Training Guide

Please see below for guidance on training your pup! Please note, The Labelle Foundation and its team members are not licensed trainers and the below are just guidelines. Please seek professional training help if you are seeing a behavioral issue arise with your pet. Please see our recommended trainers here.

Basic Obedience


This is a good one to start with!

Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose.

  • Move your hand up, allowing his head to follow the treat and causing his bottom to lower.
  • Once he’s in a sitting position, say “Sit,” give him the treat, and share affection.

Repeat this sequence a few times every day until your dog has it mastered. Then ask your dog to sit before mealtime, when leaving for walks, and during other situations where you’d like him calm and seated.


This command can help keep a dog out of trouble, bringing him back to you if you lose grip on the leash or accidentally leave the front door open.

  • Put a leash and collar on your dog.
  • Go down to his level and say, “Come,” while gently pulling on the leash.
  • When he gets to you, reward him with affection and a treat.

Once he’s mastered it with the leash, remove it — and practice the command in a safe, enclosed area.


This can be one of the more difficult commands in dog obedience training. Why? Because the position is a submissive posture. You can help by keeping training positive and relaxed, particularly with fearful or anxious dogs.

  • Find a particularly good smelling treat, and hold it in your closed fist.
  • Hold your hand up to your dog’s snout. When he sniffs it, move your hand to the floor, so he follows.
  • Then slide your hand along the ground in front of him to encourage his body to follow his head.
  • Once he’s in the down position, say “Down,” give him the treat, and share affection.

Repeat it every day. If your dog tries to sit up or lunges toward your hand, say “No” and take your hand away. Don’t push him into a down position, and encourage every step your dog takes toward the right position. After all, he’s working hard to figure it out!


Before attempting this one, make sure your dog is an expert at the “Sit” command.

  • First, ask your dog to “Sit.”
  • Then open the palm of your hand in front of you, and say “Stay.”
  • Take a few steps back. Reward him with a treat and affection if he stays.
  • Gradually increase the number of steps you take before giving the treat.
  • Always reward your pup for staying put — even if it’s just for a few seconds.

This is an exercise in self-control for your dog, so don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to master, particularly for puppies and high-energy dogs. After all, they want to be on the move and not just sitting there waiting.

Leave it

This can help keep your dog safe when his curiosity gets the better of him, like if he smells something intriguing but possibly dangerous on the ground! The goal is to teach your pup that he gets something even better for ignoring the other item.

  • Place a treat in both hands.
  • Show him one enclosed fist with the treat inside, and say, “Leave it.”
  • Let him lick, sniff, mouth, paw, and bark to try to get it — and ignore the behaviors.
  • Once he stops trying, give him the treat from the other hand.
  • Repeat until your dog moves away from that first fist when you say, “Leave it.”
  • Next, only give your dog the treat when he moves away from that first fist and also looks up at you.

Once your dog consistently moves away from the first treat and gives you eye contact when you say the command, you’re ready to take it up a notch. For this, use two different treats — one that’s just all right and one that’s a particularly good smelling and tasty favorite for your pup.

  • Say “Leave it,” place the less attractive treat on the floor, and cover it with your hand.
  • Wait until your dog ignores that treat and looks at you. Then remove that treat from the floor, give him the better treat and share affection immediately.
  • Once he’s got it, place the less tasty treat on the floor… but don’t completely cover it with your hand. Instead hold it a little bit above the treat. Over time, gradually move your hand farther and farther away until your hand is about 6 inches above.
  • Now he’s ready to practice with you standing up! Follow the same steps, but if he tries to snatch the less tasty treat, cover it with your foot.

Just these five simple commands can help keep your dog safer and improve your communication with them. It’s well worth the investment of your time and effort. Remember, the process takes time, so only start a dog obedience training session if you’re in the right mindset to practice calm-assertive energy and patience.


Potty Training

7 Quick tips for potty training your dog!


Puppies rely on you completely for all of their needs, and one of the things they will need is to be properly socialized. Proper puppy socialization includes early introduction to different types of people, environments, stimuli, sounds, smells, and other dogs and animals so they become used to different situations and embrace, instead of fear, them. Puppies who are properly socialized early in life are more easily able to be around other people and other animals without causing disruption or anxiety.

Your puppy’s socialization period is important as young puppies are impressionable and therefore there is a right way to go about training them during this period.

