Sit. Stay. Good Boy. – Educating Your Puppy

Bringing Your Puppy Home

Now that you have a new puppy in your home, its time to start thinking about training. You can start as soon as the first day. With a positive reinforcement method of training, your puppy will learn very quickly how to fit into your human world and become a well-mannered member of the family. Positive reinforcement training helps to establish a bond between you and your new pup.

The first item on the agenda is to keep your puppy supervised. If you want to teach him what is right and what is wrong, you need to know where he is. Feedback is the quickest way to educate your new pup. By using specific tones of voice, you can stop a behavior, redirect, and praise. Puppies understand a low “AHHH” as a deterrent. A high-pitched “goooooood” is understood as “we love it when you do this”. As well as praise, you will want to add a food treat as a reward. This really delivers the “we love this behavior” message.

Puppies can try your patience; they can make you ask yourself “why did we get a puppy?” You must remember that this little furry guy knows nothing of your human ways. You need to be patient, understanding and guiding. Try to keep anger out of the educational process. Puppies usually do wrong because we have failed to teach or be consistent in our training. Your voice should be the only means of reprimand, never a hit or spank. Hitting is a violent behavior and only stresses and breaks the bond you are trying to build with your puppy.

Discipline is only effective if it interrupts or redirects an unwanted behavior. If you walk into a room where your little puppy has destroyed your new favorite shoes, smack yourself in the head for not supervising your pup. Do nothing to the pup, as he has long forgotten the shoes and will only know that you are an unpredictable human. This creates confusion and uneasiness in your pup.

The only time a pup may need disciplinary action is if they are just over-tired, out of control or overly excited from too much stimulus. If they are tired and need a time out, place them in their crate and give them an indestructible toy to play with. Never use a puppies crate for a punishment. For a clear disapproving message, you can leave a room and close the door behind you. This is a good way to deter puppy nipping. Turning your back on the puppy says, “If you are going to bite, I’m leaving”. Leave the room for approx 30 seconds and return to a more settled pup. Ignoring also works wonderfully with pups. Dogs don’t like being ignored.


Basic Obedience

Next you will want to enroll in obedience classes. All dogs should have the chance to learn the basics: sit, down, stay and come. The more behaviors you teach your pup, the more well-rounded they will be as an adult. When looking for obedience trainers, you will want to check into several trainers or schools. Decide what plan is right for you and your pup. You can either join a group class or hire a private trainer. Group classes offer socializing with other dogs and people. Private training is a more intensive one-on-one training. Whether you choose group or private, socializing should be #1 on the list with a young pup. The better socialized your pup is when they are young, the more capable they are at handling situations that can arise as an adult.

There are many options for leashes and collars for dogs. For training I recommend a 6 ft cotton leash and flat buckle collar or body harness. If you have a large, strong dog that pulls you down the street, you may want to opt for a face halter. Face halters remove pressure from a dog’s neck and give you more control. The face halter gives you more physical control over your dog so you must be cautioned not to yank or jerk on the leash if using one. You should talk to your trainer about what they think is best for you and your dog.
Extension leashes are good when you are in a park or large area. They can make a dog feel as though they are off-leash when they aren’t. Never use an extension leash with a choke collar, prong collar or face halter because of the continual pressure. Be sure that your dog has room to roam. Extension leashes can be dangerous if around other people or dogs.

Now you are ready. If possible, involve your entire family in the training process. This keeps everyone on the same page regarding for your dog’s education. It is very important that consistent, this eliminates confusion for your pup. Involving the children in training helps them to establish that they are to be listened to, not just the dog’s playmates.

Once you start teaching new behaviors, you should use them each day in your routine. Training should begin in a quiet, non-distractive area, so that your puppy can grasp the new behavior thoroughly. When your puppy fully understands a new behavior, you can start to add distractions. Moving to the backyard would be the first distraction, then front yard, then the park. You must then move on and train your dog in high distraction areas, if you will expect them to perform in with many distractions.


Advanced Training

After basic obedience, it is your family’s decision and your pup’s natural talent that will help you to decide on which direction you go from there. You may want to continue into more advanced obedience, agility, fly ball, Frisbee or trick training. All of these are wonderful activities for you and your dog. I highly recommend trick training for all dogs. This really makes an impact on children and creates interest in their dog. Children can teach their pup new tricks and show their friends.

Most positive trainers incorporate hand signals into their training. Dogs actually pick up hand signals before the verbal cue. Hand signals are a great way to communicate with your dog without noise. Hand signals can be as small as a one-finger point to a whole arm or body movement. Hand signals also help to keep a dog watching you for their next cue.

Secondary cues are usually the verbal ones. When choosing a verbal cue for a behavior, stick to one-syllable words. Choose words that will be clearly understood and not used for other behaviors. The entire family should be aware of what words are used for what behaviors. E.g. If you use down for the ‘lay down’ then do not tell your dog to get ‘down’ off the couch, this is confusing. Use “Off” for getting off the couch.

Always remember to be patient; training is supposed to be fun. If you or your pup starts to get frustrated – stop training. Ask your pup for a simple behavior like sit, reward him and start again tomorrow.

by Sherri Regalbuto