Training your puppy can be difficult when you’re a first time dog owner. When I got my very first puppy, I was so excited to take him home, but had no idea where to start! That’s why I decided it would be best to put together an easy-to-read guide on how to train your puppy the right way!
Some people are under the impression that dog training is just about teaching dogs to sit and stay. The truth is, it’s a lot more than that. When you bring a puppy home, training begins immediately. As soon as he comes inside the house, make sure to create boundaries for him and show him that this is his new home. They’ll also need to learn concepts such as bite inhibition, and basic obedience commands such as sit, down, stay etc.
It’s important to have a dog training plan, because it helps build the partnership between you and your pet. When you’re consistent with your training plan, your puppy will learn better and faster. What you’ll do depends on the breed, age and temperament of your dog.
Another important part of training your puppy is the partnership. The stronger your partnership is with your puppy, the easier it will be to train them. Positive reinforcement training techniques help to solidify this partnership.
Socializing Your Puppy
A lot of trainers teach socialization in the form of “puppy play dates.” At Dogology, we take a different approach. We believe that puppy play dates teach dogs to look at other dogs as a reward. This then leads to barking and pulling on the leash when the dog gets older, and is frustrated that they can’t “go say hi” to other dogs.
Instead of teaching your puppy to socialize with other dogs, we prefer to teach them to focus on you, and be neutral to other dogs and people. That way, they’re not pulling on the leash, frustrating themselves, and frustrating you!
Puppy Obedience Training
When obedience training your puppy, start with a couple of basics, such as sit, down, and come. We’ll teach them these commands by marking with a word such as “yes”, or using a clicker. By marking and rewarding, we’re taking a snapshot of their behavior, and rewarding them. They will soon associate the marker word or clicker with food, which will allow you to reward them more easily.
When teaching your dog basic commands, always start by teaching them engagement first. This means that any time they look at you (or give you their attention), mark and reward. This will make it much easier to teach them sit, down, and come.
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Once the puppy is voluntarily sitting in anticipation of their reward, you can pair the action with the “sit” command. Ask them to sit, lure them, then mark and reward when their butt hits the ground!
“Down” is taught in a similar manner, and we recommend teaching “down” after “sit,” as it’s generally harder for puppies. Hold a treat in your hand, and lure their nose downward. Once their elbows hit the ground, mark and reward!
Teaching your puppy to come when called is a good way to build positive association with you. It’s easy, too! The first step is to always have a tasty treat in your hand when you’re calling your puppy. The second step is to get their attention and hold the treat close enough for them to smell it, but not so close that they can reach. Then, slowly back up so that they follow you.
Your New Puppy In Your House
The first rule of introducing your new puppy to your house is don’t let them get into things, then correct them. To make this easier, we recommend containing your puppy with an ex-pen or crate, and keeping your eyes on them at all times when they are loose.
When introducing your new puppy to children or other dogs, always give your puppy an escape route if they become overwhelmed. Teach children to respect the puppy’s space, and always supervise interactions between your puppy and your children! Childrens’ voices are often very high-pitched, which can be disturbing to your puppy. A fun game to teach the children is “see who can stay quiet around the puppy the longest.”
Another great rule of thumb is to reward the behaviors you do want. In other words, don’t solely punish the behaviors you don’t want. For example, if your puppy is laying down, chewing a bone, and being quiet — reward that! Training happens all day every day — not only in your structured 5-minute training sessions multiple times a day.
These tips will help set your family and your puppy up for success, and minimize frustration on your part, and your puppy’s!
Crate Training Your Puppy
A great way to help with house training a puppy is by using the crate method. This method trains your dog when it’s time to relieve themselves outside, and gives them a den to go to when they want.
To introduce your puppy to the crate, start with it in the middle of the room, and the door open. The puppy should be loose. Whenever they look at the crate, or walk toward it, mark and reward. When they go in on their own, mark and reward that as well. Toss pieces of food in the crate so that they associate it with good things.
Once they’re going in consistently, shut the door, and immediately open it again. Gradually build the length of time that they’re in the crate, and always make it positive! This will lessen the chance of separation anxiety later.
Teaching Your Puppy To Walk On Leash
Teaching your puppy to walk on leash starts with — you guessed it! — engagement. Start inside your house, place the leash & collar on your pup, and stand still in the middle of, say, your living room. Let the puppy sniff around, and mark & reward when he turns toward you. Take your puppy outside, repeat the process, and walk a few steps. Continue to mark and reward when they are engaged with you and walking on a loose leash, and stop when they start to pull.
When taking your new puppy on walks, start with short walks, and increase the length as they grow. Keep ball tosses short, and don’t let them jump off of heights until their growth plates close. If you have a playground or elementary school close by, take them over when there are no children around — the varied surfaces of playgrounds are GREAT for environmental exposure.
