Puppy Training Basics

Hey there!

Sorry it has been so long since I last wrote anything! I have been getting quite a few questions from recent puppy adopters about some of the basics so that is what I will be writing about today. I mean really, who doesn’t love a puppy?

Bathtime!

First of all I want to mention a common mistake that is made by puppy owners. Teaching your puppy to shake a paw is SO easy right? However, puppies lack the impulse control to really learn what shake a paw means. Therefore, your puppy will just paw at you until they get something and will continue to do so as they get older, and bigger. This may be cute when they are pawing at you until a young kid comes by and gets pawed in the face…Generally I won’t teach a dog shake a paw until they have good impulse control. Sometimes this can be at 8 months, and sometimes it won’t be until a year and a half.

Ok let’s get started on the good stuff!

Keys to Successful Training

  • Patience – Be patient while training your dog. If you are feeling frustrated, take a break. Your dog will feed off of your energy and thrive in a calm, supportive setting. It is best to train a specific behavior in short periods of time, I usually suggest 3 – 5 minute sessions an evening, and make sure to end on a positive note.
  • Set them up for success – Always start your training in an environment where you are confident your dog will be 100% focused on you. By setting your dog up for success, they will get a better understanding of what you want them to do and thrive.
  • Continually train – Your dog is always learning, therefore you are always training. It can take a dog hundreds of repetitions before learning a behavior. This means that outside your regular training sessions, make sure to always reinforce wanted behavior.
  • Consistency – Dogs thrive on consitency and structure. You need to be reinforcing the behaviors you want every time and make sure that everyone else in the household is as well. If you train your dog not to be on the couch, but your kids always let him onto the couch, your dog will become confused and not know what you want him to do. Consitency is key in successfully training any dog.
  • Using the right rewards – Make sure to find a reward that your dog goes crazy for. This may be a certain type of food, toy, bone, or attention. When using food, toys, or bones, make sure to only let your dog have this during training times, this will make him more motivated to please.
    Food rewards should only be the size of half of your pinky nail, regardless of the size of your dog. Make sure to account for these in your dog’s daily food intake as you will be using a lot of them and do not want to be overfeeding.

House Training

House training can sometimes be tricky, but with some consistency and patience, your pup will get it in no time! There are 2 focuses when house training, to teach the pup to go to the bathroom where you want them to go, and to discourage them from going where you don’t want them to go. Make sure to get an enzyme based cleaner to eliminate the odor if they do happen to go on the carpet, I recommend Nature’s Miracle found at most pet stores.

Until your pup is house trained, you will need to be watching them at all times. Either have them tethered to you, or contained when you can’t be watching (in a kennel or gated area).

  • As soon as you see your foster sniffing and walking around an area, get them outside! Use an excited voice “Come on, let’s go outside!”
  • Once they go to the bathroom outside, make a big deal of it and give them a few treats.
  • REMEMBER if your foster has already gone inside, there is no point in yelling at the pup, or forcing their face into the mess. This will just cause the pup to develop fear issues towards you, or certain places in the house.
  • Once your dog is doing really well at house training, start giving them a little more freedom. If you are in the living room, let them be loose in that room. You can close off spaces with baby gates or x-pens if you need to.
  • REMEMBER set them up for success! Don’t give them freedom too fast as you do not want them to go backwards in the training process!
  • REMEMBER some dogs will go to the bathroom more than once. Just because your foster just went to the bathroom outside, does not mean that you can let them loose in the house. They could go inside a minute later!Bathroom Schedule:
  • As soon as they come out of the kennel, make sure to not give them a chance or they will go where they stand!
  • Before going back into the kennel
  • After a nap
  • After play time
  • 5-10 minutes after eating/big drinks of water
  • Ideally, your foster pup should be going outside every 1-2 hours while you are home
  • REMEMBER, the more freedom you give your pup and the more opportunities they have to go to the bathroom in the house and the harder it will be to train them to go outside.

Nipping

Nipping is a normal stage for your puppy to go through. Puppies explore with their mouths, so it is up to you to let them know what is okay to chew on and what is not. Nipping can also be brought on by teething pains, similar to a human child. To alleviate this pain, you can freeze a wet towel or some teething toys for them to chew. Make sure to have A LOT of acceptable toys and bones around that your foster is allowed to chew on. Dollarama has a great selection of affordable chew toys for puppies.

