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Get Started on the Right Paw: The Foundations of Puppy Training

Chapter 1: Get Started on the Right Paw: The Foundations of Puppy Training

A husky puppy patiently training with their owner.

There are a few things in life that remain constant: puppies are magical, and puppyhood never lasts long enough. As a pup parent, we’re sure you’ve experienced moments of cuteness overload when you could swear that there’s nothing better in the world than your soft, sweet, and silly puppy.

While your puppy won’t stay small furever, you will always cherish the memories of bonding and training your new best buddy. Once you’ve mastered the skills in this training series, you can build your puppy’s skills, obedience, and character on a strong foundation filled with love, treats, and fun.

To help guide you on your journey, we have come up with this puppy training guide that will take your puppy from pee pads to a lifetime of obedience.

Puppies Take Patience: No Pup is Pawfect All the Time

Thank goodness puppies are so darn cute. It’s this adorable charm that helps you stay sane during the most stressful moments of raising a pup. You’ve probably had fleeting moments when you considered throwing in the towel, maybe while waking in the middle of the night to take your new best friend outside, or cleaning up the mess when you didn’t make it to the door in time. The bad news is that there will always be future messes. The good news is that beginning a puppy training routine can decrease the mess and multiply the warm and fuzzy memories. 

You will have to exercise your patience with your puppy. She may not seem like it, but we’re sure she’s eager to learn. So, remember when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a deep breath, walk away for a minute or two, and focus on how much joy your puppy has already brought into your life.

Embracing Your Pup’s Paw-tential: When Is the Best Time to Begin Training Your 

Puppies possess unlimited potential, energy, and the desire to please. Your puppy’s brain is in a prime position to take in a wide array of information and training. Beginning a training routine early allows you to make the most of your puppy’s natural aptitude while she is developing. Essentially, a puppy is a walking, wagging, wiggling learning machine, so why wait to begin working with her to mould her into the dog you want her to become?

Many pup parents are surprised to find that a puppy as young as 7 weeks old can learn to sit, shake, and even stay. Furthermore, scientists have found that dogs that begin training earlier in life can learn more complex behaviours and tasks in the long run. A puppy that follows commands isn’t just a way to show off how brilliant she is, encouraging your puppy to embrace obedience early on will help lay the foundation for a lifetime of good behaviour (and fewer messes and stress). 

Additionally, working with your pup is one of the best ways to build a bond that last furever. So, when it comes to training your puppy, the sooner you start the better.

Where Should You Begin Your Puppy’s Training?

In the words of Ian Dunbar, “Training a puppy is like raising a child. Every single interaction is a training opportunity.” Puppy training is a 24 hour-a-day job. In fact, you’ve been training your puppy since you first brought her home. And her mother began before that! When it comes to learning boundaries, behaviors, and roles in the house, your puppy truly is like a sponge.

Understanding What Your Pup Already Knows

All puppies get taught their first lessons from their moms and littermates. Your pup was taught about touch, play, wrestling, and wagging from about two weeks of age. Then, they begin to learn about interacting with people. This stage begins at about seven weeks and lasts until three months of age. Their brains pick up on what to expect in a simple input equals output mode.

For example, your puppy may realize, “If I nuzzle my owner’s hand, I will receive pets and attention.” This is a basic form of conditioning. And this happens to be the best time in your puppy’s life to begin fun-dational training.

Now is the Pawfect Time to Teach and Bond with Your Pup

The first few months of your puppy’s life also happen to be the most important time to begin nurturing trust between you and your pup. As Kate Naito, a dog behaviourist, suggests, relationship building and providing structure are the first steps in creating a puppy that is emotionally prepared to learn from you. When your puppy trusts you, they are more likely to be receptive to commands during training sessions. Puppies that have their basic needs met and a stable schedule are also better able to focus without being distracted about when they may get to go for a walk or receive a meal.

This is to say, while you haven’t realized it, you have been training your puppy all along. Now, it’s time to hone that training and work towards getting the results you want.

