Parenting, even when your kids have four legs, is never an easy
task. Maybe you planned for this day and read all the books, or
maybe it just happened! Either way, the cutest little puppy is
peeing on the kitchen floor, while staring up at you with
adoring eyes. And all you can think is, “Now what?!?”
Lucky for you, four-legged children are ECAD’s specialty, and we
would like to give back to the many people who have given to us
by sharing some knowledge with the world. So with the help of
PetCareRx, ECAD has created quick reference guides that share
some tips and tricks that may help you in your pet parenting
Before we start home schooling your pet, it's imperative that
you, the parents, first participate in a few Train-the-Trainer
lessons. By being prepared with the appropriate knowledge and
methodology, you will not only increase the success of the
training, but you will enjoy spending quality time with your
puppy as well.
Dogs speak dog. English is a second language, but dog is their
first and fluent language, and unless you speak dog fluently,
you need to a find a way to communicate with them. Since
Rosetta Stone has not come out with a dog version yet, ECAD has
found cues and patterning to be the best form of
Cues are hand signals, body positions, sounds (whistles, snaps,
claps, “kissy” noises, etc.) that are basically hints for what
you want the dog to accomplish.
Targeting is a physical cue, while Commands are verbal
Patterning is doing something over and over until it becomes
automatic through muscle memory. By patterning, we can
eliminate targeting and rely solely on commands to get the dogs
to respond to a desired behavior.
Now that we understand how to communicate, the next question
might be, “What should we communicate?”
The Dog’s Name
When you say the dog’s name, you
are telling the dog to pay attention—a command is coming. You
are not telling the dog to come to you, to sit, or to perform
any additional task other than to recognize that you have
called their name and they should focus their attention on you.
Say your dog’s name, and as soon as the puppy looks at you,
reward them with a treat. When you talk about your puppy to
friends, or are referring to the puppy but don’t want it to do
anything specific, use a nickname. Otherwise the puppy will
inappropriately respond to their name, or the name will no
longer hold merit and it will become irrelevant “noise” to your
It is critical that the pup’s name is ALWAYS positive. Don’t
use their name to scold. Indicators are used for that, which
will be covered in the next lesson.
Practice the “Dog’s Name” command, and play with cues, both
targeting and commands, to have fun with your puppy.
How to Teach Your Dog to Fetch
Playtime can be training in disguise, especially when you teach
your dog to fetch. But be warned: As a pet parent, you need to
determine the rules of fair play and enforce those rules.
Grabbing the toy from you, ripping it up, and playing keep away
may be fun for your dog, but not for you! When things get too
wild, stop playing immediately! Also use a durable fetch toy
like the Dogsavers Flyer so that the toy lasts years
of biting and torture.
How do you determine if your puppy has turned a fun game of tug
or fetch into something different? Pay attention to your dog’s
body language. If your dog is jumping on you, grabbing at the
toy, nipping at your hands, shaking the toy in their mouth,
growling and becoming vocal, or refusing to return the toy to
you, you must stop playing with them. These behaviors may be
cute for a puppy, but when your dog gets older and bigger it
will no longer be so fun. By rewarding the behavior of
appropriate play and discouraging inappropriate play, you can
avoid teaching your dog bad habits.
When you have established the rules of play, tug and fetch are
more enjoyable for both of you. ECAD has found these two games
to be the ideal teaching environment for training the commands
“Get It” and “Give”.
The "GIVE" Command
“Give” means that your hand is on the item and your puppy
releases the item from their mouth.
Step 1: Place
your hand on the item and say, “Fido, Give,” but do not pull on
Step 2a: If your
dog does not release the item, show them a reward (another toy
or a treat) by placing it in front of their nose, and say
“Give”. When your dog opens their mouth to take the reward,
repeat the “Give” command, take the item, PRAISE!, and give
them the reward.
Step 2b: If your
dog willingly releases the item, the moment they open their
mouth and release the item, PRAISE!, say, “Yes! Good Give,” and
continue to play.
Step 3: Repeat
the steps 1 and 2 until your dog has willingly released the
item three times in a row.
Note: On rare
occasions, some puppies are determined to keep the object and
simply refuse to “Give” no matter what. In these situations,
gently place your thumb on your dog’s gums and begin to apply
pressure while repeating “Give” slowly, giving your puppy time
to respond and release the item. If necessary, continue to
increase the amount of pressure, but do not use your
fingernail. This will become uncomfortable for your puppy, and
they will release the item.
If your dog is stubborn, this may become a battle of wills. But
it is important that you remain the parent and not give in to
puppy’s obstinate behavior. Be patient, but firm. Never rip the
item out of your puppy’s mouth or pull on the item. This will
cause them to want to tug, and your dog will think you are
THE "GET IT" Command
“Get It” tells your puppy to pick up an item, often used during
a game of fetch.
Step 1: Pick up
an item, such as a ball, rope, or stick. Instead of using an
actual stick, which may contain bacteria or pathogens, use
something like a Kong Pet
Stick when training your dog to fetch. Show the item
to your dog, enticing them, but not exciting them.
Step 2: As soon
as your dog sees the item and expresses interest, throw your
item at waist level about 15 feet in front of you. As you
release it, say, “Fido, Get It!”
Step 3: When
your dog reaches the item, say, “That’s it, Get It!”
Step 4: Your dog
will instinctively want to pick the item up, so mark the moment
they do by saying, “YES! Get It,” with a big smile on
your face and a lot of excitement.
Note: When your
dog comes back to you with the item in their mouth is the ideal
time to teach the “Give” command.
Step 5: Repeat
steps 1 through 4, as well as steps from the “Give” command.
Make sure you continue to “play” until your dog is retrieving
the item and giving it to you successfully for three or more
Once you are confident that Fido fully understands “Get it” and
“Give,” you can begin to throw the item farther and farther
away. At this point, ECAD recommends adding the “Come” command
to the sequence of commands. The sequence would sound like
this, “Get It…YES!...Come…YES!….Give…YES!” Always praise your
dog once the sequence has been completed.
- Remember to establish and enforce the rules of fair play.
No one wants to play with a bully.
- Have fun with these commands. Playing fetch is a great
opportunity for you and your dog to bond while burning off some
energy and teaching manners.
- Use your markers: “That’s It,” “Yes,” and “No!”
- You are the boss. Be patient, but firm when your dog is
resisting giving you an item, because one day that item may
just be your favorite pair of shoes or the TV remote.
Next week’s lesson
How to Teach Your Dog “Yes” and
Back to 20 Dog Commands You
Need to Know
Get 20 Commands Delivered in 10 Weeks!
Sign up today and get two
training tips a week from the expert trainers at ECAD, delivered right to your inbox.
All training tips in this series are from ECAD
(Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities), a non-profit
organization dedicated to training service dogs for veterans
with disabilities. Learn more about ECAD.