Never underestimate a puppy’s ability to learn. Whether you know it or not, you started training your puppy the moment you brought them home!
Since pups are rarely taken from their mothers before 6 weeks (and more often, not before 8 weeks), their training, in fact, began before you even met.
It’s never too early to train
In addition to socialisation, it’s never too early to begin training other behaviours with a puppy.
These range from shaping natural behaviours like elimination, to fitting into our human world better, to teaching a pup their name and basic commands.
This list can help guide you in the first weeks and months of puppy training.
For obvious reasons, this one is an essential and, while I could write an entire article just on the nuances of how to house train a puppy, it all distills to three simple steps.
- Celebrate and reward when your pup pees or poops in the correct location.
- If your pup goes in the wrong location and you SEE it happen, calmly interrupt them and immediately bring them to the correct location. If you do not see your pup have an accident, clean it up and hope to catch the next one. No amount of scolding will communicate that you did not like where they chose to go to the toilet.
- Supervise, supervise, supervise! The more accidents your pup has that you don’t see happen, the more they learn that sometimes it’s okay to go in the house.
Puppies have a natural inclination to protect the things they love including food, toys and friends.
Taking objects away from your puppy when they are in the middle of enjoying them only teaches them to guard these objects, not to give them up.
Instead, try redirecting your dog to another object in order to remove the first or trade them for something of high value.
Puppies explore the world with their mouths, which means those razor sharp little teeth are never too far away. If your pup gets forceful with their nipping, let them know.
Exclaim “ouch” and remove the body part they are chewing on for about 30 seconds.
If that doesn’t calm them, after your next “ouch,” completely separate yourself from your pup for 30 seconds to see if they are willing to calm down.
Basic obedience training
Puppies can learn all of the basic cues that older dogs can— from down to shake to roll over. Start with the two foundational behaviours of “focus” and “sit.”
To build focus, try the name game:
- Say your dog’s name in a happy tone of voice.
- When puppy turns towards you, say “Yes!” and reward them.
- With a little practice, your dog will learn not only their name but that when you call them, you require their attention.
To teach sit:
- Begin by holding your hand flat with palm facing up. In the tips of your fingers hold a tiny treat right at your puppy’s nose.
- Slowly raise the hand above your puppy’s head. For their nose to follow the treat, it is most natural for them to lower their body into a sit.
- As soon as that bum hits the ground, say “Yes!” and release the treat.
Try this five times then try the same thing with no treat in your hand (still rewarding afterward).
Puppies will miss you when you’re gone, and are prone to destructive behaviours or excessive barking if they get lonely. Crate training helps, as does creating a “puppy zone,” and providing your puppy with lots of exercise, chew toys, and socialisation. A Rover dog sitter can give your puppy the activity she needs during the day, and help you feel better about being gone.
- 8 Tips to Socialise Your Dog with Other Dogs and Humans
- Don’t Call it ‘Treat Training’: Why and How to Use Rewards in Dog Training
- Bell Training for Dogs: It Really Works. Here’s How.
- Our Top 8 Healthy Training Treats
Featured image: Zoom Room Redondo Beach