You just brought your new puppy or dog home. Congratulations! A puppy is for life, so you are going to be together for a very long time. That means you need to set rules and boundaries and the sooner the better to ensure you remain best friends forever.
Before we begin with your puppy training tips, here's some advice:
- Don't get frustrated with your new puppy. He's doing his best. Pets instinctually try to please their owners, so be kind and patient during this often stressful time. This too shall pass.
- There are professional pet trainers out there to help you if that is the route you choose: there are classes you can take and there are these do-it-yourself tips that will make the journey a lot smoother right out of the gate.
- Experts encourage you to get your puppy spayed or neutered when it is old enough: this makes the animal more docile, less aggressive and often more open to successful training.
- Brush up on your Dog Body Language knowledge. You can better gauge your puppy’s reaction to new things and predict their behavior.
Training Tip #1: Select Your Dog's Name Wisely
There is more to selecting a pet's name than most realize. For example, it helps to consider a short name ending with a strong consonant, such as 'Bully' or 'Jackie' or 'Fido' because such names make it easier for the puppy/dog to always hear its name clearly especially when you place a strong emphasis at the end.
If you adopted an older dog from a shelter, it probably knows its name already but that does not mean you cannot or should not change it. Sometimes shelter staff and even dog breeders give pets temporary names. The truth is, sometimes new names are good fresh starts for a dog, especially if it's coming from an abusive situation. Dogs are extremely adaptable and if you do give your pet a new name, use it often and consistently and the animal will respond.
New name or old, you should associate your pet's name with positive, pleasant and fun things, not negative ones. For example, don't selectively use the dog's name only to scold him/her, use it when you praise as well. Dogs should associate their names like they do the word "walk" or "dinner."
Training Tip #2: Establish House Rules Immediately
It's up to you to decide what your puppy can and can't do. Is he allowed on the furniture? Will he sleep in your bed? Are parts of the house off limits? If the rules are set early, you can avoid confusion for both of you.
Be firm about your rules once you set them and make sure family members support them or they can be a source of frustration for your puppy/dog and for yourself. For example, if you don't feed the dog table scraps but your kids do, the dog will receive mixed signals and its behavior will reflect that. Settle on what your boundaries are early on and your dog will respect them if you compassionately enforce them.
Training Tip #3: Start Training Early
The sooner you start training the better. Some people feel that general training should happen after your pup gets housebroken. They think all the lessons will overwhelm the puppy. But your dog is smarter than you think. You'd be surprised at just how much your puppy can remember. Basic obedience training will help the housetraining process. Basic training will help your puppy learn what behavior is acceptable sooner rather than later. Correcting bad behavior down the road will be much easier as well. As young dogs, puppies are always learning and they are always curious. This is the best stage in life to train and engrain lessons into their minds.
Training Tip #4: Give Your Dog a Private Den
Your dog needs a room or space of its own. From day one give your pup or dog his own, private sleeping place that's not used by anyone else in the family, or another pet. He'll benefit from short periods alone in the comfort and safety of his den. Reward him if he remains relaxed and quiet. His den, which is often a crate, will be a valuable tool for housetraining.
Training Tip #5: Help Puppy/Dog Relax in New Home
When your puppy gets home, give him a warm water bottle and put a ticking clock near his sleeping area. This imitates the heat and heartbeat of his litter mates and will soothe him in his new environment. It will also help him sleep both during the day and at night. This may be even more important for a new dog from a busy, loud shelter who's had a rough time early on. Whatever you can do to help him get comfortable in his new home will benefit both of you immediately and in the long run.
Barkbusters in Australia offer many tips on training dogs and puppies. One good resource is their print-out on tips for bringing a puppy home. These tips will make the transition into a new home less stressful for your new pup.
