Training Puppies: Part 1

Reader Contribution by Mary Powell and Barnyard Weed Warriors
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Raising puppies is one thing, training is another.  Many folks have issues with house training puppies but that is one of the easiest things IF you pay attention and stay constant. Teaching a pup to sit and lay down is simple and they are highly motivated with food during training. Border Collies catch on fairly easy and you have to make it a game for them and they will want to keep going and going.  Let’s go over some of the simplest things in puppy training because puppies need to grow up and mature before they are trained to work and I admit, I do expose my puppies to adult work when they follow their parents as we move goats.  The big thing is to protect them from danger and any livestock that could harm them.  

House training is the number one lesson for a puppy.  This has been simplified over the years with the introduction of puddle pads.  For a young pup of 3-4 weeks of age, Mom usually does all the housework for the puppies but as they are more mobile, you can take them outside for potty breaks throughout the day and keeping them out until they do their ‘job’ can take as long as a few seconds to thirty minutes.  The thing you need to remember is to praise the pup when they do their ‘thing’ in the yard.  Eventually they will figure it out.  Small pups, if you take them out as soon as they are awake, they will do their ‘thing’ almost immediately.  It is always good to have a puddle pad that a puppy can go to, when they are playing and you will notice that they will find that instead of messing their play room.  Puppies will figure out how to tell you they have to go, so you need to ‘listen’ to them.

I had a Bassett Hound pup that did his ‘job’ in the bathroom and brought me a roll of toilet paper.  I took the roll from him and returned it to the bathroom and found the ‘present’.  I noted he had come to me and whined prior to the toilet paper.  The next day it happened again and I figured out when he came to me and whined, he had to GO NOW!  Your animals will attempt to communicate, so will your pup.

Teaching to sit is one of the first commands you need to teach a pup.  This is easily taught with food.  Have a special treat (I use cheese or a small piece of meat) and show the pup the treat, then move it from the front of their nose over the top of their head and they will sit down, to see the treat.  When you do this, remember to say the word ‘sit’.  You can do this twice a day and spend no more than five minutes doing this and make sure the treats are tiny, so your puppy doesn’t get over full on treats that might overload their digestive system.  Using cheese or meat in tiny half inch squares probably won’t harm the pup as long as you limit the number.  I once had a litter of five all taught to sit on command for treat by six weeks of age.  This small feat took three days, with a total of ten minutes a day, split up in two sessions.

The down command is just a progression from the ‘sit’ command.  Once you have the ‘sit’ mastered you can put the pup in a sit position and you can show the treat but instead of going over the head, you move your hand with the treat to the floor.  The pup will naturally lie down.  I found this one easier than sit, when I first started working with pups.  Again, small pieces of treats.

It usually doesn’t take long to teach a pup the simple commands. It does take patience and time, so if you have a puppy, you have committed yourself to that dog for a lifetime, how that dog behaves and works for you is directly related to the time you spend with it as a puppy.  It just takes time.

Photo: Joy as a 6 week old pup. Mary Powell

Mary Powell is a goat rental business owner and agricultural educator with more than 27 years’ experience working on ranches, farms and feedyards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Kansas State University with an emphasis in Livestock Production Management. Follow Mary and her many misadventures with the goats on Facebook at Barnyard Weed Warriors and Ash Grove Goat Ranch or on her website.  If you have questions for her about her goats or Border Collies, email Mary at

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