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Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time for both of you, but teaching your new pet what behaviour is acceptable can be a busy job!
Before you get started, consider all the things you want your dog to know. Training should be about teaching your puppy the life skills they need to become good dog citizen. Basic commands to make your lives easier will include things like "sit," "down," "paw," "stay," or "come." You may also want to control or decrease your puppy’s barking and whining but remember that this is one of the ways your puppy communicates. It’s more important to understand and provide for your puppy’s needs so that they don’t feel the need to resort to barking or whining. Other behaviours that are important to teach puppies include toilet training, walking nicely on a lead, staying calm and relaxed, and not begging for food or jumping on worktops. Here are some tips to help you on your journey.
1. Enrol in puppy classes
The socialisation period in puppies is 4-16 weeks, so when you get your puppy at eight weeks of age, there’s not a lot of time to take advantage of this important developmental stage. Consider enrolling in a professional puppy class to make the most of this time. This will also give your dog the opportunity to socialise with other dogs and humans and help to prevent aggression or anxiety problems. The RSPCA recommends observing a class first and looking for positive signs like a calm environment, a small class size, reward-based training, and training methods tailored to each dog. You can also ask your veterinarian to recommend classes in your area.
2. Lead by example (with plenty of rewards)
New puppies are extremely motivated by rewards like treats, toys and physical affection. A reward-based training program is a great way to help your puppy develop the necessary life skills they need. However, you need to be mindful that too many treats can cause weight gain. Make sure to use very small treats and slowly reduce the frequency of treats once your pup has learnt the verbal commands. Use lots of verbal praise to reinforce good behaviour and strengthen your bond.
3. Consistency builds habit
When you get a new dog, it’s important to start training as soon as they arrive. It's a great way to get to know each other and it helps establish good habits in your new shared living space. When toilet training your puppy, the most important thing is consistency. Dogs are creatures of habit, so the more consistent you are, the easier it will be for them to learn. When you are consistent, clear and kind in your training, you’ll help your puppy to enjoy learning and build confidence.
4. Consult a professional
If you feel unsure about training a puppy on your own, connect with a specialist who can give you some valuable training tips. Make sure the trainer who's educating your new puppy has trustworthy credentials and a training philosophy based on up-to-date science.
5. Have fun and be patient with your puppy
The most important thing to keep in mind while training your four-legged friend is to be patient and positive. Your pup is learning so many new things about the world, so it can be difficult for them to remember everything. The PDSA points out that telling off or using punishment can be confusing for the puppy and may even reinforce negative behaviours, so it’s best not to focus on mistakes at all. Being understanding, calm and encouraging is a much better way to teach them to follow the rules.
Training a new dog can be challenging, but with a little patience and a positive attitude, it can be a wonderful time in both of your lives!
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform and even transform its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.
Reviewed by Dr. Aileen Pypers