As Ayla was going to be my first friendly dog and my past dog experiences had taught that it’s never too early to start laying down a good foundation of obedience, I started obedience work within the very first week I got Ayla. The first week we worked on sit. After she mastered sit, I started on stay and required her to sit and stay while I prepped her meals and put them on the ground.
My breeder had recommended the Puppy Primer as an introduction to obedience. As I wasn’t able to start with my favorite obedience class until Ayla was 18 weeks old, we used that book as our baseline. In the beginning, obedience for my puppy consisted of the following commands: Sit, Stay, Potty, Follow, Ow, Let’s Cross, and Freedom.
Now let me explain a couple of those.
When it comes to obedience there are that there are six commands that I expect my dog to do without question. These are: Sit, Stay, Down, Come, Stand, and Heel. However, the training methodology that I use for basic obedience isn’t appropriate for a puppy and I have also been taught that if you cannot enforce a command, then you cannot use that word for formal training. You cannot give a command if up unto that point you accepted mixed results of the dog obeying or not. It tells the dog that the command is purely optional and therefore, has no value.
For puppy obedience training, I used treat-based training methodology. But aside from ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay,’ our training was to improve focus, not to perform exact actions. I didn’t even try to teach ‘Come’ at the puppy-level, because it’s a hard command for adult dogs to learn and obey. You might have a dog that comes for treats every time you give the word…until the one time they see a squirrel. Is a squirrel more worth it to your dog than the piece of freeze-dried liver in your pocket? It depends on the dog. Eager-to-please dogs are more likely to want to do what you say and receive the treat. Independently-minded dogs might decide in the thrill of the moment, that a squirrel seems like a far better reward. I like using the word ‘Come’ for recall so I decided to hold off on training it until formal obedience class. This is not to say that we didn’t do any recall training, but I used the word ‘Here’ instead. I used it in conjunction with a Sit-Stay to get Ayla to run up and down my hallway. After a bit, I decided to drop ‘Here’ in favor of ‘Follow,’ which was was sort of a crossover between ‘Come’ and ‘Heel.’ Follow was about rewarding my dog after I walked away from her, gave the command, and she hurried up alongside of me. Note: none of this was performed outside. Ayla was on a leash if she was outside.
However, ‘Let’s Cross’ was a command specifically for outdoor leashing-walking. My neighborhood is a subdivision with a number of small neighborhood streets. I figured Seeing-Eye dogs knew how to stop at road crossings, so that was something Ayla and I were going to start on early. Therefore, whenever we came to the end of a sidewalk, I’d ask Ayla to sit, and then I’d check for traffic and say ‘Let’s Cross’ as we walked across the street.
‘Ow’ was ‘you’ve hurt me and I’m not going to play with you anymore,’ and ‘Freedom’ was/is our release word to let Ayla know that all obedience expectations are wrapped.