Two Basic Command Types:
  • BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION: With the first type of command, you “modify” the behavior and then give the command.

  • BEHAVIOR ASSOCIATION: The second type of command relies solely on “association.” While teaching this type of command, you will not be able to create the behavior itself. However, giving the command consistently when the dog performs the desired behavior will teach the dog to associate the command with the behavior. “Potty” is one such command. A dog will learn to potty on command completely by association.

TRAINING TIP: When you give a puppy or dog a command, make sure you’re actually giving a command rather than asking a question. Many people raise their voice at the end of the command, essentially turning it into a question. Dogs respond to commands much better than questions. Also, make sure all training occurs in a “no distraction” setting.

Click on a command to jump to its description:
BACK
CAR
COME
CRATE or GO TO BED
DOWN
DRESS
DROP
GET and GIVE
GO POTTY
HEEL
INSIDE
LAP
LEAVE IT
LEFT
NO or AHH-AHH
OFF
OUT
OUTSIDE
RELEASE
RIGHT
ROLL
SETTLE
SHAKE
SIT
STAND
STAY
UNDER
UP
WAIT

BACK
This command teaches a puppy to back up in a straight line. The easiest way to teach this command it to create a narrow walkway where you can keep the puppy from going around you. Have the puppy on a leash so you can keep him/her facing you. Say the command “back” and walk towards the puppy. Most puppies will jump backwards before you get to them, some take a little bump in order to get them to move. Their backward movement will be awkward in the beginning, but as they build confidence in the command, they will smooth out the command and just walk backwards. Once they have mastered the straight “back” command, then make your walkway curvy, then add corners and ask the puppy to back through those. Once the puppy has become comfortable with backing up, he/she will be able to back through anything.

CAR
This command is simple to teach. As you lift the puppy into the car, say the command “car.” As the puppy gets more familiar with the car, encourage him/her to get into the car with only a tug of the leash. Get the puppy familiar with riding in the car with short trips around the block in the beginning, lengthening the trips as their comfort level increases. The puppy should never ride in your lap while you’re driving. He/she should be trained to sit in the passenger seat or the back seat while the car is in motion. We suggest using a harness restraint system when the vehicle is in motion in order to protect the puppy during an accident.

COME
You can begin training this command right away, even before the puppy has learned other commands. If you call the puppy in a somewhat excited voice, the puppy will generally respond by coming to you. If you have the puppy on a leash, it makes this command even easier. You can give the leash a tug in order to get the puppy's attention. When the puppy starts moving towards you, use the command “come.” Praise and treat the puppy when he/she reaches you. Even if the puppy doesn’t make it to you, praise as soon as he/she starts moving towards you. Our hand sign for this is holding your hand out palm up and bending your fingers so they’re vertical, flattening your hand and then bringing your fingers back vertical.

CRATE or GO TO BED
This is a very easy command to teach. Let the puppy know you have a yummy treat, toss it into the crate, and at the same time say “crate” or “go to bed.” The puppy will naturally follow the treat into the crate. The puppy is likely to cry in the beginning as he/she get used to sleeping in a crate. Many of our puppies have already been crate trained before going out to puppy raisers. If the puppy cries, it’s okay to check on him/her but don’t let him/her out. If you do, the puppy will be training you, rather than the other way around. Be aware that checking on the puppy may extend the period of time that the puppy cries.

DOWN
This command can be taught without ever touching the puppy. Once you have the puppy in the “sit” position, hold a treat under your hand down on the floor and the puppy will naturally lay down in order to get into a better position to get the treat from under your hand. When the puppy lays down, give the command “down” and let him/her have the treat. Make sure the puppy is all the way down, with his/her elbows on the ground before releasing the treat. Our hand sign for “down” is holding your hand out palm down.

DRESS
This tells the puppy that you will be putting the vest/cape or pack on and that he/she should hold still in whatever position he/she is in, so the pack can be put on and snapped in place. This is very simply a practice command. The puppy will become used to the vest/cape, wearing it and having it put on and taken off, as a matter of course. Just keep putting it on and taking it off every day.

DROP
The “drop” command means to drop whatever the puppy has in his mouth. This command should be taught after the puppy has learned to “get” and “give.” There are two ways to accomplish this command. First, have the puppy pick up an object. Then, offer the puppy a treat and use the command “drop” as soon as the puppy begins to let go of the item in favor of the treat. If the puppy doesn’t let go of the item, you can find a more tempting treat, or gently open his/her mouth so the item falls to the floor. As the puppy’s mouth is opening, say the command “drop.”

