Congratulations – you’ve welcomed a new puppy into your home! Now it’s time to train him…
Are you ready to shape your puppy into a polite, obedient companion? Keep this list of essential behaviours in mind when you train him!
1. Basic obedience
This is so you can build up the lines of communication. By teaching your pup a series of words, so he will start to understand your language, you are doing him a service and helping him become a model citizen.
If he has a clear understanding of the word “stay”, he will be less apt to jump all over your guests. If he learns how to heel, he will be less likely to pull you off your feet, let alone scare other people coming towards you. You get the picture!
Teaching your pup to sit when asked will help to alleviate a lot of problems. If he is sitting, he can’t run away, jump up or nip. There are many ways to train your pup to sit, but luring is one of the best. Simply have a treat in your hand, put it towards the pup’s nose and then slowly raise it over his head towards the sky. The puppy should follow it, and in doing so, his behind should naturally go into the sit position. Add the word “sit” and give the treat. Once he is sitting consistently, you can start to phase out the lure.
Using positive, force-free techniques will allow your pup to understand that learning can be fun. Getting him into a reputable puppy class will help you teach him the rest of the basics.
2. Bathroom etiquette
Taking the time to train your pup to keep your home clean is a big lesson and well worth the effort.
Many people feel this is common knowledge, but it’s not necessarily so. To ensure your puppy understands this lesson, make sure you keep him well supervised. This means a family member needs to watch him, or he should be in his crate.
Take him out frequently when he is awake, especially after mealtimes, naps and playtime. Keep him on a consistent diet and exercise schedule. The goal is to avoid any accidents.
If you do find an unexpected surprise, ask yourself where you were. Supervision means you can’t pop upstairs for a few minutes and leave Junior alone. However, pups tend to sleep about 18 to 20 hours per day, depending on their age. When it’s nap time, put your pup into his crate. This will work for both of you. He can nap in a quiet spot, uninterrupted, and you can go about your daily duties for a few hours without needing to supervise. It’s a win-win.
3. How to play
Sound crazy? Don’t all pups play? Most dogs play with their toys, and most people think rough-housing with them on the floor is also play – but play can encompass much more. Train your pup to play with you. A great game is tug. Long gone are the days when tug games were considered a no-no. They provide great exercise, and can be used as a great reward tool later on in his training.
Teach a pup to play tug by first doing “keep away”. Play with the tug toy yourself and allow him to watch. After a few days, continue to play but let the toy drop on the floor occasionally. This should peak his interest. Before you know it, he will be begging to play. Always keep this special tug toy out of his reach unless you are both playing. This is not his toy, but a game that you share. By keeping the tug on top of your fridge, and bringing it out to start a game, you are creating your own special time together.
And the bonus? Train him to drop the toy by trading it for a treat, and then you can use the word “drop” for other favorite puppy items such as tissues and socks. Devise games such as “find your own toys” (or better yet, your car keys!) and show him the rules. Teach him a few age-appropriate tricks and then show them off to your friends. Have fun with your pup.
4. Good manners
Dogs can be crafty and they like to have a lot of attention showered on them. This can be cute while they’re young, but it may be a problem later on. “Shake a paw” is a cute trick, but will remain so only if your dog gives you his paw when you ask for it. It can become annoying if your dog sits and paws at you for attention when you’re busy doing something else.
Teach him some manners. Spend some time teaching him to go to his own bed, lie down and stay there. First, train him to lie down by luring him into position and adding a treat reward. Then teach him to stay there. You can give him small treats every few seconds at first, to prolong this action. The pup should stay until he is given a release word such as “okay”.
Now progress to teaching lie down and stay in his own bed. Always reward him for this action. The more a behaviour is rewarded, the more likely it is to occur.
Catch him doing something right. Each time he is heading towards his bed, call out “go to bed” and reward him once he goes there.
5. How to say “hello”
Most dogs love to have a romp in the park with their canine buddies. But it’s important to help them understand how to actually make friends with other dogs. In some cases, they’ll rush in too quickly, startling the other dogs; in other cases, they may jump or nip at them. It may be all in play, but this behaviour can be misunderstood by other dogs.
The best strategy is to make sure you’re fully engaged with your pup during initial greetings. You may have to use a leash, even in an off-leash setting, just to help guide your pup. When dogs approach one another, they like to sniff and circle around. When doing a puppy intro, it’s best to allow this interaction and
not insist on any nose-to-nose contact. The idea is to help your pup understand the rules.
Make sure he is guided “down” if he jumps on the others. Keep the rule “four paws on the floor” in place. Have some treats handy and give them to your puppy to reward appropriate actions.
If the initial greeting goes well, and the pups start to play, you must continue to supervise them and watch for over-the-top chasing. Play does involve chase games among pups, but make sure the game is equal – if both puppies are taking turns with the chase and be-chased positions, things should be fine. But if one is bullying the other, a timeout on the sidelines for a few minutes, with your pup on a leash, is the best course of action.
6. The meaning of happiness
Living in harmony means ensuring that your pup knows what makes you happy. What brings a smile to your face helps him learn how to behave. Take the time to teach your puppy his training words, and when he tries his best to learn them, praise him for a job well done. Don’t tell him he is not good enough while he is learning. Don’t be in a rush; enjoy your journey together. Let him learn his lessons over time. Smile and let him see he makes you happy. Have fun together!
Gillian Ridgeway is the Director of Who's Walking Who Dog Training Centres in Toronto and Ajax. She has been featured on many television and radio programs, and appears regularly as the canine expert on Canoe Live. Gillian is a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto, and a popular speaker at Veterinary Technician and Trainer Conferences.