You’ll want your puppy to have had their full set of vaccinations before introducing them to unknown adult dogs or doing socialization in public areas. The most important thing is to ensure that your puppy is always in a safe and clean environment and doesn’t become too overwhelmed. They are still developing and growing, and any encounters in the name of socialization training should be kept brief, fun and full of rewards.

Before you can expect your puppy to react positively to new situations, you’ll want to make sure that you and your puppy are prepared. There are some key factors to keep in mind when socializing your dog and training them to react properly to different scenarios as well as some things to be on the lookout for to ensure that they are safe.

  1. Start early. Just like all behaviors, learning how to encounter new situations earlier will make it an easier task. By beginning to socialize your puppy at a young age, you can help minimize potential behavioral problems that could develop later on in life.

  2. Keep it positive. Puppies learn best when you keep their socialization training positive and reward-based. Puppies are eager to repeat behavior that is reinforced with their favorite treats and/or an enthusiastic reply from you. Pet families should keep patience in mind when training, and remember to always reinforce polite, appropriate behaviors from their puppies.
  3. Keep it minimal. In addition to keeping initial socalization sessions short, you’ll want to consider other ways that training can become overwhelming to young puppies. This includes how many new situations and new dogs you introduce them to at a time. 
  4. Keep it supervised. Puppies should not meet each animals and be left alone. Your supervision is important to keep play healthy and so you begin learning more cues about your puppy’s behaviors and body language.

Puppy socialization checklist

With any new puppy, it’s essential to introduce them to as many possible situations they could encounter on a given day, including other dogs and other animals, different people and multiple types of environments, as long as it is done with the puppy being stress-free and relaxed.

While some socialization steps—such as visiting high-traffic areas or meeting other animals who may not be vaccinated—should be held off until your pup is fully vaccinated, there are many stimuli you can start introducing your puppy to as soon as you get them. For a great puppy socialization checklist you can work through with your puppy, try this one!

Start puppy socialization as soon as possible. Experts recommend taking the time between seven weeks and four months to really focus on socialization by slowly and properly introducing your puppy to a wide variety of different settings and scenarios in a safe setting. This time period is very important for your puppy, and the socialization that occurs during it can help mold how they react in the future to different social settings. 


Crate Training

Crate training your dog may take some time and effort, but can be useful in a variety of situations. If you have a new dog or puppy, you can use the crate to limit his access to the house until he learns all the house rules – like what he can and can’t chew on and where he can and can’t eliminate.

A crate is also a safe way of transporting your dog in the car, as well as a way of taking him places where he may not be welcome to run freely. If you properly train your dog to use the crate, he’ll think of it as his safe place and will be happy to spend time there when needed.

Selecting a crate

Crates will be plastic, (often called flight kennels or Vari-Kennels) or collapsible, metal pens. They come in different sizes and can be purchased at most pet supply stores. Your dog’s crate should be just large enough for him to stand up and turn around.

The crate training process

Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog’s age, temperament and past experiences. It’s important to keep two things in mind while crate training. The crate should always be associated with something pleasant, and training should take place in a series of small steps – don’t go too fast.

Step 1: Introducing your dog to the crate

Put the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Bring your dog over to the crate and talk to him in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is securely fastened open, so it won’t hit your dog and frighten him.

To encourage your dog to enter the crate, drop some small food treats near it, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If he refuses to go all the way in at first, that’s okay – don’t force him to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If he isn’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days.

Step 2: Feeding your dog his meals in the crate

After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding him his regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, put the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If your dog is still reluctant to enter the crate, put the dish only as far inside as he will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed him, place the dish a little further back in the crate.

Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat his meal, you can close the door while he’s eating. At first, open the door as soon as he finishes his meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until he’s staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If he begins to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving him in the crate for a shorter time period. If he does whine or cry in the crate, it’s imperative that you not let him out until he stops. Otherwise, he’ll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so he’ll keep doing it.

Step 3: Conditioning your dog to the crate for longer time periods

After your dog is eating his regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine him there for short time periods while you’re home. Call him over to the crate and give him a treat. Give him a command to enter such as, “kennel up.” Encourage him by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise him, give him the treat and close the door.

Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time, then let him out of the crate. Repeat this process several times a day. With each repetition, gradually increase the length of time you leave him in the crate and the length of time you’re out of his sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you out of sight the majority of the time, you can begin leaving him crated when you’re gone for short time periods and/or letting him sleep there at night. This may take several days or several weeks.

