Puppy Kindergarten – Week 3

House Manners

“Sit” and “shake” to greet
Continue w/housetraining

Body Language

Your puppy communicates with his fellow dogs, and to a large extent with you, with body language.  Body postures that make the dog look larger are generally postures of bluff, or threat, designed to increase the distance between the dog and another.  Examples are: Ears up or forward, tail up, making eye contact, standing w/ head or paws over another, hackles up, lips retracted upwards.

Postures that make the dog look smaller are generally postures of invitation or submission. Examples are: Play bowing, “the play face”, pawing, rolling over, ears back, eyes averted, tail lowered, and so on. It is important also to remember that your dog will often read your postures as if they were dog body language. This sometimes leads to miscommunication if you are unaware of your dog’s “language”. For example, if you crouch as you tell him to “Stay”, you will make the exercise harder for him, as your body is contradicting your voice!

Continue to expose your puppy to the big world, but safely. Remember the two V’s of socialization: Volume and Variety. Has your puppy met a toddler? More than one? And enjoyed the experience? How about teenagers? People with beards? Remember to use the “Jolly Routine” and yummy treats or favorite toys when your puppy meets a new person.


To Practice

No lure, just command and signal for “sit”
Continue to practice the “sit/ collar touch” exercise.

Remember, No food lure on “Down” – be brave.
Signal with an empty right hand.
Reward from your left hand.
Gradually use less and less hand motion to signal the down, until you can stand upright and signal.
If you “captured” the down, you will have the behavior on verbal cue by now, so try harder version, such as:
Downs with you seated, and/or Downs with you at a distance (leash the puppy, walk 10 feet away cue “down”, wait quietly for success, click then treat.)

Puppy should occasionally perform three or four behaviors per reward. (Try to do the Sit-Down-Sit-Stand sequence, (see below) varying the order of the commands (so as to avoid accidentally pattern-training the puppy) then reward at the end of the series.)

Practice Come, holding the lure about 2′ from the puppy, give the command, and back up. Reward the puppy as he catches you.
Remember to use “real life” rewards sometimes, (see last week’s notes).
Practice in new locations this week.

New behaviors: Sit-stay, Stand, Rollover, Shake

Practice “sit-stay”: strive for 60 second stay by the end of the week. Remember, the “stay” ends only with the release word or a new cue.
To teach the Sit-stay: Place 8 or 10 food treats in your cupped left hand, hold the clicker above the treats with your thumb on the button, and wrap the leash around your left wrist, or drop the leash and stand on it. This will leave your right hand free to signal. The signal is your right hand held upright, palm towards the dog, as if you were stopping traffic. Start by practicing very short stays, and then gradually increase the time the puppy is required to stay. The sequence will go like this:
Say “Sit, stay”, then instantly, “Click”/ treat
While the puppy is still eating his treat, cue “Sit, Stay”/signal, then pause very briefly, before delivering the “click”/ treat
“Sit, Stay”/signal, count 1, “click”/ treat
“Sit, Stay”/signal, count 1, 2, “click”/ treat
“Sit, Stay”/signal, count 1, 2,3 “click”/ treat
“Sit, Stay”/signal, count 1, 2,3,4 “click”/ treat
“Sit, Stay”/signal, count 1,2,3,4,5, “click”/ treat
Each time the puppy is successful, add one second, until you reach:
“Sit, Stay”/signal, count 10, “click”/ treat
Now, add the distance criterion, bit by bit.
“Sit, Stay”/signal, step back with your right foot only, bring it back into position, “click”/ treat
“Sit, Stay”/signal, step back with your left foot only, bring it back into position, “click”/ treat
“Sit, Stay”/signal, step away with both feet, (no duration though!), step back, “click”/treat
“Sit, Stay”/signal, step away, count 1, step back, “click” /treat
Sit, Stay”/signal, step away, count 1, 2, step back, “click” /treat
So long as the puppy is successful, keep adding a second each time until you reach: “Sit, Stay”/signal, step away, count 10, step back, “click”/treat
If the puppy breaks the stay, start again at the last stay he was successful at, increasing your time or distance increment more gradually this time.
Make your stays more stable by, “aiming for the nose while watching the toes”. That is, 1) deliver your food from above, aiming down at your puppy’s upturned nose, rather than from below, aiming at his chin. If your hand comes in low, he will tend to lower his head, and stand up. If he is keeping his head up, nose in a “howling-at-the moon” position, he will tend to keep his rear locked into a sit! 2) Watch his toes. If he is lifting his foot off the ground, “cancel” food delivery for a second, then begin to lower the food again only when all four of his feet are on the ground. If you feed while he is anxiously lifting his foot, you will tend to build that into the behavior! Get solid, stable stays right from the very beginning!
For some puppies it is helpful to use the leash to gently hold the puppy (fairly) still, just long enough for him to get the picture that stillness earns rewards. Do not use the leash to punish, just to stabilize.

Gradually increase the time that the puppy stays until he can do 30 – 60 seconds, and you can also stop practicing the shortest stays.

Hand targeting — Stand

Tuck a food treat between your fingers, and present the palm of your hand towards the puppy. Click as he touches you hand (to get the treat) and release the treat as his reward. Repeat three times. Now the puppy is very optimistic about your hand– so present your empty hand, palm towards him. He will reach in to investigate. Click as he touches your hand, then treat from your other hand.
The first few time only have your puppy reach an inch or two to touch your palm, but once he does that confidently, kick it up a notch — have him reach 3 or 4 inches, then take a step to touch your hand, then 2 steps. As you increase the distance, you will note that you could use your hand targeting as a Come cue! Cool!
You can also use hand targeting to steer the puppy in other ways — it can cue him to get off the couch, or to shift over so there is room for your feet. You can also us targeting to get him to follow you on a walk. (Of course– good behavior requires you to work at it, step-by-step.)
For now, we are going to use the hand target, presented about 6 inches in front of your puppy, and at his nose level, to pull him out of his Sit into a Stand.
The verbal cue can be Touch, or, whatever cue makes sense to you and your puppy!


Have the puppy lie down. Hold a food lure against the puppy’s nose, and move it against the puppy’s shoulder so that the puppy tucks his head to his shoulder and goes into a down with his weight rolled to one hip. Then move the food lure around the puppy’s collar; as the puppy moves his head, he will roll his body too.

Shake Hands

Have the puppy sit, then hold a food treat concealed in your fist at the level of the puppy’s collar. Wait ’til he paws at your hand, click immediately, then treat.  (This is a behavior in which it is very helpful to use a clicker to mark and capture the (brief) moment of behavior you want.)  Once the puppy is reliably pawing the treat, try this with your fist empty, click, then treat from the other hand. Once the behavior is fairly reliable, you can give the cue “Shake” just before you elicit the behavior.
In General
When practicing the new commands you should: Use a lure for only the first few repetitions. Be strict with yourself about this — if you lure though hundreds of repetitions, it is very challenging to get rid of the lure. Let the lure help you jump start the behavior, using it for no more than 10 repetitions at maximum, then put it away, and use the hand gesture. Do continue to use a generous ratio of reinforcement. Initially practice in a non-distracting area.

Questions? Send Penny an email penny @ whatagoodpuppy.com (remove the spaces)