Manners and Commands

All puppies should go through basic manners training!  It helps develop strong bonds between your puppy and you and your family members.  It gives them confidence, develops their mind and creates a mutual communication between you and your puppy. It’s also a great outlet for all of your puppy’s energy.  Puppies that go through training will sleep more peacefully during rest periods, and be calmer when awake.

Your puppy should have a collar. A flat buckle collar will work just fine.Picture 040 (300x400) Using a choke or prong collar causes your puppy pain, can exacerbate any underlying issues of fear or
aggression, and destroys the trust you have work so hard to develop with your puppy. Your first training sessions should be about getting your puppy familiar with their new collar. Put the collar on for a few minutes at a time until your puppy stops resisting the collar. At this point the collar can be left on all the time. Some people like to leave a leash on while their puppy is loose in the house. This makes getting to your puppy quicker and easier, but should not be done without supervision as the leash could get caught on furniture or chewed up by your puppy.

Plan for multiple short sessions daily.  These sessions should be fun for you and the pup.  If you are getting stressed, the session ends. If the pet is distracted, either the session is too long, or you are not making it exciting enough. Pups are excited about your praise.  Do not hold back on giving praise.   Play or fun grooming and general happiness should follow each training session.

Treats are very important.   Each pup will respond differently to various treats.  Love and a happy voice are great treats for some puppies, others are more food-motivated. Treats should be small and easy to carry.  Bits of dog biscuits, dehydrated liver, and pieces of carrots or hot dogs are usually highly desirable to puppies.  You should initially give a treat for every good deed your pup does.  However, as training advances, treats are given less often for the basics and more often for the advanced deeds.

Commands should be preceded by the pup’s name.  Say the pup’s name in a happy way, so as to attract his attention.  Commands should be spoken with an authoritative voice. Commands should not be yelled but spoken loudly and slowly enough for the pup to hear and understand that a command has been given. Only give commands when you are close enough and in position to the pup to help him into the position you are requesting.  Give the command only once.  Once the command word is given, immediately begin to assist the pup into the position you requested or help him to perform the task.  Do not physically force your puppy into a position!

You need a release word.  This is a word that your pup should listen for to allow him to once again move about on his own.  He should otherwise continue to do what you commanded until released.  Often this phrase is “Good Boy!” “Good Girl!” or “Good Dog!”. The phrase can be whatever suit you and your puppy best but be consistent and don’t use a term that you use frequently in every day life such as “Okay!”. At first, you should release your pup immediately after he has performed your command and when giving the reward.  You may also have a release signal, such as having both elbows down, but hands up, as if you are going to clap for your puppy.

Your pup will learn fast!  He will learn both verbal and physical signals for commands.  Pups learn with repetition and consistency. If you and your family members are consistent with your training techniques, your pup will master each step in a matter of several lessons.  Every member of the family older than 7 or 8 should try to participate in the training.   Some younger children will also be capable, and some children that are older will not.  You must decide which children are capable of helping to train the pup. Children should be supervised in their handling/training of pups. If there is a family member that does not take naturally to the pet and does not want to participate, that person must be excused from these sessions, until such a time that they might really want to, and are committed to helping the pup learn.

Lastly, realize that it is easier for a pup to concentrate when in familiar surroundings.  The more excitement there is about, the harder it is to concentrate.  Start training at home, but realize that you will need to also practice in a variety of settings if you want your pup to be able to perform in a variety of settings.  If you wish to practice at various locations, your pup may have an easier time if allowed to explore the area or become comfortable in an area before starting a training session.


8-10 weeks

Recommend 1-3 minute sessions, 6-12 times daily at home only.  Keep it fun and exciting.

Teaching SIT

Stand facing your puppy with a small treat in your right hand. Initially, hold your right hand in front of your body, centered at about the waist.  Say the puppy’s name and then “SIT” loudly and slowly enough for the pup to hear and understand that a command has been given.  Give the command only once.  Do not repeat the command word.  Once you have said, “SIT”, bring the treat to your pups nose and raise the treat up and slightly over his head somewhat toward his rump. His nose should rise up, which should naturally help him into a sitting position.  If he does not naturally sit immediately begin to assist the pup into the sit position by using your left hand to prevent him from moving backward and by guiding his rump down. If he does not naturally assume a sitting position from this movement immediately apply a small amount of pressure over the pup’s rear.  Other pressure points which work in putting your dog into the sit position is a forward pressure or a scooping motion behind the knees, or light pressure at the flank/lumbar area. At first any step toward the sit position can be rewarded. If the head goes up and the rump goes down even if it is not all the way on the ground, give the release command, give the reward and use a very happy voice and praise him. It make take several steps to reach the full sit position.

