Behaviour training for your puppy

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Puppies aren't born with good behaviour built-in

Your new puppy didn't come with good behaviour included. Granted, the breeder may have introduced some initial toilet training, but the way your pet behaves is entirely up to you. The good news is that puppies are quick to learn, so the sooner you start training the better. If you follow some basic rules, you're in for a rewarding relationship with your pet for years to come.

Always reward good behaviour

Whenever your puppy does something good naturally, make sure you give a reward. Although dogs of any age react positively to rewards of praise or food or both, when a puppy is rewarded, it will ensure that in the future, they'll be "good" again. But timing is of the essence; the reward must be given within a few seconds, or your puppy might link it to another type of behaviour rather than the one you intended.

Bad behaviour: do you prevent it or ignore it?

Actually, the answer is both.

Take chewing, for example. It's something you should expect your puppy to indulge in, as part of the exploration of surroundings and the discovery of new things. The reasons for chewing may vary, but they range from boredom and teething, to attention seeking and the stress felt at being left alone.

Favourite objects to chew include pillows, shoes and items of furniture such as chair legs, so it's important that you teach your puppy what they can and cannot chew. After all, they aren’t born with a “mustn't chew the kids' slippers" gene.

As well as denying access to areas where damage might be done, in the early weeks, you should also provide chew toys. When they chew one of these, lavish praise and let them get on with chewing.

And when chewing the wrong things? Ignore it. That's right, ignore the 'bad' behaviour; no shouting, no smacking, no angry face. Just pretend your puppy isn't there and they'll soon get the message.

Sometimes you have to ignore the "ignore" rule

Of course, there may be occasions when ignoring your puppy's bad behaviour can be downright dangerous. For example, you might catch them trying to chew through a live electric cable. They don't know it's wrong or dangerous, but you must step in and say "No". You don't have to shout or have a prolonged go; a short, sharp "no" should be enough to get their attention. When they stop and you have their attention, praise and reward with a treat.

Don't let barking drive you mad

Did you know that, as puppies reach maturity at around 6 or 7 months, they begin to guard naturally? Well, they do, and owners who don't know this and encourage their pets to bark end up with a dog that'll bark at every opportunity, and you won't be able to control it later.

So if you want a quiet contented life with your dog later, don't encourage your puppy to bark. That's not to say they'll ignore any serious threats; they'll react naturally, without being taught.

And please, don't encourage or reward excitable barking. When barking with excitement when about to go out for a walk, stand still and ignore them. When quiet, continue with your walk preparation.