Pawsitive Reinforcement Puppy Training

a white lab puppy learning from their owner using positive reinforcements

Before you even pull out the training treats, it’s vital for puppy parents to understand the underpinning of successful puppy training. Studies show that positive reinforcement consistently produces better results and creates a better relationship between a dog and its owner. 

So, what is positive reinforcement and how does it work? Positive reinforcement is as simple as creating a connection between your dog performing the desired behaviour and earning a reward as the result. This connection conditions your dog to have lasting positive associations with the behaviour. Your puppy will quickly realize the benefits of completing a wanted behaviour and respond to positive reinforcement with enthusiasm and retain the connection over the course of her life.

How to Create a Pawsitive Learning Experience

One of the simplest ways to positively reinforce desired behaviours is with treats. Training treats are small, taste great, and smell yummy. They also are quick for your pup to eat, so she can get back to training after just a few nibbles. Because your pup will go through a lot of training treats as she learns, we recommend breaking them up. 

As your pup grows, you will notice the better the treat, the more she’s willing to do to earn one. So, pay attention to what makes her mouth water and tail wag. Reserve these treats for the more difficult tricks. 

You also want to consider keeping your hands free--puppies are quite the handful, after all. So, we suggest keeping your training treats in a pouch.

Establishing a Training Environment 

Keeping your home tidy will save you a great deal of stress while training your pup. You also want to select a space that is relatively distraction-free. This means no toys, other pets, and maybe give the kids a break from puppy-duty. As your puppy excels over time, you can introduce some distractions to help her build her focus.

How Long Should Training Sessions Be?

 You have probably noticed your puppy’s attention span is… well… fleeting. This is normal. You will want to keep your training sessions short. Five to ten minutes are optimal for practising a behaviour and taking a break to get back to play, snuggling, or taking a nap. As your puppy grows into a dog, you can look forward to longer training sessions of fifteen minutes at a time. Yeah, we know what you’re thinking, “My dog will have the attention span of a toddler.” That’s right. But on the bright side, she’ll quickly forgive you for stepping on her tail.

Chapter 2: Paw-ty Training & Crate Training Your Puppy

A chocolate lab that wasn't potty trained and peed on the floor

When it comes to puppies, poop, puke, and messes happen. It’s im-paw-sible to get through puppyhood without cleaning up unwanted messes. But our pups are worth it, aren’t they? All it takes is one puppy kiss or adorable tumble to forget the scrubbing. Luckily, you don’t have to just sit idly by waiting to clean up messes--you can help your puppy become housebroken quicker and reduce the number of clean-up catastrophes. 

Crate training and potty training can work wonders for preventing accidents and messes while providing you with peace of mind. More importantly, when your pup is potty trained and learns to love her crate, you can spend less time cleaning and more time playing with your pup.

When Can You Begin Potty Training and Crate Training Your Puppy?

Puppies begin learning early in their lives, so don’t be afraid to begin crate training as soon as you bring your puppy home. Puppies as young as seven weeks old can begin to be crate trained. 

Puppies at about 12 weeks old are at the perfect age to start potty training. By the time a puppy is about three months old, she begins to gain control over her bladder. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that a dog’s bladder is not fully developed with complete muscle control and a full capacity until about 6 months of age. So, be patient and forgiving should an “oops-I-peed” moment arise. This also means that, although young puppies can hold their bladders and bottoms, they cannot hold them for as long as an older dog. 

Keep in mind that on average, it takes between four months and a year for a puppy to become fully house trained. 

How Long Can a Puppy Hold It?

A beagle puppy that went pee on its pad while learning potty training

As your puppy grows, so will her ability to go longer between bathroom breaks. Until your puppy reaches about a year old, she may still have the occasional accident (even if you are a pro-potty trainer!). So, how long can your puppy hold her bladder?

One guideline that works well is to take your puppy outside at intervals based on her age. Puppies can usually hold it one hour for each month of their age. So, a three-month-old puppy can hold it for up to three hours, and a five-month-old puppy can hold it for five hours. So, as you’re potty training your pup, remember to check-in and take her out regularly at the time interval that aligns with her age. 

