Dog obedience training at home can seem pretty overwhelming, especially if you are working with your first dog. The truth is that training your dog can feel like a large project. If you take it step by step though, you will find the task to be far less daunting.

When to start dog obedience training

Formal dog obedience training has traditionally been postponed up until 6 months of age. To be honest, this juvenile timeframe is not the best time to begin this activity.

Your dog is gaining from every experience and delaying training implies missed opportunities for your pet to find out how you would like him or her to behave.

During the juvenile stage, the dog is already starting to develop behavioral patterns and what will become adult actions. Habits previously learned in puppyhood will likely have to be handled.

In addition, anything that has been already learned or trained incorrectly will likely need to be re-taught. Puppies can learn much - good and bad - from an early age.

Puppies can be taught the basic commands of "sit," "down," and "stand" utilizing an approach called "food-lure training. If you start training later, use techniques that provide positive support and gentle teaching. 

young dog ready for training

Dog obedience training environment

Training should begin in a quiet environment with few distractions. The reward chosen should be highly motivating so the puppy focuses completely on the trainer and the reward. Although a small food treat generally works best, a favorite toy might be more appealing.

Remember that dogs have an attention span and awareness level similar to toddlers when trying to teach them anything new. You should keep your training sessions brief and focused. 

Don't let them go longer than 15 minutes and just focus on one task at a time. Otherwise, they could become confused by another task.

You should make sure you use the same commands for the behavior you want. Saying “lie down” one time, and then say "lie down or no treat" the next will cause confusion.

Your dog may not know what to do because they've never heard the command before.

Establish a consistent routine when doing your dog obedience training

Dogs thrive on routine, but you need to be consistent if you want them to become a well-trained dog. Create a schedule of meals, walks, and play times as soon as possible in your dog’s life. 

Be sure to stick with a relatively consistent schedule every day of the week early in the process. 

If someone is given responsibility for caring for your dog, let them know the times to take them outside and the basic commands they need to use.

Follow the routine you have established as closely as you possibly can during the puppy’s training period. It will help them learn what to expect - and when - so they doesn't get stressed out.

Consistent dog obedience training commands are important

Dogs need to learn commands in order to be safe around other animals and humans. Start out by teaching your dog simple commands such as sit, down, come, stay, and heel. 

Once you've taught those basics, you will have the opportunity to teach him more complicated dog obedience training commands. A short list of key commands include:

Sit: Teach your dog to sit using positive reinforcement. Spend about five minutes per day for seven days working on the “sit” command.

Down: Spend a few minutes several times each day this week working on the down command and teaching your dog an emergency recall command.

This is so vital when you are out in public where other dogs, cars and families can create excitement (and danger) for your dog. 

Come... & Leave it: Once your dog has mastered "sit" and "down," you can move on to some more complicated commands like these.

Stop jumping: Set aside time each day to practice this behavior. Another option is to wait until it comes up in your regular day-to-day activities (like when your dog jumps up to greet people coming in the door) to work on it.

The commands of sit and down can work in this area - plus it is important to reduce the emotional component, especially at time when the dog is excited to see you. This includes when you arrive home.

Avoid fast movements and loud voices. Ignore your dog until he is calm. Don’t touch your dog – including pushing him off – until he is calm and quiet.

Wait: You can practice this in regular training sessions, or you can wait for opportunities to crop up each day. Make sure your dog waits before going outdoors, crossing the street, getting in the car or coming out of the crate.

Go to your place: Begin working on teaching your dog to go to a specific place and lie down in your home. This is so important during mealtimes, when guests come to visit or share a meal, and when you want to watch television or read a book.

Drop it: In several short training sessions each day, teach your dog the "drop it" command.

Stop barking: Begin training your dog to be quiet by working on the "speak" and "quiet" commands. You can do this during training sessions or you can wait until your dog barks and use it as an opportunity to practice.

You should work on these behavior training steps one at a time. Make certain your dog has a "win" and gets the positive reinforcement it craves before adding too much complexity. 

It will take a few weeks of consistent training to get these simple do obedience training commands working well for you and your pup. 

Crate training is helpful with a new dog

When you are going to be away from your dog for a while, you can use crate training to help control your dog's behaviors.

Every day during a week very early in training, take some time to let your dog to become accustomed to its new home. You can accomplish this by having them spend just a few minutes inside the crate. Your pet might ultimately choose to sleep in its crate through this process. 

You can start leaving the your dog in the crate for longer periods of time, however, never more than 2-3 hours at a stretch. Make sure to leave them some fun and intriguing toys.

Crates can assist with basic housetraining, since many dogs will not go to the bathroom where they sleep.

Food lures during dog obedience training work well

Puppies and most young dogs have short attention spans, so dog obedience training sessions at home should be brief, but should also occur daily.

Puppies can be taught “sit,” “down,” and “stand” commands using a method called food-lure training. You can easily use a tasty treat to entice the dog to follow its nose into the proper positions for “sit,” “down,” “stand,” and “stay."

