Puppy Training Tips: Part 1
At the request of one of our readers I will be doing a few posts on training a puppy. I’m so excited someone asked for this topic, I love writing about Dogs, and this is such a fun topic.
***Before we get into it, I want to state that I in no way am a professional dog trainer. The following steps and approaches I am going to be writing about are ways that have worked for me. I do not claim that they are the best or right way, just that they worked for me. So I want to pass along the information I have learned so that it can hopefully benefit someone else.***
When we were getting ready to get a puppy, like anything else, I researched it. I looked up techniques, methods, ways, tips, everything I could find. I watched videos, read articles, and asked fellow dog owners. The following tips I have compiled and am about to tell you are what I found to be the best ways that worked for me. So lets get into it. But before you do, remember patience is crucial. Your puppy will mess up, DO NOT GET MAD AT THEM, use the commands to help them learn.
Before we get into some specific tips, I came up with 3 rules that I approach each and every training session with.
1. Exercise The Puppy Before Any Training Begins
The puppy is less likely to listen to you if they are full of piss and vinegar and just ready to tear sh*t up. So burn off that initial crazy to bring them down to a more normal state of mind. I would exercise Thor and storm with no particular set of training attempts in mind, i.e. They would follow me everywhere I went in the house so I would walk up and down a few times or toss the ball down the hallway so they could chase it (if they didn’t bring it back that’s ok because I didn’t say a command I just threw the ball for the purpose of them to run after it). It doesn’t have to be intense, just a few minutes and then they were good to go.
2. Have A Separate Leash ONLY For Training
I bought a 15 foot leash (you will see why you need it that long below) and every time the dogs would have this leash attached to their collar they knew it was time to train. While that leash is on, there is no ‘play time’ only training time. Then once training time is done the leash comes off right away.
3. Finish On A High Note
EVERY SINGLE training session needs to end on a high note. No matter how bad a particular training session might be going, give the puppy a command they will get every time and when they succeed at it, give them lots of praise and end there. Don’t finish with you being angry or frustrated so they up on that emotion and have future sessions not go as good.
Tip #1 - Hand and Verbal Commands
For me having the dogs know both hand commands (without me using any voice or sound) as well as the voice command, was important. I made sure to focus on hand and verbal commands separately as well as using them together.
For both hand and verbal commands you need to use what works for you. What I mean by that is pick commands that you actually feel comfortable doing and saying. When I was researching training techniques I read an article that said Dogs only understand commands based off of what we associate with that command. i.e. sit is the obvious choice for getting the dog to sit but the word sit doesn’t mean anything to a dog until you teach it that. So if you wanted to change it up you could use squat. Every time you say squat your dog sits. It doesn’t matter. I didn’t choose regular phrases for some of my commands as you will see below.
For hand commands I used:
- Sit: Hand raised, open palm, fingers spread out
- Stay: Hand waist height, open palm, fingers together
- Down: Essentially the peace sign in a downward motion
- Sit Up: Palm facing up, start low and bring up
- Here: One finger pointing to where I want them to go to
- Heel: One finger moving and then stopping by my side
Now for verbal commands I used:
- Sit: Nice and simple
- Stay: Again nice and simple
- Down: I choose down over lay down. Not a big change.
- Sit Up: To get them to sit when they are in a down position
- Here: Getting them to come to me. I didn’t want to add anything extra
- Heel: Weird word for this but something that stuck once I saw someone using it
- Bring It Back: To me fetch doesn’t feel natural to say. So I wanted to use something I would actually say in a conversation with a dog. If I threw a ball and I was talking to the dog I would want them to ‘bring it back’. It just feels better than fetch to me
- Give: For them to let go of something they are holding onto
- Gentle: So they don’t go aggressively into getting a treat, a bone, or licking the baby’s face to intensely
Tip #2 - Sit, Stay, Here With The Leash
This where the long leash is extremely helpful. Getting the puppy to understand these basic commands can be frustrating if they are constantly going off course and you have to go over to them every time and bring them back on track. For this you need a wide open space (around about 15-20 feet squared works) but you can adjust to smaller spaces if need be. The step by step goes as follows:
- You are facing the puppy. Have them sit. Push their bum down gently while saying “sit” as well as the hand command (once they do anything good in any of these steps, praise them with “good dog” but just that, no patting them or getting them riled up, just “good dog” and move on. At least until it’s all done and them be overly excited once training is over)
- Then as you are holding onto their leash slowly back up while saying stay and using the stay hand command (Note: in the beginning don’t back up too far as the puppy will probably not stay very well and will want to run to you. So start with 5 feet back and the more you do it then the further back you go until you can go all the way back to the end of 15’ leash.) If they don’t stay, gently walk them back to the spot and make them stay again.
- Once you get to the far enough back stop. Tell the puppy to come to you with whatever command you choose. As you’re calling the puppy over pull the leash to help them do it and keep them straight in line right towards you.
- Once they are right in front of you tell them to sit and stay.
- Then turn 45 degrees and do the same thing. Back up, tell them to stay and then assist them when you tell them to come to you by pulling the leash. Then keep repeating this over and over and over. You should be moving in a square pattern.
- You can do this same thing but just with getting them to heel. Just instead of pulling them to right in front of you, pull them to your side.
Tip #3 - Dog Food Commands
It was extremely important for me to make sure Thor and Storm were not bad with dealing with food. I didn’t want them to be possessive and defensive or feel like they were in control of that situation. There are a few different things I did to make sure the dogs were good with food. They are:
- They have to sit and wait in the same spot while I load their food dishes up. They can’t move from their spot, no lying down, no inching closer, just the same spot.
- Before they get the food they have to be calm and relaxed. So I did not give them the food until they calmed down.
- Once I set the food down, they cannot start eating until I say so. Easiest way I found was set the bowl down and if they go for it push them back into until they understand they can’t go until you say so and tell them to stay. They now know as soon as I take my hand off bowl they can have the food but never before I take my hands off the bowl.
- In the first 2 years, for EVERY SINGLE MEAL I would say, “Leave it” and make them stop and just sit by their food bowl and wait until I say ok and then can continue eating again. I did this to make sure they didn’t get crazy over food.
- When it comes to dogs and their food this next one is the most important in my mind. While they are eating “annoy them”. Put your hand in their food bowl, play with their ears, their paws, their tail, and all the while they cannot growl or get possessive over the food.
I hope you enjoyed this post and hopefully it helps you with your puppy training. Please note that my dogs are not even close to the best behaved dogs (you can read what I would have done differently from the beginning by clicking here) and again I’m not a dog trainer so maybe these methods that I’m talking about might not be the best. I’m talking about these ones because they worked for me. Thanks so much for whoever asked for this topic. Great choice! I will do some more posts regarding this because this post would have been way too long if I wrote everything so I wanted to spilt it up into a couple posts so stay posted for part 2. Let me know what you think in the comments down below. And if you want to hear about a certain topic let us know by filling out the form below (If you want a shoutout for the topic you are suggesting leave your name or you can keep it anonymous).
- Papa Bird