Get the Paw-ty Started: How to Potty Train Your Puppy

Australian puppy in the grass being potty trained

Housetraining your puppy and crate training go hand-in-hand. Which is why we paired them together (smart, right?). Keeping your puppy in a confined area reduces the risk of accidents and allows you to maintain a better eye on your pup. This means keeping your puppy in a crate while you’re away and in a playpen while you’re home. Once your pup gets a little older and gains better control over her bladder, she can enjoy more freedom. 

So, while working on crate training your pup you can use the following housebreaking method:

  1. Begin potty training by preparing your home for the inevitable accidents. Line your puppy’s crate and playpen with potty training pads to protect your floors. Should your puppy soil a pad, clean it up, toss it, and replace it ASAP. If your puppy misses her pad, be sure to clean up the mess immediately using an odor-eliminating cleaner with enzymes. Enzymes erase the urine scent. This prevents your puppy from picking up on the pheromones of urine which can prompt her to relieve herself in that same spot again, in the future.  
  2. Make a schedule for your puppy’s mealtimes. Most puppies eat three or more times per day. Schedule her last meal in time to take her out before bedtime, so she can relieve herself and rest soundly.
  3. The next step in potty training a puppy includes taking your puppy outside to do her business regularly. When you first bring your puppy home, you will need to bring her out every hour or so. Then as she settles in, you can lengthen the time to match the age guidelines for how long she can hold it.
  4. When you take your puppy out, always bring her to the same spot. Those pheromones you do not want inside your home will help prompt her to go outside.
  5. After your puppy uses the bathroom (number one or two), praise her like there’s no tomorrow and give her a training treat
  6. Let your puppy spend another moment enjoying her outdoor time. If you bring her in immediately after she goes, it can create a negative association in her mind and you may end up with a dog that holds it as long as paw-sible to milk her outdoor time.

Your puppy will soon connect the treats and praise to using the potty in the grass instead of indoors. Don’t’ be surprised when your puppy naturally begins walking to the door to alert you that she needs to go. You can reinforce this behavior by opening the door whenever your puppy goes near the door.

Puppy Potty Training FAQs

What Should I Do If I Catch My Puppy Going Inside?

Never spank your puppy for accidents. This can create a fearful attitude toward you, especially between the eight and eleven-week mark. If you spot your puppy squatting to go, immediately pick her up and carry her outside. Clean up the mess with your enzyme spray and move forward. Like we said, accidents happen.

Should I Train My Puppy to Use a Pee Pad?

Some pet parents choose to train their puppy to use pee pads when they live in apartments or work long hours. This contains the mess to one area of your home but can encourage some dogs to go on rugs. Consider hiring a dog walker to take your pup out if you’re working or do not want to traverse stairs every other hour.

I Potty Trained My Puppy, But She’s Still Going Inside. Why?

If your puppy or dog seems to suddenly forget how to hold it, it could be a sign of a urinary issue. You will want to consult your vet.

How to Crate Train Your Puppy

Chocolate lab puppy being crate trained

Crate training is one of the most valuable training techniques you can do for your puppy and yourself. While you’re away, you can enjoy the reassurance that your puppy is not getting into trouble, not having accidents around the house, and staying safe.

