How to Teach Your Puppy Indoor Etiquette

Indoor etiquette becomes essential as you move your puppy out of the crate and into the mainstream activities of your life. Puppies adapt to new experiences more thoroughly when they’re young, so the sooner you introduce your puppy to your home, the faster she’ll mature.

Giving your puppy full freedom of your house before she’s trained is a big mistake! Unless you want your puppy to view your home as one big playground, prepare a spot for her in each room and decorate it with toys and a special dog bed. Lead your puppy on a leash throughout your home and settle her on her dog bed if you’re planning to be in the room for any length of time.

Getting started with leading

Leading involves guiding your puppy around the house on a leash. The following steps get you started immediately with leading to teach your puppy proper leash manners and to prevent pulling:

  1. Make sure you’re using the right training collar.

    If you don’t know what collar is the right one for your pooch, ask your veterinarian. Until your puppy is 16 weeks, use a regular buckle collar, head collar, or no-pull harness.

  2. Hold the leash or secure it to your waist like a belt.

    Put the knot of the secured leash at your left or right hip depending on which side you want your puppy. Use the same side every time and make sure you tell your friends and family which side you clip your pup to because she can become confused without that consistency.

  3. Take her to a hallway or cleared room. Walk straight ahead.

  4. The moment she walks ahead of you, call her name and turn in the other direction. Praise her, even if you feel a tug.

  5. Continue to turn away from her until she pays attention to her name and stops trying to race ahead.

    Remember, you’re teaching your puppy to follow you, so if there’s a conflict of interest (she wants to go left when you’re going right), always go your way and encourage her to follow.

  6. As you lead your puppy around, start using your foundation directions.

    See the upcoming section “Teaching basic commands while leading.” Encourage everyone around your puppy to use the directions, too.

Dealing with resistance while walking

Following are two approaches you can use to discourage your puppy's resistance while walking:

  • Kneel forward. If you have a more delicate breed or a timid puppy, kneel down in front of your puppy (facing forward) when she puts on the brakes. Tap the floor, play with a favorite toy, or shake a cup of treats and encourage her to follow you. When she does, praise her warmly. Then go to the end of the leash again and repeat yourself.

  • Keep trucking. If you have an otherwise confident dog who (you suspect) is just trying to control the direction or rhythm of the walk, don’t turn around. Skip, hop, and praise the air in front of you and walk a little faster: Your puppy will resist initially but will then run to catch up. When she catches up, praise her happily and continue.

Teaching basic commands while leading

Here are some foundation directions to get you started:

  • “[Name], Follow”: Give this direction whenever you start walking or change direction. As you turn, hold your head high and don’t look at your puppy until she turns with you.

    To practice, grab a treat cup, place your dog on-lead, and shake the cup as you walk around, encouraging her to follow by saying “[Name], Follow!” Then pick up the lead and walk around with the cup. Stop every 10 feet or so and give the dog a treat.

  • “Sit”: Use this direction whenever you offer your dog something positive, such as food, praise, a toy, or a pat. Say the direction only once, helping her into position if she doesn’t respond. You should say “Sit” only once because puppies understand sounds, not words, which means that “Sit, sit, sit” sounds much different from “Sit.”

  • “Wait” and “Okay”: Each time you cross a threshold or heavily trafficked area, direct her to “Wait” and bring her behind you with her lead. She may get excited, so wait until she settles down before you direct “Okay.” Make sure your feet cross the threshold first. Leaders must always lead.

  • “Excuse me”: Use this direction whenever your puppy crosses in front of or behind you. Also use it if your dog presses against you or blocks your path. As you say “Excuse me,” gently push your puppy out of your way with your foot or knee (hands are perceived as interactive).

  • “Settle”: Use this direction to teach your dog to lie quietly in a new environment.

As you lead your puppy around, you may need to sit down to talk on the phone or work on the computer. If you let your puppy free, she may create havoc to get your attention. To discourage this behavior, sit down and leave just enough slack in the leash for your puppy to lie comfortably near your feet. Offer her a chew toy and instruct her to "Settle."

Teach your puppy to settle down with a toy when you’re busy with things. [Credit: Illustratio
Credit: Illustration by Barbara Frake
Teach your puppy to settle down with a toy when you’re busy with things.
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