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Training through Your Pup’s Growth Stages


In This Chapter

Welcome to school. Puppy school that is! This chapter covers the basic directions that all puppies must learn to feel fully integrated and part of your world. Mutual understanding does more than create dogs who take orders — it fosters a communication bond that is equal to none.

I suggest that you practice each exercise five to ten minutes a day. As you practice, you may notice that your puppy picks up certain directions quickly but that others take more time. Don’t fret. That’s how training usually goes. After all, think of what you’re accomplishing: You’re teaching another species your language. My advice is to be patient throughout the many phases because puppies learn best from an understanding teacher.

Infant Lessons: 8 to 12 Weeks

Don’t expect too much from this age group. Even though a puppy at this age is capable of learning, his brain won’t finish developing until he’s 12 weeks old. Your puppy learns best when you incorporate training into his playtime. Hang around with him, use his name as you offer him good things (like toys and  treats), and introduce him to the leash — pretty basic stuff. Begin housebreakingat this stage, but don’t expect a totally housebroken puppy in four weeks.


Forget discipline at this stage because your pup is just too young to understand it. You succeed only in frightening him and eroding your relationship — and that’s not good.

Use your puppy’s name

Pick a short name or nickname to highlight your cheerful association and attention. Use it each time you offer your puppy something positive, such as food or praise. When you call to your puppy, speak in a sharp, positive tone that bespeaks camaraderie and direction. Avoid “sing-song” tones because those are translated as whines and will bring sympathy or be tuned out.
For a fun way to use your puppy’s name, try the Treat Cup Name Game in Chapter Ten Fun Games.

Start leash training

Put a collar on your puppy immediately. He may fuss at first, but don’t worry — he’ll eventually get used to it. Next, attach a light leash to his collar and let him drag it around. After a day, pick up the leash and follow him around. As he gets used to having you follow him, start calling out his name and encouraging him to follow you.
Do any number of foolish things to pique his interest. When he starts following you, praise him generously. Say “Follow!” and kneel often to hug him. If he strongly resists following you, don’t run over to him; you’d be reinforcing the resistance. Instead, tug the leash gently and lower yourself to the floor while you praise him.


Puppies grow fast, so keep an eye on the collar size and loosen it when necessary.

Work on “Sit” and “Okay”

Say “Sit” as you position your puppy. To position your pup, put your right hand under his chin and use your left hand to squeeze the waist muscles below the ribs.


Use the happy word “Okay” to give your puppy permission. Say “Okay” as you give your puppy positive things: a meal, pat, toy, and so on.

Walk the stairs

Stairs can be a very formidable obstacle for puppies. Some small breeds are just too little to tackle the stairs, so they must be carried up and down. That’s okay because in time, they’ll be scampering up and down like the big dogs. Some larger breed puppies are big enough to use stairs, but they’re afraid because their depth perception isn’t completely developed.


If you have a puppy with stair phobia, help him walk the stairs by cradling his belly and guiding his paws. If possible, have someone crouch down a few stairs away to cheer him on.

Work on handling and socialization

When you handle your puppy, you’re teaching him that human contact is good. So, without frequent and gentle handling, your pup will grow up to be a dog who’s wary of people. Also, puppies who aren’t socialized often develop a fear of unfamiliar situations and people. By handling and socializing your puppy, you’re helping him grow into a well-adjusted, gentle dog who’s comfortable around people and new situations.



When you’re calmly petting your puppy, occasionally play veterinarian. Peek into your puppy’s ears and check out what’s going on in his mouth and eyes. Press his belly gently and handle the base of the tail. Handle the paws like you’re trimming his nails. So that he won’t get scared while you’re handling him, praise your puppy gently or give him a treat. By getting your pup used to being handled, you help yourself and your veterinarian, who always appreciates a good patient.


Puppies at this age are too young to be taken out on the town, but between 8 and 12 weeks is the best age to socialize your puppy with new people and other dogs. So, to socialize your puppy, invite your neighbors and friends over, borrow a group of active kids, or have a puppy play date with another healthy canine.
When you’re socializing with your puppy, be sure to either walk him on a leash if you’re near a road or let him drag a long line (refer to Chapter Home Sweet Home) if you’re allowing him free play in an open yard. When people approach to pet your puppy, encourage him to sit as you brace him into position. Keep him near to your side or just behind you so that your presence is known to him. Ask people to offer treats and handle him so that he becomes comfortable with others too.

Food and toy conditioning

Some puppies are prone to food and object guarding — they’ll innately guard these objects from another dog, and may mistakenly view your approach with the same level of defensiveness.
To prevent this mindset: Go to your puppy every other day during one of his meals. Offer him a biscuit and a pat and say “Good boy!” After he anticipates your offering, remove his bowl while he eats the treat and then return the bowl and leave. At this point, if you have children in the house, bring them with you and start the process from the beginning.
Early food-bowl conditioning prevents food guarding later in your pup’s development.

Correct mischievous behavior


If your puppy is rough or jumpy during playtime, attach a short leash onto his collar. If he starts misbehaving, take the leash and tug him away from or off the person he’s jumping on. If you use your hands, the behavior may escalate because hands are considered interactive, and in your puppy’s mind, interaction is the best treat in the world.

When your puppy is attached to the leash, you can correct any mischief without physical interaction. For example, if a puppy puts his front paw in my lap and I push him away with my hands, I’m actually encouraging him to put his paw up on my lap again because, in his mind, pushing is interactive. If, instead of pushing, I grab the leash, tug him off my lap, and ignore him until he’s calm, he learns that calm puppies get petted.

Terrible Twos Lessons: 12 to 16 Weeks

During the terrible twos phase, your puppy is beginning to recognize what behaviors get your attention, what games seem to last the longest (and these aren’t necessarily the games you want to be playing), and who the boss is (and in his eyes, it may not be you). Even though he may act pretty confident during this phase, your pup still needs direction from you. The advice in this section can help you guide your puppy successfully through his terrible twos.

