5 Puppy Training Musts
By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
When you first get a new puppy, it’s all fuzz and snuggles, but after a few days most puppies start to seem like destructive little monsters that’ll never be so much as house broken, let alone well-behaved, mellow dogs. These five musts of puppy training will help to ease those wild puppy days, and help you raise a well-mannered pooch of whom you can be proud.
1. House Training
House training is a lot easier than a lot of people make it out to be. There are three major points that make house training a breeze—consistency, supervision, and proper cleaning,
Keep your puppy on a consistent feeding schedule and half the job is already done for you. A consistent feeding schedule will regulate his bowel movements so you will know when he has to go. Consistently take him out right after he has just woken up, been in his crate, or been playing. Also, when you take him outside, always use the same words to tell him it is time to go, and make sure everyone who takes him out does the same. He will learn what “go potty” means quickly, as long as you don’t switch up your commands.
If you always have your eyes on your dog when he is out of his crate, you will know when he has to go. Watch for sniffing around and that awkward “gotta go but don’t quite know where” look (if you’ve ever raised a puppy, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you’ll understand soon) and get him right outside. If you catch your pooch before he ever goes in the house, he’ll understand much faster that outside is where you go potty. If you have a hard time telling when he has to go at first, but still watch him like a hawk, you’ll catch him in the act every time. When you catch him, make a loud noise (but not too loud, you don’t want to scare the little pooch) which will stop him, and take him outside until he finishes.
Improper cleaning is one of the most common hindrances in the house training process. On a porous surface, like wood or carpet, it may look like you’ve cleaned up thoroughly with a little soap and water, but you might be mistaken. Smells are left behind when your puppy goes potty which encourage him to use that spot again. If you use an enzyme cleaner (or a half and half solution of water and white vinegar) it will eat away at the organic substances that your pooch can smell and leave the area completely clean.
2. No Jumping Up
One of the most common and frustrating behavior issues in dogs is the problem of jumping-up. At best it’s annoying and leads to dirty paw prints on your clothes; but it can also result in injuries and even legal issues. The biggest issue with jumping up is that dogs learn that it is ok when they are puppies, and only when they are bigger and stronger do their owners realize that it is a problem. One must remember that positive behavior is most easily shaped before negative behavior becomes a habit.
Teach your dog how to politely greet people from day one. When you get home and let your puppy out of his crate, do not pay him any attention if he is jumping on you. Ignore him completely until he is relaxed. Then greet him, give him lots of praise, and take him right outside. Make this the routine every time your dog gets out of his crate. If he’s out of his crate with your other family members when you get home, ignore him until he is calm and then reward him with praise and a little play time, or a treat.
Don’t forget to warn any visitors that you are in the process of training your puppy so they may not greet him, or pay him any attention at all (no matter how cute he is) until he has four on the floor.
3. Leave It
Leave It is an important safety and discipline command; Leave It tells your dog to get away from whatever has his interest at that moment. Use Leave It to keep your dog from stealing food off the table, stop bothering guests, and stop fixating on the dog next door, and stay away from that gross dead squirrel in the road. Whenever your dog turns his attention from the undesirable behavior to you, be sure to shower him with praise.
Teaching your dog to Leave It is simple, but you have to enforce it every single time or you won’t be successful. Just like any other command you teach your puppy, if you don’t make him listen every time, he will think it is up to him to decide when he pays attention, and when he just does what he wants.
Start teaching him the command by finding two objects he will be interested in. Make sure one is much more enticing, so he’ll choose it over the other every time. I am extremely food-motivated, so my mom used a fun chew toy, and some pieces of cut-up hot dog to start. Keep the more exciting object (in this case, the hot dog) hidden so the dog doesn’t see it, and put the less exciting object (the chew toy) near the dog. As soon as the dog goes for the toy, say “leave it” and show him the hot dog. This teaches him that when you say “leave it,” it means don’t even worry about whatever you’re about to get into, what I have is far more interesting. Teach this behavior in short (five minutes or so) lessons a couple of times a day. Once your dog has it down to the point that he gets whiplash every time you say “leave it”, you can start scaling back the quality of the reward. Eventually you can dial it back to just giving energetic praise whenever your dog “leaves it.”
4. No Biting
Puppies mouth and nip at their mother and littermates to communicate and play. Puppies learn something called bite inhibition from this behavior. When Puppy nips his littermates or mother too hard, they respond with a yelp, and in the mother’s case, often with a warning or correction. This is how they learn what’s too hard, and what is acceptable. Puppies who are weaned and taken away from their littermates too early do not get the chance to learn bite inhibition, so they will be more nippy and harder to train out of nipping.
Teach your dog that he may not ever lay teeth on human skin by using the same technique his doggy family used before he was weaned. Any time he touches his teeth to your skin, pull back and say “ouch!” and stop playing with him. He will learn quickly that teeth on skin means playtime’s over. Make sure no one in your family is engaging in counter-productive activities. Slap-boxing, teasing with hands, or playing other games that encourage the puppy to chase your hands makes your puppy think that putting teeth on people is ok.
5. Crate Training
If you’re looking for not just a housebreaking method, but are also interested in adapting your dog to a safe and confined environment for various safety and comfort reasons, crate training is for you.
Proper crate training teaches your dog that his crate is his “bedroom.” Just as a child will retreat to his room when scared, when he wants to be alone, or when he just wants some time to play with his toys, so does a crate trained dog. Dogs are den animals, so they crave that close, cozy space for comfort. Just think about a fox hole, it makes sense, right? It isn’t inhumane, cruel, or unfair--it’s natural.
To teach your dog to think of his crate as his comfort zone follow these easy steps:
-Put toys, something comfy like a crate mat, towel, or dog bed, and a couple of treats in the crate, and put it in a room the family spends a lot of time in with the door open. This will encourage the puppy to check it out.
-Feed puppy in front of the crate for several meals. Continue hiding treats and toys in the crate at random times throughout the day and leaving the door open. (Consider the phrase “for the next several meals” to mean, “until you can tell that he is completely comfortable at this stage”)
-For the next several meals, feed puppy with the food bowl just inside the door of the crate.
-For the next several meals, move the food bowl farther and farther into the crate until it reaches the back wall.
-If puppy is going straight into his crate without any timidity to eat his meals, next, try closing the door while he eats, but not latching it. If this goes over well, do it for the next several meals. If it doesn’t, back up a step.
-For the next several meals, latch the crate until he is finished eating, then open it immediately and let him out.
If you take it slow, these steps should have your dog completely comfortable in his crate in no time. Read a more in depth explanation of Crate Training.