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Top Tips! How to Train your puppy

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You want your pup to reach her full potential, and this is where dog training comes in. Dorothy Veitch discovers how to bring out the best in man’s best friend
Photos Courtesy of Unsplashed

It’s clear that it’s never too soon to start training your dog. You should start teaching your puppy good habits the moment she comes home with you. Early training is important so that you can establish boundaries and gain better control over your dog through obedience. Start with short, less than fiveminute training sessions several times a day. Know too that, puppies need lots of positive exposure – socialisation – in their first few weeks. Aim for 100 positive exposures in the first 100 days. Without early socialisation, dogs may never reach their potential.

The best time to begin house training your puppy is when she is between 12 and 16 weeks old. At that point, she has enough control of her bladder and bowel movements to learn to hold it.

If your puppy is older than 12 weeks when you bring her home and she’s been eliminating in a cage, house training may take longer. You will have to reshape the dog’s behaviour with encouragement and reward.

Experts recommend confining the puppy to a defined space, whether that means in a crate, in a room, or even on a leash. As your puppy learns that she needs to go outside to do her business, you can gradually give her more freedom to roam about the house.

When you start to house train, follow these steps: Keep your puppy on a regular feeding schedule and take away her food between meals. Take her out to eliminate first thing in the morning and then once every 30 minutes to an hour. Also, always take your pup outside after meals or when she wakes from a nap. Make sure she goes out last thing at night and before she’s left alone.

Take your pup to the same spot each time to do her business. Her scent will prompt her to go. When your puppy eliminates outside, praise her or give her a treat. A walk around the neighbourhood is a nice reward.

Understanding canine behaviour is the key to becoming a better owner and trainer. You need to work with their natural drives and instincts, not against them. Many breeds exhibit behavioural traits common to their stereotypes but it is important to remember that regardless of breed, all dogs are individuals and training should be based upon their behaviour, not on what is expected of their breed.

The Positive Reinforcement training method works for all pups. Positive Reinforcement is any act that follows a behaviour that makes it more likely that the behaviour will occur again. A good example of this would be teaching a dog to ‘SIT!’ You lure the dog into a seated position with a treat and once her backside hits the floor, you deliver the treat. The dog soon learns that offering the behaviour requested, results in a treat. After the command has been learnt, the treats are phased out slowly.

Importantly too, recognise when your dog is good. This is the single most frequently ignored aspect of therapy for clients whose pets have behavioural problems; when the pets are not causing trouble, almost no one tells them how good they are. This is where the most ground is lost.
All dogs respond to positive voice praise. Dogs do not hit each other and so don’t understand being smacked. They understand our tone of voice: a ‘growl’ from us when they do something wrong, and a happy, highpitched voice when they behave well. Be sure to abide by the 20-second rule – you need to react vocally within 20 seconds of the puppy’s action. If you come home and yell at your dog for having made a mess in the middle of the floor, she may look scared and apologetic but in her brain she is being punished for coming to the door to greet you; she doesn’t relate the mess she made on the floor two hours ago with your attitude.

Always end any training experience on a positive note. And make sure your puppy knows she is loved. But establish some boundaries early on. A spoilt dog, who is allowed to get her own way all the time, will come to think she is the leader of the pack, the boss of the household – and she will therefore be nigh-on impossible to control.

It’s important to constantly reassert your authority over your puppy. She will respect you more and respond to your discipline if you take clear control. To do this, give your commands in a stern tone of voice. You may also want to make your dog follow commands outside of training sessions. For example, make her sit and wait briefly before setting down her food dish. Always give your puppy time to fulfil your command. If it looks like she isn’t going to respond, don’t back down. You need to show your puppy that she has to listen and obey your commands. Project your authority in a calm and assertive manner.

Know that some bad behaviours are best ignored. When your puppy tries to get your attention by barking, jumping up, or nipping at your fingers, ignore her. Consider what reward your puppy is trying to get when engaging in bad behaviour in order to determine when to ignore her. If your dog is jumping up on you when you come home, she probably wants your attention. Withholding your attention sends the message that she needs to act differently to get your attention. For example, if your puppy starts barking at you, turn your back on her and take away any attention. Eventually, she will learn that she gets nothing from you when she behaves poorly, and that good behaviour earns your attention and affection.

Puppies are naturally playful and have to learn limits when it comes to playing rough. As soon as your puppy nips, say ‘ouch’ and yelp. Ignore your dog for up to 20 seconds after she lets go. This will teach her that you won’t tolerate rough play. (Avoid pulling your hand away when your puppy nips. She will see this as part of the game and will continue to chase you.)

Dogs love to please their master/ alpha role model. They want to please the head of their pack or family unit. Most dogs are also food motivated – so small treats along with positive praise for doing the right thing go a long way.

Be mindful to be calm and loving. Dogs can sense our emotions, and they react to how we feel. They are a mirror reflecting our energy and spirit. Therefore, your temper is your dog’s temper. In some daily situations, if you want them to calm down, first you must calm yourself. Dogs can sense how you feel because they are attached to you as pack leader.

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