Keep control

When you’re home, always know where your puppy is. If you give him complete freedom, he’ll misbehave and you’ll end up paying for it — in more ways than one. Unsupervised, a puppy can rearrange your closets, eat garbage, and chew on the chairs.


You’re still dealing with a young puppy. Keep yours near you in one of four ways:

– By using the leading and stationing concepts (outlined in Chapter Teaching Everyday Etiquette)

– By observing him in an enclosed area, such as a gated kitchen

– By keeping him in a crate

– By making sure he’s always with you around the home (Attach him to a dragging lead that’s attached to the buckle collar.)

When he’s confined, give him attention for good behavior.

Work on ten basic directions

Your puppy is still very young. Even though he can learn a lot, he’s still very sensitive and vulnerable to your impressions. So stay cool. Getting frustrated or impatient only frightens him and makes him less responsive to you.


Following are some suggestions when working with your toddler pup:

– Keep your lessons short and snappy. They should be no more than a couple of minutes.

– Speak your directions clearly and enunciate your syllables. Also, give directions only once because repeated directions sound drastically different from single directions (consider the indecipherable “sitsitsitcomeonpleasesitdown”).

– Continue using your directions during playtime.

– Use hand signals to help you get visual attention. Also use treats with some of the directions. However, after the direction is understood, food rewards should be phased out gradually to avoid treat dependence.

Believe it or not, your puppy can have a ten-word vocabulary by the time he’s 4 months old. He already knows his name, so check one off the list immediately. Read on for the remaining nine commands you can teach your young puppy.

Look Up

This game teaches your puppy to respond to his name being called and to focus on you. Stand above him and call out his name as you lift a toy or treat from his eyes to yours. Vary the time he must stare at you before rewarding him, from two to ten seconds. Good boy!


Use the “Follow” direction whenever you’re walking your puppy on a leash or encouraging him to follow you. If he’s disinterested in you, start teaching this direction by shaking a treat cup filled with treats or his meals and rewarding him as you go. Gradually lengthen the distance he cooperates between treats.


This exercise is ideal for a clicker if you’re using one: Click when he cooperates, and then treat him. See Chapter Using Cool Tools and Groovy Gadgets for more on using this great training gadget.

If your puppy stops dead in his tracks while learning to follow, you should not drag him. Not only could it cause physical discomfort, but it also may frighten him. You may be thinking “What are my options then?” Be creative. You can shake treat cups, skip and bounce, squeak a toy, or kneel down and encourage. However, you must do all of these without looking at him. Reward and face him only when he’s near, and near he’ll stay.


The “Follow” direction isn’t optional. If your puppy doesn’t want to go and you stop to cajole him, you reinforce his resistance. Say the direction happily and then skip, bounce, or dart ahead — do whatever you can do to encourage his quick and willing participation.


Teaching your puppy to sit is like teaching a child to say please. This is a good manner that will last a lifetime, and like kids, your puppy’s good manners are learned at home! Practice the following exercise twice a day for four days:

1. Take your puppy aside with a handful of small treats.

2. Place a treat between your index finger and thumb and say “Sit” as you bring the treat slightly above your puppy’s nose (see Figure 14-1a).

3. When he sits, give him the treat, say “Okay,” and praise him (see Figure 14-1b).

Keep the exercise fresh by practicing it often and limiting repetitions to three or four per session. After a while, you can begin using hand signals, such as lifting your index finger above your pup’s nose, to get him to sit. As the days progress and your puppy seems to catch on, try giving the direction and signal outside of a lesson time and without a treat. After about four days, phase out the treat and stop using this direction in lessons. Continue using the direction and signal throughout the day.

Figure 14-1: Use a treat and lots of praise to teach your puppy to sit.


After your puppy has mastered “Sit,” begin to use it throughout the day and introduce the “Down” direction during lesson time with these steps:

1. Take your puppy aside with some treats.

2. Placing the treats between your fingers, instruct “Sit.” However, before you let go of the treat, drop your hand between your puppy’s paws and say “Down.”

3. Your puppy may not know what to do, so as he looks down, press gently between his shoulder blades with your left thumb and press him gently into position (see Figure 14-2).

4. Let go of the treat when his elbows hit the floor, praise him, and say “Okay” to release.

5. Repeat Steps 2 through 4 five times.

The eventual hand signal is pointing to the ground. After four days, phase out hiding the treat in your signaling hand and begin to enforce the direction by gently placing your puppy into position.


Puppy pressure points

If you’re having trouble getting your puppy to do what you want him to do, there are several pressure points on your puppy’s body that, when gently pressed, will guide him into a specific position. Here are the ones I use most frequently for various commands:

Sit: With your index finger and thumb, press your puppy’s waist muscles, located just behind his last rib (on either side of his spine).

Down: The pressure point for this direction is located between the shoulder blades. With the flat of your thumb, press steadily while lifting out one of his paws (if necessary) to create a tripod effect.

Stand: To encourage your puppy to stand, slide your hand between his thigh and belly. Give his belly a tickle with the tip of your fingers if your pup’s still down.

Forward: When encouraging your puppy to move forward, tuck his tail between his legs and guide his head gently.

Back: Back your puppy up by pressing the muscles on either side of his collarbone (located beneath his neck). If this trick causes him to sit, slide your hand along his thigh to prop him up.

Side: Take the side of your hand and press his side as you maneuver him to the left or right.

Figure 14-2: Teach the “Down” direction by cradling a puppy’s shoulders and pressing him  ently into position.


