Training Your Puppy
Puppies; they’re cute adorable bundles of fluff that love to follow you at your heels and sleep in your lap. In fact, they’re so sweet that you’ve probably become convinced that they’re perfect after only having your new puppy home for a few hours. Sure he has had a couple of accidents, but he’s so well behaved! He never barks, chews, or does anything bad! Well, we hate to burst your bubble, but this period isn’t going to last. Right now, your baby puppy is almost too young to be bad. Now don’t get us wrong, they can get into a lot of mischief while 8-9 weeks old, but mostly they just eat, sleep, and go potty. But soon, they’re going to get bigger, have more energy, and more teeth and start being rambunctious little whirlwinds.
Now is the time to start training your puppy. You don’t want to wait until their six months old to suddenly realize that your puppy has grown up with no rules and free reign of your home. Starting healthy and safe habits early in life will help you and your puppy to have a long-lasting and positive relationship.
Even the youngest new puppy can learn to “sit,” “lie down,” “stay” and “come” when asked. But looking at your innocent new puppy, it’s hard to imagine that training would be necessary at all. Of course, it always is. During training, we should view our pets as companions who both understand and respond to us. Training should be considered as a means of teaching pets good manners so that, as our puppies mature into adult dogs, they’ll be welcome both in our homes and outdoors in public. For practical purposes, training should be initiated as early as possible, and all members of your household should participate.
It’s most likely that your puppy will view only one or two members of your household as alphas, but he or she should be trained to listen to anyone in the house, both for safety reasons and for ease of living. You don’t want to teach your puppy that it only needs to listen to you. This may make them act out with others like other family members or loved ones. Raising a puppy is a team sport, and everyone needs to play.
Puppy Training Reward System
Puppies learn best when they receive exciting rewards for their efforts. Even the youngest and tiniest puppy will be enthusiastic about food treats and will be eager to work with you. Experiment to find your puppy’s favorite reward, whether it’s food, a tossed toy or a warm word of praise. Only positive, gentle methods should be used – punishment is likely to harm your puppy’s confidence and has no place in good training. Puppies, like children and even adult humans, learn best when they enjoy the learning process and receive something in return. In the home or in the park, differences are usually very obvious between reward-trained dogs and those trained by force.
Keep in mind that one treat will not work for all puppies. Some may like dry treats while others need juicer temptations. For breeds that have strong noses, like hounds, you may need to put in a lot of work to find the treat that gets you puppy’s nose off the ground and pointed at you. But don’t lose patience. This process may take a few tries, but it will be worth it in the end.
Puppy Training Command System
Training should utilize word cues – “commands” – that will be of practical use to you as your pup’s human companion. The most helpful tools are “sit,” “lay down,” “stay” and “come.” It’s also important to teach your puppy to walk on a leash without tugging. If you have intentions of enrolling your dog in obedience competition, you will need to train a formal “heel, ” but this can wait until your puppy is older. For future obedience competition candidates, enrolling your pup in a puppy training class is highly advisable.
Puppies can also benefit from nonverbal commands, such as hand signals. This way, if you’re ever in a loud environment, you’ll be able to signal to your puppy the behavior that you’re looking for, and he will be able to respond. Pair each verbal command with a gesture and utilize that gesture every time you employ your command. When your puppy is older you can start switching between vocal only, gesture only, or dual commands.
Puppy Training Lure System
The most effective teaching method, using “sit” as an example, is to allow your puppy to engage in the behavior on her own rather than pushing her into position. Small bits of food (even your puppy’s regular kibble) can be used as a “lure” after offering a few “free” pieces first. With food in hand, present your hand to the puppy’s nose and then slowly raise it toward the top of her head, so that her mouth and head are directed upward. In most cases, when the nose points up, the tail end goes down and your puppy’s sitting! The food should then immediately be relinquished and the exercise repeated.
Lures can be used effectively to train “down” by having your puppy sit facing you, then drawing the lure from her nose to the floor and then back toward you. When your puppy’s sitting or lying down reliably each time you offer the lure, you can introduce the words – sit or down – along with the lure. Finally, when she’s responding like a pro, the rewards should be cut back and given only every other time, then every third time and, finally, only randomly.
Puppy Obedience Classes
Lures, rewards, timing and other aspects of positive training are best demonstrated, and then guided, by experienced trainers. If you have resources in your city or town, consider enrolling your young (and vaccinated) puppy in a “kindergarten” training class designed specifically for the young pet. Puppy kindergartens usually include basic, reward-based training, along with plenty of playtime and discussions about care and behavior. Obedience centers also offer puppy or pre-novice training sessions designed to teach on a slightly more serious level. Many dog owners will proceed from one level to the next – first with a puppy, then with an adolescent and later with their young adult dog – who by now is proficient at basic obedience commands. Training should be fun for you and your dog.
A lifetime of good manners can start with training the youngest of puppies. If she’s old enough to be away from her mother and littermates, she’s old enough to learn simple commands. The result isn’t only a well-behaved and welcome canine companion, but one whose quality of life is enhanced in the long run. She’ll be more likely to accompany you on trips, on visits to friends’ houses and, because she’ll have learned to come when called, she’ll be ready for that great day when she first runs free on a sandy beach.