How to Obedience Train a Labrador Retriever Puppy

Easy
7-30 Days
General

Introduction

Loyal, fun-loving, and happy: What's not to love about a Labrador? 

Actually, although an easy-going breed the Labrador can develop bad habits such as barking, chewing, or digging, just like any dog. The key to avoiding this is providing plenty of exercises and also mental stimulation. Luckily, obedience training can help you with both of these. 

Training is a wonderful way to engage the pup's brain and also to have him come to trust you. In addition, a well-trained dog is better able to go for long walks and run off leash, safe in the knowledge that he will come back to you. 

So don't look at obedience training as a chore. Instead, see it as a wonderful opportunity to motivate your dog, have fun, and build his confidence. In the process, he'll become well-mannered and his good behavior will be a credit to you. 

Defining Tasks

Methods of obedience training have changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. No longer is dominating the dog and punitive correction considered appropriate... indeed, we now know this is a bad way to teach a dog. 

Obedience training should always be fun both for you and the dog. The ideal method is to use rewards in order to motivate the dog to behave. This also teaches him to think through problems to come up the appropriate behavior, rather than reacting out of fear of punishment. 

When done correctly, obedience training will bond the puppy to you and you'll have a well-behaved dog at the end of it. 

Getting Started

Labradors are happy, eager to please dogs that learn quickly when treated right. As highly food-motivated dogs, you have the advantage of being able to use his stomach in order to get him to work. However, be sure to use very small treats or he will spend more time crunching and chomping than training (and of course he'll get too heavy.) 

You only need basic materials to get him started, including: 

  • Small tasty treats
  • A bag or pouch in which to keep the rewards handy at all times
  • A collar and leash
  • A favorite toy to use as motivation

The Reward-Based Training Method

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Step
1
Why does encouragement work?
Puppies want to please. Reward-based training methods are effective because when a puppy does good, he is praised. This makes him keen to repeat the behavior, in order to get more adoration (or a treat or a game with a toy). This is especially true for Labradors, who are very loving dogs that thrive on the approval of their owners.
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How does encouragement work in the real world
Let's say you are teaching the puppy to sit. You use a toy or treat to lure him into a sitting position. The moment his bottom hits the floor you say "sit", praise him and give a reward. From this the puppy learns that the word "Sit" means he parks his behind, and when he does so Mum is really pleased. This makes him eager to listen out for those cue words such as "Sit", which translate in his mind as "Do this and get some easy pickings."
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3
What commands should you teach?
Labradors are intelligent, but a young puppy can quickly become confused. Avoid overwhelming the pup by teaching a few, really important commands first and once he's mastered these you can work on more advanced tricks. The priorities for your pup to learn as 'sit', 'down', 'stay', 'look', and 'come'. These five commands will give you control in most situations.
Step
4
How often should you train?
Little and often is best. You should hold formal training session for 10 - 15 minutes twice a day. However, training should not be limited to only during these times. Take the opportunities that arise during the day to enforce his learning. Examples include expecting the pup to sit before his meal or before his collar and leash are put on.
Step
5
Use gentle correction
Of course, the puppy is going to make a heap of mistakes... only he won't know he's done wrong unless you tell him. However, harsh punishment is completely inappropriate. Instead, guide your puppy by saying "No!" in a firm voice, or "Uh-oh", when he makes a mistake. This helps him understand that the decision he just made was not a good one. Then when he gets praise for doing the right thing, he learns to think through situations and select the appropriate action.
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The Do's and Don'ts Method

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Do: Start training right away
Even an 8-week old pup is old enough to listen to guidance and be praised for doing things right. Expect plenty of mistakes, but it's fine to start basic training such as 'sit' at a young age. The boost he gets from doing something correctly will build his confidence.
Step
2
Don't: Physically punish the pup
The young pup looks to you for guidance. Never punish him either physically or with a harsh scolding as this will make him fearful of you. Old-fashioned training methods relied on dominating the dog, but we now know dogs trained this way obeyed out of fear rather than thinking through what's wanted and obeying to please you.
Step
3
Do: Make training fun
Like anything, pups learn faster when things are fun. Be sure to keep the tone of the training session happy and fun. Use your tone of voice and general energy levels to motivate the pup and encourage him along.
Step
4
Don't: Push too hard
If the pup continually makes mistakes, then either you aren't communicating clearly with the dog or he is tired and has lost concentration. Either way, stop and reassess the situation. If necessary, bring the session to an end (on a positive note) and try again later.
Step
5
Do: End on a positive note
End each training session by leaving the dog in a positive frame of mind. To do this, end with a task you know the dog has mastered, such as 'sit', so you can shower him with praise and leave him feeling good about himself.
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The Basic Commands Method

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'Sit'
Hold a treat in front of pup's nose. Slowly raise the treat over and behind his head so that when he follows it, his bottom drops to the ground. Say "Sit" immediately as this happens, and give the reward.
Step
2
'Down'
Hold a treat in front of the pup's nose. Keeping the treat very close to the dog, travel the treat down the dog's brisket to the floor. In an attempt to follow the treat the pup should drop to the ground, at which point say "Down" and give him the treat.
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3
'Stay'
First, teach 'sit' or 'down'. Then work on having the dog stay in this position for a few seconds before giving the reward. As he waits say "Stay". Gradually increase the time he stays sitting, until he can do this for a full minute. Then take one step away and then return to his side and reward him. Slowly build up the distance separating you in order to strengthen the stay.
Step
4
'Look'
'Look' has the dog focus on your face, and is a great way of distracting him from situations where he might be fearful or run off. Hold a treat by the dog's nose and then slowly raise the treat until it's resting on the bridge of your nose. The pup will watch the treat and end up appearing to stare into your eyes. Say "Look". Have him stare at the treat for 10 seconds and then give it to him. Slowly build up the amount of time he has to look before he gets the treat.
Step
5
'Come'
Start by saying "Come", whenever the pup happens to cross the room towards you. Give him a reward. Also, make a game of running away from the pup, which will trigger him to chase after you. As he runs to you say "Come" and reward him when he gets there.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Dior
Labrador Retriever
2 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Dior
Labrador Retriever
2 Months

He’s doing all the commends except I haven’t showed him down yet but when he’s outside in my back yard and I call him to come he never does unless we are indoors how can I get him to listen outdoors also how to I correct the biting he’s 9weeks he bites and when I say no he grips harder actually really painful any suggestions and walking him he’s either drinking mud water from outside or never wants to walk I’m looking into getting him a harness now so hopefully that can improve it

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
134 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to send you information on nipping/biting. As far as general training, it is a good idea to practice everything you are teaching your dog, in different settings. Dogs have a hard time transferring learned information. If you teach your dog something inside, they often struggle knowing the command outside or somewhere else. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment.

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