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Training Games for Your Puppy

The Newfoundland Club of America—responsible for the preservation, protection and welfare of the Newfoundland Dog in America since 1930.

When my son, who is now a successful lawyer, was around 13 years old, he made an observation that has been a joke in our family ever since. It was simple, to the point, and so true. “Mom, training a dog is all about food, or no food”. Add to that lots of silly praise, ignore the mistakes, and excellent timing, and you’ve just about got it. If you are having fun, so will the puppy, and that is first and foremost. So let’s play some games!


1st game…….Puppy Push Ups

Sit, down, stand, get up, stay, come……..these are the basics. Always have a piece of kibble in your hand to reward the instant the puppy even comes close to getting it right, and remember to totally ignore mistakes. I prefer not to ever use the word “no” in my training vocabulary. I like to use a simultaneous voice and hand command with a firm tone of voice. Try not to repeat the command over and over. Say it once, then help them do it correctly. After they start to “get it”, then you can do the puppy push ups , switching from one to the other in different order. Seeing how fast you can go eventually, is what makes it fun and a game! Take every opportunity to play this game with your puppy, but keep the sessions short. If you think they are getting bored or tired, stop immediately because then the fun is over.

Newfs love to work, so ask them to work for their meals. This is when I teach the command “back up”, asking them to back a few steps before I put the food bowl down. Backing up is essential for draft, plus many everyday activities.


2nd game………”Find it”

Take advantage of their natural instinct to retrieve and carry. Puppies love this, and quickly progress from a simple retrieve with a toy, to searching the house for a toy, to searching for a person outside………..all a game! Only reward (give a piece of kibble and praise) when you get the response you want, which is to bring it back to your hand without dropping it, and let you take it easily from a soft mouth. At first you may have to show them the kibble for them to let go without a struggle. Always try to make it easy and successful at first, and very slowly progress to hiding it. This is the basis of water work with your Newf, so try to put a command word on everything you do. I use find it, hold it, and give.

Eventually you can show them any article, hide it, say “find it”, and off they go. A good game to play in the house with a restless puppy to use up energy, and we all know that the secret to a good dog is lots of exercise. Don’t forget to reward them with a treat and praise no matter how much fun they are having. Reinforcing what you like is what training is all about.

The bond you are creating with your puppy during these playful activities encourages them to want to do more and more as time goes on. In a nutshell, you are channeling their natural working instincts in constructive ways that feels like fun and bonding to both you and the dog. It is a painless way to train everything they need to know in life, and a win, win for all.

How Do You Reward?

Hints for Success

1. Use a firm, confident, happy tone of voice when giving commands.
2. Always expect success, instead of repeating the command, help it to happen correctly. This teaches the puppy to do it right the first time you ask.
3. Give bigger rewards for bigger accomplishments, such as suddenly getting it right without help. Give four pieces of kibble, instead of one. We don’t want fat puppies, not healthy.
4. Remember to always have fun, because if it is not fun it probably won’t work.
5. Start playing these games the sooner the better to have a well behaved adult dog. You can teach a puppy all of the above before they are 16 weeks old. You can never start too young!

© 2016 Newfoundland Club of America

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Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on October 31, 2016:

You can even adjust the "Find it" command to teach Hide and Seek by teaching them to find specific people. Fun read!

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