In my training program, I will usually accept a puppy as young as 12 weeks old; in reality, though, puppy training starts the first day you bring a puppy home. The best way to correct bad behavior is to never let it start. No matter what a puppy does, you must be ready to interact properly or the puppy will learn the wrong things.
Adding a new puppy to your family a very exciting time, especially when anticipating all the fun that will be had playing and learning together. We daydream of playing fetch with a Frisbee in open fields, lazy days snuggling on the couch, and the unconditional love you share—those are the joys of all that’s good about owning a puppy.
But there’s more to having a puppy than those warm-and-fuzzy moments. Puppies are full of energy and curiosity, but they can also be exhausting and frustrating at times, too.
Armed with good information and understanding, the challenges of bringing a new puppy into your home will be more successful and less stressful for the both of you.
Off to the Right Start
Unfortunately, a bad start is why we find many adolescent dogs in rescue groups and shelters.
The parts we MUST get right concentrate on adjusting your puppy into your life and not the other way around. Routines and consistency are reassuring to puppies.
Teach your new puppy daily routines and designated areas for activities—that might include where their food and water bowls are, what time they will eat, where and when they will sleep, where their toys are, and most importantly where they will go to the bathroom.
There’s a misconception that it doesn’t matter how you teach this stuff. Don’t fall for it—teaching these routines truly does matter. If you use the right teaching method, your puppy will be well behaved and happy to let you decide what he can and can’t do in your family. If you use the wrong teaching techniques, however, your puppy will begin making decisions about how he wants you to fit into his life. That’s where the root to almost all behavior issues begin.
First Things First
Reinforcements are the most important lesson early on in a puppy’s life. How does your puppy know if you are pleased with what he has done or, more importantly, how do he knows when you are displeased?
“Good Dog,” “Gunter Hund” or whatever words you choose for positive reinforcement should be said in a high and pleasing tone. “No,” “Nay” or “Nein” should come out low and grumbly.
Teach your puppy the words you are going to use—the puppy hasn’t passed English 101, so he’ll need these vocal cues explained. Do that by using the tone of voice inflections appropriate to the situation and positive or negative body language.
If your puppy is older than 2 or 3 months and hasn’t learned “No” and “Good,” start with these words, as you’ll need them to be solidly ingrained before you can expect success with other word training. This is the first step in the right direction.
Set boundaries early and do not us the excuse of “he’s just a puppy.” What your puppy learns now will be repeated when he is much larger and stronger. We want our dogs to listen to our commands out of respect, not fear of being punished. A puppy that is taught to respect you will pay close attention to your cues and shower you with affection. Without proper respect, your puppy might learn words and routines but choose not to do them. I’m sure you know dog owners who say their dogs “understand” them but won’t do what they say—I see this on almost every enrollment form that comes through my facility.
The fact is, this isn’t intelligence: it’s disrespect. It can be traced to improper training right from the beginning.
Respect training is not something you can get “almost” right. You must get it completely, consistently right in a way the dog understands.
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2017 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.