More Puppy Training Advice

More Puppy Training

Reminder: Training Essentials

In the previous post, I listed the training essentials as:

  • Don't pee or poop inside the house
  • Come when you're called - every time and right now
  • Don't jump up on people
  • Don't bite
  • Sit on command
  • Stay on command
  • Walk alongside, both on and off the leash
  • Don't strain against the leash.
  • Leave (don't pick up that thing or drop it if you already have). Note that "drop" means go from sitting to lying down but I don't regard it as an essential.

and covered the first two.

In this article, I'll go over the next four.


Don't Jump up on People

Dog Jumping on Owner

This one can be difficult. Not because it's hard to train a dog not to jump up on people, but because it's very appealing when your puppy is so pleased to see you that she jumps up to get as close to you as she can, puts her paws on your knees and looks adoringly into your face.

At this point, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

Like, will it still be cute when your dog is fully grown? Do you really want to come home to a 50kg/110lb Rottweiler jumping on you? Or on your grandmother? Or humping your neighbour's leg? Or seriously injuring a child with its enthusiasm?

All of this starts with jumping up on you when your dog is a pup. It has to be stopped immediately.

It's also a great opportunity to teach the important word "No!"

There are broadly two ways to teach your puppy not to jump up.

The Active Way

Have a treat ready. The instant your pup jumps up on you, say a firm, disapproving "No!" and flip it off you using its front paws. It will be very surprised, shocked even.

When your pup has settled down, show it the treat and call it to you. If it jumps up on you again, repeat the negative lesson. If it doesn't, give it the treat for a positive lesson.

Once you've done this a few times, your pup will grow into an adult that never jumps on people. It's just a habit that's easily eliminated if handled early.

The Passive Way

Not as quick, but an alternative for owners who don't like the idea of flipping their beloved pup off them.

Have your pup on one side of a door, with you on the other. Open the door and walk in. When your pup greets you by jumping up, say a firm, disapproving "No!", walk out through the door and close it behind you.

Repeat until your pup doesn't jump up and then praise it and give it the treat.

Repeat over a few days until the new habit is reinforced.

Don't Bite

Dogs Play Biting

The first thing you need to understand is that there are different types of biting behavior.

First, there's play biting like the two dogs having fun at the beach in the photo are exhibiting.

This is natural and instinctive. A dog's main hunting and defensive weapon is its teeth and it learns how to use them by play biting with its litter mates before it's even arrived on your doorstep. As part of that experience, it learns how to control its biting so as not to inflict damage.

Remember that if your pet bites someone, there can be serious consequences. Dog bites and other dog-related injuries account for over a third of all homeowners insurance liability claims, exceeding half a billion dollars each year in the US alone. So it's important to discourage the practice early.

Important: Statistics indicate that neutered dogs are far less likely to bite than non-neutered dogs, particularly males.

Puppies and dogs often use their mouths when playing, biting their companions lightly in play fighting. This is called mouthing and it becomes stronger and less sensitive to peoples' reactions as the dog gets older.

If your pet bites during play, draw your hand or body back, give a high-pitched yelp (like canines do when hurt) and immediately stop playing. After a short time-out, start playing again. Let him know that biting isn't fun for you and that it will cause his fun to stop.

Socializing your pup is also important. Get your puppy used to people and other dogs so that he isn't stressed. A stressed dog is much more likely to bite.

Dog with Chew Toy

If your pup starts to gnaw on your fingers, it's probably because he's teething. Distract him with a chew bone or toy to gnaw on.

Keep playtime gentle and non-confrontational. Don't play rough as, like jumping up, it's a habit you don't want your adult dog to have.

Tog-of-war play is ok, as long as you've taught your dog the "Leave" command so that he knows that you're the boss and that he must let go of the object as soon as you tell him to. As usual, the important thing here is that your pet always recognizes that you are the one who's in charge. You are the pack leader, the "top dog".

Sit on Command

Dog Sits on Command

This should be one of the easiest dog commands to teach, as it's something that all dogs do naturally.

Show your dog a small, bite-sized treat, holding it just a little in front of her eyes, slightly over his head.

Say “Sit” as you bring your hand above your dog’s eyes, just a little way above her head. When your dog looks up at the treat, she should naturally sit.

Experiment until you get your hand in just the right place. If it's too high, your dog will jump up and if it’s too low, she won’t sit.

When your dog sits, give her the treat and praise her enthusiastically. Tell her what a good doggy she is. Don't pet your dog at the same time as this will encourage her to stand up.

If your dog doesn’t respond on her own, say “Sit” again and tuck her into a sit with one hand behind her knees and the other on her chest. Give her the treat after a short pause.

Repeat this a few times a day and over a few days. She will quickly learn to sit on command.

If necessary, encourage the movement by slipping a couple of fingers under your dog's collar and pulling up while telling her to sit. Reward when she does.

When your dog demonstrates that she has mastered sitting on command, start rewarding her only sometimes. A random reward is the most powerful reinforcement. It’s based on a type of optimism that makes your dog try harder to please.

Now you have another way to discourage jumping up. Immediately tell her to sit. When she does, praise and pet her. This will change your dog’s greeting behavior from trying to jump on you to sitting to be petted instead.

Stay on Command

Teach Your Dog to Stay

"Stay" is an essential command that all dogs should learn. Almost as important as coming when called, the stay command can prevent your dog from getting involved in dangerous situations such as crossing a busy road to get to you.

It will also allow you to keep your dog still and calm while you are busy doing other things such as entertaining guests. Sit and stay (and the two go together naturally) also allow you to keep your dog calm and focused when in busy public spaces.

You need to understand that this command goes against you dog's basic instinct to accompany you. You'll need to practice it consistently with your dog and should be accomplished in five- to 10-minute training increments, two to three times per day. A successful “stay” occurs when your dog does not move at all from the original position. When training, start with one to two second periods of staying and work your way up to several minutes.

Before you begin, you'll want a dog collar, extra-long leash (15 to 30 feet if possible), and training treats that your dog loves. Your dog needs to have already been trained to sit on command. Place the collar and extra-long leash on your dog. Eventually, you won't need the leash for the stay command, but it's helpful in the beginning.

Tell your dog to sit. Say “stay” in a firm, clear voice while holding one hand up, palm out (as if to motion "stop"). If your dog does not move, give your pup a treat and praise. Release your dog from the command by saying “OK” and encouraging the dog to move. Instruct your dog to sit again and praise it when she or he complies. Say "stay" again with the hand motion while taking a step or two back. If the dog stays, walk toward it slowly. You may need to keep your hand signal in play. If the pup still stays, give it a treat and praise. If it moves, start over from the beginning.

Repeat this process a few times, gradually taking more steps back and increasing the time period between “stay” and “OK.” Once your dog can stay for 30 seconds or more at the end of the long leash, gradually begin to add distractions, change locations of the training, increase distance, and try leaving your dog's line of sight during the stay.

Do this training in an area without distractions. A common mistake is to assume your dog knows the command after a few training sessions and trust them to always follow it. Use caution with a newly trained dog. Keep it on the leash and don't lead the dog into a dangerous situation by relying on its ability to stay, especially in a place with a lot of temptations.


In the next article, I'm going to review non-shedding dog breeds that are ideal for people with allergies and then in the one after that, I'll cover the remaining three training commands.

See also ​Puppy Training Advice​​​

Phil Lancaster