Bringing a new puppy home to join your family is an exciting time. A time full of laughter and fun. A time full of expectations and plans. Wait! Did we say plans? It is during this time that you start to realize your plans will need to include some proper puppy instruction, and that you need to be consistent.
As with all plans, it’s important to lay them out in steps. The following step by step training tips will help you curb common puppy behaviours such as jumping, biting and begging. Systematically progress through each step towards your goal. Happy training…and enjoy the moments!
Step-by-step training tips for biting
It’s no fun when your new puppy starts to bite you, and bite hard. His little teeth can be razor sharp. In fact, some pups won’t let you even get close before they lunge out. This problem can be compounded when there are children in the home. But the fact is, puppies bite. For the sake of teething or to get our attention, they all do it. The main area of concern is what to do about it so that the puppy grows up to be a nice adult dog with bite inhibition.
There will most likely be times in a dog’s adult life when he may bite. It might be from fear, or because his tail gets stepped on by accident. Knowing this, you need to teach your pup that if he does happen to bite by mistake later on, he should never bite down hard. This is something all pups need to know. By teaching a puppy to never bite at all, he will never learn the difference between a hard and soft bite.
a. Your pup is biting on your hand but it doesn’t hurt. This is fine. He is learning how to have a soft mouth. However, the second that bite turns hard, you are called to actions.
b. Loudly say the word “yikes” and remove your hand. I find that word is great as it is easy to remember, easy to say and usually stops the puppy quickly.
c. Immediately put the fl at of your palm directly in front of the pup’s muzzle; you should fi nd that he’ll lick it. At that time, you can use the word “gentle”. I find that 99% of the time, the pup will lick your palm as soon as it is presented to him, after the “yikes”.
If he continues to bite at your hands after you have tried this, tether him on a small house leash away from you, for a timeout. This gives him, and you, a moment apart to cool down.
It is very important that your young pup gets enough sleep. Most pups that are getting riled up and nipping a lot do better after a nap. Remember, your puppy will not put himself down for a nap, so it is up to you. Young pups need a good three- to four-hour sleep midday.
Step by step training tips for begging
You know the saying, “old habits die hard”. There is no better reason to set your pup up to learn the house rules while he is young. One of the biggest complaints I hear is about dogs that continue to beg for food. This can be at the table, from guests that are visiting, and even from other dog parents in the park. This is not only annoying, it can become embarrassing. After all, we all want our fur kids to behave properly.
The begging habit normally starts as soon as you bring your dog home. Any dog. Any age. The reason? Those big brown eyes! They’ll get you every time. The other reason is that people love to feed animals; in many cases, it is a way of showing love.
The problem is that it promotes dogs that pester people for food, and it can become unhealthy if they are fed too much of the wrong sorts of food. If they are given things full of additives, sugar and fat, they can experience multiple health issues later in their lives. People are the same way, but the difference is that we know where our food choices may lead us. Our dogs are not privy to that information, so can’t make a wise choice before they eat that piece of toast with jam.
a. Teach your puppy to lie down and stay on a special mat that is just for him. If you are unclear, ask your trainer to show you the steps. This is a down/stay, so it’s fairly basic, but it will require practice. Reward the pup frequently for being on the mat.
b. Once he learns to stay on his mat, you can reduce the frequency of the rewards. You can allow him a toy stuffed with treats if he stays on the mat.
c. Move the mat from room to room, so he learns to lie down on it and stay there, no matter where it is.
Put the mat in the dining room when you have guests or when you are eating. Occasionally, do go to the puppy and give him a treat reward. This will encourage him to stay there, and it will also show him that the treats come when he is on the mat. Plus, if you have to get up off your chair to give a snack to the dog, rather than have the dog come to you, it will reduce the frequency of the snacks, guaranteed!
As your puppy gets more proficient at this exercise, start to reward him only if he doesn’t jump first.
Step by step training tips for jumping
Teaching an alternate behaviour is the best way to go when training a puppy not to jump. Instead of telling him what not to do, you’ll be far more successful if you teach him what you would prefer, and reward him for it. By rewarding the behaviour you want, with a favourite toy or treat, your dog is far more likely to do what is asked in the future.
a. When your pup jumps up, take a step back from him. You will see he now has four feet on the ground.
b. Ask him to sit. Hopefully, he has already learned the word “sit” in puppy class; otherwise, teach it separately.
c. Once he sits, reward and praise him for a job well done.
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.