Puppies/Dogs Training and Ownership Tips

REWARDS and Foundation "commands"

Foundation Tricks.

TRADE (Whaddaya have??)

Teach trade by walking up to your puppy when he’s chewing on a chewie or playing with a toy.

Have a special treat in your hand (no Milk Bones! Something smelly and chewy and wonderful) and say, “hey Rover, wanna trade?” Then offer the treat. Most puppies will happily leave what they have for the treat.

Take his toy or chewie and quickly give it back. Let him go back to his toy and then do it again. And again and again. Then toss a treat away from him, when he goes to get it, take his toy, examine it thoroughly, smiling and telling him what a cool toy it is, then give him a treat and give the toy back.

This will need to be practiced with progressively more exciting toys and treasures until he is bringing them to you to show them off!

Remember that, in his mind, if you want it, it must be VERY special.


Teach your puppy to enjoy being grabbed by the collar! Too many dogs dash out of reach when someone reaches for their collar or spin and grab for the hand; this may

prevent them from being saved by a Good Samaritan in the case of an emergency. 

Some dogs actually panic if their collar is held by a stranger, and may bite!

Usually, the only time we grab a dog by its collar is when it’s in trouble. I can always tell a puppy that’s been grabbed by the collar when it comes. He comes allllmost to the owner, and then hovers just out of reach.

This drives the owner NUTS! Which then makes the owner angry, which then makes the puppy POSITIVE that he made the right decision by keeping his distance!

So, the bottom line is teaching him that being grabbed by the collar means wonderful things are soon to follow.

Have treats in your pocket as you’re walking through the house, going about your business.

Walk past your puppy, grab his collar, stuff treats into his mouth, tell him what a good dog he is, release his collar, and continue on your way.

Next time you go past him, repeat it. Don’t give a command or tell him to do anything. Just cruise by and grab.

The treats should be pretty yummy because collar grabs are scary for some pups.

Have everyone in the family and all of your guests do the same thing.

Soon your pup should be looking hopefully at you whenever you walk by, hoping you’ll grab his collar!

You can have people you meet on walks grab his collar as long as they don’t scare him.

When your pup is good at this, lead him by the collar to a sofa or chair, sit down and continue to give treats.

Give the treats one at a time and praise like mad when he lets you lead him by the collar. Leading by the collar is also very scary for many puppies so be generous with treats and praise and make sure to reassure him.


Rewards are better when they’re unpredictable.

For a Retriever the best reward might be a quick game of fetch. For a Poodle the best reward might be for you to sit on the ground and cuddle for a minute. For a dog park fiend, a reward might be a trip to the dog park, and for a Basset Hound, it might be five minutes of uninterrupted sniffing in a really exciting bush!

But for nearly all of them, treats work wonderfully for helping them understand why they should learn something as useless (to them) and boring as stay.

Treats are easy to have available, they can be eaten quickly so you can go back to work quickly and dogs LOVE ‘em! Later, start adding in the really good stuff like tummy rubs on the couch and rides in the car.

Instead of my dogs working to avoid punishment, they work to engage me, they work to make me give them a treat, and they work because at some point, they will get a special moment with me.

“They work because they love me!” Being with me means good things are likely to happen. I didn’t think it was possible, but they do work to please me. Pleasing me makes me happy, and when Mom’s happy, everyone’s happy.

As you can see, rewards are anything your dog finds rewarding! outside, inside, dinner, treats, chase the squirrel, or ride in the car. The list could go on forever. 

Rewards can even be getting away from something undesirable, like a tight leash.

The reward for walking next to you is eventually a loose leash. But in the beginning, it includes treats, praise, crazy play, and going for a walk.

Tiny kibble works great for around the house, but you’ll need something special for really stressful or distracting areas. They should make your dog crazy for them!

I joke that even a super stubborn dog would learn to drive a car for the right kind of treat! I call these “driving lesson” treats and they should be smelly and easy to eat quickly.

It’s best if they are easy to handle, somewhat dry, not greasy, and don’t melt in your hand. You get more mileage from soft or semi-soft treats like Bil Jac liver treats, pepperoni, or other grocery store treats.

You can make wonderful treats from chicken hot dogs by microwaving them!

Cut them into quarter size bits and microwave on a paper plate for 2 minutes at a time. 

Blot with a paper towel to absorb any grease between each cooking cycle. 

Do this several times during the cooking process. When the pieces are becoming dark and smelling strong, let

them cool for several minutes. They should become crunchy, like a cracker! 

They are easy to handle and NOT greasy and most dogs go nuts for them.