The “Stand” direction is handy when you want to clean muddy paws and during general grooming sessions. Twice a day for four days, take your puppy aside with some treats and do the following:

1. Place a treat between your fingers and say “Stand” as you pull an imaginary string from your puppy’s nose forward.

2. When your puppy stands, stop your fingers and cradle his belly as you repeat “Stand.”

3. Pause and then release with “Okay” as you allow your puppy to have the treat.


Your pup may try to snatch the treat early, but hold it firmly, say a discouraging “Ep, ep,” and don’t release it until he’s standing.

4. Repeat these steps five times.

The eventual hand signal is a short point forward from his nose. As the days progress, try this direction out of lesson time and without a treat. After four days, phase out the treats and stop using this direction in lessons. Continue to use the direction and signal throughout the day.


Most puppies enjoy playing with toys, although like young children, they won’t get the concept of sharing for a while. To help your puppy along, play the following game. Try it first with your puppy on a leash and with some treats or a clicker in your pocket. Take your puppy into a small, quiet room with a favorite ball or squeak toy and then follow these steps:

1. Kneel on the floor and praise your puppy happily for nearly a minute before you bring out the toy.

2. When you bring the toy out, toss it in the air (and catch it) to encourage his interest and then give it a short toss.

3. If he takes the toy, let him keep it for a while.

You want him to feel that you’re not there to challenge him for it.

4. Now bring out the treat (and clicker if you’re using it). As you offer your puppy the treat, he should spit out the toy. As he does, say “Give” and either click and treat or treat as you praise him.

5. Give the object back immediately.

This action will highlight your good intentions to play and not steal.

6. Continue Steps 2 and 3 until you notice that he looks to you as soon as he picks up the toy.

7. Encourage him to come toward you with the toy as you run away from him calling out “Bring.”


Your puppy should release the toy quickly, but if he doesn’t, you can encourage him by squeezing his upper muzzle just behind the canines. Praise him for releasing.

8. Repeat these steps five times and praise him profusely when the game is over.

Practice these directions in the confines of a small room for five days and then bring the direction into normally populated areas. Phase out the treats gradually.

Settle Down


In each room, your puppy should have a special corner or area equipped with a bed and a chew bone. Eventually, you want to be able to send your puppy to this area on direction — a tactic that is especially useful during human mealtimes or when you have company.

To teach him this principle, select areas in each room and then, with your puppy on leash, say “Settle Down” and point to the area with your free hand. He’ll probably need an escort, so take him there. If he’s unsure, stay with him, eventually securing him to this spot with a short leash. Stay with him until he’s engrossed in a chew toy or resting peacefully. The security of having his own spot and being able to consistently go there for toys and attention will prompt his cooperation. Soon he’ll naturally go to the area himself when he’s tired.


Your puppy must be fully leash trained and older than 12 weeks before you secure him in order to avoid feelings of entrapment, which is common in young puppies. Before you begin teaching this direction, make sure you read and understand the stationing concept. See Chapter Teaching Everyday Etiquette for details.

Wait and Okay

When approaching doors or stairs, use the direction “Wait” and bring your puppy behind your feet. This maneuver is best accomplished by bringing the leash behind your back. Pause for a couple of seconds and then say “Okay” as you step out first.


The leader must always lead (that means you!).

Excuse Me

Puppies like to get in the way. Blocking you gets them attention, but it makes you look subservient, and it can be dangerous if you trip or step on them. Whenever your puppy trips you up, gets on the wrong side of the leash, leans, or just gets in your way, say “Excuse Me” and move him out of your way with the leash or by shuffling your feet under his body. Don’t yell at or kick your puppy, and don’t use your hands (he’ll just interpret these actions as an invitation to play). Thank him for respecting you, and soon he’ll move with his tail wagging.

Continue to work on handling and socialization

Continue to handle and touch your puppy’s paws, ears, eyes, belly, and tail as you would if you were grooming or medicating him. If your puppy will be around children, be sure he can handle it. Act like a kid: Pull his coat gently, squeal, and make sudden movements. Praise your puppy and give him treats during your performance.
And don’t forget socialization, because your puppy loves to party. He loves friends with four legs and friends with two legs. If he’s too young to be taken out (ask your veterinarian), invite people in — kids included. If you don’t have kids, borrow some. After your veterinarian has completed your puppy’s  shots, start taking your pup out on the town and introducing him to everyone you meet. Take him to three new areas a week.


Ask your veterinarian whether she can recommend a well-managed puppy kindergarten class in your town. Joining a class is a fun way to meet other puppies and people.


Lots of socialization doesn’t create a dog who won’t protect his home or his people. Socialization simply encourages your puppy to trust your judgment where people are concerned. On the other hand, lack of socialization creates a dog who is overly attached to his family and who is intolerant of visitors. Depending on his breed and temperament, this dog may become fearful or defensive of other people on or off your property. Such dogs are difficult to manage and are a constant concern around people. Spare yourself the agony and socialize that puppy.

Your Budding Adolescent: 16 to 24 Weeks

When you and your puppy reach the budding adolescent stage, you may feel like hiding in the closet. Some days are livable. However, other days you feel like moving. Your puppy won’t listen or respond to known directions. He bolts, chases, and nips at everything that moves. He demands your attention and barks or mounts you when he doesn’t get his way. He insists on being the center of attention every moment of every day.
Keep in mind that this stage is normal. I managed to live through it, and you will too. During this stage you should start a regimented training schedule. Keep your sessions short and lively, and use each new direction during lesson time only for the first week; after that, you can try it at other times of day.


This process allows your puppy to be successful, mastering each direction before you start applying it to his day-to-day world — similar to letting children master their addition skills in school before asking them to balance your checkbook.

2 Gradually allow freedom around the house

Continue to organize your puppy’s free time in the house with the leash unless you’re able to give him your complete attention in an enclosed area.

