basic obedience training for puppies

Improve your puppy’s manners

Puppies love to explore new behaviors like barking, scratching, biting, digging, chewing, escaping, and running away. Don’t get discouraged! You need to establish what is, and is not, acceptable behavior for your puppy. A well-behaved dog that responds to basic commands is a great dog to have around, and you definitely want to start early.

Puppy Manners
Vector graphic of a hand holding a bone

Once you start, stay on track

Your fun-loving, happy puppy is definitely open to learning what you expect in your life together. Here are some tips for success:

  • Consistency is the key to training success
  • Training works best in a calm, distraction-free environment with positive reinforcement
  • Start with short sessions, like 2-5 minutes, at the start
  • Exercise your pup before training to help them focus their attention

Mastering the 4 basics

There are four basic commands: sit, stay, down, and come. Use a few small treats to encourage your pup to perform these basic commands. Once they master a skill, food rewards will not be needed as often.

A dog owner training her two dogs to sit using treats


Hold a treat by your puppy’s nose to get their attention. Gradually raise the treat upwards, so they lift their head, while you say “sit,” to naturally encourage them to plonk on their bottom. Only use the command once, because you want your puppy to respond the first time a command is given. As soon as your pup sits, reward them with plenty of love and praise!


Once your puppy consistently responds to “sit,” you can add “stay.” Try holding an outstretched palm in front of your pup with the command to “stay”. Again, only say the command one time. Remember your puppy should be staying until you use another command or release your hand. You can break the stay by using a word like “break”, “okay”, or “let’s go.” Be sure to use a word that’s not used in casual conversation to avoid confusion for your pup.

A brown puppy sitting on the grass and staying in place
An owner training their dog the command to lie down


You’ll want to teach your puppy to “down” from both standing and sitting positions. We recommend starting with when your pup is sitting. Hold a treat in front of their nose and gradually move it to the ground. As soon as your pup starts to lie down, use the word “down” and reward with lots of love, praise, and the treat!


Start with your puppy on a leash. (A long leash is often very useful during this training.) From the sit position, with your puppy’s attention focused on you, give the “come” command. As soon as your pup moves towards you, praise them. Once your puppy comes from a sit, try calling them while they are wandering. If no love, take a step closer to your pup and try again.

A young dog owner training her puppy to respond to the "come" command

Off-leash training

Is your pup ready to graduate to off-leash training? We recommend using a confined area, like a fenced yard or a private tennis court, to make sure your puppy is safe and doesn’t wander off too far. Let your pup romp around off their leash, then call out to them once. If they come when called, provide lots of love and praise. If they don’t come, go retrieve them and start over again. If your pup continues to ignore off leash commands, just return to on-leash training until your puppy gets the idea that they’re supposed to run to their owner when called!

Barking during training

It’s important to discourage barking while training. Giving treats to your barking puppy reinforces the barking behavior and encourages your them to continue. It’s okay to ignore brief occasional barking, because it’s totally natural, but persistent barking should be corrected using another command word, like “quiet.” Don’t forget to reward them for following the command!

An excited puppy is jumping up on its owner, while walking on the road

What if my puppy just won’t listen?

Sometimes your pup’s lovable puppy energy is just too much for a learning session. In some cases, a quiet time-out with you in another room might help your pup to settle down — this shouldn’t be a punishment, just a little moment to chill. If timeouts aren’t you or your pup’s thing, a walk or run might help get all that extra energy out.

You’re the leader of the pack

Remember, your puppy wants to please you and be part of the family. Consistency and training provide structure and helps your puppy understand what is expected of them.

Looking for more guidance, or referrals to obedience training in your area? Your veterinary team may know about local resources. And if you suspect a health issue is getting in the way of training, please come in so we can help.

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