Exelby Labradors

Exelby Labradors is a small kennel situated in rural S.W.Scotland.

Training Your New Puppy


Bringing your new puppy home

1. House training can be a doddle or a struggle. Most pups will try to be clean, so take him to his spot after his meal, a game or a sleep, or when he moves towards the door. Be observant; you will soon learn when pup "feels the need" - certain actions, certain times of day etc. Take him outside (don't send him on his own at first, you need to be there to praise him after he performs). Avoid getting cross over mistakes, and NEVER rub his nose in it.

2. Teach your dog to empty his bladder or bowel on command by gently repeating key words like "be clean" (or "hurry up" if you want to be more subtle!) as he does so naturally, praising him when he has finished. He will soon associate the word with the action - once he does you can make sure he uses the garden before you go out and avoid him fouling public areas or needing a "pit stop" on the motor way.

3. Even if your dog has used your garden you should always carry a poop scoop or plastic bag just in case, and USE IT! Local bylaws are in effect in most places and they apply to YOU and YOUR DOG. Whether bylaws are there or not, it's the responsible thing to do.

4. Elementary obedience starts on the day you bring your pup home. ALWAYS USE FUN NOT FORCE, and persuade the kids that tricks come after basic training. Your dog needs to know his name, "no", "come", and "sit" and later "down", "stay", and "heel". A few place words can be useful too - "in the car", "on your bed". To stop him getting confused, keep your commands simple and make sure everyone in the family uses the same words in the same way. Keep training sessions short, teach one thing at a time and use plenty of rewards - toys, titbits or praise. If you don't know how, go to a dog training club which will teach both of you.

5. Never allow your pet to become a nuisance. Not everyone loves dogs - some could regard your pet as an "affliction" not with "affection"! You know he's being friendly, but other people may be afraid of his "bouncing". You go out in your dog walking clothes, but others may not want footprints on their best jacket. If in doubt, keep him on a lead.

6. Make sure your dog has a collar with an ID disc attached. Not only is this common sense but it is also required by law.

7. Road safety with a dog is essential. Teach yourself (yet again), your children and your dog the Green Cross Code. Your dog should automatically stop whenever he reaches a kerb and not move on until you give permission.

8. Form habits that will last a lifetime by getting him used to being handled and brushed while he is still young. Grooming should always include a check of ears, eyes, teeth, gums, claws and skin as well as fur. You may also wish to clean his teeth with a soft toothbrush and water or a proprietary (dog) toothpaste. Know his body and what is normal for him. Look for signs of injuries or infections, and for foreign bodies (moving or otherwise!) As well as keeping you aware of potential problems, this helps your dog to be relaxed and unafraid during veterinary examinations.

9. Keep your dog fit not fat! A growing puppy needs plenty of food but once he is adult he no longer needs the calories that were being used for growth and he may need to eat less. Neutering may also alter his metabolism and call for a further reduction of food. Remember that the amounts on the dog food packet are just a guide - experiment a little with the amount until you find what suits your dog.

10. Be careful about what your dog eats and be just as watchful as to what comes out the other end. Check that your dog does not have an upset stomach due to the family's left-over casserole or a "bug" needing veterinary treatment.

11. Take your puppy to the vet for a check up and to arrange worming and vaccination programmes as soon as possible after bringing him home. Follow this up by remembering his yearly booster injections and - most important - remember to worm him at least twice a year.


Dogs have a natural liking for enclosed sleeping places - think of how often your dog chooses to sleep under the table, against a wall or behind the settee! Although their resemblance to cages puts many people off using crates, if they are properly properly introduced and used they can be a helpful aid to training.
Once your dog is happy in the crate he can be left there to prevent soiling and chewing when you are out for a short time, he can be restrained when the kids play noisy, energetic games which are not improved by his joining in, and he has a secure familiar bed which can be taken in the car and on holiday if needed.
A dog which is thrust unprepared into a crate and left is going to associate the crate with a most unpleasant experience and be very unhappy. A dog which is carefully introduced to a crate usually finds it a pleasant and secure place to be, so it is worth spending some time over the introduction process.