Knowing the difference between praise and petting

When your puppy learns something new, it’s very exciting for everyone. But try to control
yourself. When you get fired up, your puppy does, too. Learning takes a lot of concentration, which means that an excited pup won’t learn much. As you practice your exercises, remember that there’s a difference between praise and petting. Petting comes from your hand — it excites your puppy and communicates play intentions. Praise comes from your voice and eyes and is given from an upright position — it calms your puppy and communicates your leadership. Remember this handy phrase: “Praise between exercises; petting to end them.”
If he begins to respond well on his own, attach a short 4-foot drag lead and give him some freedom in the house, gradually increasing this freedom. Don’t rush it, though. If he does well for the most part but falls apart when company arrives, put him on the leash when you have visitors.

2 Continue to teach manners

Continue to use the direction “Sit” throughout the day. Use it before petting him, putting his food down, or offering a treat. Use it when you let him out of the car or house and before his admirers approach.


Give the “Sit” direction only once. If your pup looks at you as though you’ve never met or he simply ignores you, either tug the leash and say “No” or simply position him. Don’t get in the habit of repeating directions because he may never listen!

Add a word a week


As your puppy is developing, both physically and mentally, you need to start teaching these useful directions: Heel, No, Stay, Come, and Stand-Stay. If you work on the “word a week” plan, you’ll shape your puppy’s understanding and social skills in no time!


A puppy standing calmly at his owner’s side, walking when she moves, and sitting when she stops, is a beautiful thing to watch. Yes, such control can be yours, too, if you’re patient. Though it takes awhile to synchronize, eventually you’ll be maneuvering through crowded streets and calling your puppy to heel from a distance. Sound miraculous? Use these exercises to train your puppy to stay at your heel.
How many ways were you taught to sit at the dinner table? Most likely you were taught just one. Guess how many ways there are to heel? You’re right — one. Picture your puppy at your heel with toes aligned and heads facing in the same direction. Isn’t it a pretty picture to imagine?

Do the simple circle

Practice this heeling exercise in an open, quiet place (inside or out). Clear an area to walk in a circle. Position your puppy next to you at your left side, everyone’s heads facing in the same direction, and your puppy’s paws lined up with your heel (see Figure 14-3). You’re ready to start performing the following steps:

1. Relax your arms straight, keeping your left thumb behind the seam of your pants. Tug the leash back whenever your puppy pulls from your side.

2. Instruct your puppy by saying “<Name>, Heel” as you begin to walk in a counterclockwise (dog on the inside) circle.

Walk in a cheerful manner, with your head held high and your shoulders back to communicate the right attitude.

Figure 14-3: Setting up to do the simple circle heeling exercise.

3. Praise your puppy for walking with you.

If you want to, introduce a click or a treat for his cooperation. Tug him back into position if your puppy’s attention starts to stray.

4. Stop after each circle by slowing your pace and reminding him to “Heel.”

5. Place your puppy into a sitting position.


To position your pup into the sit position when you stop, grasp the base of the leash (where the leash attaches to your puppy’s collar) with your right hand and use your left hand to squeeze the pressure point located on his waist.

6. Practice five circles twice a day.


If your dog turns to face you when you stop, guess what? He’s facing off. He’s making another attempt at interaction, play, and misdirection. To discourage this habit, either hold his waist into position as you stop or come to a stop alongside a wall or barrier so that he’s unable to move out of position.

A good leash tug shouldn’t involve knuckles, shoulders, or chest muscles. Think of your elbow as a hinge. Without the leash, rock your elbow back and forth. Now imagine that I was holding my hand behind your back. Slap my hand without doing more than flexing your triceps muscle with a slight bend of your elbow. Now pick up the leash. Holding the lead behind your back, snap your elbow. Pretend my hand’s there and you’re trying to hit it.

Float the finish


When you’re preparing to stop, slow your pace slightly, lift your left foot high in the air (like you’re marching), and then drop it lightly to the floor. This action gives your puppy an added clue that he’s supposed to stop and sit.

Change your pace

As you change your pace, keep your leash hand steady and relaxed behind the seam of your pants. Move faster by trotting. Slow your pace by lengthening your stride. Make sure you change gears smoothly and indicate the change by saying “Clk, clk” or “Shh.” Remember, your puppy’s a canine, not a Porsche.

Do an about face

Walking at a normal speed, say “Heel” and pivot to the right. To help your puppy keep up, slow down as you turn. Cluck, bend your knees, or slap your leg to keep him with you. Walk six paces, stop and position the sit, and then hug your puppy for a job well done. (Remember: Avoid choking him through the turn — that’s no fun.)

Heeling practice tips

You know you’re ready to practice the “Heel” direction in everyday situations when your puppy responds without pressure on his collar. Use this direction everywhere:

Keep a short lead on your puppy around the home. Pick the lead up occasionally and say “Heel” as you walk from room to room.

Use the “Heel” direction on your walks. If your puppy’s young or just beginning to learn, heel him for one-fourth of your walk. Increase the distance over the next month until your puppy is always walking at your side.

Practice heeling in a parking lot and other more crowded situations (just make sure they’re not too crowded). Don’t allow sniffing or lunging at neighborhood pals and be mindful of your puppy, no matter what the distractions.


Stay calm if things get out of hand when you’re in public. If you yell “Heel, heel, heel!” and jerk your poor puppy back and forth, he’ll just get more excited. If you have this problem, determine whether you’re asking too much too soon. Maybe your puppy simply needs to exercise more before you practice in public.


Be sure to keep your hand behind you — left arm straight and behind your back (see Figure 14-4). If your left hand is in front of your thigh, your puppy is the leader, not you.

Figure 14-4: The right way to hold the leash for heeling.


Is your puppy too strong for you to manage? Try the tush push, which transfers the strain of your leash from your arms to the trunk of your body. Here’s how it goes: Slide the leash around your backside and grasp it in both hands. Slide both thumbs together and rest them on your left tush. Keep your arms straight and relaxed, and when your puppy surges ahead, simply push back with your tush.


There are a few inconsistencies with the way people use this little word that leaves puppies baffled as to its meaning.