I usually recommend an assortment of treats. Some good, some better, some

incredible! Switch from time to time.

If you got the exact same tee shirt every time you parked perfectly, you’d be dyin’ to figure out how to get the coffee mug! Even if you didn’t really care for coffee mugs, it’s something new and different and you just might like it.

 It comes back to that intermittent reward concept. He may get treats and treats are great but he may get an AMAZING treat!


Timing is everything.

Make sure you reward or punish the behavior you actually want.

I see many people teach their dogs, “sit-until-I-start-to-bend-over-to-give-you-your reward-


These are the people who don’t understand why their dog can’t do a sit-stay. 

The dog can’t do a sit-stay because it has been taught that sit means sit, then stand!

Be very aware of what your dog is doing when he actually GETS the reward or punishment; is that really what you intended?

Really focus and if it’s going too fast for you, slow the whole thing down by slowing all of your motions and words.

You may just have to STOP what you’re doing and regroup. 

If your dog consistently pops up from a down right before you give him a treat, it’s because you’ve inadvertently taught him to.

Start re-teaching it the way you want it. Say, “Too bad” in a sweet tone of voice and give him lots of “you’re getting warmer” cues to keep him working happily.


The early stages of training are pretty treat-dense.

Treats are a predictable and easy way to keep your dog’s attention and demonstrate new moves and tricks.

When you're in a training session always have treats ready. 

This means in your hand, ready to dispense. NOT in a pocket or baggie or treat bag.

It’s ok to have a backup supply in those places, but you need ALWAYS to have several at the ready, in your hand.

I try to lure the dog to do what I want  with my right hand and initially will give that treat to the dog. 

As the dog starts to “get it,” I’ll continue luring (this will become a hand signal very quickly) with my right hand, but then that hand will be empty and I will surprise the dog by giving the treat with my left hand.

This changes the dog’s focus from following the treat to understanding the hand signal.

It is necessary to eliminate the complaint of dogs not doing something unless you show them a treat.

Make sure you make this change after no more than 12 repetitions.

If I see a dog really working to do something, really struggling to focus, and ignoring distractions, I always want to show my appreciation with an extra special reward.

Whether it is food or a game, you want to make sure it makes an impression and that he’ll remember it next time he has to decide, “Go to dad? Or chase the squirrel?”

Also, if he gives me a spectacular performance, a perfect sit, or a super quick down, I will make sure I give an especially appreciative reward, to increase the chances of that performance repeating.


As he learns how the tricks work and how to perform them, start spacing the rewards farther and farther apart.

This doesn’t mean that after doing the trick three times you can stop giving treats!

If you just stop giving them or you stop too quickly and don’t replace them with a different reward, you may cause the dog to stop doing them altogether.

Have you ever put money in a soda machine and not gotten a soda? It’ll be a while before you try that machine again!

The same thing goes for your dog and you withholding treats! Your dog has to get SOME kind of reward to keep the trust. 

It’s important to teach him that just because you have treats it doesn’t mean he’s going to get them.

He’ll want to work harder to do it right and get a reward. Doing anything without frequent and exciting rewards will take some time.

Don’t be stingy with rewards; be generous and SMART.

“Fading” the treats is as important as using treats.

If you use treats and don’t fade them, you get the dog who “won’t do anything if I don’t have treats in my hand”.

All of the instructions, below, will coach you on your hand signals; you’ll be using your right hand to lure the puppy through the trick then giving him the reward from the same hand.

But, when your puppy has shown that he understands the concept of a new trick, hopefully within 3 repetitions, move the treat from your right hand to your left.

Then continue to give the hand signal as if you have a treat in it, but now the actual treat is coming from your left.

Within a few more repetitions, move the treats to your left pocket and take treats out of your pocket for each successful effort.

Then move the treats to the kitchen counter and when your puppy performs for you say, in the living room, run with him to the kitchen for a treat! 

Taking these important steps will assure that your puppy never says, “Nope”, just because you don’t have a treat.


Actually, in my experience, The Yo-Yo Game is the answer to Loose Leash

Walking as well as Come and pretty much anything having to do with getting and keeping your pup’s attention.

Standing in one place, have a single treat in your right hand and more in your other hand.

Making sure the puppy is completely engaged in what’s in your hand, slowly and deliberately, with the puppy’s eyes following your hand, sweep your arm out and BOWL the treat across the ground so your puppy chases it and eats it!

As the puppy is eating the treat get the next one ready, call his name and do it again, in a different direction as soon as he reaches you.

So, the puppy is eating a treat with his back to you. You call his name. He turns toward you.

