Who doesn’t love a new puppy? Fun, soft and adorable, a puppy can instantly bring smiles to our faces.
Until, of course, that first squat and pee on the rug. Uh-oh — we’ve got some training to do.
But it’s not all just teaching commands. Helping your puppy get the hang of how things go in your household can create a beautiful and trusting bond between you both.
Here are 4 essential puppy training tips:
1. Be Consistent
You can’t change the rules midway through a puppy’s training or growth without expecting confusion. He’s learning his behaviors from you, but if your training or expectations change dramatically, he won’t do well.
Trainer and behaviorist Beth Jeffery has encountered this in her work: “I once worked with a client who had an 8-month-old puppy who would not stay off the couch. When I probed a bit deeper, I found out [the client] had always cuddled the puppy on her lap on the couch when he was little. Now that the puppy was a 70-pound Rottweiler, she no longer wanted him on her couch. The dog simply could not understand why the rules had changed.”
As a pet sitter who sometimes has other people’s dogs in my home, I can tell you from experience that this is the case. My rule: No dogs in the bed (I’m not mean — I just have a small bed). However, when I have clients’ dogs who stay over and who are allowed in bed at home, we often have a little dominance struggle.
Decide what your rules are and be consistent — it’s as simple as that.
2. Practice Patience
Training a puppy is frustrating. However, when you lose your temper, he won’t know why — all he knows is you’re yelling and your body language is angry.
If you’re working on potty training, these negative reactions may actually cause just what you’re trying to avoid — submissive urination. Dogs respond much better to calm, patient commands and body language than they do to scolding.
In a related article here on Petful, Jonathan Klein, CDBC, CPDT-KA, emphasizes this point: “Let me put this in no uncertain terms: Time and again it has been shown that training with pain, fear and corrections can damage your dog. What’s more, it has lasting repercussions that in many cases are dangerous to others around your dog.”
If you start to lose your cool in a training session, take a break. Get your emotions under control so your pup can effectively learn right from wrong.
Playtime is super important — in fact, your puppy should see how you play. This way, he can get the hang of it and join you in unabashed fun.
You can even masquerade training as playtime with your pup. In her book Play With Your Dog, author Pat Miller offers game and activity ideas through which you and your new pooch can bond:
- Find it: Hide a toy or a treat and tell Banjo to, well, find it.
- Digging: Designating a special area for this can help curb problematic digging.
- Running or chasing: Try it so your pup is both being chased and can chase you.
- Monkey in the Middle: Enlist a friend or family member to play a round of catch with a toy while Bella tries to intercept it.
These activities include an important benefit: bonding time. Spending time with your puppy doing things that you both find fun gets some extra training time in while deepening the trust between you.
One other great benefit to playtime is physical exercise. Dogs — especially the high-energy breeds — need to expel their energy somehow. Otherwise, they can become destructive or overweight.
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4. Treat Your Dog Like a Dog
We tend to attribute human traits to our dogs. It’s natural to think your puppy feels guilty when you come home to a capsized trashcan because you would feel guilty, right? But your puppy isn’t reacting to the situation — he’s reacting to your body language and tone of voice.
“Clients often tell me, ‘My dog knew what he did wrong when I came home and found he tore up the couch, and felt really guilty.’ Nope, that’s not the case,” says Jeffery. “Your dog doesn’t know why you’re unhappy; that look of guilt people think they see is simply a reaction to your change in attitude at that moment.”
So during your puppy training, remember: Be patient, watch your body language, be consistent and play! You’ll soon have a well-trained best friend who has bonded to you and trusts you absolutely.
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