From preventing to disciplining inappropriate behaviors and every aspect in-between, this article holds helpful tips and techniques to aid all puppy owners in successfully training the newest member of their family.
Whether you’re the proud first time parent of a brand new puppy or a veteran dog owner just beginning life with a new best friend there are tips and techniques that can help make your journey from adorable puppy to obedient well-mannered dog and every step in-between smooth sailing.
First of all, your puppy is much like a human baby in that he has a very short attention span and an immature ability to focus, especially on multiple tasks. He will be able to concentrate quite intently on training for short periods of time, but attempt to hold his attention too long and you could hinder your puppy’s progress. A good rule of thumb is to work with your puppy daily at short intervals and allow him time to master one command before adding another to his repertoire.
Puppy proofing is an essential step in not only raising your puppy but protecting him and your belongings as well. While teaching boundaries is important it is also important to eliminate problems before they begin by removing temptations and hazards from your puppy’s environment. Try taking a pup’s eye view tour of your home. If he can reach it he can surely chew on it.
It is also important to remember that dogs are approval driven and excited to please you. While punishment is a necessity in some cases positive reinforcement of desired behaviors will, in the long run, be much more effective than punishment for bad behavior. On that note choosing an effective word to express disapproval to your puppy is just as important as using it at the appropriate time. Many trainers now suggest using an alternative to the word “No” since it is commonly used in daily life. When your puppy learns to associate a certain word or phrase with negative behavior it could be damaging for him to hear it on a daily basis when it is not directed at him. Instead try a phrase such as “That’s enough” that is not common in your household.
Dogs like many of their human counterparts tend to be creatures of habit. The behaviors they learn as puppies will be the ones they are most likely to exhibit as adults, and while negative behavior can be reversed in an adult dog it is much easier to prevent the behavior in the first place.
Including the entire family in training efforts will effectively teach your puppy to obey everyone equally, an important quality for an adult dog to possess, but be sure all helpers use the same tactics and commands to avoid undue confusion for your puppy.
While the practice of using treats to help train dogs is no stranger to critique, the popular verdict is that within reason it is a successful, useful and perfectly acceptable tool. Still not enough emphasis can be put on the ‘within reason’ part of that verdict. If you choose to reward your puppy with treats make sure they do not replace, but only accompany, plenty of good old fashioned praise and do not interfere with proper eating habits. Also remember that your puppy will not know what he’s ‘missing’ until you show him, so consider using a few kibbles of his dry puppy food as a healthy replacement for treats if you decide to reward with food during the training process.
You can expect your puppy to begin learning basic commands as early as 7 to 8 weeks of age but more in depth training should be reserved until after he reaches six months.
“Sit” is probably the most commonly used command among dog owners and for good reason. Not only can that one simple command assist you in controlling multiple negative behaviors when your puppy has yet to learn other commands but it is also one of the easiest to teach to even the most stubborn of dogs making it a good choice to kick off puppy training. To teach your puppy to sit hold your hand in a fist in front of and slightly above his face, if you choose to use treats as a training aid hold the treat in this hand. With your other arm reach around your pup and gently but firmly run your hand along his back and around his rump to the place where his hind legs bend. Gently guide him into the position by slightly raising your fist and carefully helping him into the sitting position with your hand on his hind legs, do not, however, force his rump to the ground, that behavior will only teach him to associate “sit” with negative and forceful contact from you. Instead if your puppy resists reposition yourself and repeat the command and the motions reserving praise until he has successfully achieved the sitting position. Once he is sitting praise him, if rewarding with a treat immediately open your hand and allow him to take the treat, if not open your fisted hand and give him a few pats on the head to show your approval.
Once your puppy has mastered the sit command you can move on to the more complicated “down” command. To teach him to lie down begin with him in a sitting position. Holding your hand in a fist at nose level with your pup, lower you hand to the ground encouraging him to follow. If he does not follow gently help him into the desired position by moving his front legs out, when he is in position release your fist petting him with that hand and giving him lots of praise.
The third and final basic command to teach your puppy is the “stay” command. Starting with your puppy in front of you in the down position say “stay” holding your hand in front of you palm facing your puppy. Move backward away from him until you are approximately 10 feet from him. Pause briefly, but remember that his attention span is still relatively short and he should not be forced to hold the position for long periods yet. After pausing release your puppy by saying “Come” in an upbeat tone. When your puppy comes to you praise him and reward with a treat if desired. If your puppy does not stay when you begin to back away, stop and reposition your puppy using the “down” command, then repeat the exercise saving praise for successful completion.
Most importantly be sure to make the exercises fun and upbeat for both of you. You want to enjoy your puppy as much as you want him to enjoy you.