Teaching your puppy to come when called is one of the most important commands you'll ever teach them. Come is a life-saving command that can be used to avoid danger, like for instance if your dog slips their collar running after a cat on a busy street. When teaching come to a new puppy, keep in mind that you may also have to teach them their name. Puppies don't automatically understand what a name is just because they hear the word repeatedly. It's crucial to teach them that when they hear their name, you're talking to them. Teaching come should start in a quiet low distraction environment, like your living room. At first you'll simply want to take a few steps back and encourage them to come towards you, when they do, you'll want to praise and reward them. This process should be repeated in various settings and with distractions present for it to become a reliable command.
# 2 Stay
Stay is arguably just as vital as "come." It's another command that you'll want to prioritize in your training. Stay can be used in a multitude of settings and it's a great command to use to counteract an undesirable behavior. For example, for dogs who have a tendency to jump, it can be used to keep them in a stationary position so that they're not able to perform that behavior. Stay can also be used to counteract any sort of herding or chasing behavior your dog does. Certain herding breeds have a tendency to want to "herd" people, especially small children. Having a solid stay command will prove very useful when you need to interrupt a behavior like this that could be potentially dangerous.
# 3 Sit
While sit is not as crucial as come and stay, it is still a top priority for new dog owners. Sit is a very easy command to teach and when your dog is able to learn a skill like this, you're also teaching them how to learn new skills in general. Sit can be taught in as little as 5 minutes. It is important to note that you want to avoid using physical direction (like pushing their butt down.) The main reason for this is that when you train a dog with physical instruction, they then become dependent on that interaction. For example, if you dog thinks that sit should happen when I feel my owners hand on my butt, then what happens when you're across the room? Or the park? This is why teaching with verbal commands is highly recommended. We also suggest pairing verbal commands with hand signals, like moving your palm downwards.
# 4 Leave it
Leave it is a command that you'll want to have in your back pocket for those times when your dog starts barking at the neighbors, when you pass a dirty tissue on the sidewalk, when your dog discovers the kitty litter box, and SO much more. Leave it will be especially useful when you're able to generalize it to other behaviors. First you'll want to train your puppy how to leave a treat alone, then you can work up to toys, and more difficult items. Once your dog is able to respond to this command inside your house, you can then start using it outside. You'll want to practice using it in your yard, parks, and while out on walks. The more practice your dog has with this one, the better! It's a great way on introducing obedience training with an impulse control related skill.
# 5 Drop it
In the event that your new puppy decides to pick up that dirty tissue you pass on the street or the treasures inside the cat's litter box, you'll want a reliable "drop it" command to save the day. You can drop drop it and leave it in the same way, the only difference is with leave it, you'll want to be sure you never actually give them the item you're telling them to leave. This is because later on if you tell them to leave some deer poop for example, you don't want them to think the "leave it" command means I hold off and stay for a second, then I get to have it. Drop it can be used with all of items your puppy will likely want to pick up including your shoes, your shoe strings, your sweater, etc. In the beginning you'll want to be sure that you are rewarding them heavily when they drop an item they aren't supposed to have. This is mainly important while your puppy is developing good habits, but later on in your dog's life you'll want to phase our the heavy rewards and instead use praise and proper expectations to manage these situations.
These top 5 commands will get you and your pup started off strong! At Happy - Petcare, we are happy to help you on your way. For more new puppy training tips, we recommend our Obedience Training Course. If you have questions about how to get started, contact us to get some further direction.