puppy lying on kitchen floor

How to Train a Puppy

Last Updated March 6, 2024

This article is written by Pet Circle Veterinarian, Dr Samantha Wycherley BVSc.

Welcoming a new puppy into your home and your family is such an exciting time in life. Puppies can be so much fun and their drive to play and seemingly endless enthusiasm can bring a lot of joy and happiness! However, it's important to remember that this bouncy ball of energy is now yours for life and putting boundaries in place early on means that you won't be dealing with puppy antics for years to come.

A well-trained puppy turns into an adult dog that will blend well into your family's routine and understands the do's and don'ts of your household. It can make outings with your dog much more enjoyable when you know you are able to effectively give commands and know your dog will respond appropriately.

Well behaved and highly trained dogs don't get that way overnight; they are often the result of ongoing training and highly dedicated owners - all dogs started as rambunctious puppies!

Training your puppy goes beyond merely teaching commands; it establishes the groundwork for a lifetime of positive behaviour and a strengthened bond. 

In this comprehensive guide on "How to Train a Puppy", we'll delve into practical tips, expert advice, and proven techniques to navigate the journey of puppy training successfully. From creating the ideal training environment to mastering essential commands, addressing specific behaviours, and incorporating the wisdom and experience of our Vet team, this article is your go-to resource for ensuring a seamless transition from a mischievous pup to a well-mannered and delightful member of your household. Embark on this adventure with the knowledge and tools to make puppy training a rewarding experience for both you and your new four-legged friend.

Preparing For Puppy Training

Puppy - Proofing Your Home 

Although you can have high expectations for how you want your dog to behave when they are older - puppies are puppies and they're not going to learn overnight. There will be plenty of accidents and there's also bound to be things chewed that you don't want chewed! 

You can minimise the risk of damage to your belongings and to your pup by puppy-proofing your home. Make sure you remove anything that is easily accessible that your puppy might like to chew, for example, shoes or kids toys. Take extra care in ensuring any toxic foods or medications are well out of your puppy's reach. 


Have A Designated Area For Sleeping, Playing and Toileting

Setting up a designated area for sleeping, playing and toileting early on is a good option for minimizing risk to your puppy before they are fully trained. It's much easier to focus on keeping a few areas risk free as it's easy to miss things when your puppy has access to the whole house.

Crate Training your puppy is a great idea, this means you will have a safe and cosy space for your puppy to sleep at night. 

You can also create an area of the house that is filled with your puppy's toys, for example, a designated room or play-pen for when you want your puppy to play on their own safely. 

Some people also find that giving your puppy access to a restricted area of the garden for toileting can minimise the likelihood of having gardens dug up until your puppy understands what not to do. 

Know Where Your Puppy Is Allowed

You may decide that there are areas of the house that will be off limits to your puppy, even as they grow into an adult - make sure that everyone in the family is on board with this. These are good discussions to have with your family before you bring the puppy home to avoid any arguments or confusion once the pup arrives. For example, is your puppy going to be allowed in the bedrooms? On the bed? On the couch? Set boundaries and be consistent across family members, allowing exceptions will make learning the rules very confusing for your puppy.


Choosing Positive Reinforcement Training 

The best way to train your puppy is to use positive reinforcement training rather than using punishment. Using punishments can lead to a fearful dog or exacerbate anxiety.

Dogs actually love making their owners happy, they just need to work out what their owners want first! 

Unfortunately we don't speak the same language, and the best way for your puppy to know that they have performed the correct behaviour is to receive a reward immediately after the behaviour has been performed. 

Some people elect to use clicker training (this is often used for teaching more complex tricks) this works in a similar way and helps dogs understand the exact moment when they've done the right thing. 

And you don't always have to use treats! For some dogs playing with their favourite toy is just as much of a reward. Find a toy that gets your puppy really excited and bring it out for a short play session every time your puppy performs the correct behaviour following a command.

Training Tips and Techniques

Environment and Duration

Training your puppy in a quiet environment free of distractions is the best way to get them to focus on you during the training session. 

A busy dog park isn't the best place to start training your dog to sit or stay (you definitely want to master these commands before you let your dog loose at an off lead area - or use a long lead). Trying to train your puppy in a public area is like trying to teach a toddler to tie their shoes at Disneyland. 

You will also need to have realistic expectations of your puppy's attention span. It's very normal for a puppy to lose focus if a training session goes on for too long - keep training sessions to a few minutes each time. 

Aim for short, regular training sessions in calm environments with no distractions and you'll find your puppy will start to pick up the basics in no time. 

Start with Sit, Stay, Down and Come - these are four important commands to master to have control over your puppy in many different situations. 

Basic Training Steps

The basic training guidelines for commands are as follows:

  1. Get your dog to naturally perform the command 
  2. Say the command word clearly as your dog performs the command 
  3. Reward the correct behaviour with a treat or toy
  4. Repeat

There are a number of different techniques to get your dog to naturally perform the command you are wanting them to learn, for example, holding a treat above your dog's head and moving it slightly behind the head as your dog looks up will usually cause a dog to sit down.

It's important that the action is performed by your dog naturally, that is, don't force your dog into a sit position - this won't help your dog to learn. 

Training can be a lot of fun and once you get the hang of how to teach your dog the basics you can add in some tricks like 'Shake' and 'Roll-Over'. Be creative! There are some very clever dogs out there that can perform all sorts of amazing tricks. 

You can read more about how to train your puppy specific commands with these articles:


Addressing Specific Behaviours 


One of the most common questions I get asked at a new puppy consultation is 'How do I stop my puppy from biting?' Puppies Have very sharp little puppy teeth and its common for puppies to get over excited during play and get a little carried away. Puppies are used to playing with their littermates and need to be taught the difference between playing with their owners. They need to understand that biting is not OK. 

If your puppy starts biting then give them a toy that is appropriate to bite. If they try to bite again then use a brief time-out by withdrawing your attention. Leave the room or ignore the puppy for a short period to help them understand that biting leads to the end of play.


It's important to get your puppy used to being handled by people at a young age. Pick up their paws and put them down again, have a look in between their toes, look in the mouth and touch around their ears. These are all things that your vet will have to do in the future, or you may have to do in order to trim your dog's nails, clean their teeth, clean their ears or administer medication. Getting your puppy used to this at a young age so they know it's no big deal and nothing to be scared of can be a lifesaver when they are older (your vet will thank you too!!) 

Walking on a lead 

The world is an exciting place and puppies want to explore! Teaching a puppy to walk on a leash is an essential skill for both their safety and your enjoyment during walks. 

It can be frustrating at first but keep in mind that this is a very new concept to your puppy and it will take time to learn. 

The use of check chains is not recommended when training your puppy. Using a check chain can create a negative association with walking and training. Puppies may associate the discomfort of the collar tightening with the act of walking, leading to fear or resistance during walks. They also require precise handling to avoid causing harm. If not used correctly, they can lead to choking, coughing, or even more severe injuries.

If you are having trouble with training your pup to walk on a lead then its a great idea to book in a session with a reputable local trainer who can give you some guidance. 

You can read more about the training process here - ‘Training Your Puppy To Walk on A Lead’.


Puppy classes and additional resources 

Puppy classes are a great place to take your puppy for socialisation as well as some help on mastering the basics like sit, stay and come. 

Make sure to use a reputable puppy school, vet run classes are always a good idea or ask your local vet for a recommendation. 

Puppy schools are good for introducing puppies to other dogs however close monitoring is required rather than letting puppies run riot, as this can lead to some puppies becoming frightened. 

A good puppy school should teach you the basics on dog body language and behaviour as well as tips on learning the basic commands. 

Make sure that if you attend a puppy school that you continue the training at home - one session a week isn’t enough for your puppy to learn those skills they need to be reinforced multiple times a day. 

Pet Insurance

Puppies are inquisitive, full of energy, and often a little clumsy, despite our best efforts - accidents happen - this is where Pet insurance can come in handy. Ask your vet for recommendations or check out Pet Circle Insurance

By getting insurance when your puppy is young and healthy, you can often secure lower premiums. Some policies also cover hereditary or congenital conditions that may develop later in life.

Knowing that you have financial support in case of unexpected medical expenses provides peace of mind. This allows you to focus on your puppy's health and well-being without worrying about the potential costs of veterinary care.


Additional training tips 

Consistency is key!! Dogs thrive on routine and predictability. Consistent commands and cues help your puppy understand what is expected of them. Using the same words and gestures consistently reinforces the association between the command and the desired behaviour.

Try and incorporate the commands you are teaching in day to day life. For example, make your puppy sit and stay before dinner, make them sit at each road crossing.


Consistency in your interactions with your puppy builds trust. When your puppy can predict your responses and expectations, it fosters a stronger bond between you and your pet.

Training your puppy can be such a rewarding experience, aside from the obvious benefit of having a well-trained dog there are many other positives that can come from spending some time training - your dog will love spending time with you and dogs love to use their brains. It can be a really great bonding experience. 

The most important thing to remember on your puppy training journey is that good things take time. Embrace the puppy stage and all the wonderful things that come with it and know that with a little time and effort you will have a friend for life. 

Further Reading

Frequent Puppy Questions

Best Puppy Food Australia (Vet Reviewed)

Tips for New Puppy Owners

Puppy Food Guide

Your Guide To Fleas, Ticks and Worms