Teaching SIT, STAY

Soon after your pup knows what you mean when you command “SIT” you may start to prevent him for taking the treat immediately, and command him to “STAY”. Command him into the sit position, and immediately take hold of his collar with your left hand to prevent him from moving forward.  Hold the food treat in your right hand, so he knows where it is but cannot take it, but with your palm mostly open, and move your hand backwards (away from him) a few inches and for a few seconds.  Then take the treat back to him, give the release command and tell him how wonderful he is.

You will eventually increase the time he holds the position, and the distance the treat and you move away from him.  Remember, though, as you increase the time before treating, that pups need to develop the ability to concentrate, so increase times by only a few seconds after each previously successful episode.  If you wait too long before giving the treat, the pup forgets he is performing for you.  When your pup is holding the stay, try to start to stand up straight, with your right hand holding the treat in front of your waist.  Your pup should learn that when you are holding your hand at your waist, which is the visual signal for him to sit.

Teaching COME

Puppies seem to naturally want to come to us.  However, we have a tendency to do things that make them not want to come to us.  We may have scolded them.  We may have picked them up and held them too much.  We may have taken items away from them that they wanted to chew on.  So remember when calling your pup to come you must make it worth his while (exude happiness).

Be sure the come command is only used when you are happy with your puppy and have lots of praise and love to give.  It is never used when the pup will be scolded in any way.  Do not use the come command unless you are physically capable of easily catching the pup.

Hold a treat with your right hand centered in front of your waist; in the same way you hold the treat for the pup to sit in front of you (because that is what you want the pup to do). To start, have the lead on the pup with a collar that will not slip off over his head, and have a hold on the lead.  When the pup is just a few feet away, say his name to get his attention and then say the “COME” command. This should always be done in a voice that shows you want to be close to the best dog in the world. You must make yourself the most interesting/exciting/wonderful thing in his world at that second. The lead should be tugged a little if needed, and you should step several steps backward to encourage the pup to come.  As the pup begins coming toward you, you may run backward while repeating the come command only once or twice and the pup’s chasing instincts will kick in and he will have a blast following your command.  Once you have gone far enough and the pup is at your feet assist him into a sitting position facing you, then give the release command, a treat and praise.  The lead may be passed to different members of the training group, which in turn call the pup and assist the pup into the sitting position.  Pups love this.  All his favorite people are calling him and paying attention to him.  And they give treats, too.  Eventually the distance of the lead is lengthened.  It is recommended at this point you only do the come command when the lead is on and you have access to it.  Be sure to end the training session after only 1-3 minutes.  Be sure to play with the pup after the training session.

Goals for 10 weeks old are:

  1. To have the puppy sit in front of the owner on voice command and hold the position for 10 seconds.
  2. To have the puppy come from a 4-foot distance and sit in front of the owner.
  3. To allow the owner to lift the lips and touch the teeth and gums.
  4. To allow the owner to touch the ears, including visible ear canal area.
  5. To allow the owner to hold the puppy cradled in an up-side-down position.

10-12 weeks

Recommend 2-5 minute sessions, 6-12 times daily.

Teaching STAY

The puppy should already be able to sit in front of you and stay without moving for 10 seconds.  Now, after you give the sit command, you also give the stay command.   Now you will start to increase the amount of time the pup is staying and the distance between you and the pup.  The key is a little improvement (10-20 more seconds or 1-2 more feet away) with each training session.  Remember, if your pup in a “stay” command, he should be learning that the exercise is not over until you have returned to him.  Do not use the “come” command while teaching the puppy to stay.

Pups that can hold a stay for longer than a minute or two should be on the down/stay, not the sit/stay.

