From the time of birth puppies are learning about their environment. The first learn where to obtain food and comfort. Through trial and error they learn how to interact with their siblings, redirect their food source from their mother to the dish, and how to obtain attention from people.
Their desire for attention and food can be utilized in training them to respond to your cues. Through the use of luring with a small bit of food and ultimately rewarding the puppy for his accomplishments, he will seek to repeat this behavior due to the positive outcome.
Begin your training session by placing the puppy in a quiet, non-distraction filled room. Make certain that your time of day is either before his regular meal or well after one. A hungry puppy works harder than one who is full and sleepy.
Use treats that will be of high value such as freeze-dried liver, pieces of cheese or hotdog. The higher the value treats the harder and longer your puppy will work.
Do not expect your puppy to know everything right away. Each exercise must be broken down into small accomplishments and then gradually increase the criteria as your puppy reaches the smaller goals. For example, don’t expect your puppy to walk around the block when he hasn’t first accomplished walking with you five steps.
Once you have your training parameters in place, show your puppy a treat right by his nose. When he goes to sniff it, use a specific sound, such as a cluck, squeak, Good, or Yes to mark the moment he touched your hand with his nose. Then give him the treat.
After repeating this 5 times, your puppy now identifies the special noise with receiving the treat. You can now begin luring him into whatever position you wish by letting your puppy follow your hand which holds the treat.
Show your pup your hand and step backward a couple steps, praising your puppy as he comes toward you. When he arrives and touches his nose to your hand, mark the moment with your special sound and give him the treat.
Each time you repeat this exercise, increase the amount of steps you take backward. Within a couple tries your pup will be coming directly to you from upwards of 20 paces away.
If you really want to test his knowledge, allow him to relax or play a bit then try calling him again going backward with your hand held low for him to target on. As he received treats for doing this before he is very likely to repeat this behavior, with enthusiasm.
As your puppy has already learned that your hand holds great treats he will follow it anywhere. When you have his attention, i.e. he is nosing your hand, raise it slightly over his head, just between his eyes. He will naturally look upwards. When he does his rear end will sink downwards. The moment he is sitting mark the moment with your special sound and give him the treat.
After repeating this exercise a couple times begin to use the word, Sit, with each visual cue of holding the treat upwards between his eyes. With consistency he will learn that your verbal cue, Sit, means for him to lower his rear end to the floor.
You can bring the two behaviors; come and sit, together to form a behavior chain, making him work just a little harder to earn his treat. To do this back up as you tell him to come. When he arrives at your feet, lift the treat just a little over his head and say, Sit. When he does so, mark the moment and reward him.
This exercise will be done in a similar fashion to the come. Instead of holding your hand and treat in front of you, you will hold it at your side. When you have your pup’s attention, move forward a couple steps. As he will likely keep up with you, mark the moment with your special sound and then give him the treat.
Repeat this at just a couple steps and then add the sit cue when you stop moving. You are again creating a behavior chain of heel and sit so that your pup has to work a little harder to earn his reward.
When your puppy is very good at remaining at your side with just a couple steps, do more between each stop. In just a few minutes your puppy will be heeling at your side and sitting when you stop for upwards of 20 paces.
In just a short period of time you have taught your dog 3 new behaviors. The next training session you can add more criteria to continually improve your pup’s responses.