Puppy training and play

Training and play are key to your puppy’s healthy development. A well-trained and obedient puppy is more likely to become a well-balanced and happy adult dog.

Dachshund puppies playing in black and white

Three reasons to train your puppy

Dogs are by nature pack animals. So, spending hours alone at home may be stressful to your puppy. This abandonment ‘anxiety’ can lead to chewing, soiling and barking. That’s why it’s important to prepare your puppy for spending time on their own.

Puppy training tips

Puppies can learn very quickly and enjoy a well-designed training session. Here are a few tips to help keep your sessions fun and make sure you and your puppy get the most out of every exercise.

Letting your puppy know that they have done something right is an important part of the training process. Try using a low-calorie snack, a healthy treat, or use kibble from their daily food portion. Other non-food related rewards can be praise, attention or their favourite toy. All of these will act as an incentive to repeat good behaviour.

Training sessions don’t have to be complicated or last for hours. After a while, your puppy’s attention may start to wander. So, go for short, frequent training sessions . You may have to repeat the same session a few times.

Puppy schools are a great way to introduce your pet to new skills and get professional training advice. This experience will help to socialise your puppy and encourage them to get used to being around other people and dogs.

In the early months of life your puppy’s brain is constantly growing and developing. That’s why starting training early, when they are most receptive to new experiences, is so important.

To help your puppy understand, it’s vital to be consistent. You shouldn’t allow something one day that you forbid another, for example. When it comes to training, the best approach is to always use the same words for the same commands, and encourage family members to use the same language.

Training takes time. So, it’s important to be patient with your puppy and not punish them when things don’t go to plan. If your puppy chews the furniture, climbs where they shouldn’t, or urinates in the house, there is no use in reprimanding them later, as they are unlikely to make the connection. The best way to make it clear that something is forbidden is to say a very clear “No!” while the undesired activity is taking place.

Teaching your puppy the basics

Training your puppy to understand a basic set of everyday commands can make them more comfortable in social situations and easier to handle. It can also keep them safe in busy or dangerous places, so you can confidently take them anywhere and meet anyone. The following tabs cover some of the essential everyday commands you will need:

How to train your puppy to sit

Begin by holding a dog treat in front of your dog's nose. Lift the treat over the top of your dog's head to encourage them into a sitting position. As your dog lifts their head to follow the treat, they should naturally sit. Reward your dog for their good behaviour.

Repeat these steps several times a day until your dog understands. After this, continue to use the hand gesture and gradually remove the treat. Once your dog reliably sits, you can introduce a verbal cue at the same time.

How to train your puppy to lie down

Once your puppy knows how to sit, you can teach them to lie down, by holding a treat, lowering it between their front paws and pulling it away from them. When they lie down, reward them for their good behaviour. Again, continue to repeat this action, slowly phasing out the treat, until your puppy is able to complete the action in any given situation.

When you are confident your puppy can complete the action reliably, you can start to associate a verbal action with the command too. 

How to train your puppy to wait

Start by getting your dog to sit using a hand gesture and saying the word "Sit". Put your hand in front of you, palm forward, as you say “Stay”

Wait a couple of seconds, then reward your dog for their good behaviour. Now repeat the exercise. Ask your dog to "Sit" but this time step back with the palm of your hand facing your dog and give the “Stay” command. Wait for 3 seconds then step forward and reward your dog.

Repeat these steps gradually increasing how far you step back, giving your dog a reward every time they stay. Don't forget to "release" your dog at the end of every exercise by encouraging them to get up again. You’ll find that you’ll get better results with frequent sessions of several minutes.

How to train your puppy to come to you

Puppies aren’t the most focussed animals so it’s best to run their training sessions in an enclosed area with very few distractions. Start by letting your puppy wander off, then crouch down, open your arms out and use an excited tone of voice to call their name followed by the word cue word.

When they arrive give them lots of praise and reward them with a treat. Then, give them another treat while you clip a lead on their collar. Once they’ve finished the treat, unclip the lead, stand up and walk away. Now repeat the process from the start.

Practice every day for a few weeks, keeping the sessions short.  Make sure you practice in different situations, always with the safety of your dog in mind. 

How to train your puppy to heel

Start by getting your dog to sit. Put a treat in your hand and hold it at the level of your dog's chin. Then walk forward briskly and say "heel".

As your dog is about to catch up, stop walking and get them to sit. Now, reward your dog for their good behaviour. Repeat these steps for several minutes or until your dog gets tired.

Practice whenever you get the opportunity. Heel walking is an advanced behaviour for a dog so you'll get the best results if you have frequent training sessions over a number of months.

Brown Labrador puppy standing outside in a garden with owners

How to continue your puppy’s training

Enrolling your pet in a local puppy school can be a great way to introduce your pet to new skills, and get professional training advice. This experience will also help to socialise your puppy and help them to get used to being around other people and dogs.

While puppies are bundles of energy and quick to learn, they tire easily. So, it’s important to keep training sessions short and allow them to learn slowly and gradually.

Playing with your puppy

Why is playtime so important for puppies?

Play is an important part of their development. Playing with toys and interacting with you on a daily basis helps them to understand some of the basic rules they will need to become a happy, well-adjusted adult dog. Playtime also helps your pet:

  • To learn new skills and commands
  • To understand that biting and nipping are not acceptable
  • To strengthen the bond between you
  • To keep them active and healthy
  • To ensure they stay mentally stimulated
German Shepherd puppy in black and white on a white background with a ball in its mouth

Which toys are best for puppies?

Choose toys that stimulate their curiosity, encourage them to move, or introduce new tastes and textures.

Beagle puppy standing in a cardboard box

Large cardboard box

A large cardboard box provides a great place to run, hide and will likely encourage chewing. Be careful if you don't want your dog to chew the cardboard around the house.

Rubber toys

Rubber toys allow your puppy to chew.

Australian Shepherd puppy playing in the grass with a toy
Dachshund puppy laying on a rug playing with a toy

Interactive toys

Interactive toys that contain treats help to keep your puppy stimulated.

Puzzle feeders

Puzzle feeders to slow down eating.

Labrador Retriever puppy eating from a red puzzle feeder

Tips for your puppy’s playtime

Choose appropriate toys

Only choose toys that are the appropriate size for your puppy’s mouth to prevent swallowing. Make sure they're durable and check regularly for tears

Regular play sessions

Dedicate at least two play sessions with your puppy each day, combined with training sessions to maximise fun and learning

Discourage biting

If your puppy bites – stop playing and allow them to calm down

Avoid slippery floors

Choose a room without a slippery floor, so your puppy doesn’t injure themselves

Dachshund mother and puppies in black and white on a white background

How to socialise a puppy

Socialisation is one of the most important steps in ensuring your puppy grows into a well-balanced, confident adult. It's never too early to start gently introducing your pet to new experiences, people and animals.

Socialising your puppy