Teaching DOWN

First command the pup into a sitting position.  The treat is in your right hand centered at your waist.  The pup should be watching you (or the treat), say “DOWN” and immediately quickly raise your right hand straight up to about your shoulder level, then quickly lower your hand and the treat, passing by his nose toward the ground and somewhat toward his chest.  Most pups will naturally go into the down position. Remember do not repeat the command.  If needed assist your pup into this position by gently pulling/sliding his feet forward.  It may help to train on a slick surface, or to have an assistant also place slight downward pressure over the pup’s shoulders.  Just to reiterate one point, any pressures you apply, should be firm, but gentle.  If you are rough or otherwise not careful, you should stop the exercise until you are calm and have more patience in a few hours.  Never use force.  Give the treat once the pup is in the correct position, or as close to that position as possible during that session.  The pup should eventually learn that when you are raising your right hand upwards from waist level that action is the hand signal.

More Touching exercises. You should continue your “check-up” exercises.  While you are doing the touching, you should be encouraging the pup to sit quietly.

Remember to have a great play session after any training/desensitization exercises.

 Goals for 12 weeks old are:

  1. To have the sit/stay for 1 minute with the owner in front of the pup.
  2. To assume the sit and down positions on voice command.
  3.  To have the down/stay for 30 seconds with the owner 4-6 feet away.
  4. To come from a distance of 10 feet, and sit in front of the owner.
  5. To allow the owner to lift the lips and touch the teeth and gums.
  6. To allow the owner to touch the ears, including visible ear canal area.
  7. To all the owner to hold each foot and touch the nails with a dremel or nail clippers.

12-14  weeks

Recommend some sessions be lengthened to 3-6 minutes 3 times daily. Other shorter sessions can also be completed 3-4 times daily.

No new exercises are required, now you want to concentrate on having the pup hold his commands for a longer period of time.  You’ll want to continue the touching exercises, particularly continuing with desensitizing with the dremel or nail clippers.  You should also spend time grooming your pet.  The coat should be brushed if needed.  The pup should allow facial folds to be gently wiped with a Q-Tip.  The pup should not fuss when any eye discharge needs to be wiped away.

Now that your pup is proficient at assuming the sit command, you should teach your pup to sit when approached by people.  This simple act prevents pups from jumping up onto people, unless specifically prompted to do so.

Have your pup sit every time before he is allowed to go through a doorway.  He should allow you to clean his feet if needed, and wait for you to pass through the doorway first, and/or wait for the okay to pass through. Remember to have a great play session after any training/desensitization exercises.

 Goals for 14 weeks old are: 

  1. To maintain the down/stay for 2 minutes with the owner 10 feet away.
  2. To come from a distance of 15 feet, and sit in front of the owner.
  3. To have pup sit down and wait to pass through a door until given the verbal okay.
  4. To have the pup not put his paws on people, nor jump up.
  5. To be 100 % housebroken.
  6. To be crate trained fully and not bark and whine when crated.
  7. To allow the nails to be dremeled or trimmed without significant fussing.
  8. To allow any required grooming.

14-16 weeks

Recommend 6 to 8 minute sessions 3 times a day. Again, other shorter sessions can be added 3-4 times daily.

 Goals for 16 weeks old are:

  1. To maintain the down/stay for 2 minutes with the owner 10 feet away, moving in and out of site.
  2. To come from a distance of 15 feet, and sit in front of the owner.
  3. To have pup sit down and wait to pass through a door until given the verbal okay.
  4. To have the pup not put his paws on people, nor jump up unless specifically prompted.

16+ weeks

Recommend some sessions lengthened to 10-12 minutes 3 times a day. Recommend other shorter session 3-4 times a day.

At this stage, your pup should be enrolled in, or completing obedience classes.  These classes will reinforce the above training, plus teach you leash skills.  You should find, that this class is extremely easy if you have followed the recommended training.

 Goals for 16+ weeks old are:

  1. To down/stay for 2 minutes with the owner out of site.
  2. To come from a distance of 20 feet, and sit in front of owner.
  3. Be enrolled in, or completing a basic obedience class. Here are some Indianapolis locations we recommend: Positive Dog Trainers in Indianapolis Area