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Puppies: Basic Obedience

A puppy can learn a great deal, even as early as 7 weeks of age, if learning is fun and presented in the form of gentle play. Motivational methods work best for the tender young puppy soul. Reward desired behaviors by offering toys, food and praise so the puppy wants to obey. Whenever possible, try to arrange the situation so he/she can't make a mistake. Never use physical punishment as you may damage him/her both mentally and physically.

Most puppies, like young children, enjoy learning, but have short attention spans. the following exercises can be done several times a day. They take just a few minutes but will make a tremendous difference in your puppy's attitude. To establish a positive rapport with your puppy and prevent many future problems, start training a few days after your puppy settles in.

We can only offer very brief explanations here, and trainers have many variations on these concepts. If you run into problems, consult a professional trainer. A puppy can start formal obedience training about four to six months of age.

Sit: Move a toy or piece of food (the motivator) from a position in front of the puppy to a point up over his/her head and say, "Sit". The puppy will probably raise his/her head to follow the motivator and in the process, lower his rear end to the floor. You may gently help the puppy at first by tucking his bottom under with your free hand. When he/she sits, praise the puppy exuberantly and give him/her the toy or treat as a reward.

Down: Show the puppy a tantalizing piece of food or a toy to get his/her attention. Say "Down" and slowly lower the food or toy to the floor. If needed, help him/her down with very slight pressure on the puppy's shoulders. Do not put pressure on the puppy's back as this could cause injury. When the puppy lies down, give the puppy the toy or treat even if the puppy only lies down for a second. Later you can extend the length of time he/she must stay down before you give the puppy the toy or treat.

Stand: Starting with the puppy in the down position, say "Stand" and raise a treat or toy forward and upward in front of the puppy. Gently help position him/her with your other hand if needed. Have him hold the stand position for a second or two, then release, reward and praise the puppy exuberantly.

Wait: Have the puppy sit. Say "Wait" and back away from the puppy, one or two steps. Praise the puppy for staying. After just a second or two, reward, praise, and release. Always reward the puppy when he/she is still waiting, not after he/she gets up, so the puppy associates the reward with waiting and not the release. If the puppy gets up too soon, simply repeat the exercise. Gradually increase the time the puppy waits.

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