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Basic obedience training for dogs and puppies

The essentials

  • Teaching basic cues helps strengthen the human-canine bond Obedience training establishes a dialogue between a dog and their handler and creates good habits for life.
  • Use positive reinforcement to influence a dog’s behavior — Training using positive reinforcement can profoundly influence your dog; using treats isn’t bribing!
  • Make a training plan for your dog and puppy — Default behaviors like sitting are the best cues, so your management plan should begin with the essentials.

Training dogs to learn basic commands or cues is essential for their safety and strengthening the bond between them and their owners. Through consistent training, dogs can learn fundamental commands and make their daily interactions with humans more manageable and enjoyable. 

With the help of our vets, we’ve put together a guide on the basics of obedience training for both dogs and puppies. Read on to learn the ins and outs of creating a well-rounded pup. 

Can anyone train a dog?

Anyone can learn how to train their dog, but you must be willing to invest the time and energy. Training should be fun! And when your dog knows some basic commands, you can create a solid relationship with your new buddy.

When should I start training my dog?

In addition to socialization, training basic commands can begin as soon as you start your life together. For example, if you’ve just brought home a puppy, you want to start with exercises to ensure your pup knows their name and you can get their attention. It’s hard to teach obedience if your dog doesn’t listen! 

This rule also applies to any dog’s “gotcha day,” not just puppies — shortly after you introduce them to their exciting new environment, it’s time to teach some basic exercises.  

Research positive reinforcement trainers 

Positive reinforcement is the best way to influence your dog’s behavior, and it’s not bribing. Using treats to teach basic commands creates good habits! 

Finding a trainer who’s familiar with creating a strong foundation in your dog’s training is extremely helpful. Many different trainers specialize in positive reinforcement techniques and would happily help. Your trainer will guide you in the best tools and gear to train your pup. 

Make a training and management plan 

Determine your training goals before you decide what cues are important for your dog to learn. For example, if you have an adolescent dog or puppy, focus on training sessions about impulse control and default behaviors like sit and stay.

Quick tips before you start

Training your doggo can be overwhelming, and even with a trainer on board, there are some essentials you need to line up before teaching basic cues like “sit” or “lie down.”  Some quick tips include: 

  • Start early or when your dog joins your family after “gotcha day”
  • Be consistent
  • Keep sessions short 
  • Seek professional help if your dog is challenging!
  • Leash handling also requires training and skills

Basic commands in obedience training for dogs

Training dogs to learn basic commands or cues is essential for their safety and fortifies the bond between them and their owners. The training process should be more than just teaching “stay” and other basic cues. 

Default behaviors

Most default behaviors are taught using a lure method by holding a treat under your dog’s nose. These commands are known as the essentials for your doggo. 

  • Sit. This is often the first command pet owners start with, as this cue provides the dog an immediate way to settle. 
  • Stay. The key to training a stay command is repetition and practice. Always reward with positive reinforcement. 
  • Lie down. When a dog is in a down position, it’s harder for them to get in trouble.
  • Come when called. Having a solid recall is vital, and using high-value treats when you’re in the yard will help. It will help them associate running to you versus away from you. 

Advanced commands in dog obedience training

Once the basic commands are default behaviors (your pup offers them immediately after you ask), it’s time to up the ante and try some harder cues. 

  • Watch me. Having your dog trained to look at you when there is a distraction is a wonderful way to create a strong bond and is useful when other dogs are around. You can also try sign language to ask for a “Watch Me” as hand signals are a powerful training tool.  
  • Drop it. Every dog should be taught an emergency drop it.  Your dog must be taught to trade or give up a high-value item for a juicy reward. When training this command, the goal is for your doggo to consistently take and drop lower-value objects and trade for higher-value toys and chews (the rewards). 
  • Fetch. Fetch is a great way to burn off energy. The goal is for them to bring the ball (or whatever you choose to use) back to your hand.
  • Wait. Wait happens before stairs, a doorway, and any threshold where you want to practice impulse control. Different than stay, these are short intervals with quick releases.
  • Place or mat work. A mat can be used as a visible, moveable, safe place for your dog. Your dog should always feel safe on their mat. Your dog’s job on the mat after training is to settle and relax. 
  • Heel. When your dog walks by your side, also known as “loose leash walking,” teaching your dog not to pull is a valuable skill. 

There are many advanced commands, but the basics should be taught first. Once your dog masters how to wait and settle, you can move on to other important lessons as they grow. 

Learning basic cues helps your dog stay safe and out of harm’s way. If you aren’t sure where to begin, private lessons, group classes, or a one-off class can be helpful for both owners and dogs. Pet parents can learn about techniques, like clicker training or tricks, at many dog training classes and come home feeling confident when continuing their dog’s training.

Frequently asked questions

What are the 7 rules of dog training? 

There are many different approaches to dog training, but here are seven general rules that can help guide you: Be consistent, use positive reinforcement, start early, keep sessions short and frequent, be patient, socialize your dog, and seek professional help if needed.

Can I obedience train my dog myself?

Yes, you can obedience train your dog yourself. Many resources, such as books, online courses, and videos, can guide you through the training process. Conducting thorough research and following proven techniques is important to ensure effective training. If you feel overwhelmed or need additional support, seeking help from a professional dog trainer may also be beneficial.

What is the correct way to obedience train a dog?

There are various methods for obedience training dogs, but positive reinforcement training is the most effective and humane approach. This involves rewarding good behavior with treats, praise, and affection rather than punishing bad behavior.

How long does it take to obedience train a dog?

The time it takes to obedience train a dog can vary depending on the individual dog and the consistency of training. Some dogs may pick up commands quickly and can be trained in a matter of weeks, while others may take months or even longer to grasp obedience commands fully. It’s important to remember that every dog learns at their own pace and patience is key in training. 

Is it too late to obedience train my dog?

There is always time to obedience train your dog. While it is best to start training during their early stages of development, dogs of any age can benefit from training. You can still teach your dog important commands and behaviors with patience and consistency. It may require more effort and time, but the rewards will be worth it. Remember to use positive reinforcement techniques and seek guidance from a professional trainer if needed.

What are the three C’s of dog training?

The three C’s of dog training are consistency, communication, and compassion. Consistency means using the same commands, rules, and rewards every time you train your dog. Communication refers to clear and effective ways to communicate with your dog, such as verbal cues and body language. Compassion is about understanding your dog’s needs and emotions and training them with kindness and empathy.