Training a puppy takes time, patience and a lot of positive reinforcement. With time though, you can teach your puppy not just the essentials but also special tricks such as rolling over and giving high-fives. Here are some tips to get you started on training your puppy.
1. Puppy-proof your home – Until your pup is properly trained and a little more mature, you will want to puppy-proof your home. Move items that puppy could chew and destroy to higher locations and make sure you have a way to contain the puppy when you’re not home. You can use baby gates, crates or pens so long as you keep the puppy contained to a safe puppy-proofed area. Don’t forget to leave out appropriate chew toys to give your puppy something to focus on while you’re away.
2. A puppy is like a baby – Remember that your puppy is like the equivalent of a baby human. They aren’t adult dogs and don’t behave like adult dogs do. They have tons of energy and are constantly learning from both positive and negative reinforcement. Puppies need frequently reinforced positive training and time to learn. Adjust your expectations like you would when teaching a human baby something new.
3. Spend time learning dog body language – Dogs don’t understand English–or any language for that matter, other than body language. Spend some time learning dog body language so you can better understand the non-verbal signals your dog is giving you. Are they stressed, excited, anxious or fearful? Learning their body language will help you know the answer so you can better tailor your training efforts.
4. Use high-value treats – Instead of store-bought crunchy treats, opt for bits of cooked chicken breast, liver or cheese. Your dog will recognize the difference and be more likely to repeat a desired behavior if you use a high-value treat as a reward. Just remember to give the treat immediately following the desired behavior so your dog can associate the right behavior with the treat. If you wait to give the treat, the dog won’t connect the behavior with the reward. Use praise and treats frequently to positively reinforce desired behaviors.
5. Remember that he’s a dog – Remember that dogs don’t think like humans do. Dogs don’t act out of revenge or other “human” motives that we might attribute to them. The biggest motivator in dog behavior is to make themselves feel safe, happy or to relieve stress.
6. Keep a positive attitude – Training a puppy can be frustrating at times. Be careful not to let yourself get upset, frustrated or angry. Your dog will pick up on these emotions and in turn feel stressed or anxious, making it harder for them to focus and learn. If you find yourself getting frustrated, that means it’s time to take a break and just have some fun playtime with your pup until you’re both calm and ready for more training.
Training your puppy will take time and effort on your part, but the pay-off is worth it. Your pup can learn basic behaviors such as coming when called or more fun “tricks” such as rolling over and shaking hands. The more positive and upbeat you are when working with your pup, the faster and easier it will be for them to learn desired behaviors.