·         The crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn round and stretch out when lying down. If he is a puppy, allow for growth.

·         To begin with you will need to leave the crate set up all the time. Later you may prefer not to, and some crates fold flat for easy storage when not in use.

·         When left in the crate your dog should have a toy or chew bone to keep him occupied when awake, soft bedding to sleep on, and a drink of water. A young dog can also be left with newspaper if you use it for toilet training.

·         Feed the dog in the crate every day, with the door open. This is an easy way to get him to like it!

·         Set the crate up in a quiet corner, and put the dog's bed into it. At this stage, leave the door pinned open so that the dog is never fastened in by mistake and never gets stressed.

·         Soon the dog should happily use the crate voluntarily. When you reach this stage, (NOT BEFORE) wait until he goes in for a sleep, then close the door. Stay in the room, and let him out as he starts to wake up.

·         When your dog is used to this routine, leave him for a minute after he wakes up, with you still in the room. Gradually (over about a week) increase the time you can do this. If your dog gets distressed, reassure him briefly but firmly and shorten the time on the next attempt. Don't make a big fuss - sweet nothings and lots of attention can make him think you're praising him for being distressed, and he'll do it all the more. Aim for the "nursing sister" approach when she comes to give you a big injection, sympathetic but business like!

·         When you can leave the dog like this, leave the room for a few minutes but stay in the house. Again, gradually increase the time you are out of sight till you can put the dog into his crate when you go shopping.

·         Your dog should never be left in a crate for more than a couple of hours.



Begin to house train your puppy or dog the day you bring him home. Before you start, choose a word to use as a command for relieving himself. It doesn’t matter which word, but bear in mind that you may have to say it in public! "Be clean" is polite enough for most company, or use "hurry up" if you want to be more subtle.

Be patient and expect him to make mistakes. If you don’t want to find them everywhere, fit baby gates to limit his movements to a small part of the house at first. As with all dog training, you should use reward based methods that concentrate on the right behaviour rather than punishment based ones which only look at mistakes.

·         Your puppy will probably need to relieve himself after a meal, after a sleep and after (or during) a game. Watch him and learn the body language which means he needs to go out - he may sniff the floor, seem distracted, or wander about looking for a spot. This can be subtle, and often doesn’t give you more than a couple of seconds warning: stay alert.

·         At these times take him straight outside and (most importantly) stay out with him. When he naturally starts to wee, chant your chosen command in an encouraging tone. When he has finished praise him as much as you can. Let him know what a clever dog he is - lots of hugs, love, tickles, even food if you like.

·         Don’t try to use your word as a command at first, wait until you are sure your dog has made the connection between the word and the deed. Then you can take him out and say "hurry up" (or whatever) to encourage him. This is a very useful trick, especially if you are leaving him at home for a short time or taking him on a long car journey.

·         If you see your puppy weeing indoors shout "NO" as loudly and suddenly as possible. Aim to startle him rather than scold, so that all the muscles in his body tighten and he stops mid-stream. Get him outside as fast as possible and wait with him till he finishes so you can praise him when he has done. This may take a while so don't give up too soon.

·         If you don't catch your dog in the act, clean up accidents without comment. This is difficult when it's your carpet yet again, but don't shout, smack, rub his nose in it, or point to the spot and snarl; he will not know why you are angry.

·         Your puppy or dog knows you ARE angry (this is why he acts as if he is feeling guilty) but he connects your anger with what he is doing now, not what he did an hour (or even five minutes) ago. By forcing a connection between your anger and faeces or urine you may teach him to hide, or even eat, his mess to keep it out of your way. He will certainly not be keen to "perform" in front of you when you take him in the garden.

·         These routines also apply if your puppy or dog is wet or dirty overnight. Telling him off when he comes to greet you can make him confused, stressed and more likely to make a mess. Greet him, let him out, and clear up without comment.

