Correctly Issuing A Command

Before you issue the verbal command, you must establish what the action is first that you want your puppy to do. Once the action has been established (your puppy looks like they are starting to understand that the action holds value and they are starting to automatically offer it) you can now introduce the verbal command and pair the two together. To do this you say the command whilst your puppy is in the action of performing the desired behaviour - not before or after. Only once you have successfully combined the verbal with the action can you ask your puppy to do the behaviour you want them to do on command.

 

When your puppy is at the stage of understanding the action and the command, make sure your puppy is not sniffing or chewing on a treat, issue the command that you want your puppy to do, if they don’t do it straight away wait and give them an opportunity to think. Their brains aren’t as quick as ours to process information so have patience. Wait at least 5 seconds and then if they still haven’t done the behaviour after that period of time, then make a funny sound like “beeeep”, “boop boop boop”, “bing bing bing”, whistle, raspberries, any weird and attention grabbing sound to get their attention (avoid over using their name and do not use their name as an attention grabber to see if they are paying attention as you will lose the value in it), wait for an indication that your puppy is paying attention to you (head flick, weight shift, ear flick, ideally eye contact, etc.) and once you feel confident that you have your puppy’s attention back, say their name and issue again the command you want them to do. If your puppy still doesn't do the command the second time do not keep issuing it in the hope that your puppy will eventually do it. Very quickly you will lose the value behind what it actually means. Instead reevaluate the situation. Ask yourself, does your puppy actually understand the response you are looking for? Have they learnt to generalise the command (understand it in many situations)? Are there too many distractions? Am I too close or too far away? Now you need to reset the environment and start again. Sometimes all it takes is a simple spin of your puppy around in a circle to get your puppy to refocus or a lure. Other times it might mean you need to completely move your puppy from the area where you asked the command to a completely new spot. This is where you will need to play around and trial what your puppy needs to do to focus again. It’s not your puppy ignoring you, it is just like they have noise cancelling headphones on and they can’t hear you. If they are still really not getting it then that is a clear indicator that your puppy doesn’t understand the response you are looking for and you need to go back to basics and reteach them the action that you like. 

 

Think of issuing a command as a piggy bank. Every time your puppy successfully completes the desired command and you reward them you are putting a bit of money in your piggy bank. Every time they don’t you are withdrawing some money. You want to build up a nice amount of savings so when you start to proof the behaviour in harder scenarios and when mistakes inevitably happen you always stay in a positive amount, your puppy is resilient to the mistake. The more often you go through the process of calling - listening - doing - rewarding the better and more ingrained the behaviour will become. Build up the desire to do the behaviour by showing your puppy over and over how well it works out for them.