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12–15 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Puppy

A Guide to Your Puppy's Second Round of Vaccines :: How to Navigate the Pet Health Insurance Maze :: Instructions for Beginning Obedience Training :: Tips for Dealing with Your Puppy’s Growth Spurts

Instructions for Beginning Obedience Training

Every dog owner would like a well-behaved dog but some don't realize that this does not come naturally to a puppy. They have no idea what the human rules are and it's up to us to teach them. If you start obedience training now, it gives you a jump on many owners and helps your puppy understand what is expected of him early on. Understanding the rules makes it much easier for both of you.

If your puppy seems out-of-control with problems such as rushing you when your hands are full of laundry, nipping at your feet when you walk, or barking incessantly at the cat, obedience training can help. The key is to keep it simple in the beginning and make it a positive experience for both of you.

The most basic commands should be taught first.

  1. Sit - Stand with a treat in your hand, held in front of your puppy's nose. Say "Sit" and move the treat upwards, toward your puppy's head. As you do this, your pup's backend should naturally sink down into a sit. If not, you can gently push his rear down when you say "Sit" the next time. Praise and give treats when he accomplishes the sit. Practice this several times a day.

  2. Leave It - Have your puppy sit. Place a treat or a toy right in front of him. Say "Leave it!" and keep your hand close to the object. If he moves toward it, cover it with your hand and repeat "Leave it!" Remove your hand again and wait a few seconds. Then praise and treat him with a different treat than the one you used to train him. Repeat daily and build up the time he has to leave the treat or toy.

  3. Watch Me - Get your puppy's attention and show him a treat in your hand. Slowly raise it to your forehead saying "Watch me!" as you do. Eventually stop using the treat and get him to "watch you" simply by saying the command and raising your hand to your face.

  4. Come - A most essential command for your dog's safety, "Come!" is fairly easy on leash but will take more effort off-leash. Have your puppy sit in front of you with a four or six foot leash on and have a treat in your hand. Say "Watch me!" to get his attention then squat down slightly, pat your thighs and say "Come!" Pull lightly on the lead and pull your puppy gently toward you, hand over hand. Reward with praise and the treat. Practice this for a week or so then, in a contained area such as your fenced yard, start working on it without the lead.

Puppies who aren't obedience trained are more confused and anxiety-ridden than those who are. Imagine living in a household as a child with no definite rules, unsure if something you do will get you into trouble. Puppies need structure and, at time, discipline but this can be done in a positive way.

Consider buying a training book or finding a training plan online. If your vet OKs it (many want you to wait until the last round of vaccines), also consider joining a puppy obedience class which can be found through local trainers and at chains such as PetSmart. A well-behaved dog not only means no more terrorized cat, it also means a confident and happy puppy.

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

Start Training Your Puppy Right Away

Even though the old saying goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," in reality you can start training a dog at any age - if the dog is nine weeks, nine months, or nine years old.

Even if you bring home a very young puppy, training and working on wanted behaviors starts immediately after the dog comes home with you. You would start teaching the dog to recognize her name and get her used to a set schedule of when you go outside, when she's fed, when it's time for walks and when it's time for bed time. Even playtime can be training - you're teaching her what she can and cannot play with, not to bite your hands, and rules for your games (such as, when you bite me, the game ends).

Formal training, such as sit, down, and come, can be started at a very young age as well. It's never too early to "shape" behaviors using positive rewards. A good time to enroll into a class is around 6 months old - puppy class.

~Chris & Brian C., owner of German Shepherd


Training Your Dog Not to Jump on People

There are several ways to teach a dog not to jump up on you (or others). One way is to give her an incompatible behavior to do, such as "Sit."

You can also leave the room every time she jumps up. Do not leave for more than 20 seconds or else she'll not remember or understand why you've left at all. If she jumps up upon your return, repeat the process. You must be consistent. If she jumps up 10 times in a row, leave 10 times. You do it until she catches on jumping gets you gone. She wants your attention more than anything else, so she'll soon stop.

You can do this same thing using friends or family members to help.

1. Put her on lead in a Sit back from the door.

2. Have the friend knock. If your dog even gets up say, "Ah, ah" and take her back to her place.

3. Repeat until she's stays sitting when she hears the knock.

4. Next, open the door after the knock. If she gets up, close the door and take her back to her spot.

5. Repeat until she stays in a sit after you've opened the door.

6. Next allow guest in, but if she runs over, the guest goes back out. She must remain in a calm Sit in order to get any attention.

7. If she jumps up after being in a calm Sit, then again guests back outside.

Again it's basically using the same method as you would use on the inside. You deny her the attention she craves until she gives you the behavior you want.

And remember: if you give in before (out of frustration or exhaustion), she will only see this as a reward and continue to jump.

~Dana B., owner of Bullmastiff


Ringing the Bell to Go Out

Our puppy is 14 weeks old and has mastered ringing a bell to let us know he needs to "go potty."

We began by putting two medium-sized bells on a durable ribbon. We knotted the ribbon to the doorknob so that it would hang at his nose height.

Every time (every single time, no matter the hour in the morning) we took the puppy out we took his right paw and hit the bell and said "go outside." We took him out every two hours in the beginning, after eating and drinking, and after 15 minutes of active play. Within three weeks he was ringing the bell on his own every time.

~K. Wallace, owner of a Chocolate Lab


One of the most important training exercises

Training your puppy at feeding time is one of the most important exercises you can do to develop good behaviour. It also establishes you early on as the pack leader.

As soon as my puppies are tall enough, I feed them on a footstool, which is much better for their digestion. When you bring their food bowl to the stool, give the "sit" command with the bowl in your hand. To begin with, put the bowl down when they sit, say "okay," and let them eat.

As you also teach the puppy the command "stay," use this command when the puppy sits at the stool and put the bowl on the stool. If the puppy goes for the food, take the bowl up and do it again. "Sit, stay and okay." The puppy will do the "sit" quickly because they realize it's required to eat. It will take a little while for the "stay," but soon the puppy will sit and stay with the bowl on the stool until you say "okay." The pup should then stand and eat.

It's important to say "okay" after only a few seconds as they can only be expected to wait so long to eat! I have always found this is one of the most important training exercises for a puppy to learn.

~Stevie L

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