  1. The first step to crate training is selecting the right crate for your puppy. We recommend a crate that comes with separators that can be removed as your puppy grows. Your dog’s crate should be big enough for your puppy to stand up and fully turn around in. Dogs have a natural instinct to not got to the bathroom where they sleep, so be careful to not choose a crate that is too big.
  2. The next step is to make your dog’s crate a comfortable and pawsitive space. Add a crate bed (waterproof if you’re still potty training), add a few special toys, and use a pheromone comforting spray.
  3. The location of your crate matters. Because dogs are social animals, you want your pup’s crate to be in an area where you can see each other. This can be in your living room, office, or bedroom.
  4. Like potty training, you want to create a positive association and avoid negative associations for your puppy’s crate. You can do this with treats. Let your pup smell your high-value training treats and then put some inside the crate. Let her do this several times over the course of a few hours.
  5. Begin to pair your puppy entering her crate with a verbal command, like “crate time” or “go to bed.”
  6. Once your pup regularly enters the crate on her own, move on to shutting the crate door. When she turns to see the door closed, give her a treat and reassure her that she’s ok. Do not leave the room and only keep the door closed for a few minutes. Do not make a huge deal about her coming out of the crate, either.
  7. Gradually increase the time the door is closed. Once you reach 30 minutes, you can leave the room and even the house. You can also give your pup a special toy, treat, or chew that she only gets to enjoy while in her crate.

FAQs About Puppy Crate Training

What if my puppy cries when in her crate?

Remember, that your puppy is safe in her crate. You can make yourself visible and comfort her from outside of her crate. Over time, your puppy will feel more and more comfortable in her crate and no longer make a fuss.

Is It Cruel to Crate Train a Dog?

No. This is one of the most common misconceptions regarding crate training. Crate training allows your puppy to feel secure and relaxed. In fact, dogs have always preferred small den-like spaces to sleep.

What Comes After the Paw-ty? Playtime, Of Course!

Puppies love to play. Some just don’t know how to play appropriately. Make the most of your puppy’s playtime by encouraging bite inhibition and gentle play tactics. How can you accomplish this? It’s totally paw-sible. You just need to read our next chapter on teaching your puppy appropriate play behavior.

Chapter 3: Teaching Your Puppy Not to Play Too Ruff

A chihuahua and a puppy learning to play gently

Puppies and play go together like bananas and peanut butter! Unfortunately, puppy playtime usually involves sharp claws and pointy milk teeth. Likely your mom said to never play with sharp objects. This goes for puppy playtime, too. Before your puppy gets any bigger, you will want to start working on bite inhibition training and encouraging your pup to partake in appropriate play.

Ruff play can lead to trouble when your puppy begins socializing with other dogs, so let’s leap right into how you can be an effective rufferee.

Understanding Your Puppy’s Ruff Play Behavior

A puppy biting while playing too rough

If your puppy nips or bites while playing, don’t take it personally--it’s perfectly normal behaviour. Puppies bite, nip, paw, and mouth things as a way to investigate the world. They discover textures, tastes, and the nature of the world this way. They also learn about how to control their bite pressure (this is often called “bite inhibition”) when playing with their littermates and mom. Why does your puppy still bite too hard? Some dogs just learn quicker than others and bite inhibition takes time to perfect.

Your puppy may also be teething. Have you noticed her excessively chewing or gnawing on things? Like people, puppies have baby teeth and adult teeth. Their baby teeth (or milk teeth) will all begin growing in by the time your puppy is six weeks old. By the time she reaches three months old, these teeth begin to loosen and fall out to make room for her new adult teeth. This means that between the six-week mark to the eight-month mark, your puppy will periodically experience some mouth discomfort and feel compelled to massage her gums by mouthing or chewing.

The teething phase won’t last furever, so be patient and use some of the techniques listed below to make it through your pup’s ‘terrible teething twos.’ When it comes to rough play and biting too hard, you want to nip the problem in the bud. This issue rarely goes away on its own.

How to Help Your Puppy Cope with Teething Discomfort

a cute black puppy chewing on a toy to alleviate teething

From the time your puppy’s tiny pearly whites peak through her gums to the time her adult teeth grow in, your puppy will act like a chewing monster. To help her cope and save your favourite shoes from becoming her next chew toy, you want to provide her with plenty of healthy and appropriate chewing opportunities while eliminating opportunities to chew on inappropriate items.

