Perfect Puppy Training Book – Chapter 6 – Basic Commands
Chapter 6 – Basic Commands
Teaching your puppy some basic cues will help to make your lives easier. These basics are the foundation for a well-behaved puppy. Keep these concepts in mind before you start:
- Puppies do not understand what you are saying unless you teach them what the words mean.
- Saying a cue over and over again isn’t going to teach your puppy what the word means. Instead, you need to say the cue, then show your puppy what you want.
- Saying a cue really loud or in a mean voice isn’t going to help ingrain it in your puppy’s brain faster. She can hear you; she’s just easily distracted. This is completely normal. Always use a friendly, but authoritative tone of voice when you give your puppy a cue. That way, you can reserve your stern voice for when she’s done something wrong. If you use your stern voice all the time, you won’t have anything to fall back on when you need to indicate your displeasure.
- Puppies learn best in short doses. Three 5-minute sessions are better than one 15-minute session, especially if your puppy is very young. If she starts losing interest in you, you’ve pushed her too hard. Always end a training session with her wanting more.
- Start training your puppy in family manners as soon as you bring her home. If you feel that you’re already behind, don’t worry. It’s never too late to train your dog.
The first thing to teach your puppy is a marker. This is a sound that marks the very instant in time when she did what you wanted her to do. In other words, it’s a signal for when she got something right.
Why can’t you just say “Good girl?” You can, but those words take longer to say than a quick marker cue. For example, let’s say you ask your puppy to sit. She does. In the time it takes you to say that “Good girl,” she could have already leaped up and spun around twice! So she might think that you are rewarding her for getting up or for spinning. Teaching your puppy a marker will significantly help her learn faster because it’s more specific.
Your marker can be the sound from a clicker. A clicker is a very basic dog training device. The advantages to using a clicker are that it offers a unique sound, and it’s precise. You also can use a short word, such as “yes.” The advantages to using a verbal marker are that it’s always handy, and you don’t have to carry another piece of equipment, which can be challenging if you’re also holding your puppy’s leash and treats.
Be sure to only use the marker as a marker—don’t try to make it several difference things, or your puppy will become confused. If you use the clicker to mark the desired behavior, for example, don’t use it to also get your dog to come to you. If you do, it will no longer be a marker cue, and you will lose the power of that sound to indicate to your puppy that she has done something correctly.
Below is a method to begin to get your puppy to associate your marker with doing something good:
- Have a few treats in your hand. Make sure that you’re close enough to your puppy to be able to give her treats easily.
- Don’t ask her to sit or to come to you or anything else. You don’t want her to associate any other actions with the marker. Just let her be there in front of you. Click your clicker one time, or say “Yes” one time and immediately give your puppy a treat. Only use the marker once, then follow it with a treat.
- Repeat four more times. Do this a couple times a day. Soon, you will find that your puppy gets excited at the marker sound.
- Although you don’t want to confuse your puppy and ask her to sit or down or anything else when you teach her the marker, you don’t want to reward her for bad behavior, either. So, if she’s jumping on you or pawing at you, wait until she stops. Then, give your marker and a treat. If you mark when she’s jumping, her jumping may become worse.
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