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That cute and cuddly pile of fluff that you brought home from the shelter, pet store or breeder can do no wrong, right? Actually, puppies learn very quickly, both good habits and bad. The time to begin training your dog is as soon as you get it home, however if you have neglected that until now, it is not too late. Most dogs are notoriously eager to please, and by spending just a few minutes every day, you will soon have a companion that the entire family will enjoy.

Before you begin training, you will need a collar, leash, and some dog treats. Although you can find dog treats at just about any grocery or drug store, it is cheaper and easier to use bits of cheese and hot dogs. Regardless of whether you use prepackaged dog treats, cheese, or hot dogs, cut them into small enough pieces so that your dog only gets a small taste with each treat. This will keep him eager to work for more.

Begin by introducing your puppy to a collar and a leash. Simply put the collar on him, attach the leash, and let him run through the house or yard. Once he gets used to the concept of having something hanging off him, you can pick up the end of the leash and begin gently convincing him to obey the leash. Start by giving him a gentle tug, and reward him liberally with pets and a treat when he obeys. Continue this way until he happily follows along at your side. For some dogs this will happen the first day, for others it will take a while longer.

Once your dog moves along by your side nicely you can start teaching commands such as “sit” “down” and “stay”. The methods for all of these are basically the same. Start by physically putting him into the position that you want him in, and then give him the command. Follow this immediately with a treat and a “good dog”. Continue that way until he seems to anticipate what you are going to ask him to do, then just give him the command without touching him. If he does what you ask immediately give him a treat, if not, put him in position, and then repeat the command. Teach one command at a time, and only move on when he understands the previous commands.

Once he understands how to “sit”, “down” and “stay”, you can teach him to come when called. Sure he probably comes now, if you yell a lot and he does not have anything better to do. The goal of teaching him to come on command is that he will come immediately, every time you call for him. This is a potentially life saving exercise, as you can call him away from a busy road, or an encounter with a strange dog easily and reliably. Begin with the leash on and telling him “Fido (whatever his name is) COME!!” Use an excited voice, and give a sharp tug on the leash. As soon as he comes to you give him a treat and lavish him with praise. As he catches on to this exercise, use a longer leash (a clothesline works well), continuing with the treats. Give him time to sniff around and when he is not paying attention, that is when to give him the command. Once he is reliable, you will want to find a park or field where you can let him off the lead and try the exercise. Does he come immediately? Good, now you can start scaling back on the treats, until gradually he very rarely gets a treat (but always a GOOD DOG, and a pat).

With plenty of consistency and patience, your dog should be a pleasure for the entire family to enjoy.