Training Tip #6: Teach Your Puppy/Dog to Come When Called
Teaching your dog to come when called (to respond when you call his/her name) is the command to be mastered first and foremost. This reinforces your alpha status. Get down on his level and tell him to come to you - always use his/her name when you call. When the dog comes to you, make a big deal using positive reinforcement - and the dog's name again. For example, "Come here Bully, come." Then when he arrives, "Good boy Bully, good boy." Then try it when he's busy with something interesting. You'll really see the benefits of perfecting this command early as he gets older.
Training Tip #7: Reward Good Behavior
Reward your puppy or dog's good behavior with positive reinforcement. Use treats, toys, love and/or heaps of praise. Let him know when's he's getting it right. Likewise, never reward bad behavior; it'll only confuse him. Dogs are food motivated, so small treats are a great way to train your dog to follow many commands. Victoria Stilwell, a British dog trainer, remains a strong advocate of positive reinforcement. You can read more about her training methods on her website, Positively.
Training Tip #8: Train Your Dog Not to Jump up Upon Greeting
Puppies and dogs love to jump up in greeting. Don't reprimand your dog for doing this as he's just happy to see you. Rather experts suggest you ignore this behavior and wait until doggy settles down before giving positive reinforcement. Never encourage jumping behavior by patting or praising your dog when he's in a "jumping up" position or mood. Turn your back on him and pay him no attention.
Training Tip #9: Train Your Dog on 'Dog Time'
Puppies and dogs live in the moment and present tense. For example, once they do something, two minutes later it's forgotten about. That is why when you witness your puppy doing something bad, correct it right away so he makes the connection between the behavior and the correction. Consistent repetition will reinforce what's he's learned - both good and bad.
Training Tip #10: Keep Puppy Training Simple
Your puppy will absorb lessons better if they are kept short and simple. Teach one thing at a time. Trying to learn more than one command at one time can confuse a puppy. Use your training sessions for one or two commands. Keep these sessions to about 5-15 minutes long depending on the difficulty of the command. These short time periods will keep your puppy from getting bored or distracted. Remember, your pup has a lot of energy to spend!
Once your puppy has mastered the command, you can move onto another. Ideally, you want a 90% success rate with learning these commands.
Training Tip #11: Do Not Allow Biting or Nipping
You really want to nip this one in the bud right away. Discourage any biting or nipping at you and anyone else, especially strangers. Dogs are mouthy creatures and often they mean no harm by this behavior, so do not scold your dog for this, especially do not scold your puppy. Experts say a great way to discourage biting and/or nipping is to pretend that you're in great pain when he's biting or nipping you. He'll be so surprised he's likely to stop immediately. Again, dogs aim to please their owners, not hurt them. Faking that your dog has caused you pain is a solid way to deter that behavior. If this doesn't work, try trading a chew toy for your hand or pant leg. The swap trick also works when he's into your favorite shoes. He'll prefer a toy or bone anyway as they taste better.
Training Tip #12: End Training Sessions on a Positive Note
You want the training experience to be positive for your dog so he/she looks forward to it, just like a walk or a good meal. End your sessions with praise such as, "Great job Bully, good boy." He's worked hard to please you throughout the training. Leave him with lots of praise, a treat, some petting or a few minutes of play. This guarantees he'll show up for his next session with tail wagging and ready to work!
Training Tip #13: Practice Training Everywhere
It’s one thing for your pup to master commands at home. Mastering the same commands in a different environment with other distractions can be tricky. You should practice your training whereever you take your puppy. You want your puppy to behave both at home and away from it. In fact, it’s crucial for your dog to listen to you when out in public. Learning commands in different places will tell your pup to behave for you all the time; not just at home.
Training Tip #14: Get Help from Experts
If training alone gets overwhelming, that’s okay! Training isn’t easy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed it may be time to seek out a dog trainer. There are many experienced trainers out there who can help you and your puppy. You can take one-on-one sessions in your home. Many pet stores and other businesses offer training courses. There are many classes you can enroll your puppy in. It’s best to start with some basic obedience classes. These classes usually have multiple dogs in one group. This is great for socialization purposes. The American Kennel Club offers great advice for choosing a trainer.