·         Disinfectant leaves a tangy, urine-like (to a dog) smell; use biological soap powder to clean your floor. Better still, your pet shop will have cleaning preparations which are designed to break down the chemicals in urine so you don't get any lingering aromas. These are particularly useful if he develops a 'favourite' indoor spot, since smell is one of the things which keeps him coming back to it. A plastic sheet or opened up carrier bag spread under the carpet at his favourite spot will stop the urine soaking into or staining your floorboards.

·         If the weather allows, leave the door open at first. If your puppy or dog goes out by himself watch him; then follow him out and praise him (outside) immediately he finishes. If you can’t leave the door open, take him out whenever he makes a move towards the door. Do it immediately, even if he picks the most exciting moment in your favourite TV show. As before watch, follow, and praise.

When you are confident his training is complete, you can begin to (very) gradually reduce the amount of praise you give, and then to let him go out alone.



"Play" biting and growling


Puppies should be encouraged to play-bite – so you can teach them when to stop.

By Dr. Ian Dunbar

Puppies bite, and thank goodness they do. Puppy biting is a normal and natural puppy behavior. In fact, it is the pup that does not mouth and bite much as a youngster that augers ill for the future. Puppy play-biting is the means by which dogs learn to develop bite inhibition, which is absolutely essential later in life.

The combination of weak jaws with extremely sharp, needle-like teeth and the puppy penchant for biting results in numerous play-bites which, although painful, seldom cause serious harm. Thus, the developing pup receives ample necessary feedback regarding the force of its bites before it develops strong jaws – which could inflict considerable injury. The greater the pup’s opportunity to play-bite with people, other dogs and other animals, the better the dog’s bite inhibition as an adult. For puppies that do not grow up with the benefit of regular and frequent interaction with other dogs and other animals, the responsibility of teaching bite inhibition lies with the owner.

Certainly, puppy biting behavior most eventually be eliminated: we cannot have an adult dog playfully mauling family, friends and strangers in the manner of a young puppy. However, it is essential that puppy biting behaviour is gradually and progressively eliminated via a systematic four-step process. With some dogs, it is easy to teach the four phases in sequence. With others, the puppy biting may be so severe that the owners will need to embark on all four stages at once. However, it is essential that the pup first learn to inhibit the force of its bites before the biting behaviour is eliminated altogether.

Inhibiting the force of bites

No painful bites The first item on the agenda is to stop the puppy bruising people. It is not necessary to reprimand the pup and, certainly, physical punishments are contra-indicated, since they tend to make some pups more excited, and insidiously erode the puppy’s temperament and trust in the owner. But it is essential to let the pup know when it hurts. A simple "ouch!" is usually sufficient. The volume of the "ouch" should vary according to the dog’s mental make-up; a fairly soft "ouch" will suffice for sensitive critters, but a loud "OUCH!!!" may be necessary for a wild and woolly creature. During initial training, even shouting may make the pup more excited, as does physical confinement. An extremely effective technique with boisterous pups is to call the puppy a "jerk!" and leave the room and shut the door. Allow the pup time to reflect on the loss of its favourite human chew toy immediately following the hard nip, and then return to make up. It is important to indicate that you still love the pup – it is the painful bites which are objectionable. Instruct the pup to come and sit, and then resume playing. Ideally, the pup should have been taught not to hurt people well before it is three months old.

It is much better for the owner to leave the pup than to try to physically restrain and remove it to a confinement area at a time when it is already out of control. If one pup bites another too hard, the bitee yelps and playing is postponed while the injured party licks its wounds. The biter learns that hard bites curtail an otherwise enjoyable play session. Hence, the bite learns to bite more softly when the play session resumes.

No jaw pressure at all The second stage of training is to eliminate bite pressure entirely, even thought the bites no longer hurt. When the puppy is munching away, wait for a nibble that is harder than the rest and respond as if it really hurt: "Ouch, you worm! Gently! That hurt me you bully!" The dog begins to think "Good Lord! These humans are so mamby pamby I’ll have to be really careful when mouthing their delicate skins." And that’s precisely what we want the dog to think – so he’ll be extremely careful when playing with people. Ideally, the puppy should no longer be exerting any pressure when mouthing by the time it is four to five months old.