How to keep your canine out of trouble and feeling better during the teething phase:

  • Pick up any objects your puppy may be tempted to chew on. Do not wait to find out if your pup has a penchant for shoes, leather, or your children’s toys. Trust us. She will at least try these all on for size at some point.
  • When you find your puppy chewing on something she should not be, take the item away immediately and replace it with an appropriate chew toy.
  • Provide your pup with a variety of durable chew toys. Puppies have short attention spans, so, the more toys the better.
  • Invest in chew toys that can be frozen. The icy chill against your pup’s gums numbs them and provides a unique and favourable sensation.

How to Teach Your Pup to Play Appropriately

a poodle puppy playing with a child gently

If you were to observe a puppy and her littermates, you’d see her wrestle, bite, frolic, paw, and make some unique vocalizations. Puppies learn about how to interact and play with one another from a very young age. This is how they develop bite inhibition and when to let up. When you brought your puppy home, she lost her access to her little four-legged instructors. And it’s very likely she forgot that biting too hard hurts. This is where you come in.

To teach your puppy how to play gently:

  • First and foremost, always be sure your puppy receives ample exercise for her age. This will reduce her desire to act out during non-play times and help her tire out more quickly.
  • The key to teaching bite inhibition is to mimic your pup’s littermates to an extent. If your puppy bites too hard while playing, cry out in a high-pitched voice, pull your hand away, and discontinue play. This tells your puppy, “I’m not having fun, therefore, I will not play.” She will eventually learn that she must play nicely.
  • Encourage your puppy when she’s playing gently with praise.
  • If your pup becomes a bit too excitable during play sessions, do not sit on the floor. This can present a safety issue, but also makes it difficult to control your pup.

Continuing Lifelong Appropriate Play

If your puppy wants to play with an object that is not a toy, resist accidentally playing tug-of-war with her. Instead, ignore her while grabbing a toy or chew toy that they are allowed to play with. Trade the toy for the non-play object.

As your puppy grows, be sure to instil boundaries and signals that tell your puppy it’s a good time to play. For example, have your puppy sit and wait for you to initiate play. Always ask your puppy to “sit” before she receives a new toy, as well. Then set the toy down and allow her to pick it up instead of taking it out of your hand. This will discourage her from lunging and protect your fingers from overzealous nips. 

As your puppy matures, you will want to provide toys with added mental stimulation. This means puzzle toys, treat toys, and busy toys that make her work a bit.

Appropriate Play FAQs 

What are some signs to look out for that can indicate a dog is playing too roughly?

Play can quickly go from appropriate to overly physical. Some dogs even lose their tempers. Some signs to discontinue play because your puppy is getting too rough include:

  • Prolonged growling
  • Raising her hackles on her neck and back
  • Staring
  • Showing the front teeth
  • Stiffening body posture
  • Pulling her ears back

It is normal for a puppy to:

  • Yip, bark, growl a little (especially while tugging)
  • Sneeze while playing
  • Go into “puppy play posture” with her head and front limbs lowered and rear end up in the air
  • Perk her ears

My puppy nipped me and broke skin during a play session--what should I do?

If your puppy nips or bites you accidentally, for example, while grabbing for a toy, then it’s safe to say it was a mistake. You should go through the “Ow!” process and discontinue play. Be sure to flush the wound and dress it appropriately. Visit your doctor if needed.

If your puppy intentionally nips or bites you for attention or out of frustration, ignore the behaviour, and give your puppy a quick time out. Teaching your puppy how to play nicely should remedy this in the long term, but a puppy that continues to bite will grow into a dog that doesn’t understand boundaries, and you should consult a trainer or behaviourist for help before your puppy gets too big.

Teach Your Pup Leash Etiquuete & Socialization: Take a Walk on the Not-So-Wild Side

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Once your puppy learns to play well with you and your family, you will want to encourage her to learn manners with other dogs and new people. To learn more about how to help your puppy become a good canine citizen and walk well on leash, get a new leash on life by checking out our next chapter!