You SMILE as big as you can and say good dog. He starts toward you Good Dog again. As he gets closer, you swoop your hand again and bowl the treat so he barrels right past you to get it.

REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT Once he starts understanding to chase the treat and you’ll throw another he will be hysterically happy! This is THE MOST FUN GAME EVER.

Your puppy will start whipping around to see where you’re going to throw the treat next. 

Remember, he has to SEEE IT LEAVE YOUR HAND so he can chase it knowing that it came from you.

Your puppy will be flying around the room, spinning around when he hears his name and running toward you to see what you’re up to.

Every 4 or so times, instead of throwing it, ask him to come all the way to you and give him 4 treats, this makes up for him not being able to chase the treats.

When your puppy perfects the game with you standing still, start walking.

Hold the treats at about elbow level, close to your abdomen, in a very relaxed way.

Take a step, toss a treat to your left, and keep walking. Call the puppy as he’s picking up the treat and when he catches up with you, toss another treat.

Repeat until the puppy is glued to your side and the only reason he’ll leave is if your “push” him away by tossing a treat.

He should be trotting next to you, staring up into your face with adoration! What a COOL human! Why would he want to look anywhere else?

This is why I call it the Yo-Yo Game, you “toss” him away and he comes back on his own, over and over again!

The more you “toss” by tossing treats farther and farther away, the more he’ll pay attention to you!

It’s important to give “extended praise” occasionally, extended praise is 17

seconds of praise and tiny treats.

The treats should be about the size of a pea, and as you babble nice things to your puppy for 17 seconds, you dole out 17 treats, one per second,

as you praise.

Puppies should get extended praise at least one time in a training session.

Extended praise is not just for the Yo-Yo Game, but for everything you want the puppy to get better at.


Sit is a building block for lots of tricks. It’s also a great way to control your dog in stressful or distracting situations.

You should even use this method to teach dogs who already know sit because of the value

of having them learn to watch your hand “lure” them into position.

Start with a handful of great treats. Hold one in your right hand, between

the tips of your thumb and first two fingers.

Make sure you have a good grip on it. If your pup is grabby, it’s ok to hold it so that she can barely touch it, because it’s so hidden.

Put the tips of your fingers to the tip of his nose; make sure he knows you have something fabulous in there.

Think magnet…. You know what a magnet acts like, right?  Imagine all dogs are born with a magnet in the tip of their nose and the treat is the other half of the connection.

I’m using the magnet as an example of really having the dog’s nose on your treat. I mean like it’s magnetized his nose!

In the early stages you’ll need to have the treat right on his nose but as your pup understands, you’ll be able to work from farther and farther from his nose.

With the treat, “pull” the pup’s nose up to the sky. When the nose goes up, the butt goes down. When the butt is down, you have SIT!

Notice that I haven’t included saying sit in the instructions.

Dogs don’t need words; we will add the name of the trick later.

So! Remember, it’s a trick; it’s FUN.

As your dog becomes proficient at this fabulous and fun trick and as he starts to do it without you even asking, start to say sit just before you give the signal.

Then start leaving the treat out of your right hand and giving it with your left.

The right hand will still go through the motion, which has now become a hand signal! 

Soon the hand signal should become smaller and smaller until it’s barely noticeable to anybody but you and your dog. COOL TRICK!


Down is a natural next step from sit.

Have a lot of treats in your left hand and your one luring treat in your right.

With your dog in the sit position, get his nose firmly attached to your hand and slowly “pull” his nose down to the toenails of his front feet.

Some dogs will respond best if you then push the treat, slowly, under their belly and some dogs do best if you drag it slowly forward, away from their paws.

You will know when you try it with your dog.

In all cases, your pup is likely to try to stand up; the instant (!) your dog’s butt comes up off the ground, say, “nope” in a friendly, matter of fact tone and pull the treat away from him and back to your chest.

Start all over from sit.

You will be surprised at how quickly he figures out that what you’re trying to teach him has SOMETHING to do with keeping his butt on the ground!

You’ll see him trying; it’s really cute. 

Keep giving him “you’re getting warmer” encouragement.

When both elbows are on the ground, say, “yay”! Give him a treat (or a bunch) from your left hand.

You may have to ask your dog to sit many times to get him to down. 

Remember that sit is still a trick and you need to reward it from time to time. Don’t take it for granted or it will be replaced by Down!

Work this trick all over the place too.  Then, do down without starting from sit. It’s really hard! But you can do it. 

As he starts being reliable, start adding the word “down” just before you give the hand signal. Soon he’ll start it as soon as he hears the word.

These are the foundations all good dogs know and you can build a heck of a training repertoire from here!