People usually shout it. Shouting to a puppy sounds like barking. Would barking excite a situation or calm it down?

People use it with their puppies’ names. (In fact, many puppies think No is the second half of their name: “Buddy No!” “Tristan No!” “Molly No!”) You should only use your puppy’s name when you’re happy, not mad.

People say it after the action has occurred. If I yelled at you after you ate a bowl of soup, would you understand that I was upset at you for opening the can? Said at the wrong time, “No” communicates nothing.

People say it repetitively. “No, no, no, no” sounds different from “No.”

What’s an owner to do to teach a puppy not to get into trouble? Fortunately, I have the answer. First, you need to teach your puppy the concept of No by setting up situations to catch the thought process. As you train your pup to understand No, work indoors first and then out.
Indoors, put your puppy on his leash and have someone secretly place a piece of cheese on the floor in a neighboring room (this is your prop). Follow these steps and pay attention to timing.

1. Bring your puppy into the heel position and casually walk toward the cheese.

2. The second your puppy notices the cheese, tug back on the lead and say “No!”


Your puppy has a built-in antenna system: his ears. If his ears perk up, your puppy is alert. When teaching No, watch your puppy’s ears. Correct your puppy the second he becomes alert to something inappropriate.

3. Continue to walk like nothing has happened.

Remember: You’re the boss. No means No.

4. Walk by the cheese several times to ensure that your puppy got the message.


If you’ve been using “Ep, ep” with your puppy, save “No” for major infractions like stealing food from the counter or chasing the cats or kids. You may continue to use “Ep, ep” if you catch your puppy going astray, like when he’s sniffing something on the street or considering mischief.

After your indoor training, practice “No” when you’re out for a walk. When your puppy notices a passing jogger, car, kid, another dog, or two tidbits climbing a tree, say “No” just like you did with the cheese. Sidestep away from the temptation to emphasize your disapproval. Continue to tug each time the ear-antennas flicker. Praise your puppy for focusing on you and relaxing his radar system.


If “Stay” is your dream direction, you’re not alone. I’m not sure why people have so much trouble teaching this direction. My guess is that they probably rush it. They teach the direction one day and expect their dog to stay while they welcome company or walk into the kitchen for a sandwich. Promise me this: You won’t rush. When taught progressively, this direction’s a real winner.


Here are a few rules to follow when teaching the “Stay” direction:

– Look over your puppy’s head when you practice; never look directly into his eyes. It’s too daunting for him.

– Stand tall. When you bend down, you look like you want to play.

– Stay close to your puppy when you start out. You should have about 6 inches from toe to paw. Creating too much distance too soon can be really scary for your pup.

– While doing each exercise, hold the lead directly above your puppy’s head. That way, if he confuses “Stay” with “Go,” you’re ready for a quick correction.

– When you return to your puppy’s side at the end of each exercise, vary the length you pause before you release him with “Okay!” This will prevent his “reading” the pattern and encourage a more watchful eye on your direction.

– Resist petting your puppy until you finish teaching him the steps for the “Stay” direction. Too much petting ruins his concentration.

Practice this simplified sequence twice a day until your puppy’s feeling mighty fine about his accomplishments.
To prepare for your first lesson:

1. Take your puppy into a quiet room.

No TV. No kids. No cats. Just you two.

2. Slide your puppy’s training collar high near his head and center it between his ears.

3. Fold the leash in your left hand to hip level.

4. Position your puppy behind your heels.

Now you’re ready to teach your puppy his first lesson. You do six sequences. No more, no less.
To teach the “Stay” direction, stand next to your puppy to start (see the preceding steps) and then follow these steps:

1. Instruct “Sit” and align your puppy with your ankles.

2. Instruct “Stay” as you flash your hand in front of your puppy’s nose. Remove the hand signal and pause for five seconds.

3. Instruct “Okay” as you swing your arm forward and step out of position.

4. Again, instruct “Sit, Stay.” This time, pivot to face away from your puppy and pause ten seconds. Return to the starting point and release with “Okay!”

5. Back to the start position again. Instruct “Stay.” Pivot in front of your puppy. Pause. Now march to create a physical distraction that will teach your puppy how to contain himself.

Yes, I said march! March slowly at first, like you’re sleepwalking. After your puppy holds still for that, gradually increase your physical motions.

6. Instruct “Stay” and pivot and pause. Now try jumping and waving your arms.

Go slowly at first. You want to ease into your mania. Now make some noise.

7. Pivot, pause, and then bark at your puppy. Then return, pause, and release.


No staring into your puppy’s eyes. Instead, keep looking over his head. Add a meow or two when you think he can handle it.

8. From your starting position, instruct “Stay,” pivot in front, and pause for 30 seconds.

Stand up tall, relax your shoulders, and keep the leash above your puppy’s head just in case he’s tempted to break.

9. When the time is up, return to his side, pause, and release with “Okay!”

10. Now you can hug that well-behaved puppy!


Some puppies have a reduced attention span and initially may not be able to hold still for long. Check to ensure you’re following protocol: Are you standing right in front of him as you increase distractions? Are you holding the leash above his head to enforce his control? Are you introducing this direction in a discrete location? Too many distractions make it impossible to concentrate.

Now you’re ready to increase the three Ds:

Distraction: Step up your march, add a new aerobics twist, walk around your puppy full circle, and chant like a chimp. Can you do all these crazy things without tempting your puppy to move?

Are you wondering why you’re jumping around and making noise while your puppy’s expected to stay? Eventually, your puppy will have to concentrate while confronted with motion and sound distractions, so you’re helping him get accustomed to temptations.

Duration: Stretch your 30-second stand-still to two minutes.

Distance: Move out one foot at a time. When you’re successful, reintroduce distractions gradually and increase the duration.

Now the two of you should feel like pros.

