Commencing Marker Training your chocolate labrador pup
Start Marker Training at 8 weeks of age
When you take your 8 week old labrador pup to their new home, you should commence their obedience training immediately. My first suggestion is that you introduce your pup to the'MARKER'. Just repetitively say yes and give your pup a treat immediately. The pup will quickly associate the 'MARK /YES' with an impending food reward.
Then familiarise your labrador pup with a leash. Clip the leash to their collar and allow the pup to roam a little. This way they will adjust to its weight and the sensation around their neck. If you try to walk your pup straight away, they will simply resist. Don't pull and command, but rather cultivate a positive experience with a leash.
Secondly, I recommend that you feed your new labrador pup with a leash attached until they learn to sit. This will establish you as the master and immediately teach the pup restraint. Do not give the food bowl to your dog without firstly bringing him under your control. Even with my mature dogs, I will not let them feed except on command. Feeding should never be random. Hold the leash close to the labrador pup's neck and push their rear end down to the seated position. When they are sitting, enthusiastically praise your pup and, only then, reward their obedience with food. Remember, food should always represent a reward for good behaviour.
Dogs don’t understand the meaning of 'sit', or any other word for that matter! They hear tones and frequencies. When we train them, we are conditioning them to associate a particular sound with a response so that it means something to them. Labrador puppies like all dogs learn contextually and by consistent repetition. In this way, a labrador pup learns to associate sounds with responses and rewards. This is why you should reward your pup immediately when they have performed a command correctly, even if they did not intend to do so.
Sit, Stay, Drop, Come
When you begin your Labrador's training/conditioning, you will firstly to teach them the 'sit', 'stay', drop and 'come' commands, in that order. In the early stages, I prefer to teach a dog to 'sit,' then move on to 'staying' before teaching them to 'come'.
When you are training/conditioning your Labrador puppy, ensure that you have your dog's attention during the session and stop training them before they become disinterested and distracted. You will be fighting a losing battle if you attempt to begin training/conditioning your Lab when they are over-overstimulated and distracted. This is especially so while they are still a puppy. Remember that a 12 month old dog is still a pup. They are regularly hyperactive and overstimulated. The goal is to get your labrador puppy into a calm and submissive state as often as you can. The conditioning/training itself will be the best contributor to this, but don't try to achieve too much.
Ensure you are demonstrating a calm and composed, yet assertive demeanor. When you are in charge, your labrador pup will willingly sit and look to you for direction. Exercise patience and be repetitive but don't overdo it. If the training is not immediately successful, don’t be too hard on yourself or your pup. Remember that the time you put in now will help you bond with your young dog, even if they do not appear to be advancing quickly. It will be a very worthwhile investment in a long term relationship for years to come.
Of these three basic commands, the 'stay' command will take more time to teach. When this is mastered and entrenched in your dog's obedience, it can save your dog from danger. Proceed step-by-step while you train/condition your new labrador puppy. You are teaching them associations, not English words.
Teaching your new labrador pup to sit should begin immediately when you take it home. Begin by feeding them on a leash. Hold the leash close to the pup's neck. Give the pup the 'sit' command, but don't reward them with food until they are sitting. Say "YES' as the 'MARKER' and immediately give them the food bowl as a reward for (unknowingly) sitting. In this way you have begun to condition the pup to the 'sit' command. This requires patience at meal time. Remember that a labrador pup requires 4 feeds a day for the first phase of their life. This gives you ample opportunity for repetition and reward. When the dog sits, reward them with a treat and a lot of enthusiastic praise. Each time they repeat the behaviour, reward them with a treat again.
You can train your labrador pup for short intervals at any time. Carry a few small pieces of food. Call your pup, then reward them with lots of affirmation and a piece of food when they comply. Teach them to sit by offering a small treat. Say 'sit', then let them smell the food as you move your hand over their head. A labrador pup will automatically lift the nose in the air to follow the food. As the head moves up and back, the pup will tend to sit. Give lots of praise and gradually increase repetition as they associate the word 'sit' with the food.
Your Labrador pup will need to understand the 'sit' command before you advance to 'stay'. Before you give the 'stay' command, make sure that the dog is seated. To keep the dog in the sitting position, you will use your hand with the fingers pointing up and the palm in front of their face. To begin with, position yourself about half a metre away from your pup's face. Direct the 'stay' command calmly, with your hand up. Slowly take half a step back and remain there for 3 seconds to begin with. Then step back towards to the dog. Wait for another 3 sec and then reward your dog with a treat. Repeat this 5 times. Reward them at the end of each 'stay' routine by praising them enthusiastically and giving them a treat. Don't praise or reward the dog until they have remained seated in front of you for a minimum of 3 seconds when you return.
Your puppy should not move a millimetre until you give the reward. If your dog breaks early, you have gone too far. Simply return to your dog, reset them in the seated position and begin the routine again.
It is important to make sure your Labrador understands the 'stay' command before you begin the recall or 'come' command. Make sure you pup is seated before you give the 'come' command. As your walk away from your pup, maintain eye contact. Don't back away too far too soon. If the pup breaks early, give the 'come' command to establish association. When you call your dog to 'come', do not let them jump up on you. If the dog wants to stand on its back legs and reach up, place the palm of your hand on their head and hold it away from you. I suggest that you don't say 'no!' or 'down!' etc. The down command should be used as a more constructive training command. If your pup jumps up, make your disapproval known by using a 'dog' sound; 'Ahhh!', 'Bahhh!' or 'Grrrr!'
Labs are very happy dogs and they are not vindictive. If you find yourself becoming frustrated, then put the pup away and start again tomorrow. Don't take it personally and don't blame the dog. Corrections are necessary, but not out of frustration or anger. If it's not working, then look at your consistency and your communication. If the training is a positive experience then you will strengthen the bonding and learning process. Develop consistent communication and trust with your dog in the process of the training. Labrador pups love to please and they will be very proud of themselves when they accomplish the command and gain your approval. Remember, training/conditioning sessions should be always be short and fun, followed by free play time with you.