How To Get Your Puppy To Listen To You

Having a puppy in your home is certainly going to be a happy occasion. But when your puppy simply refuses to listen to you no matter how hard you try, this happiness would turn into a nightmare.

Fortunately there are WAYS that you can do to make your little one listen and obey your call!

To get your puppy to listen to you, you have to make him think that you are the MOST “exciting thing” and he is going to abort what he is doing whenever you call him. This can be done through rewarding him with irresistible high value treats when he responds to your “Name Call”, “Sit” or “Touch” commands.

Increase Motivation For Your Puppy

What else works better than food? Teach your puppy to associate certain words with great experience such as getting a high quality treat from you! Make good use of treats (as a form of lure) to your advantage in getting your puppy to listen to you.

I will share with you how you can use treats to get your puppy attention and make him respond to your calling.

Response to Name Exercise

This exercise is to teach your puppy that there is some value for his name. The idea is to make him associate that whenever his name is called, GOOD things will happen!

To start with the training, whenever your puppy pays his attention to you (look at you) without you asking him to do so, reward and praise him. The reward can be in the form of treats, verbal praise or his favorite toy. 

You can also do this while sitting with him, watching TV and the moment he pays his focus on you, reward him.

Keep doing this training till you find that your puppy is willing to pay his attention to you frequently (as he had already associated paying attention to you with positive reinforcement), and you can start adding his name to this training to make him associate his name with rewarding experience.

The idea is to make your puppy know that it is more rewarding to pay attention to you when you call his name than to continue with what he is doing.

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This is what you will do as you start training him on name exercise:

1. Call out to your puppy with his name while holding a high value treat in your hand.

2. If your puppy is not responding to you, bring the treat near to his nose to “grab” his attention. 

3. Wait for him to pay attention to you and you give him the treat from your hand.

4. He will likely eat the treat and go away again.

5. Give him another call while holding on to another treat.

6. He is likely going to react to you now since he got a treat previously for “looking” at you when his name is called.

7. Give him the treat when he comes to you and praise him using a happy tone.

8. After a few rounds of training, try to stay further away from him and start calling out to him.

The idea will be for him to come to you upon hearing his name and you are supposed to reward him for this action. This will help to associate name calling (which is to look for you) with positive experience (getting a reward).

Teach Him The “Sit” Command

Once you have managed to get his attention through name calling, the next useful command that you would need to train your puppy is to make him sit down.

You will need this command to make your puppy pay attention to you and not to be distracted from any stimuli.

This is how I do to train my puppy to perform a sit:

1. Get a high value treat ready in your hand. I would prefer to go for meat type as I find that my puppy simply cannot resist any meat treat.

2. “Lure” him using this treat to make him sit down. Hold the treat high up near his nose and as soon as his butt hits the ground. I will give him the treat.

3. It’s important that you keep your hand movement (with the treat) extremely slow as your puppy is not yet conditioned to follow the “lure” and might lose his sight on your “lure”. 

4. Once he is responding well to this “lure” training, you can now increase the difficulty of the training. Abort the “luring” approach and simply hold the treat right in front of your puppy. The goal is to train him to go into the sit position the moment he sees the treat in your hand.

5. When you find that he is reacting reasonably well, you can now introduce the “sit” command to him.

6. Hold the treat in front of him and say “sit”. As he performs the sit position, wait for about 2 secs before giving him the treat. The idea is to make him learn that if he remains in this position, he will be rewarded.

7. Keep practicing this till your puppy is reacting well to your “sit” command and you can gradually cut down the treats and replace them with verbal praise.

Teach Him The “Touch” Command

This is an extremely useful command that I often use on my puppy whenever I need his attention and get him to stop what he is doing.

Make use of this command to redirect your puppy from doing things that you do not want him to do.

This is how I do it:

1. First, hold your hand out and if your puppy gets his nose to your hand, then you give him a marker word – I used “Good Job!” or you can use a clicker to mark that action and reward him. Make sure that you use a high value treat or his favorite toy (something that will keep him tempted). 

You should train your puppy to react (using his nose) on either of your hands.

Marker word is simply a word that you can use to teach your dog that you are approving what he is doing. It can be any word that you want your puppy to associate as your consent on his behavior or action. Some owners like to use “Yes”, “Good Boy”, “Good Girl”. I prefer to use “Good Job”. Choose a word that you find comfortable with.

Any time your puppy performs an action or reacts in a desirable behavior, you would say this marker’s word and give him a reward. This is to make him associate that marker word with him doing the right things and getting a reward.

2. If your puppy does not react immediately, just hold on and keep your hand in front of him for a while. Your puppy will ultimately make his move and use his nose to touch your hand.

Remember to praise him instantly using the marker word and give him the treat. You would want to continue practicing this exercise with your puppy for at least 2 days till he gets used to reacting immediately whenever you stretch out either of your hand.

3. As he gets used to this exercise, you could incorporate the “Touch” command to him. Stretch out your hand in front of your puppy and say the command “Touch”. As soon as your puppy reacts by touching his nose on your hand, say the marker word and give him the treat.

This is to make him associate the command “Touch” to getting a positive rewarding experience from you. (He gets a praise from you as well as earning a reward).

You do not have to use a treat every time to reward him as he gradually get used to this command. You can use verbal praise and petting or toys to reinforce his behavior.

These commands – “Name”, “Sit” and “Touch” are to teach your puppy that YOU are the most “Exciting Thing”, and he should drop what he is doing and pay his attention to you.

Make good use of these commands and offer your puppy a reward for giving you his attention. Over time, as he gets used to these commands, you can slowly do away with the reward and just use verbal praise.

Take Him Outside For Exercise

Your puppy is likely not going to pay his attention to you if he is hyperactive and is easily aroused by things or events happening around him. He will be full of energy and busy exploring his world.

If you want your puppy’s attention, it’s important that you help him to release that excessive energy in his body to make him calm down.

As the saying goes “A Tired Puppy Is A GOOD Puppy”.

Once he is in low energy mode, getting him to listen and obey your instructions will be much easier.

So plan for a routine playtime for him daily so that he gets to let off some of his energy and make him tired.

Games such as “Tug Of War”, “Flirt Pole” and “Frisbee” would certainly help to make an energetic puppy drain off his energy. 

Do not overlook the mental training for your puppy as well. Any games or exercise that needs your puppy’s brain power will certainly make him tired easily.

Just like if you are learning new things and start utilising your brain power, you would get tired easily. 

I would give my puppy some food dispensing toy to play with whenever I want him to use his brain power. He will need to figure out how to get the treat out of these toys.

At times, I would also teach him some new tricks as a way to make him use his brain.

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Practise Make Perfect

Keep practicing these techniques over and over again till your puppy gets really confident with these commands.  

You can start with a location where there is less distraction (maybe in your backyard) and gradually move to a more distracting environment such as a dog park.

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