How to train a puppy is one of the most common questions raised by new dog owners. You have just brought this new creature into your lives and before too long you realize that unless you do something about it, his boisterous, carefree puppy ways are going to turn into a real headache when he is five times his current size and weight.
With that in mind, the following are what I consider the ten most important principles to take into account when training a puppy.
The Ten Principles of Puppy Training
- utilize the first three months of the puppy’s life to shape the puppy’s behavior. This time should be spent teaching the puppy where it can and can’t go in your house, getting the puppy into a routine so that it knows its boundaries and potty training the puppy.
- Don’t start formal obedience training with your puppy until it has reached at least three months of age. Your puppy goes through a drastic change during his first three months where the central nervous system is developing. A puppy will not be able to understand or cope with formal obedience training before then.
- When you do start formal obedience sessions at three months of age do not make the sessions any longer than four to five minutes long. Break the sessions up so that your puppy never becomes bored and ensure that you make the sessions happy so that your puppy is left wanting more. This is crucial.
The Most Important Commands
- At 3 months of age concentrate on the three most important commands, ‘down’, ‘stay’ and the command that I consider is by far the most important-‘come’. (The come command is crucial, it can save your dog’s life). The way to introduce these commands is as follows: “Whenever your dog sits or goes into the down position on its own free will, simply state the command ‘sit’ or ‘down’ to coincide with the action”. Likewise, whenever you walk away from your puppy and want the puppy to remain where it is, simply state the command ‘stay’.
You can even do this before the puppy is 3 months old because you are not putting any pressure on the puppy. When the puppy is 3 months old it will then be ready to associate the command with the action in formal obedience sessions.
Praising and Rewarding the Puppy
- Never yell at, hit punish or scold your puppy during obedience sessions, this will only hinder your puppy’s learning by having a negative effect on his confidence. Instead, concentrate on positive reinforcement i.e. giving praise and/or a reward for completing the command. If the puppy does not do as you wish, simply withhold the praise and/or reward and move on.
- Use food rewards 100% of the time when you start formal obedience sessions with your puppy. However, slowly withdraw them to around one reward for every twenty commands over the coming six months. That way your puppy will always be motivated because he will never know when the next reward is coming and he will be looking for it.