A great many adult dogs that are otherwise fairly obedient and well trained have certain weak areas in their general behaviour – such as pulling on the lead, jumping up at people, growling when you try to take away toys, and other issues that are not generally huge problems, but that can be annoying and inconvenient.
The one uniting factor that all of these problems and many others have is that they can be really hard to train out of adult dogs, because this usually takes time and a huge amount of consistent, calm repetition, which can be difficult to achieve when your dog is really getting on your nerves and you’re getting frustrated yourself.
However, teaching puppies not to act out in ways that will be really annoying when they are older is really easy to achieve in comparison, and pups generally only need to be corrected from such things a few times before the message sticks, and they are unlikely to develop the same problems again later in life if you remain consistent.
Unfortunately though, all too many puppy buyers think that training and correcting poor behaviour is something that should be commenced on a set date or at a set age – like a child starting school – and that before this point, the pup shouldn’t be corrected or begin to learn the rules of polite engagement.
But by taking this approach, puppies have already begun to learn bad habits and establish them as normal behaviours when you do start training – which causes problems further down the line.
Sit, stay, come back and so on are all commands that we think of as being the first things puppies need to learn; but even before you begin training of this type, you should start correcting your pup from making a number of common mistakes that can soon become problematic, but that are really easy to put right when your pup is still young.
Read on to learn about five commonly overlooked skills that are easy to teach puppies, but much harder to correct in adult dogs.
Dogs that jump up can be massively annoying, both for their own owners but also for people unconnected to the dog, who may all be targeted by muddy paws and potentially, a dog with quite some bulk behind them.
Jumping up is something that is challenging to correct when established, but easy in pups. Pups begin to jump up in the first place to attract your attention, and because they’re smaller than us and so, can’t communicate with us on an even physical level.
Due to this, smaller dogs are more likely to learn to jump up than breeds like the Great Dane, who have a size advantage – and of course, that are that much more likely to cause problems if they do jump up!
First of all, never encourage your pup to jump up, and if they do, provide a totally neutral response – do not push them away, fuss, tell them off or otherwise provide feedback other than saying “no” clearly but calmly, and keeping your stance and body language relaxed.
This total lack of positive reward will soon result in your pup not bothering, and when they do drop back onto four paws, praise and reward accordingly.
If your pup is keen to go out to play or do their business, they will probably want to get outside or into the next room as soon as possible and this may well mean that they will think nothing of pushing past you if you’re not going fast enough for their liking!
This is bad manners and can begin innocently, but may ultimately result in dominance issues.
If your pup pushes past you, keep the door or entrance closed and use your body to block them, and/or physically move them back behind you – and follow the same “blank slate” neutral response with the “no” mentioned above, to get the message across that nothing happens until they behave!
Snarling or snapping when it comes to defending toys is really bad manners, and can soon become dangerous in adult dogs. It is not a good idea to take toys away from your dog regularly for no good reason, but all dogs should accept being expected to surrender a toy when told to – as this is important to keep them from chewing something that may be harmful, as well as to keep your dog mannerly.
This is one skill that is much easier to teach in pups because whilst puppy teeth are sharp and can cause real harm, they’re still not as dangerous as those of an adult dog of any size. A pup that growls, snaps or won’t let you take toys needs to be taught clearly that you are the pack leader, and any resources are yours, and only for the pup because you allow them to be.
Be firm and very clear, and let your pup know their place. Direct them to give up the toy, rather than trying to take it from them – and always praise and reward, or offer an alternative such as a treat to reinforce the message.
Begging is something most dogs get very good at very early in life, and pups can be particularly hard to resist. But refusing to yield to begging while your pup is young means only spending a couple of weeks saying no to those pleading eyes, rather than years of trying to fix the issue later on.
Pups that aren’t taught a clear distinction between their food and yours, and when they eat and when you eat early on won’t find this easy later in life. Never feel that your pup should be eating just because you are, and never give scraps at the table, fall for begging, or permit pushy behaviour like trying to steal food, get paws on the table, or push a head into your lap whilst you are eating.
Pulling on the lead is one behaviour that most puppies do when they start to learn, sometimes after they’ve first spent some time rolling around and trying to chew the lead because they don’t get what is going on!
Pulling on the lead is once more easy to correct in just a couple of weeks with a pup, or even within the first couple of on-lead sessions if you get things right from the get go. A pup pulls because they want to get somewhere faster, or go somewhere you’re stopping them from going – and so teaching them that pulling achieves the exact opposite of this is the key.
When the pup pulls, simply don’t move – keep a firm but loose grip on the lead but don’t yank the pup or shout, and wait until the lead slackens because your pup has given up before taking your next step.
If the pup starts to pull again, repeat, with a “no” command – and keep doing this until your pup gets the message. This may mean that on-lead training takes a while and that you spend a good ten minutes walking ten steps – which is why so many puppy owners give up on this out of frustration – but it will save you masses of hassle further down the line if you persevere!