Hand signals can help your puppy focus

Your puppy can start learning hand signals as early at 12 weeks of age, although I recommend emphasizing signals at 4 months. This visual direction will intensify your puppy’s focus — and as you know, if he’s taught to watch you he’ll not stray far.
Use hand signals in front of your puppy’s nose to direct his attention to you. Review the point training lesson in Chapter Using Cool Tools and Groovy Gadgets, and then use the point to signal your directions. Here’s my list:

Sit: Point your finger as you swing your right arm from your puppy’s nose to your face, like you’re scooping his attention toward you, and say “Sit.”

Stay: Flatten your palm like a paddle. Flash it quickly in front of your puppy’s nose and say “Stay.”

Okay: Point your finger and swing your right arm out from your puppy’s nose as you step forward. Say “Okay” to tell him “Job well done!”

Come: When your dog is near you, sweep a pointed finger from his nose to your eye to encourage a happy reconnection. If he’s a distance from you, use a sweeping motion to get his attention as you call his name and say “Come.”


Now you’re ready for “Come,” which is another highly desired direction. First you need to ask yourself a couple of things: Have you said “Come” more than once and yelled it repeatedly? Have you chased your puppy and bribed him with his favorite delicacy? If so, trouble is brewing. Your puppy thinks “Come” means disobedience or game time. Fortunately, you can reformat his understanding, but doing so will take time, concentration, structure, patience, and a lot of praise. Read on to find out how.

Going for up-close control first

Teach your pup to interact with you physically so that when he hears “Come,” he wants to return to your side. As you instruct him to come from a greater distance, he’ll want to close the gap.


The goal when you say “Come” is to have your puppy return and make contact with you. Each time you say this direction, pat, treat, or otherwise handle your puppy so that he learns that “Come” means “togetherness and interaction.” To teach your puppy how to come from short distances, follow these steps:

1. Walk in front of your puppy while he’s standing calmly.

2. Standing tall, say “<Name>, Come” as you zip your finger up your belly from his nose level to your eyes.


Make a funny sound to encourage focus: Cluck, whistle, smooch, or make up your own!

3. If he doesn’t look up, cradle his body into a sitting position and pat the sides of his head lovingly. “Come” should be associated with a warm and loving reconnection.

To position your pooch, lift up on his buckle collar and tuck his hindquarters into position, squeezing his waist muscles below his ribs as you press down.


Avoid jerky motions, don’t press his backbone, and don’t admonish him or repeat yourself as you position. Doing so causes “Come” to be associated with rough handling.

4. After your puppy makes eye contact, give him a big hug or pat on the head.

Repeat this exercise throughout the day, whenever you have something positive to share — a pat, a treat, a toy, or even dinner. Make sure your puppy’s first associations to this direction are warm and welcoming.

Going for distance control

Before you can teach your pup to come from a distance, he must understand that “Come” means togetherness. After he understands, you’re ready to go for distance control. (No, you’re not off-lead yet. Be patient.)


Practice this exercise in a quiet room and keep your lesson short and upbeat. To teach distance control, make sure your pup is wearing a leash and then follow these steps:

1. Practice three regular Sit-Stays and then return to your puppy’s side and release him with “Okay!”

2. Leave your puppy in a stay position and walk to the end of the leash.

3. Pause. (Vary the duration each time.)

4. Call “<Name>, Come!” in a directional tone. Signal it by sweeping your right arm across your body.

5. As soon as you issue the direction, scurry backward and reel in the leash.

6. When your pup gets near your feet, zip your finger up your belly from his nose level to your eyes and tap your heel to the floor to encourage him to stop and look up.

7. Encourage eye contact by standing or kneeling and making kissing sounds.

8. Release him with an “Okay,” and always remember to praise the good puppy.


Practice “Come” three times per session. That’s all. More than that is stressful for your pup.

Building focus by throwing in distractions

If your puppy gets excited when he hears “Come,” you’re doing a good job. Now you can start encouraging focus around low-level distractions and increasing the distance from which you call him. Here are some ideas (you can add to the list): Try this exercise in front of the TV, in the backyard, in front of the kids, and during mealtime. In a quiet hallway or garage, attach the retractable leash (see Chapter Home Sweet Home) and increase your distance slowly.


Using the “Come” direction around distractions is more difficult than using the direction in a quiet living room. Most dogs try to pay attention to the distraction and you at the same time, which is impossible. If your puppy’s torn, tug the leash and use praise or a treat cup to focus him.

If you’re having trouble getting your puppy’s attention around distractions, you’re not alone. My advice: Stick with it. Don’t give up. Think of the direction “Come” as the human phrase equivalent of “huddle” and encourage your puppy with that level of confidence. Convey that “Come” invites reconnection and that togetherness is the safest, most wonderful place to be.
Practice in a quiet room for a day, enthusiastically praising your puppy’s focus. Then try it with your TV on by following these steps:

1. Let him sniff about while letting the leash drag behind him.

2. Pause varying lengths of time before you call him.

3. Relax your posture and say “<Name>, Come!”

4. Flag him in.

5. Encourage him to sit or lean into you for a hug.

6. If you’re using food or a click-treat combination, reward him the moment you touch.

Work up the distraction chain slowly. If your puppy’s too stimulated, practice around simpler distractions for a while.


You’re not in a rush. Training your puppy isn’t a race. And whatever you do, don’t get frustrated. Frustration kills enthusiasm.

Use “Come” in two of the following situations daily (you can add to the list, but just make sure you use “Come” only twice a day):

– When your puppy’s distracted on a walk, during regular teaching, or on a retractable leash.

– Additionally, you can run away from your puppy throughout the day to encourage him to check in with you by using your treat cup or a clickand-treat combination to highlight your reconnection.

“Come” do’s and don’ts

Here are a few things to remember when teaching the “Come” direction:

Do use it sparingly. When you overuse “Come,” dogs stop paying attention.