Inhibiting the incidence of mouthing

Always stop mouthing when requested. Once the puppy has been taught to gently mouth rather than bite, it is time to reduce the frequency of mouthing behaviour and teach the pup that mouthing is okay until requested to stop. Why? Because it is inconvenient to try to drink a cup of tea, or to answer the telephone, with 50 pounds of pup dangling from your wrist, that’s why.

It is better to first teach the "OFF!" command using a food lure (as demonstrated in the Sirius video*). The deal is this: "If you don’t touch this food treat for just two seconds after I softly say "Off", I will say "Take it" and you can have the treat." Once the pup has mastered this simple task, up the ante to three seconds of non-contact, and then five, eight, 12, 20 and so on. Count out the seconds and praise the dog with each second: "Good dog one, good dog two, good dog three…" and so forth. If the pup touches the treat before being told to take it, shout "Off!" and start the count from zero again. The pup quickly learns that it can not have the treat until it has not touched it for, say, eight seconds – the quickest way to get the treat is not to touch it for the first eight seconds. In addition, the regular handfeeding during this exercise helps preserve the pup’s soft mouth.

Once the pup understnads the "Off!" request, it may be used effectively when the puppy is mouthing. Say "Off!" and praise the pup and give it a treat when it lets go. Remember, the essence of this exercise is to practise stopping the dog from mouthing – each time the pup obediently ceases and desists, resume playing once more. Stop and start the session many times over. Also, since the puppy wants to mouth, the best reward for stopping mouthing is to allow it to mouth again. When you decide to stop the mouthing session altogether, heel the pup to the kitchen and give it an especially tasty treat.

If ever the pup refuses to release your hand when requested, shout "Off!", rapidly extricate your hand and storm out of the room mumbling, "Right. That’s done it, you jerk! You’ve ruined it! Finish! Over! No more!" and shut the door in the dog’s face. Give the pup a couple of minutes on its own and then go back to call the pup to come and sit and make up. But no more mouthing for at least a couple of hours.

In addition to using "Off!" during bite inhibition training, the request has many other useful applications: not to touch the cat, the Sunday roast on the table, the table, the baby’s soiled diapers, the baby, an aggressive dog, a fecal deposit of unknown denomination… Not only does this exercise teach the "Off!" request, but also to "Take it" on request.

Never start mouthing unless requested. By the time the pup is five months old, it must have a mouth as soft as a 14-year-old working Lab; it should never exert any pressure when mouthing, and the dog should immediately stop mouthing when requested to do so by any family member. Unsolicited mouthing is utterly inappropriate from an older adolescent or an adult dog. It would be absolutely unacceptable for a six-month-old dog to approach a child and commence mouthing her arm, no matter how gentle the mouthing or how friendly and playful the dog’s intentions. This is the sort of situation which gives parents the heebie-jeebies and frightens the living daylights out of the mouthee. At five months of age, at the very latest, the dog should be taught never to touch any person’s body – not even clothing – with its jaws unless specifically requested.

Whether or not the dog will ever be requested to mouth people depends on the individual owner. Owners that have the mental largesse of a toothpick quickly let play-mouthing get out of control, which is why many dog training texts strongly recommend not indulging in games such as play-fighting. However, it is essential to continue bite inhibition exercises, otherwise the dog’s bite will begin to drift and become harder as the dog grows older. For such people, I recommend that they regularly hand-feed the dog and clean its teeth – exercises that involve the human hand in the dog’s mouth. On the other hand, for owners who have a full complement of common sense, there is no better way to maintain the dog’s soft mouth than by play-fighting with the dog on a regular basis. However, to prevent the dog from getting out of control and to fully realize the many benefits of play-fighting, the owner must play by the rules and teach the dog to play by the rules. (Play-fighting rules are described in detail in our Preventing Aggression behaviour bookelt.*)

Play-fighting teaches the dog to mouth hands only (hands are extremely sensitive to pressure) and never clothing. Since shoelaces, trousers and hair have no neurons and cannot feel, the owner cannot provide the necessary feedback that the dog is once more beginning to mouth too hard. The game also teaches the dog that it must adhere to rules regarding its jaws, regardless of how worked up it may be. Basically, play-fighting teaches the owner to practice controlling the dog when it is excited. It is important to refine such control in a structured setting, before a real-life situation occurs.

