Your young puppy is totally reliant and dependent on you to help him habituate and fit into our human, domesticated world. Your guidance and leadership will determine what path his life takes and what type of dog he will become. During puppyhood you play the lead role and are responsible for shaping the character, temperament and behavior habits that your dog will carry throughout his life. Your puppy's future is in your capable hands...
Choose your dog's name wisely and be respectful of it. Of course you'll want to pick a name for your new puppy or dog that you love, but for the purposes of training it also helps to consider a short name ending with a strong consonant. This allows you to say his name so that he can always hear it clearly. A strong ending (i.e. Jasper, Jack, Ginger) perks up puppy ears—especially when you place a strong emphasize at the end.
The next option is called luring. Get down in front of your puppy, holding a treat as a lure. Put the treat right in front of the pup’s nose, then slowly lift the food above his head. He will probably sit as he lifts his head to nibble at the treat. Allow him to eat the treat when his bottom touches the ground. Repeat one or two times with the food lure, then remove the food and use just your empty hand, but continue to reward the puppy after he sits. Once he understands the hand signal to sit, you can begin saying “sit” right before you give the hand signal.
In competition obedience training, “heel” means the dog is walking on your left side with his head even with your knee while you hold the leash loosely. Puppy training can be a little more relaxed with the goal being that they walk politely on a loose leash without pulling. Some trainers prefer to say “let’s go” or “forward” instead of “heel” when they train this easy way of walking together.
Take it outside. Finally, you’re ready to test your puppy’s skills in the Great Outdoors. There will be new challenges with this step because all the sounds, smells, and sights your puppy encounters will be intriguing and new to him. Be patient and keep the first walks short. While you’re on a walk, if your puppy looks as if he’s about to lunge toward something or is about to get distracted (you’ll notice this because you will keep your eyes on him at all times), make your cue sound and move a few steps away. Then reward him with a treat for following you.
“Down” can be taught very similarly to “sit.” You can wait for your dog to lie down (beginning in a boring, small room such as a bathroom can help) and capture the behavior by reinforcing your dog with a treat when he lies down, giving him his release cue to stand back up (and encouragement with a lure if needed) and then waiting for him to lie down again. When he is quickly lying down after standing up, you can begin saying “down” right before he does so.
Once your puppy can turn around to face you, begin adding movement and making the game more fun! Toss a treat on the ground and take a few quick steps away while calling your puppy’s name. They should run after you because chase is fun! When they catch you, give them a lot of praise, treats or play with a tug toy. Coming to you should be fun! Continue building on these games with longer distances and in other locations. When training outside (always in a safe, enclosed area), it may be helpful to keep your puppy on a long leash at first.
Puppies develop very quickly during their first three months, particularly after their eyes and ears open and they are no longer completely dependent on their mother. Their coordination and strength improve, they spar with their littermates, and begin to explore the world outside the nest. They play wrestling, chase, dominance, and tug-of-war games.
When your dog knows the release cue and how to sit on cue, put him in a sit, turn and face him, and give him a treat. Pause, and give him another treat for staying in a sit, then release him. Gradually increase the time you wait between treats (it can help to sing the ABC’s in your head and work your way up the alphabet). If your dog gets up before the release cue, that’s ok! It just means he isn’t ready to sit for that long so you can make it easier by going back to a shorter time.
New puppy owners often make the mistake of endlessly worrying about finding the right accessories, puppy treats, or bed. They spend little or no time thinking about how or what they will teach their new puppy. Yes, a puppy needs nutritious food and a safe, warm place to live, but another equally powerful and important biological necessity is the need for a strong pack leader.