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Chapter 4: Train Your Puppy Leash Etiquette & Socialization

 

A yellow lab puppy chewing on a leash while learning leash etiquette

When it comes to living life on a leash, many puppies aren’t naturals. In fact, leash training is one of the more difficult tasks when it comes to raising a well-behaved puppy. While you may feel tempted to put off-leash etiquette until your puppy becomes a full-grown dog, we strongly suggest you do not delay leash training. Once your puppy grows into a beautiful dog, pulling while on-leash can become disastrous. So, grab your leash and get started! 

Here’s what you need to know: to get a new leash on dog-walking life:

Why Train A Puppy to Walk Well On-Leash

Dogs are our best friends. This doesn’t mean they will always behave, though. Nor does it mean that serious accidents will not occur. Most people don’t realize that pulling is a problem when their puppy is still small. But if you wait until your puppy gets too old to begin leash-training, your job will likely become exponentially more difficult.  When you have full control of your dog on-leash, you keep your dog, other animals, and yourself safe. What do you risk by putting off leash training?

A dog without leash etiquette can:

  • Pull free and chase critters
  • Run into the road
  • Cause injury to you by pulling you over or pull hard enough to cause injury of the arm, shoulder, neck
  • Pull free and run at another dog, person, or child
  • Pull free and become lost
  • Get free and eat something toxic or foul

How to Train Your Puppy to Walk Well On-Leash

 

A beagle puppy learning how to walk on leash

You can begin leash-training your pup as early as 7 seven weeks of age. Yes, she will look a little silly. She may even trip over her own leash or want to bite the leash, but within weeks, she’ll get the hang of hanging by your side. 

Which gets us to a question that often comes up: how can you tell if your dog is walking well on-leash? Most trainers will tell you that it’s all about the amount of slack in the lead. This is true, but keep in mind not all dogs will remain in the heel position or by your immediate side. So, aim for a loose leash and a comfortable walking pace. You can work on a more formal “heel” position once your puppy grows up.

Step One: Pawchase the Right Equipment

The first step every dog parent needs to take when leash-training is purchasing the right equipment. A front-clipping harness is often the best choice for training a dog that pulls. A back-clipping harness can be a great option for smaller breeds, though. For the most part, you will want to avoid walking your dog using just a collar since this can put unnecessary strain on your dog’s neck. Although, a collar is always a great idea for your dog’s ID tag and safety when indoors.

What are the benefits of a front-clipping harness?

These harnesses reinforce your efforts as you train your dog. If your puppy pulls against a front-clipping harness, she is redirected toward you. This teaches your pup that pulling will result in negative progress, and that’s no fun!

Many dog parents also go too long when it comes to leash-length. You will want a leash that’s about 120 cm in length. Avoid retractable leashes since they can teach your puppy bad habits and potentially cause neck strain.

Stock up on training treats and keep them on you as you work with your pupper.

Step Two: Begin Leash Training Indoors

Begin working with your puppy indoors by introducing her to her leash and harness with minimal distractions. Let your puppy smell her harness and leash. Gently put her in her harness while giving her treats and praise. Tighten the harness to fit snugly, but leave enough room to get a few fingers beneath. 

Let your puppy warm up to her harness. If she tries to wrestle it off or chew on it, distract her with a toy. Let her wear the harness for about ten minutes then remove it. Let her settle down and put the harness back on your dog, giving her a treat once the harness is fully on. Connect the leash and keep the other end in your hand.

Begin by taking a few steps. Keep treats in your hand. When your puppy looks at you, provide a treat. If your pup gets a little wild, it’s ok. It’s totally normal--focus on reinforcing the wanted behavior.

Practice walking around your home. Once your pup gets to the end of the leash, reach down with a treat and say, “come.” When your pup returns, offer her the treat and keep walking in the same direction. Praise your dog if she continues to pay attention to you and stay at a walking pace.

 Step Three: Move to the Great Outdoors

Once your pup is used to her leash and harness and has been introduced to walking on-leash, they can graduate to going outside. Harness and leash your dog. Ask her to sit if she’s learned that command. Then release her from her sit and exit into the great outdoors!

