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“Start as you mean to go on” is important advice for many aspects of life, but never more so than when dealing with a puppy or young dog! However, good intentions for how you want to raise and train your puppy can soon go out of the window when faced with your cute and adorable canine baby, who doesn’t understand why they are not allowed to do something and cry or make sad eyes at you! It is all too easy to think that “just once won’t hurt” or that you can start training and being firm with your puppy “later,” but by doing this, you are laying the groundwork for a whole host of future problems, and being rather unfair to your dog as well.
Even before your puppy is old enough to understand and begin to learn all of the necessary training commands, set the ground rules for your future interactions with your puppy by following these ten essential rules that your puppy should live by.
Giving your puppy their own things is important; a bed, plenty of toys, a crate, and a comfortable place to sit and lie down when with the family. This helps to give them security in their world, by bringing comfort and familiarity to their environment. But it is important that your puppy learns that not everything is fair game, and that they cannot play with everything, sleep on every chair, or go into every room. Start teaching your puppy this while they are young!
Your puppy’s name should be short, distinctive and easy for them to learn, and you should use it when getting their attention. When your puppy has come to recognise their name, use it to get their attention before you address them, and teach them that hearing their name is their cue to pay attention. You can expedite how long it takes for your puppy to pick up on this by teaching them that responding to their name (without following up with a command every time) will earn them a treat or a reward.
Barking, howling and making a big excited fuss is part of puppy life, and you should not seek to quiet your dog in every situation or suppress their natural urges to bark. But it is important to teach your puppy that not everything requires a vocal soundtrack, and that barking at passing traffic, normal events, or to gain attention is to be frowned upon.
Puppies are adept and natural thieves, and will often make off with things that catch their attention and that they would like to play with, without paying any attention to whether or not it is meant for them! Teach your puppy that picking up random objects in the street, or stealing discarded items around the home is not allowed, and that they must ask if they want to take something, and be given permission to do so. Remove objects that your puppy should not take, and tell them “no.”
You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, and just as positive reinforcement is more effective and faster to teach than negative reinforcement, so your puppy should learn that being good and doing what is asked of them will always be more rewarding than insubordination or refusing to do what they are told. Ignoring negative behaviours or not making a big fuss, but rewarding good behaviour and compliance is the way to instil this lesson into your puppy’s young mind!
Being walked on the lead for the first few weeks is an odd situation for a puppy, and they will often regard their leads as toys to be pulled, chewed on and battled with! It is vitally important that you make training to the lead fun and positive for your puppy, but do not let them get away with tugging at the lead, chewing it or seeing it as a chance to mess about.
Puppies are used to having all of their needs provided for, initially by their mother and ultimately, by you, their owner. Just like human toddlers, it can prove to be a rude awakening for the puppy to learn that not everything is simply given to them because they want it, however, and that asking for something doesn’t necessarily mean that they will get it! Learn to say “no” to your puppy, even if only to get them used to the fact that sometimes, they will not be able to have what they ask for.
It is important that you do not leave your puppy unsupervised for long periods of time and get them used to being left alone gradually, and do not move along your training faster than your puppy is happy with. However, do not allow your puppy to get the impression that making a big fuss, crying and howling will get them their own way, or your puppy will soon learn to use these behaviours as a tool to get out of doing things that they do not want to do!
It will take your puppy a while to learn to ask how to go outside to the toilet and not to do their business inside of the house, so make sure that every time your puppy asks to go out or successfully goes to the toilet outside, they are positively rewarded. Never ignore your puppy asking to go out, and do not make a big fuss over any accidents or mistakes along the way. Ensure that your puppy understands that outside is always the place to go- even if it is cold, wet or rainy!
Teaching your puppy the “no” command is vital, and your pup should learn that “no” means “stop what you are doing immediately” and comply reliably. Do not make the message ambiguous by not following through and demanding compliance with the “no” command, or by saying no to something one day but allowing it on another occasion. No must mean no, always, and without ambiguity!
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