How to Train Your Puppy
Just like humans, dogs are social animals naturally accustomed to living in “packs.” Your puppy will be a member of your family, and it’s up to you to learn how to train your puppy and teach him the rules of the house to abide by. He’ll come to respect the rules you lay out for him. All it takes is for you and your family to lead the way. Read on to learn how to get started and discover some great puppy training tips.
Creating good habits
To stop any of your puppy’s inappropriate behaviour, follow these basic steps:
- Use a low-pitched, serious voice to get your puppy’s attention. Say “ahhh!” This will startle him, make him stop what he is doing and look to you for further direction.
- Distract him or provide an acceptable behaviour to partake in.
- Praise correct behaviour. In an upbeat, high-pitched voice say “good puppy!” and reward him with calm petting or a treat.
How to train a puppy using positive reinforcement
Your puppy has a lot to learn, and it may take him some time to learn the ropes. It’s important that you show him positive reinforcement along the way. Many people opt to punish their puppy during training when he does something “wrong.” However, it’s better to motivate him through praise or petting him when he follows the rules.
If you find that using praise is not enough to motivate him, using treats in moderation or playing fetch as a reward is a good alternative. By using positive reinforcement during training, your puppy will learn to associate training time and behaving well with praise, affection or treats. This positive association will also make your pet want to listen to you and behave well.
Puppy training tips
These are some basic guidelines on how to train a puppy. Remember, every puppy is different so you may have to change things up to get your training technique to work. If your puppy doesn’t seem to be making progress, you may want to seek out a qualified puppy trainer or behaviour professional.
The moment your puppy enters your home, you should start your training! Show him right from wrong on his first day with you, and continue to reinforce these rules as he grows up. When training make sure to:
- Use a neutral tone when saying your command.
- Praise your puppy in a high-pitched, yet calm voice so that he doesn’t get overexcited or distracted.
If you miss something in your training, don’t worry. Contrary to popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks! If you have any problems during training, make sure to talk to your veterinarian.
Be consistent and patient
You and your puppy have a strong connection, so clear and consistent communication is key when training him. Teach him positive actions by rewarding him and teach him “no” by guiding him to do the correct thing. It’s essential that you are explicit when teaching him right or wrong, otherwise, he’ll get confused.
Be firm, consistent and patient. Keep showing your puppy what to do until he responds, then praise him. If you’re not consistent, he won’t be either.
Giving your puppy a treat or kibble can be a good way to reward him for learning. However, your puppy has to work to earn that treat. This also should not be his only reward in the long-run. While it’s ok to start training with treats, you should gradually replace treats with praise. Pretty soon, praise will become the only thing your puppy needs to behave well.
Misbehaviour from your puppy is expected. Your puppy misbehaves because he thinks that it is okay to act that way. It is your job to teach him otherwise. Remember to catch him in the act and not to punish him for something he did in the past. He won’t know what you’re punishing him for unless you connect it to an action that occurred very recently.
Basic commands to teach your puppy
Here are some basic commands to get you started on your training journey with your puppy!
- Start by getting your puppy’s attention.
- Hold a piece of kibble in front of your puppy’s nose.
- Use the command “Sit.”
- As you say the command, draw the kibble towards the back of your puppy’s head, which will cause his back end to go down. As soon as he sits, give him the treat and praise him.
- Timing is important, so when you start training, give your puppy praise and the kibble as soon as his behind touches the floor. Be ready. You are trying to create a connection between the verbal command “sit” and the reward.
- Phase out the hand motion once your puppy is reliably sitting.
- Once you've got your puppy sitting, put your hand out flat in front of his face and give the command: "Stay."
- Slowly take one step away from him, but continue to face him.
- If your puppy gets up, step back towards him.
- If your puppy remains in the sitting position, reward him with a treat and praise.
- Repeat until your puppy stays put consistently.
- Now, try stepping back a step or two. If your puppy follows you, begin again, gradually increasing the distance, always while using the command.
- “Release” your puppy by asking him to come to you.
- Remember to praise, but do it calmly. Too much enthusiasm excites him and makes it difficult to stay.
- Start by getting your puppy in the sitting position.
- Hold a piece of kibbe in front of your puppy's nose.
- Move the kibble down to the ground, just in front of his front paws, then pull the treat slowly out along the ground, as if you are drawing an ‘L’ with the treat. With the treat in your hand, your puppy is likely to follow.
- As your puppy lies down, say “down” and praise him calmly.
- Attach your puppy’s leash to his collar.
- Back a few steps away with a toy while still facing your puppy. You may need to put your puppy in a sit or stay position to get away.
- Command him to come, and then praise him calmly.
- Start extending the distance and remove the leash when your puppy seems to have learned the command.
- If you can, burn off your puppy’s energy by playing before going on a walk.
- As you walk with your puppy on his leash tightly by your side, say “heel,” and start walking.
- Give him slack gradually. When your puppy is walking at your side, interact with him (make eye contact) and you can give treats and praise when he does it correctly. When your puppy finds himself behind you, he'll run to catch up. Engage with him and make it fun.
- Praise him warmly when he catches up.
- You can practice sitting and also work with him in small clockwise circles or figure eights. This encourages him to pay attention.
Things to note
- You can start working on the sit command with puppies as young as seven weeks of age and work your way up from there.
- Mealtime is a great chance to reinforce training. When it is time for his meal, call him to his feeding area and ask him to sit before letting him eat.
- Don’t scold your puppy or use a threatening tone when he does something wrong. This will