up, say (and keep repeating) your dog’s name until it looks up at you, and give it another treat.

Repeat the process, and each time your dog looks up at you after you’ve called its name, give your good boy or girl a treat.

Remember, your dog will most likely give you a blank stare the first few times you do this, but eventually, it will begin to understand what “come” means.

Once you’re satisfied with your dog’s progress, you can move on to the next step.

Step 2: Teaching Your Dog to Come Without a Leash

Note: You should practice this next step in an enclosed area, for example inside your home or in a fenced yard. Make sure your dog can’t escape your property. 

Take the leash off your dog and move back until you’re at least 3 feet away from your pup. Tell it to “come” and as soon as it does, offer a treat. Repeat until your dog gets the hang of it.

Pro tip: In order to get your dog to master this command, you should practice every day — first with a leash, then without it.

Basic Command #2: Sit

A dog commanded to sit by the owners bycicle on the street

Teaching your dog to sit is probably one of the easiest basic commands, and there are two methods you can use in the process.

Method 1: Capturing

Get out a doggy treat, and hold it up to your dog’s nose so that it can smell it. Be careful not to let it snatch the treat from your hand!

Move the treat away from your dog and wait for it to sit. You may have to wait a while, but don’t give your pup the treat until it sits down.

Pro tip: If your dog simply won’t sit down on its own, here’s what you can do. Let your dog sniff the treat. Then, slowly lift the treat upwards allowing your dog’s gaze to follow it. Once your pup’s head goes up, its bottom will probably go down. Also, this trick will come in handy for the next method.

Once your dog willfully sits down, give it the treat and say, “Yes/Good boy/Good girl.”

Next, start moving away from your dog and keep going until it stands up. Wait patiently until it decides to sit down again, and say, “Yes/Good boy/Good girl”, again.

After repeating this process a few more times (or until you’re satisfied with your pup’s progress) start saying “sit” before your dog begins to lower its bottom on the floor. Give it a treat each time it sits.

Method 2: Luring

Sit down in front of your puppy, and let it sniff the doggy treat in your hand. While it’s doing so, lift the treat slowly upwards. Remember to do so slowly enough for your dog’s nose to stay on the treat.

As soon as your dog’s bottom touches the ground, allow your pup to eat the treat.

Keep doing this for a few more times, and then repeat the process without using a treat. Use your empty hand to lure your dog into sitting. After a few repeats, your dog will start to understand the command.

Next, repeat the entire process, except this time, say “sit” before your pup’s bottom touches the ground.

Ideally, your dog should fully understand the command “sit” after a week of training. However, if you notice that your dog is struggling, go back a few steps and be patient with your pup.

Basic Command #3: Stay

person training small pug to stay on the grass

It’s one thing to teach your dog to “sit,” but it’s a whole different matter when it comes to teaching your pup to “stay.” On the bright side, if you’ve already taught your dog to obey the “sit” command, you’re 1/3 through teaching it to “stay” as well.

In case you don’t know what I mean by that, there are three parts to the stay command: the “sit,” the “stay” and the “release.”

Part 1: Sit

Repeat the instructions for the “sit” command.

Note: Do not move on to the “stay” part of this command until your dog has fully mastered the “sit’ command.

Part 2: Stay

Once your dog obeys the “sit” command, take a few steps back, and holding an open palm in front of you, say “stay.”. We’ll be honest and tell you that the first few tries are bound to be unsuccessful, but that’s normal.

If your dog gets up and follows you instead of staying in place, just say “no,” and keep moving away from your pup. You will need to keep repeating this process every day until your dog learns to distinguish between good and bad behavior.

Part 3: Release

When you’re satisfied with your dog’s progress, you can move on to the “release” part of the command.

Feel free to choose a word you’re comfortable using for this command, e.g. “free,” or “OK.”

In order to teach your dog the “release” command, you should start by teaching it to associate the release word with the action.

Toss a treat on the floor, and as your pup starts to get up and go for the treat, say the “release” word you’ve chosen.

