It can be easy to forget that underneath all the fuzz and cuteness of your new puppy is a social animal looking for guidance. From the moment your pup arrives home, they are watching your every move and hanging on your every word, looking for cues about how to behave and navigate the new world around them. If not offered guidance from the start, pups are likely to fend for themselves and follow their animal instincts, which can lead to some aggravating and destructive behaviors.
The good news is that training a puppy is possible, and you can start doing it right now! Here we will offer some tips on how to approach puppy obedience training so that you can help your pup grow into a happy and well-mannered member of the family.
Tip #1: Train Yourself First
Training a puppy is hard work, and it can be even harder if you go into it unprepared. Before starting training with a new puppy, you need to understand how your puppy’s mind works, and adjust your personality accordingly.
If you see that your new puppy is shy, forceful commands might only make your new pal more nervous. If your new puppy is super confident, a laid-back attitude might not get much respect. Watch your puppy, evaluate their personality, and then figure out what kind of trainer you need to be. Each pup is different, and while some general rules can be applied to all dogs, the tone of training will be determined by your pup’s unique personality.
Tip #2: Be the Pack Leader
Dogs are pack animals by nature, and in every pack there must be an alpha. If you don’t step up and assume the alpha role, chances are that your puppy will, and this can lead to a whole host of problems. The truth is that your dog doesn’t want to be the pack leader -- they’d rather you take charge and lead them confidently through the world -- so assert yourself from day one and your puppy will probably fall right in line.
To be a pack leader, always remain calm and confident. Stand up straight, know your commands by heart, and make sure that your dog is looking to you for cues, not the other way around.
Tip #3: Practice Positive Reinforcement
Pups love and crave attention, even if it’s negative. If you ignore your pup while they are playing quietly but yell and chase when they nip or bark, you are training your dog that bad behaviors get attention and good behaviors go unrewarded. Fortunately, this is an easy situation to reverse. Begin positive reinforcement training by offering praise and treats when your pup is following commands or behaving in a way that you like, and completely ignore a pup who is engaging in unwanted behaviors (unless the pup is in danger). Positive reinforcement training is especially effective when housetraining!
Tip #4: Short and Sweet
Puppies have short attention spans, and when your pup starts chasing shadows instead of listening to your commands, it can be easy to get frustrated. This is why short and sweet training sessions are good for both you and your pup. They set your pup up for success and help you avoid frustration (which is good, because negative emotions can have a negative impact on training). Practice with your pup several times a day for a few minutes at a time, be patient, and take advantage of activities like walks and meals to reiterate commands.
Tip #5: It Takes a Village
Consistency is one of the most important factors in training a new puppy. If your pup will be growing up in a household with multiple people, it is important to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the tone of training, the pup’s boundaries, and the correct word and hand-signals for commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “down”. If not, you may end up with a confused pup who can’t tell right from wrong.
Tip #6: Socialize Your Social Animal
Socializing your puppy early teaches them that new people, new animals, and new environments are nothing to fear. Socialized puppies generally develop into less fearful, less aggressive, and happier dogs because they are confident and comfortable in the world. Socializing should be started between 3 and 12 weeks of age (make sure your pup has their vaccinations!) and can include everything from visits with new people and animals in your home, trips to the groomer, veterinarian, pet store, or friends’ homes, and puppy training classes.
Tip #7: Puppy Training Classes
Between the ages of 12 and 15 weeks is the perfect time to enroll your pal in a puppy training class. These introductory classes are usually a mix of basic training and socialization. Your pup will begin to learn important commands and good behaviors, like how to walk properly on a leash. Most classes also include confidence-building exercises, like running through a tunnel or jumping over a hurdle. And of course, the ever important playtime -- many classes offer your pup a chance to run around and meet new friends. Make sure that any class you enroll in is positive and not punishment-based.
Ready to start training your puppy? Remember to be patient and consistent! It may seem like hard work at times, but the reward -- a happy, loving, and obedient dog -- is well worth it.
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