How To Train a Puppy

Come, sit, stay, down.....when you say these things to your puppy, does she look at you like you're crazy? Have you ever asked yourself, "Why does so-and-so's puppy do what he tells her and mine doesn't?" If so, ask yourself that no more! What you need is some good old-fashioned puppy training sessions to keep up with the neighbors!

  1. To get started with training your new puppy, I would highly recommend signing up for a puppy class in your area. Pet stores will usually advertise training classes in your area, or may even offer them right at the store. Local 4-H clubs will also usually have meetings to help the kids train their dogs for competition, so ask around and see if you (or one of the kids) could take your puppy to their meetings. Not only will being in a class help you and your puppy learn from a professional and give you the extra help you may need, it is a great way to socialize your puppy at an early age.
  2. When actually working with your puppy, BE CONSISTENT! Use simple, short commands and use the same one every time you want her to perform a task. If you want her to sit, tell her simply to "Sit!" If you want her to lay down, give her the command of "Down!" Speak loudly and clearly so she will understand you. Here is a list of recommended commands:

    For the "sit" command: Sit
    For the "lay down" command: Down
    For the "come" command: Come
    For the "stay" command: Stay
    For the "off" command (if your puppy jumps on people or furniture): Off
    When walking on a leash, to get your puppy to stay next to you: Heel

  3. When you start giving your puppy commands, she will have absolutely no idea what you want of her. How will you get her to do what you want? Show her! Now, I don't mean when you tell your puppy "Down" that you need to lay on the floor next to her! When you give her a command, help her get into the position she needs to be in. When telling her to sit, gently push her bottom onto the ground. As you do this, say her name and tell her to sit. Once she is in the sitting position, give her a treat and tell her she is a good dog. To get her to lay down, start by getting her into a sitting position, then very gently pull her front legs out so her chest goes to the ground and her stomach is flat on the ground. Again, during this process, give her the "Down" command and once she is in position, praise her. It isn't a bad idea to get her to learn the sit command before working on the down command. Whenever I want one of my dogs to lay down, I get better results by first giving them the sit command, followed by the down command. True, it requires two commands, but I'll take the results over speed any day!
  4. When initially teaching the come and stay commands, it may be best to use two people. When you tell your puppy to stay, have one person hold onto her while the other gives the "Stay" command and puts his hand in front of the puppy's face before walking away. Don't go very far at first, but far enough so she knows she needs to stay where she is, but you are going to leave. The person holding the puppy is in charge of making sure she stays where she is. Once you've reached your destination, turn and face your puppy, say her name and give her the "Come" command. The "holder" can then release her and allow her to go to you. Use bribes if necessary so she doesn't just run away. Usually where there is food involved, a puppy is sure to show up!
  5. For the "Off" command, if your puppy is jumping on you, loudly and clearly say her name, followed by "Off" as you gently push her away from you. You don't want her to go flying to the ground, but you want to make sure she is no longer touching you after you give her the "Off" command. Where furniture is involved, using the "No" command when she goes to get on it is a great way to prevent her from getting on, but of course she will sneak on it when you turn your back for two seconds. In that situation, lift her off the furniture as you tell her, "Off," then make her lay and stay on the floor.
  6. When trying to get your puppy to heel, put her on a leash with a collar on, and make the leash only long enough for her to walk right next to you. Start with her sitting next to you (leash in your hand), and as you start walking, say her name and tell her clearly to "Heel." If she tries to run ahead of you, pull gently on the leash as you again tell her to "Heel." If she lags behind you, gently pull her up to you as you tell her, "Heel." Walk slowly at first until she gets the hang of it. Keep in mind the speed of your dog as well. Even when the smaller breeds are full grown, they may not walk as quickly as you do, whereas if you own a Great Dane, you may have to train her to move at your speed instead of her quick one! Teaching the heel command after the sit command is a great way to allow you to reinforce the "Heel" portion of your walk. When you stop walking, tell your puppy to sit. When you start walking, tell her to heel.
  7. Use repetition. If your puppy is doing something correctly, have her do it a few times in a row, praising her each time she does it correctly. Even if she doesn't do what you ask her at first, keep giving her the command, show her what to do, and praise her when the result finally happens. If you don't keep doing the command and teaching her what is right and wrong, she will never understand what is expected of her.
  8. Be patient!! This training isn't going to happen overnight! Use bribery, reinforce good behavior and keep the initial training sessions short (half hour maximum) as to not wear out the puppy and frustrate her.
  9. Use everyday situations to train your puppy. Just because you're not in class doesn't mean you can't tell her to sit or come! If you get home from work and she is running to greet you, tell her to come as she does it so she'll understand what come really means. When she gets to you, tell her what a good puppy she is and give her hugs and kisses (bribery doesn't always have to be food after all).

Remember: While training, always be consistent in your commands, reinforce good behavior, don't praise for something they don't do (this will only cause confusion), and make it fun! If you dread those training sessions, so will the puppy. This is a great time for the two of you to bond and to turn your puppy into the great dog you've always wanted. Best of luck, and just keep reaching for the goal of the day she does what you want her to do! It will make it all worthwhile!


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