Basic Obedience for Your Puppy

A Trained Pet Makes a Happy Home!

A puppy can learn a great deal, even as early as 7 weeks of age, if learning is fun and presented in the form of gentle play. Motivational methods work best for the tender young puppy soul. Reward desired behaviors by offering toys, food and praise so the puppy wants to obey. Whenever possible, try to arrange the situation so he can't make a mistake. Never use physical punishment on a young puppy as you may damage him both mentally and physically.

Most puppies, like young children, enjoy learning, but have short attention spans. The following exercises can be done several times a day. They take just a few minutes, but will make a tremendous difference in your puppy's attitude. To establish a positive rapport with your puppy and prevent many future problems, start training a few days after your puppy settles in.

We can only offer very brief explanations here, and trainers have many variations on these concepts. If you run into problems, consult a professional trainer. A puppy can start more formal obedience training at about four to six months of age.


Move a toy or piece of food (the motivator) from a position in front of the puppy to a point up over his head and say "Sit". The pup will probably raise his head to follow the motivator and in the process, lower his rear end to the floor. You may gently help the pup at first by tucking his bottom under with your free hand. When he sits, praise the pup exuberantly and give him the toy or treat as a reward.


Show the puppy a tantalizing piece of food or a toy to get his attention. Say "Down" and slowly lower the toy to the floor. If needed, help him down with very slight pressure on his shoulders. (Don't put pressure on his back, or you can hurt him.) Give him the toy when he lies down, even if just for a second. Reward profusely. Later you can extend the length of time he must stay down before you give him the toy.


Starting with the puppy in the Down position, say "Stand" and raise a treat or toy forward and upward in front of the puppy. Gently help position him with your other hand if needed. Have him hold the stand position for a second or two, then release, reward and praise him exuberantly.


Have the puppy sit. Say "Wait" and back away from the puppy, one or two steps. Praise the puppy for staying. After just a second or two, reward, praise, and release. Always reward the puppy when he's still waiting, not after he gets up, so he associates the reward with waiting and not the release. If the puppy gets up too soon, simply repeat the exercise. Gradually increase the time he waits.

Strut (Heel):

Get your puppy's attention with a delectable treat at about his head level on your left-hand side. Say "Strut" or "Heel" or "Let's go" (choose one and be consistent) and walk briskly forward. Let the puppy munch a bit as you walk. Go only a few steps at first, then extend the range. Release the pup and praise him. As the puppy progresses, lift the food a little higher, but do not reward the pup for jumping.


This game takes two people, and is a great way to get your puppy excited about coming to you. Person 1 holds the puppy back while Person 2 tantalizes him by waving a treat or toy in his face, just out of reach. Then Person 2 runs away, calling "Rover, Come!" in an excited tone of voice. Person 1 releases the pup, who comes running wildly after Person 2! Person 2 rewards the dog with lots of praise and gives Rover the toy or treat she was waving.

When teaching a young pup to come to you, call him several times throughout the day around the house and yard, even if you don't want him to come for any particular reason. Each time he comes, praise and reward him. (You can keep some of his regular dry dog kibble in your pocket and give him one whenever he comes if you don't want to overload him with fancy fattening treats.) The puppy will think coming to you is terrific!

If you don't have an assistant handy, try this game. Have the puppy on a loose long line or flexi-lead. Show him a treat or toy. Call his name and then say "Come!" in an energized tone of voice. If he comes to you, reward with a toy or a bit of food and excited praise. If he doesn't come right away, tug gently on the leash and move backwards, away from the puppy. If you run towards him, he may think you are playing a chase game and run away from you!

As your puppy gets a little older and more independent, the long line or flexi-lead will guarantee that he will always come when you call. This is especially useful outside or at parks where he may find many new and interesting distractions. Always reward him for coming. Never scold or punish the dog when he comes to you. (If you must punish the dog for some bad behavior, just go get him.) Don't use the "Come" command outdoors unless your puppy is on a leash, so you can be sure he will obey. Soon he will realize that he must come every time you call and that coming is fun!


Training your puppy is enjoyable and worthwhile. You will develop a rewarding bond with your puppy and an activity you can do together even after the dog is grown. An untrained dog can be a pest, a problem and a even a danger. A well-trained dog is a good friend and an asset to his family and community.

