Puppy Training 101
Puppies are adorable poofs of fur that have seemingly endless stores of cuteness. Even with all this cuteness, puppies still need to be trained to be well-behaved members of the family, starting from the day they come home.
Training a puppy requires time, consistency, and patience (and plenty of treats!). If you’ve recently brought home a puppy, start with a few training basics that will teach your puppy how to behave appropriately both in and out of your home.
Also, you’ll need the following:
- A sturdy leash and collar
- Tasty treats
- Food and water bowls
Let’s get started!
Designating Specific Areas
Pets thrive on routine, not change. The most important step in bringing home your new puppy is designating specific eating, sleeping, and bathroom areas. When your new puppy first enters your home, place their bed in a quiet, out of the way corner where it can stay. Establish a feeding and bathroom schedule, and stick to it.
At the first specified time, introduce your puppy to the food and water dishes. At the first bathroom time, lead your puppy – on a leash – to an area you can designate for their business. If you walk your dog, take the route you’re planning on keeping permanently.
Teaching Their Name
Of course, you need your new puppy to respond to their given name! The trick to this lesson is rewards for good behavior. When you say your puppy’s name, use a pleasant or cooing voice. Encouraging, friendly body language, such as open arms and being down on your puppy’s level, can also provide positive reinforcement. Make sure to repeat this every time you say your puppy’s name; a treat or belly rub, wouldn’t hurt. Eventually, your puppy will come to associate its name with positive treatment and come when you call her.
Potty training will teach your puppy where and when to eliminate. It can be done with crate training or puppy pad training.
Crate training often makes potty training easier because dogs don’t like to eliminate in the same place where they rest. If you’re not keen on crate training, realize that the crate can also serve as a cozy, den-like area where your puppy can go to feel safe.
Purchase a crate that’s large enough for your puppy to move around in comfortably, but not so large that they can create an entirely separate bathroom spot. Place your puppy’s favorite toys and a comfy blanket inside the crate and drape blankets over the crate to create a den-like feel. When your puppy indicates that he needs to go (e.g., whining, scratching the sides of the crate), take him outside immediately. Reward him with a treat and verbal praise after he finishes eliminating to reward him for going potty outside.
Puppy pad training can be useful if you can’t get home during the day or live in a high rise apartment where it’s difficult to quickly take your pup outside. If you choose to train with puppy pads, transition the potty training to outdoor elimination as your puppy gets older and can hold his bladder for longer.
Here are some extra tips:
- Remember this rule of thumb: Up until about 9–12 months of age, puppies can hold their bladder for 1 hour per month of age.
- Establish and maintain a consistent bathroom schedule.
- Observe your puppy’s elimination habits. For example, your puppy may always need to eliminate after playing.
- Set consistent meal times (ideally 3 small meals per day) to keep your puppy’s digestive system on a regular schedule.
- Never punish your puppy for accidents. Instead, clean up the accident without fuss by using an enzymatic cleaner that will eliminate the scent of ammonia and prevent your puppy from returning to that same spot.
Teaching Basic Commands
Basic commands include “sit,” “stay,” and “down.” Food lure training helps teach basic commands by using food to move a puppy into the desired position. For example, below are steps to use food lure training to teach the “sit” command:
- Position your puppy in front of you and say “sit” once.
- With a small treat in your hand, slowly raise that hand in the air. Your puppy will keep raising his head to look at the treat until his hind end naturally sits down.
- When your puppy is seated, immediately reward him with the treat.
As your puppy reliably and correctly responds to the commands, give the commands with the same hand movement but without the treat; reward your puppy with verbal praise and no treat. Over time, your puppy will obey without expecting an edible treat, but will always need a reward of verbal praise.
Socialization is the process of gradually exposing puppies to different situations in their environment, and it should take place between 7 and 16 weeks of age. Examples of socialization experiences are walking on different floor textures (hardwood, carpet), meeting people of different ages, and meeting new dogs.
Helpful tips for socialization include:
- Take it slowly. Don’t overwhelm your puppy with new experiences. Let him get comfortable with one small experience before moving on to another one.
- Give rewards. Your puppy needs encouragement to explore his new world. Praise your puppy with treats and verbal praise through each positive socialization experience.
- Enroll your puppy in puppy kindergarten. Puppy kindergarten is a great way for puppies to learn how to interact appropriately with other dogs. You can enroll your puppy once he starts receiving his vaccinations.
Beyond the training basics explained in this article, your veterinarian will be able to provide you with other training tips and help you troubleshoot when training goes awry. Obedience classes can also provide additional training. Importantly, don’t forget to involve each family member in the training.
Overall, have fun with your new puppy and enjoy helping him become a well-behaved and well-loved member of your family!
Content provided by JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM. Dr. Pendergrass is owner and founder of JPen Communications, a medical communications company specializing in consumer education.
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