Grooming Your Puppy
In order to make the grooming process more pleasant for you and your puppy down the line, you’ll need to introduce tools early. However, before you even start with tools, you’ll need to teach your puppy to be handled. Gently touch their ears, the corners of their eyes, mouth, lips, nose, paws, under their tail — wherever you can think of that they’ll need to be groomed. As you do this, constantly mark and reward them for staying still and tolerating your ministrations.
Once they tolerate your touch, introduce the tools. These can be nail clippers, a toothbrush, slicker brush, etc. Start with short sessions; ie clip one nail, remove the clippers, and reward. Brush a few strokes, remove the toothbrush and reward. Run the brush for a few strokes down their back, remove, and reward.
When bathing your puppy, start with lukewarm water and no shampoo. Gently wet a rag, and run it in the direction of the dog’s coat. Gently towel dry them, and run a blow-dryer on low heat in the direction of their coat. Depending on their coat type, dogs can be bathed an average of once a month.
Feeding Your Puppy
Puppies need to eat three times a day, and they should be fed high-quality food. When choosing a puppy food, there are a number of things to look at. Make sure that the first few ingredients are meat or meat meal, and avoid corn and grains. You should also look at the guaranteed analysis to make sure that it meets all of your puppy’s nutritional needs.
Premium dog food is more nutrient dense than bargain brand, resulting in a smaller amount of food that gets the same results. Stable ingredient profiles mean cheaper brands may not be as nutritious as others.
When determining how much to feed your puppy, it’s best to consult breed-appropriate height and weight charts, and adjust their food intake accordingly. Small, medium, large, and giant breed puppies develop at different rates, so it’s important to monitor your puppy and adjust their food intake as they grow.
The best way for you to do so is to not only determine how much they should eat, but also when their meal times are so that there isn’t any confusion on either end about what time dinner will be served! Consistency is key with puppies, and it’s important to keep in mind that they need a lot of food, so be prepared for the amount and frequency.
For example: if your puppy is six months old but still growing into their adult size (and therefore needs more calories), you should feed them three times per day instead of two or four. This will help ensure that your puppy grows at an appropriate rate for their breed and size.
Proper Puppy Play
Puppies need to play in order for their minds and bodies to develop properly. When playing with your puppy, keep things low-impact since they are still developing, both physically and mentally. Their bones and joints are not yet fully developed, so it’s best not to run a lot with them, or let them jump on and off furniture.
Games that incorporate repetitive jerking motions, jumping, and climbing often lead to bone and joint problems later in life. As a result, we recommend going easy on these types of activities.
When playing with your puppy, keep sessions short — ideally around 15-20 minutes. The idea behind this is that short sessions followed by downtime are best for your puppy’s current energy levels. After playtime, puppies often need an extra potty break due to all of the stimulation. Also, playing with your puppy right after eating is not a good idea, as you want to let them digest their food. If you don’t, they could develop gas, or bring their food back up!
When selecting toys for your puppy, make sure that they are soft, and built to accommodate teething . This will help prevent your puppy from chewing on inappropriate items, and also protect their teeth. The best toys for puppies are those that have a variety of textures to explore (such as soft plush with squeakers). Avoid buying hard plastic or metal objects because they can cause tooth damage.
Always supervise your puppy when they have toys, and take them away when they show signs of chewing or biting too hard. This will help prevent your puppy from developing bad habits, and also protect their teeth.
Potty Training Your Puppy
When potty training your puppy, there are a few rules to keep in mind. First, make sure that you take your puppy outside to potty at least every two hours (more often if they are young). A good rule of thumb is that in the first year, for every month of a dog’s age, they can “hold it” for that number of hours. So for example, if you have a 4-month-old puppy, they can go out every 4 hours for a potty break.
When taking your puppy out to potty, the best times to do so are after they wake up, after they eat, and after playtime. Always praise them when they do their business, and make sure that you separate potty time and play time — never confuse the two!
You can also use the “watch and wait” method, where you watch for signs of needing a bathroom break such as sniffing around or circling before taking them out again. Remember to be patient with housebreaking – it can take up to six months for a puppy’s bladder and bowels fully mature.
Always keep your pup on leash or in an enclosed area such as a crate or ex-pen when they are not supervised so that you can catch them before accidents happen!
Another good practice is restricting your puppy’s water intake at night. Normally, dogs should have access to fresh clean water at all times. However, the rules change somewhat when you’re house-training a puppy. To prevent accidents overnight, it’s best to take up food and water bowls roughly 2-3 hours before bedtime. When removing the water, be sure to be consistent with the time, just as you are when feeding your puppy.
The key to successful house-training is consistency. With a solid plan and patience, your pup will soon be potty trained!
Looking To The Future
Bringing a new puppy into your life is exciting, and can also be scary and frustrating. Giving your puppy a proper foundation in life will strengthen the bond between you, and will set you both up for success!
If you have questions, or if you’d like help getting your puppy started off on the right paw, get in touch. We’d love to help you and your new pawtner!