Welcoming a new puppy to the family is an exciting time, and while it may be tempting to spend your days cuddling and playing with your puppy, remember to set aside some time for training them too. A well-trained dog will save you a lot of time down the track, will have a stronger bond with you and will also be less likely to develop behavioural problems or have accidents or other mishaps, such as going missing.
Reward-based positive reinforcement training is the most effective and humane type of dog training.
Here are a few tips and tricks for any new puppy.
Try to start your training in a quiet environment. New puppies can be easily distracted, particularly if there is a lot of activity happening.
As a general rule, you might aim for at least fifteen minutes of training per day. This can be incorporated into everyday tasks. Do remember that your puppy is still very young, so don’t overwork them with a rigid training schedule and try to always be patient.
Treats to train
It’s common to use treats while training, but you might also use a favourite toy. Remember if you do use food, keep it healthy and don’t overfeed – use small amounts/pieces of safe dog treats.
Reward-based positive reinforcement training is the most effective and humane type of dog training – and is recommended by the RSPCA. This method sets the dog up to succeed and then rewards the dog for performing the ‘good’ behaviour (positive reinforcement).
Reward-based training is enjoyable for the dog and positively enhances the relationship between the dog and handler. Rewards may be in the form of a food treat, verbal praise such as “good dog” in a pleasant tone of voice, or gentle pat on the chest to be given when the dog performs the ‘good’ behaviour.
This method also involves generally ignoring any ‘unwanted’ behaviour. This way, the dog is not rewarded for any unwanted behaviour. If dogs are not rewarded (i.e. receives no attention or treats) for certain behaviour, then they tend to stop doing it.
Reward-based training does not involve aversive techniques, physical punishment or the assertion of dominance over the dog. Your vet can provide detailed information around training your dog; bear in mind that it can take time to train dogs so patience is key.
What to teach
Start with basic commands such as sit, stay, down and come. As your puppy starts to learn, you can move onto other commands. Positively reward the dog when it performs the desired task. Puppy schools that are run through vet clinics can best teach owners how to teach their dog in a humane and kind way.
It’s normal for puppies to explore the world by using their mouths but biting can become a bad habit, so it’s best to nip it in the bud. Set your pup up for success by removing items you don’t want them to chew on. Give your dog appropriate chew toys to discourage them from chewing clothes or furniture, and end play time when they get too rough or begin biting.
It’s important that your dog is ok being handled, especially by vets and other people that they may not know. As you cuddle your dog, get them used to being touched all over their body, including lying on their back for a tummy rub. Gradually you can move and gently flex and extend their joints, examine their feet, open their mouths and look inside their ears. When they are calm while you do this, you can reward them with a treat.1
Place food near the tip of your dog’s nose and move it up and over towards the back of their head. Your dog should naturally sit – when they do, give them the food. Start saying “sit” during the process so they can learn the command.
Put a food bowl in front of the dog and restrain your furry friend gently by the harness or collar. Hold up your palm and say “wait.” Take a biscuit from the food bowl and hand-feed your dog if it remains sitting. Break the wait by saying “okay” and pointing to the bowl.
Provide your puppy with lots of opportunities to toilet outside and remember to take them to the toilet area as soon as they wake in the morning, after eating and after playtime. Watch for cues that your dog may need to go to the bathroom. If you see your dog sniffing inside, they may be looking for a good spot to go to the toilet – get them outside pronto. Reward toileting outside with a pat, praise, food or time with their favourite chew toy.2
Walking (on a lead)
It’s important to teach your dog how to walk with you rather than pulling you. Grab a lead in your right hand and treats in your left hand. Start walking. When your dog pulls out in front, change direction. Reward your dog with a treat for following your change in direction. Consult a trainer if you still have problems. Never consider using a check (or ‘choke’) chain, as these can cause serious injuries.3
Many vets run puppy training schools, which are a very important part of puppy care, training and socialisation. It’s a good idea to make an appointment with a vet as early as possible in any case.
Ready to start?
Find an area free of distractions and take things one step at a time. A little effort over the next few months will set you up for many years of rewarding pet ownership.
Pet insurance is another way to save yourself stress down the track by protecting against your cat or dog’s health expenses. Get a free quote for insurance with RSPCA Pet Insurance now.
6 Nov 2014