Puppy training begins the minute you get your new pup. The times that you formally train are only the tip of the iceberg — puppies are little learning sponges whenever they are awake. The more you can include the puppy in your daily life, the happier everyone will be!
This page discusses puppy training:
- During the early months, before your puppy’s immune system is mature: Come, Sit, and Stay, and what’s even more important.
- Later, after your pup has had all his shots and can go out in public, and into the adolescent months.
Training is an investment that really pays off…
In just a few short months, that darling little puppy will be an adolescent — and many aspects of training will be a lot harder. Also, behavior like jumping up that may have been cute when the pup was tiny is not adorable when he’s seventy pounds!
See the menu for many more pages related to puppy training.
Puppy Training: The Early Months
So much to learn!
What’s most important? Come, sit, stay?
Most people think of these things when they think of puppy training, but thanks to renowned puppy trainer Ian Dunbar, we know that several other things are more crucial in the early months:
- Bite inhibition… learning not to bite people or dogs
- Getting along with other dogs and with people
- Being housetrained
- Not developing bad habits of jumping on people, barking too much, pulling on leash, etc.
There is a short window of opportunity for this essential puppy training. After that time, it becomes far more difficult, or in some cases impossible for the dogs to learn some of these things. Many of the dogs who end up in shelters didn’t learn some essential part of puppy training.
Of course, I can barely begin to tell you about puppy training in one web page. To do a good job with your puppy training, use books, videos, or puppy training classes if you can find the right dog trainer.
Happily, thousands of puppies and their owners have benefited from How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks, by Ian Dunbar. It is widely considered to be one of the best puppy training books — in fact, it’s been called the best dog training book of all! Click on its title to go to my page describing it.
Dr. Dunbar’s program, Sirius Puppy Training, is a companion to the book. I’ve written a full page about it too.
I have used both the book and the program to improve my own puppy training skills, and I recommend them highly. I just keep on learning from them!
Before Your Puppy’s Immune System is Mature
If you get your puppy at around 8 weeks, which is a common age, then there will be a month or so before he has the inoculations that are customarily given. Until he has had those, and his immune system has matured a bit more, breeders and veterinarians generally recommend being quite careful about where he goes and who he comes in contact with. Ian Dunbar’s puppy training methods can begin at this time, very effectively, at home.
There is increasing discussion now about what immunizations are really essential for dogs, and whether some of them might be less important than was formerly thought.
If you are concerned about this, spend some time researching it online and discuss it with your veterinarian. If you get your puppy from a breeder, no doubt he or she will have opinions that have to do with your breed specifically.
If you choose not to give some of the recommended shots, you may need to be somewhat more conservative in the timing of your puppy’s debut into the big, wide world, to allow for a more mature immune system to develop. Also, there may be homeopathic or other holistic approaches to boosting the immunity of your puppy. Next time I get a puppy, I’ll research all this myself.
Come, Sit, Stay..
These words are easy to incorporate in your daily life with your puppy. I called them “words” rather than “commands” because at first they are only sounds to the puppies. It takes a while for the individual meaning to sink in, longer for the puppy to realize that you want him to do whatever it is when you say the word, and even longer for him to decide he really wants to do it himself.
These examples don’t include the use of clicker training, but that can be used very effectively also. See the menu for more about this popular approach.
Call the puppy in a happy voice, saying, “Sammy, come!” Squat or sit on the floor near the puppy if you can get down there, and choose times at first when the puppy isn’t distracted by other interesting activities. When the puppy comes to you, pet and praise him, tell him what a good, smart dog he is. Give him treats sometimes when he comes.
If he doesn’t come sometimes when you do this, just ignore it — and choose easier times to do this bit of puppy training.
It won’t take him long to figure out that coming to you means good things happen. You can practice this a number of times a day.
Only use come in a happy manner. If you are annoyed with the dog, don’t use it. At this stage, save it for times when you can make it — and all puppy training — really fun.
When our Basenji Sunbeam was tiny, she very quickly learned to come. One day when we had had her just a few weeks, she slipped out of her collar as we were approaching a city street with six lanes of traffic.
My heart seemed to stop, but without thinking I squatted down and called, “Sunbeam, COME!” She did, immediately. Whew!
Hold a bit of tasty food in your hand, above the puppy. Move the food back so the puppy turns his head up to watch you. When he sits, exclaim happily and give the treat.
This is fun to do just before a meal, using bits of dry food, or tiny (pea-size) bits of cheese or hot dog.
Sit has traditionally been taught in puppy training classes and books by pushing down on the dog’s back, but it’s always better when you can stay away from force.
Once your puppy is sitting for food treats, you can hold the food for a moment before giving it and gradually extend the time before you give it.
Later Puppy Training
Once your puppy can go out in public, it’s a whole new ball game. You will still be working on every aspect of puppy training discussed in the first section, but also…
It’s time to socialize! Take your puppy everywhere you can. Get him so he enjoys:
- riding in your car
- meeting all kinds of people (especially men, children, and people of different races from yourself)
- and playing with other dogs. Choose the situations with other dogs with attention to the personalities of the dogs.
Also work on extending the number of words the dog knows, and improving his responses to them. Long sit-stays and down-stays, heeling on and off leash, recalls… there’s so much you can do!
If the puppy is still having potty training accidents by this age, cut back on his freedom. Crate train him or keep him tied to you by a leash or rope, so you can immediately catch the problem. Have him checked out by the veterinarian to be sure there’s no physical problem.
If not enough progress is being made in other important areas, such as bite inhibition or his willingness to come when called, don’t hesitate to ask for good professional help. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers has a list at their website of trainers who favor positive methods. Most of the trainers seem to be in the US, but some are in other countries as well.
Now is a good time to look into a puppy training class or, if Sammy has gotten old enough, a regular dog training class. The trainers listed above should be able to help you with that too.
If someone in your community is giving a puppy training class, you can learn a lot about timing by watching them work with dogs. But do ask first what methods they use. The words K9, Academy, or natural dog training may possibly be clues that they use forceful methods.
Adolescent dogs, like adolescent humans, can be less attractive than darling little babies. As your puppy begins to turn into a full-grown dog (in size at least), be sure to give him lots of love and attention. And expect a few rocky bits along the road.
Here’s another very useful book for positive training of both puppies and dogs: