Basic Puppy Training

puppy

After bringing your new puppy home, there will be a period of adjustment as you get to know your puppy and he gets to know you. Be prepared for a few housetraining accidents, your puppy may try to escape or make a bolt for an open front door. He may even try to dig under or jump over fences, and the puppy you bring home may not be the puppy you fell in love with, but this this is just a temporary step whilst he get used to his new surroundings. Once your puppy has settled, he will become more relaxed, calmer and his true personality will be there for all to see.

It is helpful to understand some basic training and handling skills, as they will make your experience more enjoyable and also help you avoid some common mistakes and accidents that new puppy owners make.

Basic Commands

Puppies need a routine and they need leadership. You may have heard of the term ‘pack leader’ this is what you need to be for your new puppy. As they are pack animals they need leadership and guidance and it is up to you to teach them good and appropriate behavior. If you don’t show any leadership then your puppy will try to take charge.

Always supervise a new puppy when outdoors even in the garden. If left for just five minutes, he will find a way to escape from your garden. It is vitally important to keep your puppy on a leash when out in public or in unfenced environments in the early days. This is because they have not yet had any proper training and their instinct will be to chase and potentially tussle with other puppy’s, run up to a small child or even run out into the road into the path of an oncoming car. Do not allow your puppy on your bed or other furniture, especially if all of your family members haven’t yet been established as leaders. Puppies will often try to be more dominant when on a higher surface like a bed or chair.
So what are the key basic commands that you should teach your puppy? Well I feel that there are 4 key commands which are great for beginners.

These are:

  • SIT
  • STAY
  • LEAVE
  • DOWN

Each has a purpose and will give you control and help to shape your puppy as the perfect four legged citizen.
Types of Training

There are a couple of methods which you can use to train your puppy. The most popular are treat/praise training and treat/clicker training. They are
pretty much the same. With treat/praise training you use your voice to tell the puppy that it has performed the given task correctly. With clicker training you use a clicker to tell the puppy that they have performed the given task correctly.

Each has a purpose and will give you control and help to shape your puppy as the perfect four legged citizen.
Types of Training

I have always used the treat and praise method where you reward the puppy for good work with a treat and praise. The treat can be a puppy treat or toy, but a treat is definitely easier to start with. I know that clickers have become extremely popular, and the purpose of the clicker is to associate a click with a treat, so every time they hear a click something good has happened. I feel that praise and a treat works just as well as you can take your voice with you everywhere you go, whereas if you forget your clicker then it can be a little harder. At the end of the day the decision is a preference thing, there is no right or wrong and it should be up to you to choose whatever you feel most comfortable with.

When the Puppy Gets It Wrong

There will be times when your puppy doesn’t do what you want, and in order for the puppy to learn we need to let the puppy know that they haven’t performed what we have asked. I have found the best way to do this is to simply ignore unwanted behavior, or take some time out if your puppy is just not getting it. Sometimes a puppy can just be mentally exhausted and may need a break. So if your puppy doesn’t respond to your command, ignore them until they do what you ask (you may need to keep repeating the command). If they still don’t get it, let them have a break and try again later or the following day.

Sometimes if a puppy is ignoring your command and being naughty you can give a forceful ‘NO’. Don’t shout it in the puppy’s face, just say the word loud enough to make the puppy look at you, and you can then call them. When they do look, do not respond with praise as this will just confuse the poor little fella.

Sometimes they will just ignore you, so you have to go get them…

If you puppy is not responding to your command DO NOT shock, choke, pin down, hit, kick or hurt your puppy in anyway. This is just not ethical, and your puppy will be fearful of you and become unpredictable and potentially aggressive going forward.
Before You Start Command Training

In order for your puppy to associate reward and praise with good behaviour, the best way to do this is with a treat. So call your puppy over, make a fuss, praise him or use your clicker and give them a treat. Once he understands the praise and reward concept, you can then begin command training your puppy.

At first your puppy will have no knowledge that food and praise are associated and this is why we need to repeat the behaviour. So again make a fuss and praise him and say ‘good boy’ and use your clicker (if you have one) then give him a treat. Repeat this about 10 times. Let your puppy go play for a while and then start again, make a fuss, praise or click and then give a treat.

Your puppy will quickly learn that when they get praise or a click they will be rewarded, and he will start to become more interested in what you are doing.

NOTE: Before starting any training make sure you have your puppy’s attention and that you can keep it. Only teach one command at one time. Also keep training brief, training for long periods leads to overstimulation and your puppy will forget what you are trying to teach him.

Teaching Your Puppy to Sit

angry puppy

1. Take a small puppy biscuit, and hold it between your thumb and forefinger.

2. Show the treat to your puppy and let him smell it, hold it just in front of his eyes, and an inch or two above his head.

3. Say “SIT”, at the same time you say the command, move the treat two more inches above his head. When your puppy looks up, he should sit at the same time, it might take a couple of seconds before he does.

4. Make sure your hand is in the right place, too high and your puppy might jump up, and too low he just won’t sit.

5. As soon as your puppy sits, reward him with the treat and give praise. Say “There’s a GOOD boy!” or ‘click’ if using a clicker when giving the puppy a treat. If your puppy doesn’t respond to your command on his own, say ‘SIT’ again, and place your left hand below his tail just above his knees and put your right hand on his chest and gently put him in a sitting position. Keep him in that position for 10 seconds and then reward him with a treat.

6. Don’t pet your puppy at this stage, only give verbal praise. If you pet him he may stand up.

7. Practice the command and make your puppy sit around 5-10 times. If your puppy is a fast learner, he will get the idea quickly and will sit in front of you when he wants a treat.

8. Once your puppy is sitting on command, start reducing the number of treats you give him. So start rewarding him every other time until he is able to sit without a reward.

9. Then reward your puppy randomly whenever they sit. A random reward is a great reinforcement.

Teaching Your Puppy to Leave

Stage 1

1. Take a small puppy biscuit, and place it in the palm of your hand.

2. With your hand open and palm facing upwards show the treat to the puppy

3. When your puppy tries to take the treat say “LEAVE” close your hand and make a fist, so that your palm now faces down towards the floor.

4. Keep watching your puppy until he loses interest in the treat either by looking away or making eye contact with you.

NOTE: It might take a little time. Most puppies with either try and get the treat out of your hand, or just stare at your hand, but they will lose interest from the treat eventually.

5. When he loses interest reward him with a treat and praise “There’s a GOOD boy!” or ‘click’ if using a clicker when giving the puppy a treat.

6. Keep repeating this until your puppy either looks at you or looks away when you say leave.
It may take a few attempts but you are teaching the puppy that he will get a reward only when he looks at you or looks away from the treat.

Stage 2

1. Take a small puppy biscuit and place it in the palm of your hand.

2. With your hand open and palm facing upwards show the treat to the puppy

3. When your puppy tries to take the treat say “LEAVE”

4. When your puppy leaves the treat, and looks at you reward and give praise or a click.

If your puppy takes the treat, then they still have a little learning to do, so go back to Stage 1. Continue with the closed fist method until they can leave the treat when your hand is open.

5. Next get yourself comfortable on the floor. Show your puppy the treat and place it on the floor, and then cover it with your hand.

6. When you puppy either tries to sniff your hand or take the treat, say “LEAVE”

7. Again wait for him to lose interest, reward him and give praise or a click. Do this a few times.

8. Next place the puppy treat on the floor, but this time cover it with just one finger, and follow steps 5 and 6. Again do this a few times, until your puppy gets the idea.

Stage 3

1. Keep your hand on the floor.

2. Take a small puppy biscuit, show it to your puppy and place it on the floor about an inch in front of your finger, so it is visible to your puppy.

3. When your puppy looks at the treat say “LEAVE” You might have to be quick on this one, as your puppy might get to the treat before you can cover it.

4. If your puppy leaves the treat, say “Go On” and allow your puppy take the treat and give praise or a click.

5. Repeat a few times.

6. Next, stand up and place a treat at your feet and say “LEAVE”.

7. If he leaves it say “Go On” and let your puppy take the treat and give praise or a click. If he takes the treat before you say “Go On” go back to the beginning of stage 3, and gradually work through until he leaves the treat on your command.

puppy

Teaching Your Puppy to Stay

Stage 1

1. Stand in front of your puppy and settle him in a sitting position by using the SIT command you learnt earlier.

2. Reward him with a treat for sitting. Once he has sat, say “STAY” and count to 5.

3. If he doesn’t move and his bottom doesn’t leave the ground, reward him with a treat and praise saying “There’s a GOOD boy!” or ‘click’ if using a clicker.

4. Continue this 5 times, and your puppy will get the basic idea of sit/stay. Then gradually increase the time, so instead of counting to 5 count to 10, then 15 and then 20.

5. Next add a hand signal. So settle your puppy in a sitting position, reward him for sitting, then say “STAY” but this time hold your hand out with your palm facing outwards like a stop motion.

6. Again count to 5, reward and praise “There’s a GOOD boy!” or ‘click’ if using a clicker.

7. Continue this 5 more times, and again gradually increase the time.

Stage 2

1. Settle your puppy in his sit/stay position, and position yourself so you are facing your puppy.

2. Say “STAY” and give your STAY hand signal. Take a step backwards away from your puppy, pause for a second or two and then step towards your puppy.

3. If he remained in his sit/stay position reward him and praise “There’s a GOOD boy!” or ‘click’ if using a clicker.

4. Say “STAY” and give your STAY hand signal.

5. This time take 2 steps backwards away from your puppy, pause for a second or 2 and then take 2 steps towards your puppy.

6. If he remained in his Sit/Stay position reward him and praise “There’s a GOOD boy!” or ‘CLICK’ if using a clicker.

7. If he does move, take him back to his mark and make him sit stay then try again.

8. The next test is to add distraction, so try using your sit/stay command with a few toys or treats in the room and some family members in the room, or try a different room completely.

9. Practise your sit/stay command daily. Test your puppy, but remember to reward whilst they are still learning. Make him sit/stay while you get the mail or newspaper or whilst you put your shoes on.

Teaching Your Puppy to Lay Down

1. Settle your puppy in a sitting position by using the SIT command you learnt earlier. Make yourself comfortable on the floor next to your puppy so that you are side on to him, but make sure you have given him enough room to lie down.

2. Take a small puppy biscuit, and hold it between your thumb and forefinger.

3. Show the treat to your puppy, hold it just in front of his eyes a couple of inches from his head.

4. With your other hand, take hold of your puppy’s collar with two fingers. If you are right handed sitting to the right of your puppy will be your best option. You can use your right hand to give the treat and your left hand to hold the collar.

5. Lower the treat to the floor as you say “DOWN”. At the same time apply a little bit of downward pressure to your puppy’s collar (do not tug or yank) only a gentle pressure is needed. Your puppy should then lie down. Reward him with a treat and praise “There’s a GOOD boy!” or ‘click’ if using a clicker.

6. Keep your hand on his collar and continue to reward and praise while your puppy is laying down.

7. When you are happy, give the SIT command to return your puppy to the sitting position. If your puppy is unsure, use a treat to lure him up and give reward and praise when he sits up. If he stands up say nothing and return him to a sitting position. Repeat the ‘DOWN’ command approx 10 times, and each time gradually use a little less force on the collar until you don’t need to hold the collar at all. Remember to praise every time your puppy lies down.

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