Puppies: Teaching Good Manners   

"A dog should be a pleasure to all and a nuisance to none," says well-known dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse. Teach your puppy the following commands in addition to basic obedience, and he will be much easier to live with. Practice these commands a few times a day in very short play-training sessions.


To avoid unwanted aggression and guarding behavior later in life, train your dog to give you his prized possessions and even his food. The best way is to offer an exchange. Say "Give" and offer your dog a treat for his toy. The food offering will inspire most dogs to release the toy without struggle. Praise him heartily. Then give the toy back to him. Make it a fun game that he wins most of the time.

Get it / Leave it (Don't Touch):

Dogs who know the command "Leave it" will let things alone when asked. To make learning fun, play a game with your pup. Start the exercise with the dog sitting in front of you on a leash. With a handful of treats, offer him one at a time, saying, "Get it!" After two or three "Get its", offer him a treat, as usual, but this time say, "Leave it!" Of course he is going to go for it anyway because he doesn't know any better. When the puppy tries to grab the treat, give him a tiny bop on the nose with the same hand that offered him the treat, and repeat, "Leave it". As soon as the dog leaves the treat alone, praise him, saying, "Good Leave it!", then say, "OK. Get it!" and give it to him. Repeat the sequence four or five times in a row, saying "Get it" much more often than you say "Leave it." The puppy will think this is great fun and will probably catch on very quickly, learning to leave the treat alone when you say "Leave it".

Don't Pull:

Your cute little puppy may grow up to be a hundred pound powerhouse dragging you down the street if you don't train him not to pull on the leash. To prevent physical damage to the dog, avoid excessive jerking on a puppy's neck until he is at least four months old. Meanwhile, use a retractable leash, such as a Flexi-Leash(TM), so the pup can have some freedom, but meets resistance when he pulls. If he lunges, simply turn around and walk the other way.

Many trainers are now using Halti(TM) Head Collars to train puppies not to pull. The Halti(TM) fits around the dog's head and attaches to the leash. With the Halti(TM), the owner diverts the dog's head gently to the side if the dog tries to pull forward. Dogs don't like to lunge in a direction they cannot see. The experience is unpleasant for the dog, but humane, involving no pain.


No matter what they say, most people do not like it when a dog jumps all over them. Jumping up can even be dangerous when a dog jumps on a small child. The simplest and safest way to teach a puppy not to jump up is to back up when you see the pup coming and say "Off!" Reward and praise the puppy once all its feet are on the ground. You can also tell the dog to "Sit" so he learns something positive to do when greeting strangers. When the puppy is older, more severe measures can be used if necessary.

One warning: If you allow your dog to jump all over you, he may have trouble understanding why you don't allow him to jump all over everyone else. Try to be consistent!

In Your Kennel:

A dog's kennel should be his safe place, his den, his refuge. Your dog can learn to go willingly into his kennel on command. Tantalize your puppy with a treat or toy, then put it into the kennel and say "Kennel" or "Go to bed", or "In your Kennel" (choose one and be consistent). The dog will probably go inside. At first, don't close the door. Just praise the dog for going in. When he's used to going in, start closing the door, at first just for a few seconds. Give the puppy a little treat through the bars when he's inside with the door closed. Extend the time he spends inside the kennel gradually. Never let him out when he's crying as that only rewards crying. When you let the puppy out, don't make a big deal out of it. You don't want coming out to seem better than going in!

Speak / Quiet:

When a person yells at his dog for barking, the dog thinks the human is barking too, joining the fun. "Quiet" is a difficult concept for dogs. The most successful strategy we've found is to train the dog to bark on command before training the dog what "Quiet" means. 

Show the dog a treat, make a hand signal and say "Speak". You may have to bark a bit at your dog before he gets the idea, but eventually he will probably give you a bark or two. Praise and reward immediately and with great fervor. Try again until your puppy understands this entertaining game.

Once the dog knows how to bark on command, get him barking and then suddenly say "Quiet" and place your fingers to your lips. This strange action will probably stun your dog into silence. Reward and praise excitedly! Repeat several times a day for a few weeks until your dog knows it dependably. Later, when you yell "Quiet", the dog will know what you are talking about.


A dog with good manners is a pleasure to live with and to be around. Training your dog to behave in a socially acceptable way is fun. Your family and guests will thank you, and you will be proud of your pet. Wouldn't it be nice to have a dog who stops barking when you ask him to, who doesn't jump up on people, who doesn't pull you down the street and who will give you even his most prized possessions without a grumble? It's all up to you...

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