Tips & Advice

Top puppy training tips

You’ve brought your brand new puppy home from the pound and he’s already made a dog’s breakfast of your rug, curtains, shoes and more. Cute as he may look, don’t let yourself be misled by appearances: your puppy is a walking menace if he’s not properly trained. Whether you do it yourself, take a class, or hire a professional trainer, handling your dog’s puppy training should be handled ASAP if you want a healthy pet/owner relationship. Here are the top tips – from professional dog trainers no less – that will help you get the ball rolling.

  1. Get into the right mindset: dogs naturally are keen to please and fall in behind a leader. Get yourself into the mindset of being a leader – you’re the boss! – and start acting like one. Set the tone of your relationship from the beginning.
  2. Choose an appropriate name for your new dog: whilst you will also want a name you love, for the purposes of training it’s helpful to be able to call your puppy by a short name including one strong consonant (eg Jack, Jasper). This allows you to call your puppy’s name and he will always know it is he who is being addressed. Remember to always associate his name with positive, good things instead of negatives, so that when his name is called puppy comes running.
  3. Work out your “ground rules”: What can your new puppy do and what will he absolutely NOT be allowed to do? Will you let her sleep on the bed or the couch? Which parts of the house if any are off limits? Can he stay in the house when you go out? Before you can begin training and conditioning your new pet, you need to work out just what behaviors you are going to reward puppy for, and what will not be allowed in this house. Work out your ground rules at the outset, and that way you avoid ambiguity and confusion for both parties later on down the line!
  4. Help make him feel at home: when your puppy arrives in his new surroundings, he will likely feel not a little uncomfortable and anxious. To alleviate these feelings, as soon as you bring him home, give your puppy a hot water bottle and place a ticking watch or clock near his bed. This imitates the heartbeat and body warmth of his brothers and sisters from the pound, and will ease the sense of ‘culture shock’ he feels in this new environment. The sooner you can make your puppy feel at home, the more receptive he will be when you start puppy training.
  5. Teach your puppy to come when called: this is the first and most important command to teach your new puppy. Encourage him to come whenever you call his name, by associating it with positive things and positive feedback and reward. At first, confine yourself to doing it when he is close at hand with no external distractions. Then try when your puppy is busy and farther away. If you can teach your dog very early on to come to you whenever you call his name, this will make your life a lot easier later on down the track.
  6. Reward his good behavior, and punish bad behavior: use positive feedback and reinforcement like treats, toys, praise, and love when your puppy behaves well; then withhold it when he behaves badly. Remember that puppies – and dogs- live in the present moment. One moment after they have done something, it’s all forgotten already. Whenever your puppy does something good or bad, repeat your chosen methods of reward or punishment right away so that they are able to make the association between the behavior and the response. Consistent repetition will reinforce it – don’t switch from one method of reward/punishment to another, as again that will only lead to confusion.
  7. Make him work for praise as well: once your puppy has been taught to obey commands, start withdrawing the treats (in favor of just praise for example). Don’t hand them out every time puppy behaves well, make him work for them. For example, make it a rule that you will give out treats only every 5th-time puppy behaves well.
  8. Handle the jump up: puppies naturally like to jump up in order to greet you. This is just his natural enthusiasm and affection – don’t punish it, but don’t encourage it either, just ignore and wait until your puppy settles down before you give him praise and affection.
  9. Deter puppy from biting: again, instead of punishing or reprimanding him, make out that you are in deep pain whenever he bites you. The shock, plus your dog’s deep love for you will prevent him from continuing the behavior. Or try the old swap trick in which you swap a toy for your hand or leg! The latter technique also works when he’s a fan of chewing up your shoes! If everything else fails, simply break up his attempts to bite you, and ignore the puppy.
  10. End each training session with positive feedback: puppy has worked up a sweat trying to please you – reward him with praise, petting, a treat. This will ensure he turns up at the next session ready to work and keen to impress!

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