When your puppy understands the direction, avoid using it all the time. Say it infrequently and make it extremely rewarding. (Don’t forget about the other directions you have in your arsenal: “Inside” for coming indoors, “Let’s Go” for follow me, and “Heel” for staying at your side.)

Don’t chase your puppy if he doesn’t respond. Practice on-lead for now or use a long line to give him more freedom to explore.

Don’t call for negative interaction. Do you have to brush, bathe, or isolate your puppy? If so, don’t use “Come.” Also avoid using it when you’re angry. You’ll only freak your puppy out.

If your puppy runs away, don’t repeatedly call or correct him. I know the frustration of marching around in the middle of a cold, wet, rainy night looking for your puppy, but if you call or discipline your puppy, you’re only teaching him to run from you. If your puppy does run off, here are some measures you may take:

  • Call the police as well as neighbors.
  • If you can see your puppy, block roads to prevent a mishap.
  • Overexaggerate playing with a stick or digging a hole. Stay focused on the activity so your puppy will be intrigued. Calmly reach for him only after he has returned to your side.
  • If you’ve practiced the games listed in Chapter Ten Fun Games, find some props (or carry them with you) to initiate a game to highlight your fun. Your puppy won’t be able to resist.

Don’t discipline your puppy when he returns to you. He won’t come back so quickly the next time.

Do use a different direction to bring your puppy inside. Coming in from outdoors is a big drag for your pup, no more fun than being left alone or ignored. Using the “Come” direction when you want to bring your pup inside makes it a negative direction. Instead, pick a direction like “Inside.” Start using it on-lead when bringing your puppy into the house. Quickly offer a treat or ball toss.


The “Stand-Stay” direction is great when you need to wipe muddy paws or groom. Fortunately, if you follow these steps, you won’t find this direction too difficult to teach:

1. Kneel down on the floor next to your puppy.

2. Place your right hand, palm out, on your puppy’s buckle collar.

3. Slide your left hand under your puppy’s belly.

4. Say “Stand-Stay” as you prop your puppy into a standing position.

5. Relax your right hand and slide your left hand so that it rests on your puppy’s thigh.

6. Vary the pause from two to five seconds — and release with an “Okay!”

7. Increase the pause time to one minute.

8. Repeat Steps 2–7 from a standing position.

After your dog’s standing still, you’re ready to let go.

9. Prop your puppy into position.

10. Remind “Stay,” and slide your left hand away from your puppy.

11. After you’re successful, slide your right hand from the collar.

Remind “Stay” as often as necessary.

After your puppy catches on, begin using this direction whenever the situation calls for it. Does your puppy have muddy paws? Give him the “Stand-Stay” direction. Sure, he may be fidgety. If so, just say “Shhh — Stand-Stay.” For brushing, try the same thing.


When introducing this direction for grooming, use peanut butter or another creamy spread slathered on the refrigerator at his nose level. Grooming will be quite the treat for your pup. Eventually, his association will be set, and he’ll look forward to grooming activities with or without treats!

Puppy Puberty Lessons: 6 to 9 Months

At this stage, your puppy’s world is being shaped by two conflicting forces: the desire to please you and the urge to test his leaders once more just to make sure they can walk their talk. Don’t take it personally. After your puppy understands that you most certainly do mean what you say, you’ll be in the driver’s seat. Here are a few rules to help you through this stage:

Remain calm. Don’t let your puppy see that you’re angry or frustrated. All teens, regardless of species, derive perverse pleasure out of your discomfort.

Don’t let your puppy ignore you. If your puppy challenges you on a direction and he’s on leash, reinforce your expectations. If your puppy is off-leash and he ignores or defies a direction, ignore him and withdraw from the situation.


A graceful retreat isn’t a failure.

Raise his consciousness. Teach or remind him of the meaning of “No.” See the section “No,” earlier in this chapter, for details.

Talking to your pubescent puppy

To communicate successfully with your teen puppy, remember these five tips:

Detach. Detaching is more a meditation exercise than a dog-training technique. Basically, this technique is for your own benefit, although your mental calmness will affect your puppy too. You appear more centered, and who wouldn’t respect that! Breathe in and breathe out and detach yourself from your puppy. Avoid taking his behavior personally. Although you may think all your training has been a waste of time, it hasn’t. Remember this: Puppyhood equals patience plus persistence.

Stay centered. When your puppy is acting up, use all your energy to stay cool. If you get angry or tense, he knows he’s got to you. At that point, you’re playing his game and following his lead.

Watch out for eye contact. Puppies are very concerned with status at this age: “Am I a leader or follower?”


If your puppy can get you to look to him more than you can get him to look to you, you’re the follower. Ignore your puppy’s attempts to get your attention. Pet and gaze at him when he’s in a calm state of mind. Give him eye contact when you direct his behavior.

Fall back, if necessary. Even if you’ve successfully weaned your puppy from the leash, you’ll probably need it again during this stage. When your puppy is overstimulated and unable to focus, connect him to your side or station him for a while with a bone.

Have alternative plans. During behavior emergencies — for example, out-of-control door greetings, article stealing, running away, and so forth — use your directions, if they work. Most dogs, however, become temporarily deaf during these situations, so have alternative plans. See the upcoming section “Handling common problems” for alternatives.

Handling common problems

Some problems may surface — or resurface — when your puppy hits puberty. A pup who used to calmly greet guests now goes into a frenzy when people arrive. Or maybe an open door is just too much temptation, and he darts out. Following are some suggestions to help you deal with situations that you may find yourself and your pup in.

Door greeting

Always ask guests to ignore your puppy until he’s settled down. Your three solution options include assigning him a greeting station as outlined in Chapter Teaching Everyday Etiquette, connecting him around your waist to maintain leash control, or if all else fails, crating or confining him with a favorite toy. Bring him out when he’s calmed down.

