The day you bring home a new puppy is a day filled with excitement, hopes and dreams. Prior to making the decision to welcome a new member to the family you probably visualized what your life would be like with your new companion – a welcome greeting when you come in the door, long walks in the park or runs on the beach, a playmate for your children, a hunting companion or a show dog. Whatever your vision, it most likely involved a well-trained dog.
Training your new puppy is an essential part of responsible dog ownership and begins even before you bring your puppy home. Determining the house rules should occur when deciding to add a new family member. Will Fido be allowed on the furniture? Will he sleep in your bed or in his crate? Are there areas of the house that are off-limits? Always remember, a behavior that may be cute in a tiny puppy, may not be so cute or welcome in a full-grown dog.
Now that your puppy is at home, consistency in training becomes critical. Consistency builds habit and you want your dog to have good habits. Puppies can begin very simple training at about 8 weeks of age. You can begin teaching basic commands such as come, heel, sit, stay or lay down at 12-16 weeks of age. Keep your training simple, no more than 1-2 commands at a time. Limit training to 5-10 minutes a session to start. As your puppy ages, training sessions can become longer. Ensure that everyone that works with your puppy does so in a consistent manner – a command should have only one desired result.
Always use positive reinforcement. Puppies respond better to positive reinforcement than to correction. A firm “NO!” is usually enough correction for most puppies. Shouting or hitting will not help your puppy learn. Dogs learn by association, so reward the behaviors you want to encourage. Rewards can be praise, puppy food or a treat or both. The behavior should produce the reward; the reward should not produce the behavior. This is the fine line between bribery and reward. Remember, you will get the behaviors that you reinforce, not necessarily the behaviors that you want. If your puppy brings a toy, barks, and you throw the toy you will be encouraging your puppy to bark when he wants to play fetch.
While sit, stay, shake, lay down and heel are well-known commands that you want your dog to learn, remember to teach your dog how to be alone. Dogs are pack animals and this may be the first time your puppy has been alone. Create a safe confinement area. This can be as simple as a crate or exercise pen. Help your puppy associate this area with good things. You can place a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel with a ticking clock to simulate the warmth and heartbeat of his mother or siblings. Set aside special toys he only gets when he is in this area. If there is sufficient room, his meals could be located in this area. If the area is large enough you may want to get in and play with him here. Begin by closing your puppy in his confinement area and quietly walking out of the room. Return immediately and reward him with praise and a treat. Repeat the process several times, gradually lengthening the amount of time you are away. Confinement in the crate or exercise pen is only temporary. Once your puppy is confident on his own, understands potty training and the rules of behavior, you can start giving him more access while you are away.
In order to support your puppies brain development while he is learning PetAlive® has developed Brain Health™ for Puppies. This herbal supplement is specially formulated to support brain health as your puppy grows and learns. The certified organic ingredients selected for this formula have high nutritional content, support the cardiovascular system, alertness and memory functioning. PetAlive® Brain Health™ for Puppies provides a foundation for healthy brain function from now through their senior years.
While there are many, many more tips and tricks to training your puppy, with consistency, positive reinforcement, patience and praise you can raise the well-trained dog of your dreams!
BY MARY ELLEN KOSANKE