Dog shaking hands

How To - Basic commands

Training your puppy to respond to basic commands is an essential part of managing their behaviour. The secret to success is that old nutshell, positive reinforcement - letting your puppy know when they have behaved just the way you wanted them to.

Please, please me

Your puppy is not just your best friend. He or she is the best friend you could ever wish for, because all they really want from your relationship...is to make you happy. So the least you can do is let them know when it’s working. This will make them more likely to repeat good behaviour in the future. Now you can’t ask for a better deal than that.

How long should training sessions be?

Keep them short – no more than 10-15 minutes. Start by working on one command at a time. And try to work in an environment with few distractions.

And one final piece of Mr Miyagi puppy wisdom - keep it simple and be patient, persistent and consistent!

The three basic commands

“Come”

You may need a long lead with this one:

  • Say the puppy’s name first, to get their attention and then the command, “Come”
  • If your puppy responds and does come, praise him/her and then give them a treat
  • Repeat several times
  • If your puppy starts to ignore you, attach the lead and reel the puppy in towards you and again praise and treat
  • Always use an encouraging tone of voice, because if you use a threatening tone your puppy will prefer to not come to you

“Sit”

“Sit” is a little more difficult because you first have to teach your puppy what “Sit” means:

  • Hold a treat just above your puppy’s nose and head. As this grabs their attention, they will look up at the treat.
  • When they look up, move the treat very slowly further over their head
  • As your puppy follows, their rear end may lower a little
  • As this happens, put some gentle pressure over your puppy’s rear, gently push them to the floor and say the command, “Sit”
  • As soon as your puppy sits, offer praise and give them the treat
  • Repeat this several times
  • With persistence, you won’t need to put pressure on pup’s posterior and eventually they’ll respond to just the verbal command.

There are many times you should ask your puppy to sit to help avoid potential behaviour problems:

  • When they get to a kerb before crossing a road – so they are less likely to just rush from the pavement across a road
  • Before you give them a meal - this is just good manners for a dog, and it re-emphasises that you’re the boss who controls what they eat and how they must behave before being fed.
  • When visitors arrive – again good manners and less chance of your guests being jumped and slobbered all over as they walk through the door

“Stay”

Once your puppy has mastered the art of “Sit”, then you can teach them to stay:

  • Stand in front of your puppy when he or she is sitting and give the command, “Stay”. A good visual cue for this one is using your hand in a ‘stop’ action
  • Take a couple of steps back, say the command again and hold up your hand
  • Return to your puppy immediately, praise and reward them for staying
  • Be sure to present the reward to your puppy while they are still sitting
  • Gradually take more steps away from your puppy, and then work on increasing the amount of time that you are asking them to “Stay”
  • It will probably take several days to weeks of daily training to get pup to stay for more than a couple of minute

As with the command “Sit”, “Stay” can help prevent and manage potential behaviour problems.

At meal times, you can ask your puppy to sit and stay, then put their food on the floor and have them wait until you release them from the stay command. This reinforces your leadership in the relationship.

Download fact sheet

To download a fact sheet with our list of basic commands, click here (PDF, 185kb).