Repeat this a few times, and then switch things up by first saying the “release” word, and then tossing the treat.

Once your dog gets used to this command, you should practice it every day and gradually increase the time between the “stay” and “release” command. Here’s how:

  • Tell your dog to “sit” and “stay”
  • Take a few steps back
  • Count to ten before you say “release”
  • Repeat and keep adding more time in between commands

Before you move on to the next command, make sure your dog has these three down pat.

Basic Command #4: Lay Down

A dog trained to follow command to lay down on the sand

I already mentioned that there are two methods when it comes to training your dog to obey the “sit” command, and the same thing applies to this one.

First, you can use the capturing method, which means you need to wait for your dog to lay down on its own.

Teaching Your Dog to “Lay Down” Using the Capturing Method

Here’s how:

  • Wait until your dog decides to lay down
  • As soon as it does so, present your dog with a treat, and say “good boy”
  • Get up and say the “release” word that you use for the “stay” command
  • Wait for your dog to lay down again, and reward it with a treat each time
  • Repeat until you’re satisfied with your dog’s progress

Teaching Your Dog to “Lay Down” Using the Luring Method

For the luring method, you will also need to use treats:

  • Get your dog to lay down by lowering a doggy treat on to the floor
  • Don’t allow your dog to eat the treat until its elbows touch the floor
  • As soon as your dog lays down, give it the treat, and offer positive reinforcement
  • After a while, repeat the process without using a treat

Next Steps

Note: No matter which method of training you choose, the steps that follow are the same.

Next, you will need to try to say “lay down” before your dog’s elbows reach the floor. Repeat the process until your dog starts to get the hang of it. Then, remove the treat entirely, and only offer praise when your dog obeys the “lay down” command.

Finally, add the “stay” and “release” commands. Use the methods I described in the previous section.

Basic Command #5: Take It and Leave It

The “leave it” command is essential because it can save your dog from a dangerous situation. For instance, when you take your pup out for a walk, it can grab something potentially harmful off of the ground.

The best way to teach your dog the “leave it” command is to first teach it the “take it” one. Ultimately, if your dog learns that it should only take something if you allow it to (by issuing the “take it” command) you will keep your pup out of harm’s way.

Start by offering your dog a treat. As soon as it opens its mouth, say “take it.” You can also use doggy toys instead of treats if you prefer.

Keep repeating the process in order to get your dog to associate your words with its action.

Next, you will need to use two doggy toys in order to teach your dog the “leave it” command.

First, offer your pup one of the toys. Remember to say “take it” before you actually give the toy to your dog.

Let it play with the toy for a bit, and then show your dog the other toy.

Fun fact: Dogs are always interested in something other than what they’re already playing with. Let’s say you have two toys, and you offer your dog one of them and hide the other. No matter how invested your dog is in the first toy, as soon as you present your pup with the hidden one it will immediately lose interest in the first toy.

Before your dog drops the first toy from its mouth, say “leave it,” and wait a few seconds before giving it the new toy. Then, say “take it” and let your puppy play with the toy. Keep repeating until your dog masters both commands.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Dog Training

While you’re in training mode, it’s also important to follow some basic rules for the well-being of your pet.

Do’s:

  • Do praise your dog each time it follows a command
  • Do repeat each of the steps until you’re completely satisfied with your dog’s progress
  • Do make your training sessions short and fun in order to keep your pup interested
  • Do offer a treat as a reward

Dont’s:

  • Don’t punish your dog when it disobeys a command
  • Don’t skip on to the next step because you’re impatient as it will set back your dog’s progress
  • Don’t physically force your dog to “sit” or “lay down” if it doesn’t follow your command
  • Don’t practice these commands in an open, fenceless area

Final Thoughts

Adopting a new pet is a wonderful experience. But welcoming a new pup to your home also means keeping it safe. That’s why training your dog to obey these 5 basic commands is essential for its well-being.

Finally, keep in mind that it would be in both yours and your pup’s best interest to teach it these basic commands before taking it out for a walk. Doing so will ensure that your dog stays safe, and will give you peace of mind.

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