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Puppy Training Basics: Essential Commands and Techniques

puppy training basics

We all love puppies, don’t we? They’re so cute with their little paws, puppy licks and playful energy. However, training a puppy can sometimes be challenging. 

Have you ever had a puppy who has chewed your shoes, won’t stay when they’re told or pees on the carpet? These are the not-so-nice things about an untrained pup. The best way to avoid this is to start training a puppy from a young age and to be consistent. 

In this article, we’ll give you all the essential commands and techniques for training your new pet so you can both live a happy and stress-free life together. From crate training a puppy to teaching them to sit and stay, we’ve got you covered. 

The Right Time to Start Training

One of the fundamental decisions new dog owners face is determining the ideal time to begin their pup’s training journey. Integrating a new puppy into the home can be a delightful whirlwind. But amidst the fun and games, it’s important to remember that this is the best time to start basic puppy training.

What Age Should I Start Training My Puppy?

From as young as eight weeks old (which is the earliest age puppies can safely be separated from their mother and littermates), puppies’ smart little brains are primed to take on information and are equipped with the cognitive abilities to begin understanding basic commands. As they’re growing in these formative weeks, you should be laying the foundation for their training and their behaviour as an adult dog. 

If you have just adopted a rescue puppy or have bought one from a reputable breeder, then your puppy should be eight weeks of age or older. From the age of eight weeks, you can begin teaching simple, basic commands in short training sessions. You don’t need to make it too complicated in these early stages, but training your puppy when they’re still young instils positive behaviours and fosters a stronger bond between yourself, your family and your puppy. 

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

Many professionals have proven time and time again how harmful negative reinforcement is to your dog. Puppy training is most effective with positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement includes using words like, ‘good dog’ or giving treats, toys, cuddles and pats when teaching your pup. Using positive reinforcement forms a strong bond with your new puppy and is a compassionate and effective way of training them.

Rewards and Incentives

Many dogs are food-motivated, which means that using treats can be a great way to teach your pup. Each treat or toy given and every cheerful word of praise will bring you and your pup closer and serve as affirmations to your dog that they’ve behaved well, so they’ll want to continue that good behaviour for more positive rewards.

When to Give Your Puppy Rewards for Good Behaviour

When you’re working on new puppy training using positive reinforcement, it’s best to give the reward or reinforcement immediately after your dog completes the command or action. For example, if you have a treat and are teaching the ‘sit’ command, you should always give them the treat straight away once they have sat.

The Harmful Impact of Negative Reinforcement

We recommend avoiding negative reinforcement methods as they’ve long been debunked as harmful and counterproductive. For example, smacking your dog or rubbing a puppy’s nose in their wee can create fear and confusion, severely hindering the training process. Instead, learning from a seasoned dog trainer and teaching yourself training techniques through blogs like this is a much better way of training your puppy. 

Basic Commands Every Puppy Should Know

Let’s deep dive into the top three foundational commands every pup should master. These key commands can help to keep you and your puppy safe when you’re out and about, interacting with other dogs or taking your puppy on a walk. 

Sit

Teaching your puppy to sit is like giving them a starter lesson in discipline and patience. There are two great ways to teach your dog to sit. The first is called ‘luring’. You’ll guide them into a seated position by hovering a treat above their nose or lightly guiding their backside to the ground with your hand while saying ‘sit’ and immediately giving them a treat when they do.

The second is ‘capturing’, where you simply reward your pup with a treat when they naturally go into a seated position, also saying ‘sit’ when you give them a tasty treat. As they get the hang of sitting, you can transition to giving a simple “good dog!” and giving them a loving pat and a cuddle.

Stay

Asking a super excited pup to stay put can be like asking a kid to sit still in a toy shop! The ‘stay’ command is a real testament to your pup’s obedience and self-control. Kick things off in a peaceful, distraction-free spot, placing a hand up like a high five and saying ‘stay’ as you slowly walk backwards. After they have stayed for a period of time, you can ask them to ‘come’. Once they’ve got the basics, start introducing new challenges. Maybe it’s practising in the park, introducing other pets, or simply asking them to hold the position for just a tad longer.

Come

This can be one of the most important commands your pup needs to master. It’s all about ensuring your little furball’s safety, especially in unpredictable situations. 

Picture it like this: Your pup has been tempted to chase a cat during a walk, potentially running into traffic. Or it has found something interesting inside a large bush, and you can’t physically reach them. A strong recall ensures they come back to you instead of running across a dangerous road or getting into other kinds of trouble.

