So you’ve got a new little bundle of joy! A little someone you’ve been waiting for a long time. A tiny little package of teeth, hair and energy that is heading for your new pair of leather shoes, and stopping to pee on the couch along the way. Wait a minute, what’s wrong with this picture?
It’s your new puppy! And it’s time to start training. Yes, from Day One.
So you’ve done your homework, researched your breed of choice, or perhaps visited your local Humane Society, and carefully chosen your pup. Hopefully you have already stocked up on the essentials, but if not, let’s start with the rock-bottom basic must-haves.
Sometimes called a kennel, a crate will be your puppy’s best friend, and your sanity saver. No, they aren’t cruel. Dogs will instinctively seek out a den, and when used properly, will be a perfect substitute. Equate a crate to a baby’s playpen. You would never let a crawling child have run of a dangerous room filled with electrical sockets, wires, choking hazards, and so on. You are protecting your child by confining them to a safe environment when you can’t watch them every second. Using the same methodology, a crate protects your puppy from hazards as well as enables them to succeed. How so? You are basically setting them up to succeed by crating. You unknowingly set a pup up to fail by allowing them to be unsupervised.
They might urinate on the floor because they have not learned otherwise; you find it, discipline the puppy, puppy has failed, and you have allowed it. Experienced dog people will tell you that if you discover an accident on the floor, you should get a rolled-up newspaper and smack yourself in the head with it for not supervising your puppy. Your puppy will not urinate in the crate, as dogs do not want to soil their den. When puppy cries, you immediately carry puppy outside, puppy goes, you praise wildly. The crate should NEVER be used as punishment. Your pup will enjoy going in and will seek it out on its own if it is a positive place. Don’t leave your puppy in a crate longer than 3 hours or so and only crate when you are not able to supervise him closely; he should be allowed to be part of the family’s routine right away. During the night, place the crate near your bed where you will be able to easily hear him when he wakes up to go potty.
Books, books and more books
You can’t read enough about training your new buddy. The number one thing to remember here is that your puppy relies on you to teach him. He doesn’t know he’s not supposed to eat your shoes. He doesn’t know he’s not allowed to jump on visitors. He doesn’t know he’s not supposed to sink his needle-sharp baby teeth into your thumb. Which leads us to..
Teaching NO BITE! Puppies bite; puppies chew. Puppies teethe and have painful teeth and gums. There are two main reasons a puppy bites or nips: teething, and play. Teething occurs at various times and they need to chew to relieve the pain. Never, ever allow your pup to gnaw on your hand like it’s a raw steak bone, gently steer him to an appropriate chew toy. Be sure you have a sufficient amount of safe chew toys available. Don’t ever give them an old shoe. Why? Because then you have told them shoes are okay for chewing on! During play, your puppy may nip at your hands or feet.
Again, this should never be acceptable because one day it won’t be cute anymore. Picture a full-grown dog snapping down on your joints, and you’ll quickly want to put an end to puppy nipping. If he nips at you, pull your hand away, say, No bite! and ignore him for a moment. Pet again and praise. Always praise, never strike. If you find you have a stubborn or very mouthy dog (Retrievers, for instance, are notoriously mouthy) you can use a spray deterrent that has a bitter taste, available at pet supply stores. Put some on your hands and they’ll take one lick and spit it right back out.
Manners, manners, manners
Your great-aunt Edna stops by to bring you a cheesecake. She exclaims, Oh! Look at this sweet puppy! Your puppy, excited beyond belief, plants both feet squarely on Auntie’s stockings and rips a hole right down the middle. Or worse, knocks Auntie backwards and begins scarfing down the cheesecake she dropped. What to do? First, leash your pup when guests come in. Teach your puppy to sit or he won’t get petted. This one is tough; instruct your guests not to fall for the cuteness. Insist they follow your No sit, no pet rule. If your puppy has difficulty with this one, as many do, utilize a friend or two to ring the doorbell and come in and out as often as possible, while you stand on the end of the leash.
Teaching sit is not difficult if you use this trick. Take a small treat and wrap your fingers around it. Slowly bring your hand up to puppy’s muzzle so he smells it, and carefully raise your hand up over his head so he is looking up at it. Use your dog’s name followed by Sit. Your pup should automatically sit back on his haunches, as he is looking up. Praise, praise, praise and give him his treat. You’ll be amazed at how quickly he will pick this one up.
Kindergarten isn’t just for children any more.
The tips given here are simply a start for you. Puppy Kindergarten, or Puppy K, is the single most important training you can do with your puppy. Puppy K will help you learn the techniques needed to safely and lovingly teach your puppy the basics. Equally important is the socialization your puppy will attain by being around other puppies and other people. Not to mention, it is plain old fun to go to Puppy K. Check your yellow pages or ask your veterinarian for a referral to a qualified dog trainer.
Make sure your new pal truly has the opportunity to become a valued, well-mannered part of the family. It’s ultimately up to you.