  • Start out the training right, teach them what you want them to do rather than showing them what not to do.
  • Start by rewarding calm behavior. During play times with your foster, don’t engage the pup until they are sitting and being calm.
  • Completely ignore them if they are jumping at you, even you telling them “no” and pushing them away is giving them what they want: attention. During play times, stop them, wait for calm and then start to play again. A tug toy is a great tool for teaching these behaviors.
  • If your dog is consistently nipping at your heels, try going into a room for 30 seconds, coming out, and rewarding for calm behavior.Or put them in a “positive time out” in the kennel to calm down with a treat or toy.
  • Have A LOT of toys for them to chew on. Different options to redirect them from chewing on your hands, clothes, and other items.
  • Train “LEAVE IT” and “DROP IT”

Nipping

Leave It

  • Start with some treats. Put a treat in a closed fist, once the dog stops sniffing and trying to get the treat out, use your verbal marker, “YES” or click and reward FROM YOUR OTHER HAND. You will never be giving your dog the “leave it” treat. REMEMBER to do this as soon as they, even for a second, back off.
  • Once the dog is consistently leaving the treat alone, start to add the verbal cue “leave it”
  • Once the dog understands the term “leave it”, you can up the criteria using an open hand.
  • Does your dog have that down pat? Now move onto putting food or toys on the floor, “leave it” and then releasing them with your release command. “OK”, “BREAK”, “FREE”, or whatever you have chosen to use.

If you are feeding your dog off of the counter while cooking dinner, or off of your plate while eating, it is making your dog to think that there are treats for him on there, therefore causing him to beg or counter surf. Giving your dog treats from your dinner is OK as long as you wait until you are done eating, and give it to them in their dish or away from the eating situation. REMEMBER that your dog is always learning and you are always training! Once your dog gets really good at leave it, start adding it into your walks when he is trying to eat something he shouldn’t, or is barking at a dog walking past.

Drop It

  • Start with some treats. Say “DROP” and drop a few treats on the ground. Make sure to point to the treats so your dog gets used to your hand being near whatever he is dropping. Do this 5-10 times in a row.
  • If your dog loves toys, start with something that isn’t his favorite. “DROP” drop the toy, pick it up, and give him a treat. If your dog picks up the toy, say “DROP” and offer him something better in return when he drops it.
  • Now, give the toy to your dog. Say “DROP” and offer him something better, either a high value treat, or toy he likes more.
  • Continue to go through these exercises using objects/food of more value to him. If he ever stops dropping the toy, back up a few steps.

Jumping

Jumping is similar to nipping. You always want to set your pup up for success and reward them for the behavior you want. Pushing them down is also rewarding them because they want attention. They jump up to be closer to your hands and face, they are also used to getting treats from above them. Consistency here is key. Make sure the whole family and any visitors now not to give the puppy ANY attention when they are jumping up.

  • Walk away from the puppy, as they come up to you put a treat on the ground in front of them before they have a chance to jump up. This is teaching the puppy that good things come when they stay on the ground.
  • Now continue to walk around and as the pup gets to you, treat on the ground. Continue this for about 3- 5 minute sessions a day.
  • REMEMBER if the pup starts to jump on you, wait them out and reward on the ground when they stop.
  • Make sure to have treats at the front door when you come home or guests come over!
  • If your puppy gets MUCH too excited when people come over, put them in a room or their kennel when they first come. After your guests get settled, let the puppy out and make sure they treat him on the ground and do not give him any attention when they are jumping up or nipping. You can even have your puppy on leash and reward him for calm behavior, ask for sits, etc…..

Well folks this is a great starting point for all you new puppy owners out there! What is my NUMBER ONE RECOMMENDATION FOR PUPPY OWNERS you ask?!?!? Enroll your puppy in a socialization class!!!!!!! Your puppy is at SUCH a pivotal age where anything can change how he sees the world. Socialization is super important to get your puppy used to new people, sounds, objects, surfaces, etc…As well as to teach them focus and basic obedience. Send me an e-mail if you are interested in enrolling your pup in my upcoming classes desiree.mckay@gmail.com or look for a positive reinforcement trainer near you!

Do you have a puppy? What has been the hardest part about training? Let me know in the comments below!