As you walk, praise and treat your dog when she watches you and keeps some slack on the leash. If your puppy gets to the end of her leash, stop walking and turn the other direction. Continue this technique and your pup will soon become a walking sup-paw star!

If you notice consistent pulling triggers like squirrels or other dogs in your neighborhood, you can switch locations to somewhere a bit calmer. After several weeks and a few walks per day, your puppy will get better and better at walking by your side and you can try your neighborhood, again.

Making New Fur-ends: Socializing Your Puppy

Two puppies peering through a fence

Once your puppy has received all her first immunizations and gets the “Okay” from your veterinarian, it’s time to begin turning her into the social pupperfly you know she can be. Exposing your dog to other dogs and a variety of people helps your puppy grow into a well-rounded dog that knows how to interact with others. 

Why do dogs need to learn socialization? Just like people, some dogs need a little extra practice learning social cues and expressing themselves appropriately. Getting pups used to people and kids during the socialization stage (from three to sixteen months) can help your dog be confident and less fearful when meeting new people.

 How to Socialize Your Puppy

  1. Begin socializing your pup at home by handling her and exposing her to the world around her. This means letting her investigate your home and yard. After your pup has been home for a few weeks, she can begin meeting new people. You can sit with your pup in the yard and let her watch neighbors pass by.
  2. Next, you can introduce your pup to other dogs. Like other training techniques, little by little is the way to go. This may mean not bringing your puppy to the dog park until she’s a little older. Instead, set up a doggie playdate with one other dog. If you don’t know anyone with a dog to invite over, consider going to the park or dog park during off-hours or enrolling in a puppy class.
  3. Other puppies make great playmates. Senior playmates can get a little irritated by a puppy’s excessive energy but under appropriate supervision, this is great practice for your puppy to learn the signs of a dog that is not interested in playing. Let your puppy meet several dogs over the course of a few months.
  4. After you feel like your dog can hold her own, it’s dog park time! Just be sure to keep a close eye on your pup and her playmates. Keep in mind those tips and tricks for appropriate play in our previous chapter.

Pop Some Pup-Corn: It’s Time to Learn Some Tricks!

Did that make your ears perk up? When your puppy learns to sit, stay, come, and shake, it gives her the opportunity to put her best paw forward. To teach your precious and brainy best buddy these foundational tricks, take a peek at our next chapter. 

Chapter 5: Sit, Shake, Stay, and Come: Your Puppy’s First Tricks

A husky puppy learning to sit with their owner by their side

One of the most inspiring moments in a dog parent’s life is when your puppy learns to sit on command. It’s like lightning strikes! It’s amazing that your puppy knows what you’re saying. In addition to the initial joy of communicating with your pup, there’s the added joy of know that your dog’s training journey has begun and is about to take off! This chapter will walk you through some foundational commands to teach your puppy. Prepare to impress friends at your next pup party!

Deciding On a “Correct” Cue

Our dogs are good boys and girls. It’s very likely that you remind your fuzzy best friend all the time what a good dog he or she is. Because you want to be able to remind your dog that she rocks, you can save the “good boy” or “good girl” cue for when she’s generally being amazing, but not completing a command. This means you will want another cue-word to tell your dog that she’s performing a command correctly. We suggest “yes!” This is a simple word that resonates well with dogs. If you prefer another correct cue, choose a word that is unique and short.

How to Train Your Puppy to Sit

A puppy learning to sit

Sitting is often one of the quickest tricks you can teach your pup. After a few sessions, your puppy should sit on the first request reliably. How can you get to that point? Follow these steps:

  1. Place a training treat in between your index finger and thumb. 
  2. Let your puppy smell the treat. 
  3. Gradually move the treat over your dog’s nose, snout, eyes, and slightly behind her head. Most dogs instinctively sit as they try to keep their eyes on the treat as it passes over their eyes. As soon as your dog’s bum hits the ground, say “sit” and give your dog the treat. Repeat this several times.
  4. Take a quick break from training. When you get back to it, hold the treat, say “sit,” then begin to move the treat over your dog’s head. This time as soon as your dog sits, say “yes!” and provide the treat.

