My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Off – Put Four on the Floor Now!


Teaching your puppy or dog what “off” means when all is calm is time very well spent. This is called “pretraining,” and the idea is that if we teach our companions what we want when all is calm and relaxed, then we have it ready to go when things are more exciting.

Here’s how you do it:

Work in a calm area, where you are the most exciting thing around.
Have your puppy or dog on a four-foot leash.
Have a few treats in the hand holding the leash or in your pocket.
Now, back up away from your pup.
Pulse/squeeze the leash if you need to.
Praise your puppy so he is focused on you.
As he approaches, stop – say “off” as you put your empty hand out toward his face in the universal “stop” signal and rock slightly forward.
He should stop – he may sit.
Smile, praise – What a smart puppy! Reward him with a treat or two and repeat.

Common Questions

But he didn’t jump up, you say. True, but that’s okay. He’s learning that he is rewarded for stopping and/or sitting when he sees that hand signal. That’ll work.
He’s not focused on me when I back up. Try putting the treat to his nose then stashing it back in the leash holding hand just before you back up. That may pique his interest.
He jumps up. Try stopping and rocking forward a little faster, a bit more abruptly. See if that helps. Be sure you don’t have food in the “stop” hand. Try stopping and rocking forward sooner, when he is farther from you.
He turns away and leaves. Go a little slower and a bit softer. You may have a sensitive flower on your hands and less is more with many sensitive dogs.
Can I say “Down”? Please don’t; as people we use “Down” to mean both lie down and get off, but having two meanings for one word is confusing for any dog. Keep things simple– “Off” means to get off of something and “Down” means to lie down.

A few minutes spent pre-training “off” prepares your puppy or dog to understand what you want the next time he is just too excited to keep four on the floor.

By Sarah Wilson,

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