Step 4: Crating your dog

  • Part A: Crating your dog when left aloneAfter your dog is spending about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving him crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put him in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave him with a few safe toys in the crate. You’ll want to vary at what point in your “getting ready to leave” routine you put your dog in the crate. Although he shouldn’t be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate him anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don’t make your departures emotional and prolonged, but matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give him a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don’t reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to him in an excited, enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low key. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you’re home so he doesn’t associate crating with being left alone. Your dog should not be left alone in the crate for more than four to five hours at a time during the day.
  • Part B: Crating your dog at nightPut your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you’ll want to be able to hear your puppy when he whines to be let outside. Older dogs, too, should initially be kept nearby so that crating doesn’t become associated with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with his crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer.


Dog Park Training

Dog parks are fenced-in, outdoor grounds designated for off-leash dog play. There are many variations – some safer and more pleasurable than others for your dog. Also, like any other social activity, it’s important for dog owners to know basic rules of etiquette. In this case, it’s not just a matter of a social faux pas — failing to comply can put your dog and other pets at risk.

Dog parks range from a canine oasis where dogs can socialize and expend positive energy — to frightening enclosures contributing to traumatic experiences for your dog. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to determine whether your dog and a dog park are a good match.

Is Your Dog Ready for a Dog Park Experience?

Some dogs may not be ready to visit a dog park. Following are characteristics of dogs who should not visit – at least not yet.

  • Puppies younger than 4 months old who have not had all of their vaccinations should never be around dogs you don’t know.
  • Dogs that aren’t up-to-date on their vaccinations should stay home. AKC Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein recommends that dogs spending time in dog parks be vaccinated for bordetella, leptospirosis, and canine influenza. They should also be treated with flea, tick, and heartworm.
  • Any dog showing signs of illness should stay home. It may be something contagious and also cause the dog to feel unsociable.
  • A dog should learn to obey basic obedience commands – such as come, down, and stay — in distracting environments prior to going to a dog park. If your dog is tuning you out when he’s having fun, you won’t get his attention at the dog park.
  • Socialize your dog to other dogs before you go. If your dog is shy or nervous, the dog park may be a nightmare for him.
  • Reactive or aggressive dogs may not welcome an onrush of strange dogs anywhere, including a dog park.
  • Resource guarders, depending on what they guard, may not do well in a dog park. Dogs that guard their owners, their water dish, or even a ball or stick may not interact well with other dogs.

Is a Particular Dog Park a Match for Your Dog?

All dog parks are not alike. Therefore, we suggest that you visit a dog park without your dog before you take your canine companion along. Here are some of the aspects to evaluate:

  • Fencing should be secure and prevent dogs from jumping over or crawling under, with no holes or rough edges. Double gates are safest, allowing you to close one gate behind you before opening the gate to the park area.
  • Separate play areas for large and small dogs are most conducive to safe and congenial mingling.
  • The park should be clear of trash, equipment, and dog poop. You should clean up after your dog and so should everyone else.
  • How many dogs are there? Large groups of too many dogs can be intimidating and difficult to control. Consider visiting dog parks at off-peak hours and leaving if the park is too crowded.
  • Communal water bowls allow dogs to share parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Dog parks that ask owners to bring their own water dishes help protect your dog’s health.
  • Dog parks that require owners to register their dogs and show proof of vaccinations also offer better health protection.
  • Notice what the dog owners are doing. They should be paying attention to their dogs, watching their dog’s body language, and intervening when play starts to get too rough.
  • Personal dog toys, balls, food, or treats can cause doggy disagreements and are best left at home.

If You Go — Or If You Don’t

When you go to a dog park, listen to your dog. Take your dog’s leash off as soon as you get inside the gate, so they won’t feel trapped.

Intervene if other dogs repeatedly roll your dog to the ground or chase your pup. “Especially when a dog is young, a bad experience with another dog can make the frightened dog wary of all dogs for the rest of his life,” says Dr. Klein.

Even if your dog is having the time of his life, don’t overstay your welcome. A 30-to-60-minute visit should allow your pooch time to run and play without getting overtired. When your dog only wants to hang with you or stands by the gate, respect their wishes – and take them home.

If you decide your dog and a dog park do not make a good match, don’t despair. You may be able to invite a dog you know your dog enjoys over to your house for a romp or enroll your pup in a well-supervised class.

Remember — for your dog, nothing really replaces time spent with you. Go on walks, take a hike, enroll in an obedience class, or try a dog sport. A dog can be happy with or without a dog park experience.