For the rare puppy that doesn’t sit as you guide the treat backward, you can simply stand, holding the treat, and wait for your dog to naturally sit. As soon as she sits, say “sit” and give her the treat. Repeat this several times then follow the fourth step above.

Teach Your Puppy to Shake Hands

A dog owner teaching her puppy to shake or give paw

After your puppy masters the sit command, you can pair it with “shake.” This trick will come in handy, time, and time again. It helps your pup get comfortable having her paws handled, making pedicures easier, and it can be a lifesaver should your puppy step on a thorn or injure her paw.

  1. Ask your puppy to sit. After her rear end touches the floor, give her a treat, and touch her paw. You do not need to begin by grabbing her paw. Simply touching it with your index finger on top or on the pads is enough. 
  2. After gently stroking and touching her paw briefly, give your puppy another treat and say “shake.” Repeat this several times over the course of two or three sessions.
  3. After your puppy is used to having her paws touched, you can ask her to sit, then gently lift her paw off the floor. Say “shake” and give her a treat. Repeat this several times.
  4. Now it’s time to encourage your puppy to place her adorable paw in your hand. Ask her to sit, then put your hand out, palm flat and upward, and say “shake.” Your puppy may immediately put her paw on your hand, but she is much more likely to sniff it or lick it. But be patient. She will figure it out, and as soon as she puts her paw on your hand, give her a treat and the “yes!” cue. Rinse and repeat!

Teaching Your Pup to Come When Called

A bull terrier puppy running at their owner when called

Be prepared to celebrate your puppy’s success in record time! “Come” is one of the easiest commands for a puppy to learn. Here is how it works:

  1. Simply sit with your dog and say your dog’s name followed by “come.” Then give your pup a treat. Do this a few times.
  2. Next, take a step backward or scoot back, place the treat in your hand, say “come,” and let your dog walk up to you and take the treat. Scoot a few steps back, and repeat. 
  3. You can graduate to going halfway across the room, say “come,” as soon as your dog reaches you, say “yes” and give her the treat.

Your puppy will naturally want to test boundaries and ignore you from time to time. If you call your dog to come, and she’s being mischievous, do not repeatedly call her.

Additionally, resist reaching out and grabbing your puppy after she comes. This can be distracting and lead to a negative association. Remember as your puppy grows to continue to praise her for coming when called.

Teach Your Puppy to Stay

A puppy learning to stay

Another excellent foundational behavior to have in your pup’s pocket is to “stay” on command. While your puppy may seem like a jittery ball of restless energy, she can learn to sit and stay from an early age. You can use this command when you have guests over to keep your puppy from greeting them as soon as you walk in the door. It also works great when you need to clean up a mess that includes food you do not want your pup to eat or dangerous items like broken glass.

  1. Ask your puppy to sit. Then turn your hand upward into a “stop” signal.
  2. Take a step backward and say “stay.”
  3. Then lower your hand and say “come.” As soon as your dog reaches you, say “yes” and treat her.
  4. If your dog gets up before you’ve released her with “come,” ask her to “sit,” again. Then put up your hand and say “stay” with your hand up. Almost immediately, say “come.” She will soon realize that she only receives the treat after she waits. 
  5. After a few successful sessions, increase the time your dog waits. After a while, you can even begin to back up and walk away. 

Remember to practice these commands occasionally throughout the week, especially while your puppy is still young. With time your puppy will impress you with her skills, obedience, and desire to learn more. 

The Pawfect Way to Build on Your Pup’s Training

As your puppy grows into an amazing dog, you will want to expand the commands you teach her. This will keep her mentally stimulated and engaged. Consider teaching your pup drop it, spin, lie down, and roll over.

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Owning a puppy is by far one of the most rewarding adventures in life. Remember that practice and patience make perfect and your dog will repay all of your dedication over and over again by being by your side with loving adoration.