In addition, play-fighting quickly becomes play-training. Starting the games with a training period, i.e., with the dog under control in a down-stay, produces utterly solid stays at a time when the dog is excited in vibrant anticipation of the game. Similarly, frequent stopping the game for short periods and integrating multiple training interludes (especially heel work and recalls) into the game motivates the dog to provide eager and speedy responses. Each time the owner stops the game, he or she may use the resumption of play as a reward for bona fide obedience. Everything’s fun!

Potential problems

Inhibiting incidence before force A common mistake is to punish the pup in an attempt to get it to stop biting altogether. At the best, the puppy no longer mouths those family members who can effectively punish the dog but, instead, the pup directs its mouthing sprees toward those family members who cannot control it, e.g., a child. To worsen matters, parents are often completely unaware of the child’s plight because the pup does not mouth adults. At worst, the puppy no longer mouths people at all. Hence, its education about the force of its bite stops right there. All is fine until someone accidentally shuts the car door on the dog’s tail, whereupon the dog bites and punctures the skin, because the dog had insufficient bite inhibition.

Puppies that don’t bite Shy dogs seldom socialize or play with other dogs or strangers. Hence, they do not play-bite and hence, they learn nothing about the power of their jaws. The classic case history is of a dog that never mouthed or bit as a pup and never bit anyone as an adult – that is, until an unfamiliar child tripped and fell on the dog. The first bite of the dog’s career left deep puncture wounds, because the dog had developed no bite inhibition. With shy puppies, socialization is of paramount importance, and time is of the essence. The puppy must quickly be socialized sufficiently, so that it commences playing (and hence, biting) before it is four-and-a-half months old.

If a puppy does not frequently mouth and bite and/or does not occasionally bite hard, it is an emergency. The puppy must learn its limits. And it can only learn its limits by exceeding them during development and receiving the appropriate feedbacks.


If you look at this problem from the dogs' point of view running away is very rewarding - games with other dogs, a nice game of chase with you and lots of exercise! Coming back to you is just the opposite as he is instantly in trouble.
Even when he hasn't run away, you are probably like many other dog owners - you let him 'do his own thing' while he is off lead, and only call him back to you when you want to avoid something, or when it’s time to put the lead on and go home. This doesn't encourage him to want to come back to you either, since it means fun time is over.
So what’s the answer?

Make coming to you more rewarding than running off.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

By "recall" or "recall command" we mean a word or a whistle, whichever you prefer to use. Don’t just use his name as this gets his attention but doesn’t tell him what to do.
Try to make your command sound the same every time, as many dogs listen to your tone rather than the word you use. (If you don’t believe this, say any old word - like "box" - to your dog next time you want him to sit. If you say it in the same way you usually say "sit", most dogs will sit.) A desperate scream of "oh no, you bad dog, get back here" is not the same command as the calm and encouraging "Ben, come" you use at the training club. It is also important that all members of the family call your dog in the same way, so hold a family meeting and make sure you do.


·         Your dog will not come when he is out, if he doesn’t come at home. Start there, where you have no traffic or other dogs to worry about if he ignores you.

·         Walk him only on the lead for a while. If he pulls, a head collar will give you more control. (Ask your pet shop.)

·         Put some hard titbits in a small plastic box or bottle, so you can rattle them. Keep them in your pocket around the house, and three or four (random) times a day, rattle the pot. Call the dog to you at the same time, and give him lots of praise and a titbit when he arrives. Get everyone in the family to do the same. (The dog may look at you as if you're mad at first, especially if you wake him up, but stick to it! That rattling sound will soon mean food.)

·         Do this when you are in the same room at first, then try from another room so he has to come and find you. Make sure it's a fun game with lots of love and praise when he does.

