Puppies – cute, cuddly and curious – often get away with almost anything because we let them. Besides, who can resist those liquid, loving, puppy dog eyes? We often postpone puppy training because we are so busy fawning over the new guy, buying him nice stuff, petting him and showing him off. Although puppies need food, shelter and attention, you will also do well with the guy if you start puppy training immediately. This will help prevent unpleasant behavior in your new puppy and ensure that he develops habits that are healthy and acceptable.
First, prepare your home for your new dog. Put away objects that are sharp, breakable, toxic or dangerously edible, at least from your puppy’s point of view. Prepare the puppy bed or sleeping area, food and water bowls and toys. Make the puppy feel welcome, play with him, pet him but do not lavish too much attention. Let him get used to his environment first, then start the training.
In most cases, you will not need fancy equipment to start training your puppy, although a few essentials will be helpful, such as a leash, some old newspapers or puppy training sheets and treats. In general, the very first training session you may have to do is housebreaking. A puppy that is a few days or a few weeks of age is usually cared for by the mother who cleans up after him. As he grows older, however, he learns one irrevocable law of the pack and that is to never defecate or eliminate in the den. This is why your puppy is not likely to soil the area where he sleeps. The rest of the house, however, is fair game.
This is where you come in. It is your role as that puppy’s human to train him to develop the habit of eliminating at a designated area. As part of puppy training, bring or lead your puppy to that area, be it a corner of the home or apartment where the puppy litterbox is located or outside in the yard. Allow him to do his business there. If he strays elsewhere, gently lead him back to the exact area. Once he successfully eliminates where he is expected to, lavish praise and pet him gently. Repeat the process about 5 to 15 minutes after his meals. Soon, he will be able to learn the habit and go on his own without your guidance.
To Crate or Not to Crate
A crate confines your puppy during those times when no one is available to supervise and guide him. A crate is also helpful during puppy training because it helps him recognize a place where he will be safe. Start by introducing the crate to the puppy and fill it with his favorite toys and a comfortable sheet. Once he begins to make it a home, keep him locked for a few minutes while staying by his side. Let him out and repeat until he is comfortable enough in the crate to stay longer in it and even sleep in it.
Throughout your training, always use positive reinforcement to encourage and correct your puppy. Expect a few mistakes and some accidents here and there but don’t give up. Make the corrections gently and use praise and encouragement to let your dog know he is doing a great job. Use treats as rewards when teaching your dog new tricks. They love it and will associate the desired action with a pleasant feeling.
Why Socialization is Important
Many dog trainers emphasize the importance of early socialization as part of puppy training and this is for a good reason. Dogs who are isolated and have limited contact with other dogs and humans are more likely to be aggressive, fearful and distrustful. Quite simply, new sights, sounds and smells are suspect for your dog because they are unfamiliar. When your puppy is socialized, they become well-adjusted adult dogs. Some great opportunities for socializing include regular walks on leash, alone or with other members of your dog pack, play dates with other dogs or visits to dog parks. Your dog may even meet a new friend and look forward to those visits.