If your pup lunges: If your dog is going after something while on a walk — another dog, a car, a skateboarder, for example, be proactive. Try to redirect his attention with a treat before he has a chance to lunge, and increase the space between your dog and the target. Stay alert and be prepared before the target of his frustration gets too close. This type of behavior may be more common in herding breeds, but any dog can be startled by something he’s not used to or finds exciting.
Make the puppy come to you. While he’s on his way to you, still wearing the leash and collar, back up a few paces and then reward him when he gets to you. Continue the progression until your puppy, upon hearing the cue noise, comes to you and walks with you a few paces. Remember that puppies have a short attention span, so keep your sessions short, and end them when your puppy is still eager to do more, not when he’s mentally exhausted.
Once your dog can stay in a sit for several seconds, you can begin adding distance. Place him in a sit and say “stay,” take one step back, then step back to the pup, give a treat, and your release word. Continue building in steps, keeping it easy enough that your dog can stay successful. Practice both facing him and walking away with your back turned (which is more realistic).
The foundation of training should be based on positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is the process of giving a dog (or person!) a reward to encourage the behavior you want, like getting a pay check for going to work. The idea is not to bribe the behavior but to train it using something your dog values. Avoid using punishment such as leash corrections or yelling. Punishment can cause a dog to become confused and unsure about what is being asked of him. It is important to remember that we can’t expect dogs to know what they don’t know – just like you wouldn’t expect a 2-year-old child to know how to tie his shoes. Patience will go a long way in helping your new puppy learn how to behave.
First, teach the release word. Choose which word you will use, such as “OK” or “free.” Stand with your puppy in a sit or a stand, toss a treat on the floor, and say your word as he steps forward to get the treat. Repeat this a couple of times until you can say the word first and then toss the treat AFTER he begins to move. This teaches the dog that the release cue means to move your feet.
Discourage him from biting or nipping. Instead of scolding him, a great way to put off your mouthy canine is to pretend that you're in great pain when he's biting or nipping you. He'll be so surprised he's likely to stop immediately. If this doesn't work, try trading a chew toy for your hand or pant leg. The swap trick also works when he's into your favorite shoes. He'll prefer a toy or bone anyway. If all else fails, break up the biting behavior, and then just ignore him.
Teach a cue. Introduce your puppy to a sound cue that means, “food is coming.” Some people like to click and treat, some people use a word like “yes,” and some people cluck their tongue. Whichever you use, the method is the same: In a quiet, distraction-free area, with the puppy on a leash and collar, make the sound. The second your puppy turns toward you and/or looks at you, reward him with a treat. After a few repetitions, you’ll notice your puppy not only looking at you, but also coming over to you for the treat.
You can also lure a down from a sit or stand by holding a treat in your hand to the dog’s nose and slowly bringing it to the floor. Give the treat when the dog’s elbows touch the floor to start. After a few practices, begin bringing your empty hand to the floor and giving the treat AFTER he lies down. When he can reliably follow your hand signal, begin saying “down” as you move your hand.
Next, drop a treat on the floor near you. As soon as your puppy finishes the treat on the ground, say his name again. When he looks up, give him another treat. Repeat this a couple of times until you can begin tossing the treat a little further away, and he can turn around to face you when you say his name. Avoid repeating your puppy’s name; saying it too often when he doesn’t respond makes it easier for him to ignore it. Instead, move closer to your puppy and go back to a step where he can be successful at responding to his name the first time.
Puppies can begin very simple training starting as soon as they come home, usually around 8 weeks old. Always keep training sessions brief — just 5 to 10 minutes —and always end on a positive note. If your puppy is having trouble learning a new behavior, end the session by reviewing something he already knows and give him plenty of praise and a big reward for his success. If your puppy gets bored or frustrated, it will ultimately be counterproductive to learning.
Once your dog can stay, you can gradually increase the distance. This is also true for the “sit.” The more solidly he learns it, the longer he can remain sitting. The key is to not expect too much, too soon. Training goals are achieved in increments, so you may need to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. To make sure the training “sticks,” sessions should be short and successful.
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.