·         Don't give him any food at any time (titbits or meals) unless he has responded to a recall command first. Always recall him to have his lead put on, to be groomed or patted or anything else nice. Give lots of praise and a titbit when he comes. (All this starts him thinking that coming when called is a good thing.)

·         Always take him out when he's hungry, preferably just before a meal, as this makes the titbits more tempting. Take plenty of titbits with you in your usual pot. (Cut his meals down to allow for this - we don't want the blame if he gets overweight! It doesn't matter if he gets, say, a third of his daily food like this at first; you can taper it off later.)

Play the calling game when you're out - even though he’s on a lead. Call him every few hundred yards, praise him, feed him, play with him - make a big game of it. Do this on the street as well as where you normally let him off lead. (This should make him start keeping one eye on you all the time.)


  • As he learns the game and responds every time, feed him only for progressively quicker responses. If you have to leap up and down or call several times, praise him quietly for coming but that's all. He should soon respond very quickly.
    Don't go to the next stage until he comes INSTANTLY, EVERY TIME at home or out on a lead.


  • At first only let him off the lead when you can't see any other dogs, joggers or whatever tempts him to run away.
  • Stick to the same rules - call him back for a game and a titbit every few hundred yards, reward quick responses. If you normally only call him when another dog comes along, he may look for one when you first call, but when he sees nothing is there he will come.
  • Sometimes when you call him, put him on the lead for a few yards, sit him, reward him and let him off again. (You are showing him that even coming back to put his lead on is not the end of his fun.)
  • If another dog does come along, call him in exactly the same way you normally do, reward him, put him on the lead, and try to keep his attention by offering titbits or talking to him. Make silly noises if you have to, but keep his attention on you.
  • If he pulls towards the other dog tell him to sit as it goes past. Keep his eyes on you (and a titbit) until it's gone, give him the food and lots of praise, then let him off for another run. Do this every time, if only for a minute, even if you were just about to go home when the other dog arrived.
  • If he does run away, DON'T TELL HIM OFF. You have put in a lot of work to make coming back to you a positive experience and you don’t want to waste it. Do anything to get his attention - call him and rattle your food, bounce a ball, offer to throw a stick, run the other way, lay on the floor and hide your face, make funny noises (buzzing often does the trick). Don't worry about what other people think - they may have been there!
  • Try not to chase your dog. If circumstances like a busy road mean you have to rugby tackle him to the ground, put him on the lead without a word. (Don't praise or scold him.)
  • If he does actually come, but at the very last minute, praise him gently.
  • If he comes back voluntarily, go mad with enthusiastic praise.
  • If he runs away more than once or starts to slip in his responses go back a stage IMMEDIATELY. Don't let him get in the habit of making mistakes.


  • Once your dog is responding to you every time you call, gradually cut back on the titbits, though you should always give them occasionally to keep him keen. It works like a slot machine - he comes back just in case this time pays!
  • If his recall starts to slow, increase the frequency of titbits every time for a while. You should, of course, ALWAYS praise your dog with kind words and a pat for coming back; NEVER take his obedience for granted.
  • Every time you go for an "off lead" walk, remember to put him on the lead for a few paces, then let him off again. You can reduce it to once per walk once he is under control, but don’t do it at the same place every time.


My dog doesn’t like titbits
If the attraction of titbits doesn't last, or your dog isn’t motivated at all by food, experiment to see what reward he does like. A squeaky toy or bouncy ball often gets his attention and a quick game with it can become part of your praise. Vary the reward if nothing works consistently, so it's always worth him coming to check.

This method seems like very hard work
It can be. In addition, although some dogs respond quickly, others take longer. However, it is hardest work at the beginning and it generally works very well. In the long term, it is easier than living with a dog which runs away.

I’ve given this a fair trial but it doesn’t seem to help
No dog training method works 100% with every dog, and there are always other ways to tackle any problem. Some dogs that will not return to you will go down on command so you can collect them, others are helped by using a running line or two leads (you unclip one, he thinks he’s free, you still have a line to encourage him back to you).