GET and GIVE
Both Goldens and Labs are retrievers by nature and “Get” is basically a retrieve command. This makes this command fairly easy to teach. You can start out with a toy or something that the puppy likes. Toss it a short distance and when the puppy reaches to pick it up, say the word “get.” Call the puppy to you and take hold of the item the puppy has and say “give,” at the same time, offering the puppy a treat in exchange. As soon as the puppy lets loose, praise highly and give the treat. Once the puppy has mastered going after the item and giving it to you, start dropping the item straight down, point at it and say “get” and then hold your hand out and say the word “give.” When the puppy gives it to you, praise and treat. Once the puppy has mastered that, change to different toys and then to items that are not toys. Be patient and make it fun to learn. Once they have mastered the command, they will pick up anything and give it to you.

GO POTTY
This command is completely an association command. Unlike a command like “sit,” you can not initiate the behavior in order to associate the command. In this command, you will need to watch the puppy and give the command as the animal is in the process of the behavior. Say something like “go potty, goooood dog, go potty” while the dog is relieving him/herself. In doing this on a consistent basis, the dog will begin associating the command with the action. After the dog has completely associated the command with the action, he/she will do the action on command.

HEEL
In a correct performance of this command, the dog should have his/her head at your thigh. He/she should maintain that position at any speed and in any route of travel. In order to teach your puppy to “heel,“ the puppy first needs to get used to being on a leash. There is no need to drag a puppy around to get them used to the leash. Move to the end of the leash so there is a little pressure on the collar. The puppy may pull back against the pressure in the beginning, but will eventually move forward. At this time, praise strongly. Repeating this will get the puppy to give in to the pressure on the collar. Soon, they will likely be moving out in front of you on the leash. When the puppy gets in front of you, change directions and give a little tug. Each time the puppy is out of position, change directions, give a tug. After practicing this over and over, the puppy will learn the best place to be (at your thigh) in order to react correctly to the change of direction, thus not experiencing the tug on the leash any more. Praise the puppy all through this process. Every time the puppy makes even the slightest move towards the right response.

INSIDE
This means to go inside. Use this command while ushering the puppy back into the house or other structure.

LAP
This is an easy command for dogs to get, for the simple reason that they like the position. You may need to help them into the correct position the first few times but they will pick up on it pretty quickly. In the correct position, the dog’s elbows should be down on your leg. They should not be “standing” on your lap. By the time the dog is big enough to learn this position, you should already have your dog-sized vest. When the dog is in the “lap” position, take hold of the vest and move it around vigorously. The dog should get used to the feeling of it moving around on his/her back, in preparation for a pack with pockets.

LEAVE IT
This is an important command that all dogs should learn. This command means to leave alone whatever has his attention at the moment. You can start training this command by dropping a treat on the ground, resting your heel on the ground behind it and hovering the ball of your foot over it. When the puppy goes to get the treat, bring your foot down on the treat enough that the puppy can not get it. As you do this, say the command “leave it.” The puppy will pull away and may try again and again. Each time the puppy tries to get the treat, put the ball of your foot down over it and say “leave it.” Soon the puppy will stop and look up at you. This is exactly what you want. When the puppy does this, praise and give him a different treat and pick up the one that you were using as the object for the “leave it” lesson.

LEFT
This command means you want the dog to move to your left side with his/her head even with your thigh. This position is in preparation for the “heel” command, allowing the dog to heel on your left side. In order to teach this command, move the puppy to a standing position on your left side and say the command “left.” Treat and praise greatly.

NO or AHH-AHH
We generally use the “ahh-ahh” command because it’s actually a bit sharper sounding than “no.” This command is to tell the puppy to stop doing whatever he/she is doing. Use this command sparingly. Do not use it if the puppy performs a command wrong. If a puppy performs a command wrong, just move to a different position and give the command another try. When the puppy performs the command correctly, praise and treat.

OFF
This means whatever you’re on, get off of it. This is easy to teach, when you’re removing the puppy from somewhere, say the command “off” while you're doing it.

OUT
This means to get out of an area. If a puppy is in a room he/she shouldn’t be in, you can say the command “out” while walking the puppy out of the room.