Small pieces of food or a favored toy can be used to motivate your puppy to perform most simple commands. When the reward is sufficiently appealing, the puppy can be prompted to give the desired response. Just show the puppy the reward, give a command, and move the reward to get the desired response.

For example:

1) Food held up over the puppy's nose and moved slowly backwards should get a 'sit' response

2) Food drawn down to the floor should get a 'down' response

3) Food brought back up should get a 'stand' response; food held out at a distance should get a 'come' response

4) Food held at your thigh as you walk should get the puppy to 'heel or 'follow'

By pairing a consistent and basic command phrase or word with each action, and giving the reward for each correct response, the puppy should soon learn the meaning of each command.

At first you let the puppy see the food in your hand so that you will have their attention and can use it to guide them into position.

As your puppy begins to comply more readily, you can start to hide the food in your hand, but consistently give the command and repeat the motion or signal that she has learned to follow.

The next step in the training process is to signal and give the command, but only reward with praise and giving your pup an affectionate pat.

Next, you can begin to vary the frequency, giving praise with “good dog” and perhaps patting each time. But look to give the food randomly, perhaps every 3 or 4 times. In time, your dog should respond equally to either the hand signal or the command.

Clickers and toys can help with dog obedience training

toys and dog training

The best toys help keep your dog stimulated and active.

Clicker training is an effective way to teach dogs commands. It offers a dog obedience training method where the clicks become associated with good behavior. But it's also possible to use just use the rewards mentioned above without using a clicker.

You can get a great result by using a variety of toys as you start to train your dog. It is good to include some things like Kong toys, which provide some mental engagement.

These will help keep your dog mentally engaged. Most dog owners aren’t around to play with them all day and these will help keep them stimulated.

Don't give your dogs all the toys at once - introduce them slowly. Rotate the different toys each week so your dog always has a new toy to play with. Be careful not to get toys that can fall apart easily from too much chewing or activity. 

Control your dog's barking

Here are some points to remember as you begin your dog obedience training efforts to control your dogs barking.

If you shout at your dog, they might not realize you’re trying to get him to stop barking. Instead, they may think you want to join on with their barking.  

Most dogs use barking for a variety of reasons - protecting their territory, alerting you about danger, wanting food or your attention, and simply for communication with other dogs and even humans.

It's important to understand these differences, because it isn't realistic for them to give up barking completely. That said, using the "Quiet" command in training is likely the first and main step to limit unwanted barking. 

Most dogs don’t understand what you mean when you yell at them to shut up. it's better to teach your dog to understand the command “Quiet!" Saying shut up is more of an emotional response - so consistent use of the the "quiet" command will serve you better. 

When your dog is barking, say “Quiet” in a calm, firm voice. Wait until they stop barking, even if it’s just from a distraction or to take a breath, then praise them and give them a treat.

Just be careful to never reward them while they are barking. Eventually they will figure out that if they stop barking at the word “quiet” they will get a tasty treat or toy to play with. 

A slightly more complex method that can work well is to teach your dog to "speak" consistently - then move on to teaching the quiet command once they have mastered the first step.

Picture of a dog with leash ready to take a walk

Walking on a leash

Begin teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash. This will teach your dog to safely walk, which is important for both the dog and the walker.

Plan on at least one short walk each day during this week to practice this skill. It is a skill you should continue working on throughout your dog's training.

Adding tricks on walks 

If your dog knows many basic commands, you can work on teaching him or her tricks and more advanced commands during walks. These might include fun tricks such as "roll over" or "play dead." If your dog has a pretty firm grasp on walking on a loose leash, move to the "heel" command to instill a little more control on walks. Tricks are not essential but can be fun for your dog and allow them to receive praise for good behavior.

Should I consider dog obedience training classes?

Pet owners who are novices at training can begin a dog obedience training program with these few simple steps.

It takes repetition, time and perseverance for your puppy to predictably and reliably respond to commands in a variety of situations. If you decide to move on to outside training, look for classes that use positive training techniques.

A training class serves many functions and can be done in combination with at home dog obedience training activities. Trainers can demonstrate techniques and help guide you through the steps in training.

In addition, they can help advise you on puppy training problems and can help you advance your training to exercises that are more difficult.

Your puppy will be learning in a group situation, with some real life distractions. And the pet owner taking them to a puppy class will also be forced to practice (do their homework) throughout the week. No one wants to fall behind before the next class.

Finally, a dog obedience training class is a good place to meet and talk to other new puppy owners and see how all puppies behave.

About the author, Grover

Grover is an affectionate border collie with endless amounts of energy. His name comes from a combination of Grrr & Rover. Grover is the most intelligent and intuitive dog we’ve ever known. He is super intelligent and can always tell when things are happy or stressful around him. He needs lots of physical exercise and mental activities to be truly happy, but is always a fun and loyal companion.

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