Basic Obedience Training Tips

The Recall: Come!

I strongly recommend that you begin teaching the puppy to come when called as soon as you get the puppy.  This lesson takes two people, one to hold the puppy and one to call the puppy.  At first, the distance between the 2 people should be about 6 feet.  Use a very positive and confident voice.  Say the puppy's name and the command "COME".  Take turns calling the puppy.  Praise the puppy for coming with a very enthusiastic response.  The lesson should be fun for the puppy.  Treats are optional.  A daily lesson of 3 to 5 minutes for a couple of months will prevent problems later on.  I strongly recommend an obedience course in addition to practice at home.  Make the recall a fun and rewarding experience for your dog!

Wait 

"WAIT" is a useful safety command - wait to get out of the car, wait to go through the door, and wait to go up or down the stairs.  The puppy can be in the sitting position or standing.  Gently hold the puppy by the collar and give the command "WAIT".  Hold the puppy back for 30 seconds to a minute, and the give a release command such as "OKAY".  Praise the puppy.  Use a little biscuit to help teach the WAIT command.  Hold the puppy, put a biscuit on the floor, and tell the puppy to wait.  Release the puppy after a few seconds and let the puppy eat the biscuit.  Gradually work up the several minutes.  The puppy can be in any position- sitting, lying down or standing.  Once the puppy understands the command, practice the exercise without food in front of the puppy.  Randomly reward the "WAIT" exercise with a treat from a treat in a bait pouch or your pocket.  This command can be very helpful during walks when you want to wait for a car to go by. 

Enough Is Enough!

I find the command "ENOUGH" or "STOP IT" very useful.  Interrupting your dog with verbal commands are often all that is necessary.  Enough barking or horsing around can be taught by gently grasping the dog's collar and saying "ENOUGH" or "STOP IT" in an assertive voice.  Repeat if necessary!  Then praise the dog when he or she stops the undesirable behavior.  Once you dog learns the command, a verbal command should be sufficient, but random food rewards help reinforce the desired behavior. 

Leave It!  Drop It!  Trade It!

The "LEAVE IT" command is easy to teach when your puppy is outside on a leash.  Give the command and use the leash to prevent to puppy from picking up a stick, candy wrapper, or a cigarette butt.  Praise your puppy for leaving the item on the ground.  To train this command, set something in front of your puppy.  For training, I use something the puppy can have as a reward.  A toy or a small dog biscuit can be used.  Practice 3 "LEAVE IT" commands, and then allow the puppy to have the toy or treat.

The "DROP IT" is useful when your dog has already picked up that piece of garbage.  Give the command "DROP IT".  You may have to take the item out of your puppy's month until the puppy understands the command.  When you take it away from the puppy, say "good puppy" or "thank-you" in a pleasant tone of voice.  Once again, praise is important.  This command can also be used during retrieving games to let the dog know when to release the tennis ball or Frisbee.  The command "GIVE" is sometimes used for this purpose.  I use a toy to teach this command.  With the puppy on a leash, I give the puppy a toy.  After a few seconds, I tell the puppy to "DROP IT".  Take the toy from the puppy, then praise and reward your puppy.  

From time to time, the puppy will get something of yours.  If you are not in a position to reinforce the "DROP IT" command, encourage the puppy to make a trade.  Avoid chasing the puppy and playing tug of war when the puppy steals something.  The puppy and the children will like the game, but the adults don't!  Teach the puppy to trade for a biscuit or a puppy toy.  Show the puppy the wonderful toy or a food treat.  Be sure to use a favorite toy or a piece of food that is big enough for your puppy to see.  Use a positive tone of voice when you give the command "TRADE IT".  Once you have gotten the item you want back, praise your puppy.  The puppy will learn to associate the "TRADE IT" command with a present and praise.  This game is an effective, positive approach to the problem.  

Sit

Put a collar and leash on your puppy, get a few treats, and then kneel next the puppy.  Have a treat ready in your other hand.  Hold the treat in front of your puppy.  As you are running your hand down the puppy's back, slowly raise the treat over the puppy's nose.  The puppy will want to watch the treat.  The easiest thing for the puppy to do is sit.  Say "GOOD SIT", and give the puppy the treat.  Do not use pressure to push the puppy into a sitting position.  This action can result in damage to the hip joint.  After a few lessons, add the command "SIT" as you lure the puppy into a sit with the food.  Once the puppy has learned the meaning of the command, a food treat can be given occasionally.  The puppy should respond to just a verbal command, without physical contact, after just a few lesson.  Be patient with you puppy during the learning process.  With a positive approach, this exercise can be a fun game for you and your dog.

Down

The "DOWN" command is sometimes more difficult to teach.  Some dogs do not like the submissive position.  It may help if you kneeling or sitting on the ground.  You do not want to be in a dominant position.  Repetition, a positive attitude, and praise are important.  First put your puppy in a sitting position.  Kneel next to your puppy.  Gently place one hand on the puppy's shoulders.  With a treat in the other hand just in front of the puppy's nose, slowly lower the treat to the ground.  Begin moving the treat along the ground away from the puppy.  At the same time, apply very gentle pressure on the shoulders.  When the puppy is in the down position, say "GOOD JOB" or "GOOD DOWN" and give the treat.  Train with treats first, and then use both food and a verbal command.  Once the puppy understands the "DOWN" command, it is not necessary to begin with the puppy in the sitting position.  Avoid excessive physical contact during this lesson.  

Stand

The "STAND" command can also be taught from the sitting position.  Hold a treat near the puppy's nose,and slowly move the treat forward parallel to the ground.  As soon as the puppy is standing, put your other hand in front of the hind legs to prevent the puppy from sitting, praise the puppy and give the treat.  The "STAND" command is very useful at the veterinarian's office and at home while you are grooming your dog.

Stay

The "STAY" command is different than "WAIT".   Here you want the puppy to hold a specific position.  With the puppy in a sit, down or stand position, give the "STAY" command.  At first, 30 seconds in long enough.  Release the puppy with an upbeat "OKAY" command.  Over the next few weeks, gradually increase the time to 2 or 3 minutes.  A lot of praise when you release the puppy is important.  Food treats can be used occasionally too.  Do not increase the duration until your puppy is consistently holding the position.  To keep your puppy interested in the lessons, include some heeling and recall lessons before and after any of the stationary commands.