For 2-3 days before you start teaching new cues, get your puppy conditioned to a clicker. There have been some scientific studies that suggest a dog learns a behavior faster if the behavior is marked with a click. If it is too difficult to navigate the clicker, leash, and treats then don’t worry, your dog will still learn the behavior.
We will write a blog post on how to condition your dog to a clicker, in the near future but for now you can read the book Click For Joy.
What you need to start: Click for Joy by Pat Miller, clicker, leash (keep your dog leashed during initial training sessions, so they don’t wander off), and a high value treat. Red Barn treats have been one of my new favorites, it comes in a log and you can cut it into very small pieces as needed. I used to use the Stewart’s Liver treats but the dogs got tired of them. I have found it works best to keep switching the reward.
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1. Teach the puppy their name.
Start by saying “Lucy” and the second Lucy looks towards you click and treat. Keep the training sessions short. I would play this name game at various times throughout the day until your pup is reliably snapping their head in your direction at the sound of their name.
This is easy to start teaching in the house. Start by walking away from your dog, preferably when they are busy looking at something else so they don’t follow you. From 1 foot away say the word “come” in a high-pitched friendly tone. As soon as their feet start moving towards you click and then give them a treat when they get in front of you. You will increase the distance and eventually give the click and treat when they arrive at your feet. This can also be done with 2 people, each saying “come” and calling the dog back and forth between them. Remember, keep the sessions short.
This one is best taught using the luring method. Hold a smelly treat right onto their nose and move your hand with the treat slowly over the puppies head. This should make the pups buttocks sit on the ground. Do the luring a few times before adding the word “sit”. Once your pup is easily lured into the sit position then say the word “sit”, next start luring, and when their butt touches the ground, click and treat.
4. Look or watch me
This one is very important for focus training, and will be very useful as your puppy gets older. Most reliable way to teach it is to hold the clicker in one hand and a delicious treat in the other. Bring your hand with the treat up into the air at full extension away from your face. The pup will look at your hand with the treat, now say the word “look”, the second the dog looks towards your face, click and treat. Repeat this 5 times for each session and in 1-3 weeks your dog will be able to look at your face every time you say the word “look”.
Teaching this will require a lot more sessions and time than the above 4 but it is easily and reliably taught if you are consistent.
Your dog can be in a sit, lie down, or stand position to start. First, say the word “stay” and then hold your palm out. Count to 2-3 seconds then give your dog a click and treat. Release your dog from the stay with a cue (“okay”or whatever other words you want). Work up to a 30-60 second stay over the course of a week.
Do not work on distance training until your dog is reliably staying with no distance. Next, you will be ready to move about 1 foot away. If your dog is doing this at 1-3 feet away, you can try to walk around the side of your dog. Many dogs, will get up if they can’t see you. If your dog does get up then just go back and repeat the easy stays that your dog knows.
This one is more for fun. Once your dog knows what “spin’ means you will get to see how excited they are when they know the spin game is starting. Many dogs will exuberantly jump into the air and do a 360 turn around. Start by holding a treat right onto your dogs nose and lead them around in a circle, once they arrive back where they started, click and hand them the treat. You can add the word “spin” once they are 100 % going around in a circle with a hand cue. When you want to add the word you would first say ‘spin”, then lead your dog around in a circle, click and treat. You can remove the hand cue and only say “spin” once your dog knows what it is you want them to do.
7. Leave It
Teaching a solid leave it can be a lifesaver. Start by holding a treat in your hand and let your dog put their nose onto your hand and sniff all over it. Say “leave it” in a friendly tone, the second your dog looks away or takes the muzzle off of your hand, click and throw a second treat to the side. Don’t reward the dog with the treat in the hand that you are asking them to leave alone. Throwing the treat helps create an automatic head turn away from the item you are telling them to leave. Once they know to turn away from your hand, then you can put some food on the ground and ask them to leave it. The second they turn away from the food on the ground click and treat. Repeat this with all kinds of scenarios indoors and outdoors.
Remember to go slow with all of these exercises. You want to set your dog up for success. Once you teach your puppy these seven cues, will be ready to learn the next seven.