How to train a puppy to respond to commands

As your puppy matures, you may notice new behavioural problems cropping up that’s impacting on their previous or current training. You’ll want to address these changes as soon as possible, because the longer you allow inappropriate behaviour, the more difficult it can be to correct. Don’t assume it’s just a phase and your puppy will grow out of it as this is often not the case. By implementing a few new tricks, you can help them to reset their behaviour and strengthen the relationship between you.  

Commands that your puppy needs to know 

There are some important commands that are essential for a puppy to learn. These are: sit, stay, calm or down, and drop. Certain behaviours can make your dog easier to handle and a joy to be around, like teaching them how to walk on a lead without pulling and training them to allow you to examine their mouth, ears, feet, paws etc. 

What are the benefits of training my puppy?  

A well-trained dog is a happy dog, as their good behaviour will allow them to have the freedom to do things they like, be involved in family life and be welcome in more places.  

Spending time training your pup also allows you to spend some quality time together, strengthening the bond between the two of you. It’s also a great way of stopping your pup from getting bored.  

How do dogs learn?  

Puppies learn from association, meaning that if they are rewarded with a treat, or something they like, for showing a particular behaviour, then they are more likely to behave that way again. As this pattern is repeated as they grow, they will eventually respond to your command or act accordingly without the need for a reward.  

Top tips for training your puppy 

  • When teaching something new, always start lessons in a quiet room away from distractions
  • The reward has to be something your dog really likes so they are motivated to work for it  
  • Make sure your dog receives the reward within a second of their good behaviour 
  • Keep your training sessions short and sweet so not to overwhelm your pup 
  • Be patient and never punish your dog for misbehaving or not doing as they’re told 
  • Finish your training sessions with a command your dog already knows so it ends positively  
  • Only use short and clear commands that your puppy will understand  
    Get everyone in the household to use the same commands and follow the same top tips and training rules. 

Dog on a training lead

Teaching your puppy to sit 

While holding a treat, hold your hand over your puppy’s nose and slowly move it up and over your puppy’s head, as if you are trying to get them to look at the ceiling or sky. Keep doing this until your dog goes to sit as they follow the treat in your hand. When your dog does this, remember to say the word “sit” so they start to associate their action with the command.  

Even if your puppy already knows how to sit, it’s important to keep practising and rewarding them for their good behaviour.  

Teaching your puppy to stay 

Get your puppy to sit or lie down then use a verbal cue like ‘stay’ or ‘wait’ (be sure to use the same one every time) and a clear hand signal. Holding your hand up with the palm flat and facing your dog can work well and is easily recognisable if they weren’t able to hear your command.  

Reward your dog with the treat after a few seconds, but only if they stay in their position. Practice this until you can gradually increase the distance between you and your pup. 

Teaching your puppy not to jump 

Dogs might jump up for a number of reasons, from being happy to see you or in an attempt to communicate they’re anxious about something. They need to learn that staying on all fours brings them the same amount of praise and attention.  

Next time your dog goes to jump up on you, turn your back on them and ignore their requests for attention completely. Once all four of their paws are back on the floor turn around and give them a treat or praise for their good behaviour.  

You will need to do this every time your puppy jumps at you, and don’t give up as consistency is key to seeing a change. Make sure your family and friends follow the same rules so that your dog realises they’re unable to jump up at everyone or anyone.  

Teaching your puppy to drop things 

This trick has two phases. 

First, place a piece of kibble or one of your puppy’s favourite treats on the floor and say, ‘leave it’ or ‘drop it’. Your dog will hopefully eat the treat and look for more. If they do, do it again using the same command. Continue doing this until you think they’re ready to try dropping a toy in exchange for a treat.  

The next step would be to get them playing with a toy for a minute or two then drop a few treats to the floor while you command them to drop or leave the item. Don’t be tempted to take the toy from their mouth, they need to learn to it let go in their own time. Repeat this step until you think they’re ready to drop the toy before rewarding them with the treats or kibble.  

Teaching your puppy to walk without pulling 

Heading outside is such an exciting time for our dogs, no matter their age, so it comes as no surprise that they pull to reach their destination. The excitement likely begins before even heading out through the front door when you grab their collar or lead. If this is the case, then you might want to desensitise them to their typical walkies items. To do this, you’ll want to bring out their poo bags, lead, collar or whatever might trigger their excitement and leave them lying around the house. Treating them like any other object, or something that doesn’t instantly mean they’re going for a walk, will make the next few steps a little easier.  

When you head out on your stroll together stop walking as soon as your puppy starts to pull. Once the lead is loose again reward them with a treat. This is going to be very time consuming and your walks might take a little longer than usual, but don’t give up. Keep up with their training on every walk and before you know it your puppy will be a joy on a lead.  

Training your puppy to allow you to examine them 

Having a dog that’s used to being handled makes visits to the vets and grooming appointments so much easier for everyone, but it takes practice. Start with something your puppy likes whether that’s an ear scratch or belly rub. From here, slowly introduce new types of handling. Grooming your dog at home from a young age will help, too.  

If your dog shows any signs of aggression you will need to act straightaway. Sometimes this can be a sign or symptom of a medical condition, but it’s best to call Joii for behaviour advice from one of their experts. Joii advises that your dog doesn’t spend any time around children until you have sought professional help about the behaviour.  

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