New puppies are so sweet they can get away with almost anything but it’s never too early to start puppy training. A well-behaved puppy makes the best companion. Puppy training takes dedication and patience. If you don’t show them right from wrong they won’t know. A trained puppy is a happy puppy and teaching them can be fun.
Puppy training tips – the basic rules
You are top dog
Show your puppy who is boss. You are master of the house and what you say goes.
Stick to your guns
Be consistent. Once a rule has been made everyone is the household should respect it and stick to it otherwise it will confuse your puppy.
The key to puppy training is to Repeat, Reward and Reinforce
Repeat – Keep trying to make him do what you want. This will help him learn right from wrong.
Reward – Rewarding your puppy is a great way to encourage good behaviour and to create a bond.
Reinforce – Once you have rewarded, try it again. Training a puppy takes a lot of patience but it pays off in the long run.
Don’t punish after the event
If your dog’s been left alone and has say, chewed a shoe you shouldn’t punish them when you get back as they will have no idea what they have done wrong.
How to train a puppy – basic training commands
Here are some puppy training tips to help you master the basics to help you develop an obedient and happy from the start.
Teaching a puppy to sit
Hold a food treat near your dog’s nose. Lift your hand up and back, so he has to raise his head to follow your fingers. His rear end will automatically go down, as soon as it touches the floor say “ SIT” and give the dog a reward. Your dog will quickly learn to associate the word “SIT” with the action. Then try saying “SIT” and only give the reward after he has sat down.
Teaching a puppy to recall
Stand about 5 metres from your dog, call your dog’s name and say “COME!” and show him you have food or a toy. Gradually lengthen the distance your dog has to come to you and practice on walks and in the park.
Teaching a puppy to wait
Once you have taught the recall and sit position, don’t give the treat straight away but command your dog to wait. Start with small time periods of say 3-4 seconds, then give your puppy a treat and praise, then extend the wait period to say 10 seconds.
This is an important puppy training exercise and will come in handy many times in a normal day, when feeding your dog, before letting him out of the car or when you have visitors he’s over eager to meet!
Teaching a puppy to walk on a lead
When training a puppy to walk on a lead, start in a quiet place in the house or your garden. Take a step and if your pup pulls ahead, stand still. Encourage them back to your side. Now take two steps. If the lead goes tight, stand still and then change direction to encourage the dog to be next to you. Reward them frequently when they are next to you and the lead is slack.
When you can walk around the house or garden without pulling you’re ready for walkies anywhere.
Teaching a puppy to walk to heel
If don’t want your puppy to grow up into a dog that either drags you on a walk or lags along behind you, teach them walking to heel early on.
Once your puppy can walk on a lead you can start.
* Walk your puppy with an extended lead or line (6 -10 metres) fixed to his collar. Hold it like a normal lead the rest will be on the floor.
* As you walk with the dog let go of the line nearest the dog and run to the right, loosening the grip, ensuring you are holding the handle of the lead and call your dog positively ‘this way!’ and your dog will hopefully follow, you may need to do a very, gentle pull.
* Then do it to the left. Repeat a few times. You’ll find your puppy begins to heel naturally and the long lead is dragging on the ground.
*Over time, make your movements as varied as possible by changing your direction and speed, always positively calling your dog and making it fun and possibly yummy too! You may want to reward your dog for being obedient.
The long lead is ideal for meeting other dogs and going to new places.
House training a puppy
Your puppy is going to share your home with you for many years so teach him the rules of the house regarding toilet training, chewing and barking.
Puppies and children
Children will want to play with the new family member all the time. Try to restrict this as puppies need their rest. Always supervise little children around puppies in case play gets a little rough, on both sides!
Puppies and chewing
All puppies chew. Usually everything and anything! You need to be on the case to protect them and your home. Chewing can be a sign of a boredom or anxiety about being separated from you. Toys provide entertainment and can ease that anxiety by keeping them occupied. A toy which holds treats that they have to try to get out goes down particularly well! Chewing on a toy will hopefully save your shoes from being ruined!
For information on looking after your puppy’s teeth and puppy dental care, see our Puppy Care page.
How to stop a puppy biting
Your puppy may start nipping and biting as they grow. It’s a habit that needs to be broken. If they do nip just yelp “ouch” to let the puppy know it’s hurt you and then ignore them for a few minutes which will teach them they will lose attention and affection if it happens. He’s probably only being playful but he needs you to teach him not to do it.
Puppy toilet training
New puppies seem to be forever having a poo! Whatever goes in comes out not long afterwards. Your puppy doesn’t know that outside is the place you want him to go, so you have to teach him.
It’ll take time but start as soon as you get him home.
You can often tell he wants to go when he circles around. As soon as you see that, whisk him outside so he knows that’s the place he should go. It may be every two or three hours!
Use puppy pads or newspaper so your puppy gets to know where he should go. Over time the pads should be moved outside.
You’ll soon be an expert in your puppies movements and be able to predict when he’s about to go! Try to get them into a routine first thing in the morning, last thing at night.
Don’t punish your puppy for any accidents; never rub his nose in it.
Puppies and other dogs and cats
Your new puppy may not be the only dog in the family. You’ll hopefully have introduced your present pet to the new puppy before you committed to having him by meeting in a park or open space.
The puppy is going to get lots of attention but try to spend just as much time with your old dog as he’ll feel left out and try to fight for your attention.
There may be a few scuffles, this is normal in the first few weeks, try to separate them and this should ease off over time.
Puppies and barking
Barking comes naturally to dogs, it’s their language but sometimes they don’t know when to stop. It can be annoying for you, not to mention your neighbours.
When he’s barking create a loud noise like clapping your hands and say “STOP” or “QUIET”. When he stops barking reward him and give him plenty of praise.
Keep doing it when he barks and after a while the puppy will understand what that means.
Play comes naturally to puppies so tap into their playful nature and use fun and games to train them. Remember the key puppy training tips – Repeat, Reward and Reinforce. Ideas for puppy play:
Hide and Seek
Hide their favorite ball or toy widening the distance over time. Add jumping hurdles for extra fun. You could even hide yourself, behind a tree outside or behind the sofa! Puppies love the mental challenge and spending quality time with you.
Where’s it gone?
This is similar to hide and seek. Hide a treat or toy and ask your puppy, “Where’s it gone?” in a fun and playful voice. This will encourage him to sniff out his treat or toy.
This is a classic puppy game that can be played anywhere and they never seem to bore of. Play it in your garden or in the park. Throw one of his toys and encourage him to chase after it and bring it back to you.
Group puppy play
Young dogs will generally play and exercise more when other dogs are about. They love chasing each other about. You can even race about with your pup if there are no canine friends to hand.
Puppy exercise is vital to keep them fit and healthy and full of vitality. Going for walks is the best way and the word “walkies” is bound to trigger to tremendous excitement.
Start off with short walks, your puppy will let you know when they’ve had enough.
Try to get them into a routine sticking to the same route at first to get him used to the sights and smells. Walking twice at different times of the day is a good starting point.
If different people will be taking him out make sure you all get a chance to walk him when he’s little so the puppy will become familiar with everyone.
For information on how to fuel your puppy’s energy levels, see our Puppy nutrition page.