Puppy Training Essentials
March 1, 2011 -
New puppies are exciting. They are sweet, adorable bundles of joy and you want to hug them and squeeze them and love them forever. You show them off to friends and family and take them to the store to buy them things. That’s all good, but the best gift you can give your new puppy is training. Teaching your puppy how to live peacefully in this human world is the nicest thing you can do for your puppy and your family. Puppies don’t speak our language and they aren’t born knowing how to understand us. An early start to puppy training just makes the whole process easier.
When should you start? ASAP. Any time you and your puppy are together one of you is training the other. Make a conscious decision to make sure you are the trainer. This just means that you should be paying attention to your puppy when he’s doing good things. It also means that you should have taken steps to prevent inappropriate behavior from occurring. For instance: trash cans, shoes, and various other temptations should not be left available to the puppy. However, if you provide him with a chewbone and you see him chewing on it, you should praise him for that. Often people will take that opportunity of the puppy being occupied to do something else, but that teaches the puppy that he will get noticed if he chews on shoes, but not on chewbones.
Rewarding good behavior as it happens throughout the day isn’t the only training you’ll need to do. You can also start teaching all your basic obedience cues. Puppies are all about fun so make sure you are using positive reinforcement techniques. You can even use their kibble as treats and teach them to work for their food. Most formal puppy classes start no later than 10 weeks of age, so get them in as soon as possible. Hopefully your puppy was at least 8 weeks of age when you got him. He needs to be with his mom and littermates to learn important communication skills until then. Once he’s home with you though, it’s your responsibility to instill good manners. Spend those couple of weeks before training class getting him socialized and teaching him some of the basics.
Speaking of socialization… that is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of training. Well-socialized dogs communicate well, are more tolerant, feel comfortable in a variety of settings, and are much more enjoyable. You will need to focus on socialization throughout your dog’s life, but the biggest emphasis should be when they are young. Socialization is having positive interactions with lots of new people, places, and things. This means that most socialization cannot be achieved at home (since you don’t have many new things at home). Try not to get your puppy around many dogs of unknown vaccine history, but get them around all the dogs you can (if you know they are healthy). They should be exposed to other puppies and tolerant adult dogs. You also want to make sure they experience a variety of people, places, and things. A good goal is to introduce your dog to 100 new things in the first 100 days of life. Since you didn’t get them until after day 50, you better get movin’!
The other thing you’ll want to focus on with your new puppy is handling. Besides some basic obedience and lots of socialization, every dog needs to be comfortable being handled. Start early touching feet, toes, tails, ears, teeth, etc. Lots of puppies are mouthy so you might need to give them a chewbone before you start to handle them. Dogs get touched by humans their whole life, so let’s help them enjoy it as much as possible.
Puppies are adorable and fun. They are also a lot of work and a significant time commitment is required to turn them into well-mannered dogs you can be proud of. It’s all worth it though and the time goes by too fast. Take pictures every week; it’s amazing how much they change. Rather than think, “I can’t wait until they grow up” enjoy this part of their lives… you can’t ever get it back.