You can teach the ‘come’ command in conjunction with the ‘stay’ command as above. You can also teach them at random points through the day, by saying ‘come’ when you give them their dinner, when you go on a walk or when you simply want them to come to you. The key? Make coming back to you the best thing ever. Go all out giving them their favourite toys and yummy treats or showering them with love and affection. The goal is to make this a fun-filled game that both of you look forward to.

Remember, training your puppy isn’t just about obedience – it’s also about bonding, understanding, and a whole lot of patience. If you ever feel lost, a seasoned dog trainer is always ready to lend a hand!

Potty Training Essentials

When you bring a new puppy home, the excitement is often intertwined with the challenge of setting a routine for them. One of the first hurdles every dog owner encounters is puppy toilet training. A consistent routine and positive reinforcement are at the heart of effective potty training. Here are some tips for successful potty training:

  1. Establish a routine: Feed, play, and offer potty breaks at consistent times.
  2. Recognise signs: Watch for sniffing, circling, or restlessness as indicators they need to go.
  3. Frequent breaks: Young puppies need to go out often, sometimes every hour.
  4. Choose a spot: Designate a consistent spot outside for bathroom breaks.
  5. Immediate praise: Reward them right after they do their business outside.
  6. No scolding: If they have an accident, interrupt and take them out, but don’t scold after the fact. Remember, negative reinforcement is often harmful and counterproductive.
  7. Crate training: A snug crate can deter indoor accidents, as dogs avoid soiling their sleeping areas.

Puppy Toilet Training Tools

When it comes to training pads and potty training sprays, there are pros and cons. Training pads, though convenient, might lead your puppy to confuse other household items, like mats or rugs, as designated potty spots. 

Potty training sprays, infused with scents attracting dogs, act as markers, signalling the appropriate areas for them to relieve themselves. This can speed up the learning curve but these sprays can also be expensive. 

However, if you use the tips above, we’re sure your new puppy will be potty trained in no time.
 
Leash and Crate Training

Dog training, especially when introducing a new puppy to the basic commands and routines, is a dance of patience and consistency. Leash training and crate training a puppy rank high on the list of essential skills for your pet to master. The world beyond your home is brimming with distractions, making leash training paramount for your puppy’s safety.

Leash Training for Puppies

 Starting training indoors shields your puppy from the overwhelming noises, smells and distractions of the outside world. In this controlled environment, start training them to respond to simple tugs on the leash and commands. As they grow more comfortable, gradually introduce them to outdoor elements. Experiences with other dogs, vehicles or pedestrians can be initially startling but are essential for shaping a well-adjusted dog.

Crate Training for Puppies

Crates serve as more than just containment tools. When approached with the right puppy training tips and techniques, a crate can become a source of comfort and security for your dog. Think of the crate as your puppy’s den, a safe space where they can retreat and relax.

To foster this positive association, introduce your puppy to the crate in small increments. Meals inside the crate, accompanied by their favourite chew toy or treat, can transform this space into their personal sanctuary. The use of positive reinforcement training, such as praise or rewards when they enter the crate, further reinforces this positive association.

Socialising Your Puppy

Socialising your puppy is a foundational step in ensuring they grow into a well-adjusted adult dog. Introducing them to other dogs early on helps them learn proper dog-to-dog manners and reduces potential aggression. Equally vital is their interaction with different people, from kids to elderly people, to prevent anxiety and build confidence. 

Obedience training can play a pivotal role in managing their behaviour during these encounters, too. 

For positive socialisation, consider the following: 

When to Seek Professional Puppy Training

If you’re having trouble training your puppy on your own, or you just want some expert advice, then consider seeking external, professional help. 

Sometimes, specific behavioural challenges or nuances might be beyond a first-time puppy owner’s understanding. Whether it’s aggression, excessive barking, or separation anxiety, professional dog trainers, puppy schools or behaviourists can offer invaluable puppy training tips, insights and tools to address and resolve these issues.

A Foundation for a Healthy Bond with Your Puppy

Early training and consistent positive reinforcement are vital for a well-behaved puppy. Puppy owners should remain patient, embracing the rewarding journey of training. Cherish each moment, understanding that this time spent strengthens the bond between you and your furry friend, laying the foundation for years of companionship. 

Remember, they won’t be puppies forever. While training and playing with your new pup, savour every special moment you have together while they’re still at this young age and you’ll have memories to treasure for the rest of your life. Feel free to check out our pet advice blog for more information on how to take care of your pets.

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