Teaching a puppy these basic commands is not only entertaining, it can be important in establishing your superior/subordinate relationship and indeed lead to a better-behaved adult dog. When embarking on training your new puppy, be sure to have plenty of treats on-hand to reward his attempts as well as his successes – and be sure to have plenty of patience, too.
Teach your puppy to sit
Hold pup’s treat in your hand, and make sure he can see it there. Hold it in front of him, speak his name. Then lift it up and toward him, passing over his head as you forcefully say “sit” – his natural inclination will be to crane his neck up to get the treat. As the treat passes out of his vision, he’ll want to push his butt down to keep his eyes on the treat. Reward his attempts, even if he doesn’t contact the ground.
Teach your puppy to lay down
Sitting next to your seated pup, give the command to “lay down”. At the same time, gently but firmly press his shoulders down while scooping his front legs out in front of him. Rub his back for a few seconds to get him to relax, then reward the action – even if he gets a bit fidgety too soon.
Teach your puppy to stay
“Stay” takes sit or lay down to the next level, requiring your puppy to remain in place until you release him. Make sure he’s perfected sit or lay down first, or you’ll both be in for a lot of frustration on stay. Put pup in the desired position, then hold your hand in front of his face and say “stay.” Walk a couple steps, turn and wait a few seconds. Walk back to his side and say your release word – then reward him when he moves. If he follows, say nothing and give no reward – simply return him to position and start over. Gradually increase the time he has to stay before you give the release word.
Teach your puppy to heel
Traditionally, a heeling dog is walking on your left, head at your knee. Grab pup’s favorite toy and have him sit on your left side. Say “heel” and begin walking, holding the toy in front of his face to encourage him to stay at your side. If he strays, repeat the command and give the toy a squeak to remind him of his task. Start with short increments, and gradually make them longer – rewarding at the end.
Teach your puppy to come
Come is one of the easier tricks, as your puppy’s natural inclination will likely be to approach you to say ‘hi,’ you’re just putting a command to it. In a quiet room indoors with your puppy, squat down and clearly say “come.” Verbally reward him as he approaches, and pet him when he reaches you. Walk away from him, and if he doesn’t follow repeat the process. After a few successes, add a treat to the reward. Gradually make the distance further and further, and with more distractions in the room to encourage focusing on the command and the behavior.
When training your puppy these commands, it’s important to reward attempts not just success, as it’s a progressive learning process. But demand ever-improving performance throughout a training session. And for best results, time your sessions to be shorter at first, and gradually get longer as your pup’s attention span gets longer – and at times of the day when he’s most engaged in learning.