Article stealing

When your puppy steals an article of clothing (or any other item for that matter), leave the area and shut the door behind you. At this age, most puppies are more concerned with playing than with chewing. If you ignore him, he’ll lose interest in the game.
Another option would be leaving the house: Putting on your coat and grabbing
your keys should be enough to distract him. Take your pup out for a minute or two if you try this trick. Otherwise, he’ll start to see right through it.
As a last recourse, follow him around without eye contact or corrections, slowly cornering him in a small area. Calmly remove the object by squeezing his muzzle and instructing “Give.” Never correct a puppy while using the “Give” directions, or else he’ll quickly distrust you.

Runaway puppy

A puppy running away is more than just frustrating — it’s dangerous. You should never let your puppy off-leash unless you’re in a confined area. If you want to give him freedom in an unconfined area, put him on a 25- to 50-foot long line so that you can grab the leash for quick control if needed. If your puppy does sneak off, have your plans well thought out. Here are some tips:

– Try a direction or two. If they don’t work, stop. Don’t panic.

– Try running around like a lunatic (without eye contact), screaming and waving your arms. Drop to the ground in a heap and see whether this strange and interesting behavior brings him running.

– Try getting in the car. Many dogs can’t bear the thought of missing out on a trip.

– If nothing works, follow him quietly to make sure he stays out of danger. Yelling only makes matters worse. Stop traffic if you can, and ask for help if you need it.


Avoid getting angry at your puppy after the fact. Otherwise, he’ll learn to be more wary of your ploys. Never use treats as bribery because when used in this way, treats actually reinforce mischief.

The top five directions

When training during this phase, you extend your control on all the directions your pup has learned so far (see the preceding sections). Following are the top five directions that I encourage you to use most often.

Handling walks with “Heel”

Continue using “Heel” to encourage good walking control. In addition, use this direction to call your puppy to your side. To teach your puppy this concept:

1. Place him on a leash and let him walk ahead of you.

2. Suddenly call his name and the direction “Heel” as you slap your left thigh.

3. Take a giant step backward as you lead him back to your side as you reel in the leash.

Lead him around your left side in a U or to your right around your back. When he reaches your side, make sure he sits before you release him.


After he gets the hang of the “Heel” direction (thigh-slap), begin to encourage him to come to your side around distractions (on-leash at first) and when you’re sitting down. Always give the direction positively, enforce a proper sit, and praise him warmly before you release him with “Okay.”

Reinforcing manners with “Sit”

Continue to ask your puppy to “Sit” in all situations. This direction is the human phrase equivalent of saying “please.” Give the direction only once. If he doesn’t respond, give him a tug that says “No” and ask him again. Position him if he doesn’t listen.

Using “Down” in all kinds of situations

Continue to work on the “Down” direction even if your puppy doesn’t want to cooperate (see Figure 14-5). Position your puppy by pressing on the pressure point located in between his shoulder blades, lifting one paw out to shift his balance. Ignore him if he rolls around wildly on the floor or nips your shoelaces (step on the leash so that he can only lie comfortably). Release him only after he’s calmed down.


When your puppy begins cooperating, use “Down” for everything, such as before treating (hold the treat to the ground and direct “Down”) and before dinner (cover the bowl with your hand and, as you put it down, say “Down”).

Practicing “Wait” with more distractions

Continue using the “Wait” direction to catch your puppy’s attention at doorways, cars, stairs, or before entering an area of high stimulation (for example, the veterinarian’s office, a room full of children, or a dog-training class). This direction means your puppy should stop dead in his tracks and wait to follow you. If you’re successful using this direction in the situations described in the section “Wait and Okay” (earlier in this chapter), begin to practice it when walking your puppy on his leash. Follow these steps when practicing “Wait” with a leash:
Figure 14-5: Using the “Down” direction with an uncooperative puppy in puberty.

1. Stop in your tracks as you direct “Wait.”

2. Pull back on the leash if your pup doesn’t stop with you.

3. Release with “Okay.”

Taking “No” outside

When your puppy understands that when you say “No” you mean it, begin to practice this direction outside with dogs, bikers, and other temptations passing by. Tug the leash sharply as you say “No” in your sternest correction tone.

Trying Teen Lessons: 9 to 12 Months

During the preceding stage (puppy puberty), I discourage all but the mildest corrective techniques during training. Now that your puppy has become a teen, however, he’s emotionally ready to learn that not everything he does pleases you. Your puppy is only acting naturally when he tests your flexibility on the directions he’s learned. He wonders whether perhaps the “Sit” for company means something just a little different from the “Sit” for you.
In the previous stages, you labored over the teaching process. You showed your puppy exactly what each direction meant. Now he knows. Every time he doesn’t respond or responds in his own way, he’s questioning you. If you repeat yourself or position him, he’ll never learn to respond on his own. Like teaching a child to tie shoelaces, eventually it must be done independently.


To develop the all-important canine consciousness, you must do two things:

– Decide what you want when you give a direction.

– Follow through. If your expectations are unclear, your puppy’s reaction will be, too.

At this stage, when practicing your directions, avoid repeating yourself or positioning your puppy immediately. If he doesn’t respond, tug the leash firmly and say “No” in a corrective tone. If he still doesn’t respond, review your tone (is it stern enough?) and make adjustments as needed. If your puppy still ignores you, position him without praise.


If your puppy pivots out of position when you stop in “Heel,” inches forward on the “Stay” directions, or moves in front of you during stationary directions, he’s testing you. If you position him sweetly, you’re actually giving him attention for his defiance. In these situations, tug the leash firmly as you say “No” and position him by maneuvering him into place with the leash. This method may take several tries and a temper tantrum from your beloved pet, but if you let the structure slide, you’ll never have a reliable off-leash dog. (Refer to Chapter Graduating to Off-Lead Control for info on training off the leash.)

Sarah Hodgson

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