puppies aren’t born understanding english, we must teach them our language

one of the most frequent mistakes i see being made by new puppy/dog parents is giving their puppies/dogs cues that they do not understand.  “come,” “off,” and “leave it,” being the most common.  remember, dogs do not naturally understand english.  they are not born knowing what our words mean.


so if you look at your puppy, who has just grabbed your favorite shoe, and say, “leave it,” they will have zero idea what you are saying.  it would be like someone saying something to me in chinese.  i would look at them with a blank look on my face, maybe even give a head tilt, and continue on my way.


we must teach puppies our words by luring, shaping, or capturing* their behavior, naming the action, and rewarding them for doing it.  by doing one of these (or a combo) several times, you are teaching your puppy the word.  once they know the word very well, then you can start using it as a cue.


the easiest example is teaching sit ~ you simply hold a treat over your puppy’s nose, let them sniff it and back them into the sit position.  as they back up, their tushie will touch the floor. once that tushie touches and they are in the sit position, say “sit,” and give them that yummy treat.  once they know the word (usually takes 6-8 times of luring/shaping), you can use it as a cue.  but not before that.




never push your puppy into position.  by luring or shaping, your puppy is thinking, “oh boy, my tushie hits the floor, the human says sit, and i get a treat, that’s cool, i think i like that position.”  if you push them into a sit, you are not only using force, which is not healthy, physically or mentally, but you are not enabling your puppy to think and learn on their own.


just like humans, when puppies are taught to think, they are much more likely to learn our cues at a greater depth, and maintain their ability to consistently comply, throughout their lifetime.


*capturing is when your puppy does something on their own, you see them do it, immediately name it, and give them a treat.  this is usually used in conjunction with luring or shaping.