OUTSIDE
This means to go outside. Use this command while ushering the puppy outside to go potty, play, etc.

RELEASE
This command releases the puppy from all commands, allowing him/her to go and play and be a puppy. This is not to release a puppy from one command to be followed by another. When you want the puppy to go from one command to the next, simply go to the next command. Again, “release” is only used when you are done working with the puppy and you are releasing him/her to go and play and be a puppy.

RIGHT
This command means you want the dog to move to your right side with his/her head even with your thigh. This is in preparation for the “heel” command, allowing the dog to heel on your right side. In order to teach this command, move the puppy to a standing position on your right side and say the command “right.” Treat and praise greatly.

ROLL
“Roll” is a very different command than the more common “roll over.” We do not want the dog to roll completely over, we want him/her to roll onto one side and stay in that position. You’ll need to help the puppy into the correct position from a “down” position. Once the puppy is down, help him/her to roll over onto a side. Hold the puppy in place until it settles down and then say the command “roll.” Give a treat and praise while the puppy is still in position, then give another, more familiar command such as “sit” or “down” as you let go.

SETTLE
This is an association command. When the puppy is very calm and relaxed, use the command “settle.” Take every opportunity to use this command when you see the puppy is completely calm and relaxed. The puppy will begin to associate the command with the feeling of being calm and relaxed and will become that way when given the command.

SHAKE
A service dog should be able to “shake” with either paw, depending on which one you reach out for. It should be a straight across shake, rather than the shaking of opposite as normal with a human. The hand signal for this is simply reaching out a hand towards the desired paw. To teach this, pick the paw up into your hand and while it’s in your hand say the command “shake.” Give the puppy a treat with the other hand while the paw is still in place.

SIT
This command can be taught without ever touching the puppy. If you let the puppy know that you have a treat in your hand and move your hand above their head and towards their back, the puppy will naturally sit in order to get his/her head back in alignment with the treat. As soon as the puppy does the behavior, say the command “sit,” and give the puppy the treat. Do not give the puppy the treat unless he/she is in a proper “sit.” This means no paws lifted and with bottom sitting on the floor. Our hand sign for “sit” is holding your hand out, palm up.

STAND
“Stand” should come after the puppy has learned “sit” and “down.” To begin teaching this lesson, first have the puppy “sit.” Reach your fingers just in front of his/her thigh and push up. The puppy should start lifting. As you do this, say the command “stand.” If the puppy does not start lifting, put your hand further under and lift so the puppy brings his/her feet underneath. As you are lifting, say the command “stand.” This will teach the puppy to stand in place, rather than moving forward.

STAY
Puppies have short attention spans, so don't expect too much from a puppy in the beginning. Always be patient and positive. Teach this command after the puppy has learned “sit” and “down.” Give the puppy either one of the commands and once he/she has taken that position, give the command “stay.” Wait a second, and give the puppy the treat. Very gradually, extend the period. If the puppy looks like he/she is thinking of moving, give them the treat and call them to you. It’s important that you treat while the puppy is still in the “stay” and has not moved. If the puppy has moved, then just begin again. Our hand signal for “stay” is holding your hand out vertical in the universal “stop” sign.

UNDER
This command means to get under a table or other piece of furniture. To begin teaching this command, toss a treat under a table at the same time saying the command “under.” The puppy will naturally go after the treat, and go under the table. As the puppy begins to understand the “under” command, add “down” and “stay” to the command sequence. After practicing this command, the puppy will begin to automatically go under, lay down and stay there until called out, negating the need for the other two commands to be stated.

UP
“Up” means to put your paws up where indicated. Puppies naturally enjoy jumping up like that so this is a very easy command to teach.

WAIT
This command can be used for many things. The puppy must be taught to “wait” before eating and “wait” before going outside or inside (among other uses). “Wait” means “do not proceed until told to.” When feeding the puppy, set the food dish down while making the puppy stay away from it. When the puppy moves towards it, give him/her a small push away and say the command “wait” after a few attempts to get to the food, the puppy will likely sit down and try to figure things out. As soon as the puppy stops trying to get to the food, praise highly and allow him/her to eat. When letting the puppy inside or outside, use the same technique of keeping him or her from proceeding until you give permission. Soon the puppy will understand the command wait and look to you for permission to proceed.


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