Puppy training commands… Sounds a bit like they’re in the army, doesn’t it? But, if you look through any basic puppy training book, website or app, you’ll hear them discuss puppy commands or cues. But what are they, and why are they important for your puppy to learn?

Puppy training commands are more commonly called cues. They’re basically a request or instruction for your puppy to do something. Puppy commands let your puppy know what you’d like them to do. They’re a great way to communicate with your puppy in an easy-to-understand way.

In this article, we’ll be telling you all about

  • Why you should teach your puppy commands,
  • Some basic puppy commands we think you’ll find useful to teach
  • Some things to look out for when you’re trying to teach your puppy commands.

If you want to teach your puppy the commands and life skills that are most suited to them then why not download the Zigzag puppy training app? We have a bespoke training programme based on your puppy’s breed and age so we’ve got your puppy’s individual needs covered. You can also tap into our team of experienced puppy coaches, ready to answer just about any question you might have about your pup’s behaviour or any problems you might be having with them.

black puppy being petted by owner in some hay
Photo by Ryu Orn on Unsplash

Why should I have puppy commands?

Teaching your puppy some basic commands is a no brainer, really. Cues, aka commands, tell our puppy what we’d like them to do, and if they do it, they will be rewarded.

By teaching your puppy commands, you’ll have a well-trained dog who does what you ask them to do, when you ask them to do it. Just remember that it takes practice, so put aside some time to get yourself into the training groove, and you’ll have a well behaved and well-trained puppy in no time.

Is it a puppy cue or a puppy command?

Puppy command or puppy cue? What’s the difference? You may have noticed both terms being used in this article, and, essentially, there is no difference. But language is powerful, and using the term ‘command’ is, like we said before, something out of an old army boot camp – ‘you must do this or else’ type of language.

In positive reinforcement training, this isn’t the approach we want so many people instead are calling them cues. When you believe a puppy is a sentient being with feelings and emotions, you request, ask and cue a behaviour. We want our puppies to be happy and willing to do the things we ask because they have been well trained and prepared to do so.

black and white puppy sitting next to brown and white puppy
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

Basic puppy training commands

If you’re looking for a puppy commands list so that you can work out what puppy commands to teach first, then look no further. We’ve got you!

Now, there are many commands to teach a puppy, so you’ll want to decide what’s essential for you and your lifestyle.

Here are our suggestions for basic puppy commands that we think you’ll find helpful.

Teaching your puppy their name

This will most likely be the first thing your puppy will ever learn, and it’s a pretty important one. It’s what will get your puppy’s attention from afar and is then generally followed up with an instruction to do something like ‘come’ ‘wait’ or ‘leave it’. Unfortunately, many puppies think their name is no, they hear us use it so often…no don’t bite me, no don’t chew that and so on!

We want their name to predict wonderful things, so try to say it in a happy tone and make sure your puppy gets lots of praise and rewards for responding to it.

Teaching your puppy to Sit

Sit is one of the puppy training basics for a good reason. Sit means you can’t be jumping up on people, and really, we tend to think of it a bit like saying ‘please’. Sit to have your dinner, or sit to have your lead put on and taken for a lovely walk. Sit tends to be a command that puppies pick up really quickly, probably because we practise it so much, but also because they want to see our faces. It’s much more comfortable for most dogs to look up while sitting than looking up from a stand.

Teaching your puppy to lie down.

Lie down while we sit and have a nice coffee with friends. Who wouldn’t want to teach that puppy command? The down or lie down command gives you instant control and is also a good position to teach your puppy the wait or stay cue.

Teaching your puppy the command of ‘come here’.

Puppy recall is not only an essential command to teach your puppy so that they can be off lead safely, it’s also great fun! If your puppy won’t come when called, then it’s not safe to have them off lead, and where’s the fun in that?

Teaching your puppy to come should always be a joyous activity for your puppy, never tell them off for not coming the first time, or too slowly, they chose to come, and that’s a wonderful thing indeed.

Teaching your puppy to stay.

Teaching your puppy the stay or wait here command has a lot of real-life practical uses such as stay where you are I’m going to get a towel to wipe your muddy feet, stay there while I pick up your poo, or stay there while I take a cute picture for the ‘gram.

It’s also a handy safety cue if you can teach your dog to stop and stay where they are. Like when a ride-on lawnmower suddenly appears in the park, or you turn a corner and there’s a surprise sheep! You’ll be glad to have practised using the stay command when you have to use it in an emergency, trust me!

Leave it

‘Leave it’ is another of the most useful commands you can teach a puppy. It essentially means ‘leave that I’ve got something better for you’ and can be used to get your puppy to leave something disgusting alone. You know, like horse poo, or someone else’s discarded face mask (where is that vom emoji?), or equally, leave that dog that you’re fixated on saying hello to and focus back on me – thank you!

Leave it can also keep your puppy safe and away from dangerous things, it should always be followed up with lots of praise and rewards as it’s such a vital thing to get right.

brown and white puppy sitting on grass
Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash

Things to look out for in the puppy commands process

When teaching your puppy commands, there are a few hiccups that can happen and easy mistakes to make along the way. Here are some tips and tricks for making sure that teaching your puppy commands goes smoothly.

Repeating commands and cues

It’s important to remember we are asking a lot of our puppies. They don’t fully understand

English or human verbal language. They just associate a particular sound with carrying out a behaviour. It’s easy to get frustrated when we think they know a cue, but they don’t respond. Often, we repeat it quickly after we say it the first time and don’t allow them any thinking time! You can then end up double cuing all the time, where you have to say a command twice for your puppy to understand it. Not ideal, is it? Moral of the story: don’t repeat your cue too quickly.

Using a harsh tone

Your puppy understands tone but only in so much that generally a light and happy tone means you’re pleased with them and a stern or harsh tone means you’re displeased. No puppy needs cues literally barked at them. You can give them clear instructions without being gruff!

Using the command before your puppy understands the exercise

There’s no need to rush the process. Make sure your puppy has learnt the behaviour well enough first before putting in a command. It is generally first taught with a lure, then a hand signal, and then the verbal command added.

Remember, you need to generalise commands

Generalising commands means teaching them to your puppy in many different places. So, start off in an easy location like your kitchen, move to the garden, then the front of your house, and think about inventive dog-friendly spots you can train in. Most DIY stores and garden centres are dog friendly. They are also good for your puppy to pack some  socialisation experiences in too.

By the way, there are lots of fun dog tricks you can teach your puppy once you’ve mastered the basic puppy commands, so get involved! We have a full puppy training curriculum in our Zigzag puppy training app, and don’t forget the puppy coaches there to give you a helping hand when you need it.