Basic puppy training for beginners

A well trained puppy is a happy puppy. Find out how to train your puppy in a variety of ways, from toilet training and crate training to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’, and some advice on how to deal with a puppy if you have children.

Obedience training will not only ensure you have a well behaved puppy, it will also stimulate your puppy mentally and ensure your puppy grows up to be happy and confident.

You should start basic training as soon as your puppy has settled in to his/her new home. Puppies, like young children, only have a short attention span, so aim for no more than 5 minutes at a time for obedience training in the early weeks. As your puppy gets older he will be able to concentrate for longer.

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As well as training your puppy at home you should look for obedience classes or puppy classes to take him to. This will provide him with a chance to socialise as well as giving you other ideas on training and obedience.

There are some basic principles of obedience training that you can apply to much of the training you will be doing:

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  • Use lots of treats and praise. Your puppy will think ‘if I do this, what is in it for me?’, so make it worth his while!
  • Take small steps in the training. Teach only a few new commands over a period of days and teach little bits at a time.
  • Use the same command for the same task and make sure everyone in the household sticks to it. Why not write all the commands down and pin them up somewhere for a reminder.
  • When giving a command say it firmly but in a calm tone. Never be cross with your puppy or he will associate the command with getting told off.
  • Keep going with an exercise until your puppy gets it right.
  • If the puppy gets something wrong say ‘uh-oh’ or something similar and start the exercise again from the beginning.
  • Always try to end training sessions on a positive note. If your puppy is finding something too difficult end with something you know he can do.
  • Never punish your puppy in any way, for example by shouting, screaming or hitting.

Sit
This should be one of the first commands you teach your puppy as it is used with a lot of other commands. For example you need to get your puppy to ‘sit’ to be able to ‘stay’ or give you his ‘paw’. It is also a good idea to get into the habit of getting your puppy to sit for his food, sit before a door is opened and before a treat is given for example.

To get your puppy to sit you need to take a treat and close your hand around it. Hold it in front and slightly above your puppy’s nose so that he has to look up to see it. He may try to get the treat, but keep it firmly in your hand. He should try to work out how to get the treat and will eventually sit. As he sits use the command ‘sit’ firmly, then give the treat and praise him. Get another treat and repeat, each time saying ‘sit’ as your puppy sits, not before and not after; timing is crucial. Your puppy should learn to associate the word ‘sit’ with the action.

After a few days of regular short training sessions you should move on to the next stage, which is to hold the treat as above, then give the command ‘sit’. As soon as your puppy sits, give the treat and lots of praise.

Stay
Firstly get your puppy to ‘sit’. With a treat in your hand move it away slightly and put your empty hand up with your palm out, like a ‘stop’ sign. Say ‘stay’ firmly, then give the treat and praise your puppy. If he moves, say ‘uh-oh’, or ‘no’, and start again from getting him to sit.

Once your puppy will stay still with you moving your hand away you can start to move it further away. Next take a few steps back, and so on. Do this very gradually, over a number of days. Correct your puppy with ‘uh-oh’ or similar if he gets it wrong and go back to the beginning of the exercise.

Recall: Come/here boy
Recall is important for when you are out walking and let your puppy off the lead. You need to know that he/she will come back to you.

Firstly decide which command you are going to use – ‘come’ and ‘here boy’ are the most popular choices.

There are a number of ways to practise the recall. Do many of the exercises many times inside your house and garden before practising them in an open space with some distractions. Do not let your puppy off the lead until the exercises have been mastered and practised many times.

Get your puppy to sit and stay. Back away a number of steps before calling him to you using your chosen command. When he gets to you give lots of praise and a treat.


Sit on a chair with a handful of treats. Get your puppy to sit, then throw a treat across the floor for him to find and eat. Recall him back to you, get him to sit then throw another treat. Repeat a number of times. This exercise reinforces the recall command and your puppy should begin to associate going back to you with good things happening.


Use a training lead. These can be bought from pet stores and usually consist of a very long lead with a stake that you can put in the ground. Try to find a large open area with few or no distractions to start with. Put the stake in the ground and tie your puppy to it using the training lead. Walk away from your puppy then call him to you. As he reaches you give a treat and lots of praise. Repeat many times.

Down
The down command is for getting your shih tzu to lie down on the floor. This can then be combined with stay if you wish. First get him to sit, then with a treat in your hand put your hand flat on the floor. Your puppy should try to work out how to get the treat. As his nose and eventually his body goes down on the floor use the command ‘down’, praise and reward.