5 Tips for TRAINING a NEW PUPPY
Although the arrival of a new puppy is an exciting time for any family, the training process isn’t always fun and games! Puppyhood isn’t just a cute phase in your dog’s life – it’s a key time in his development during which you can help to influence his character and temperament. Regardless of the specific area of training – whether socialization, toilet-training, preventing destructive behaviors – the key is to start as soon as possible, and preferably as soon as he arrives home. In general, most puppies leave their mother to go to new homes at approximately 8 weeks of age, and this is an ideal age to gradually start training them.
These five general puppy training tips will help to reduce the stress for all concerned:
1. Be Consistent
It is important that all members of the family are on the same page when it comes to the training process – this is will reduce your frustration, as well as your puppy’s confusion. If possible, discuss expectations as a group before he arrives. List a clear set of rules for your puppy, and be sure that everyone addresses the same situations, and also uses the same command words.
2. Be Specific
When possible, avoid general commands such as “no”. Instead, if your puppy jumps onto furniture, say “down” to more accurately convey what you expect from him. Positive reinforcement training can be a very effective accessory here too – this involves rewarding your puppy with praise, or occasionally a small treat, when he does something favorable. This can increase the likelihood of him repeating this behavior.
3. Be Gentle
Some of the keys to success in puppy training involve starting small, and respecting your puppy’s comfort levels. In general, short training sessions are also best to avoid frustration on either end of the leash! Start off with an easy training command, such as “sit”, and gradually build on each success. Always respect your puppy’s comfort zone too. Remember that everything is still new to him, and some situations may leave him feeling fearful. If he acts scared during training sessions, when meeting new dogs for example, be sure to end the session without any fuss or scolding. Once such triggers are identified, they need to be appropriately dealt with, maybe by careful, gradual exposure in future sessions.
4. Be Firm
In addition to being gentle, you must also be firm! It is very easy to give in and open the crate door for that cute puppy when he tilts his head, gazes at you adoringly, and then barks to get out; however, this just lets him know that barking is his way out! It is therefore important to avoid rewarding negative behaviors.
5. Be Patient
Puppy training takes time, patience and repetition. Although it can be frustrating to watch him make similar mistakes repeatedly, remember that your commands are new to him, and may go against his natural canine instincts. So try to be realistic and don’t expect him to automatically get things right immediately. If you learn to accept slip-ups as part of the puppy training process, it will definitely be a much less stressful experience for you.
Written by Dr. Parry ©August 5, 2011
Dr. Parry is a veterinarian working at MIT.