How to train your puppy

Starting early with consistent reactions to certain behaviours is a key part of training your puppy effectively. Here’s some guidance around their four important training stages…

Training your puppy is all about routine, consistency, rewarding good behaviour and ignoring bad behaviour. Puppies respond positively to repetition and association.


Toilet training

The times when puppies are most likely to need the toilet are quite predictable: when they’ve just woken up, and about 15-20 minutes after drinking and eating. Apart from this, puppies generally need to use the toilet around every two hours.


For the first couple of weeks you’ll have to move your schedule around the needs of your puppy, showing them that during these times they’ll need to go outside.


Puppies respond well to keywords which connect to different actions. This means that if you choose a word or phrase – for example: “Up on the grass!” - and say it in a positive and firm way whenever your puppy is about to go to the toilet, they will form an association between phrase and action.

You can then employ this trick to urge your puppy to go to the toilet at certain times, such as before going on a car journey or before they get into bed for the night.


A common mistake people make when toilet training their puppy is to become angry when they urinate or defecate in the house. This can make them frightened of going to the toilet in front of you – even outside, where they should be going.


It’s also important to stick to feeding them at certain times. Make a note of when they’ve eaten so you can more accurately judge when they’ll need the toilet.


Social skills

Puppies aren’t born knowing how to interact with humans and other animals. They also have different tendencies and temperaments, depending on their breed and their own personality.

It’s essential to help guide your puppy in its social interactions so that it learns to interact with other people and animals positively.

You can help this along by:


Showing your puppy plenty of attention
Dogs are, by nature, very social animals and will thrive with plenty of affection and attention. This includes plenty of cuddles, game-playing and going on walks together.

It’s also a good idea to invite different people of varying ages around to meet your puppy, so they can get used to young children and as well as adults.

In general, dogs are much more patient with young children than cats are – but nevertheless, make sure to keep an eye on interactions between your puppy and young children. While puppies tend not to become agitated easily, they do like to chew and bite things in a playful manner, which can be frightening and potentially painful for a child.


Introducing them to a well-trained dog
If you’ve adopted your puppy from a reputable dog shelter or breeder, you’ll likely have introduced the puppy to any existing dog you have, but you’ll have to continue gently socialising them to get them used to each other. Introduce them to a well-trained dog that isn’t likely to be riled by an excitable puppy.

Your puppy also needs to learn to show submission to older dogs to avoid irritating them. You can tell when your puppy is learning to submit and respect older dogs because they will make a bowing motion or offer out a paw to the other dog – a gesture which means: “I just want to play, I don’t mean any harm.”


Taking your puppy for short car rides
This will allow them to get them used to journeys from an early age. Reward them with treats when you arrive at your destination, so they associate car trips with something positive.


Harness and collar training

Your puppy will most likely be wearing a collar all the time, but for going on walks it’s a good idea to fit them into a harness.

Harnesses allow you to control their weight much more easily without putting too much pressure on their necks. But puppies don’t always like wearing a harness or lead to begin with – and it’s up to you to help them get used to it.

Ways you can do this include:


Reward them
Reward them for allowing you to fasten them into their harness with a little treat. Positive association is key in training your puppy.


Avoid pulling on the lead
Wearing a harness and lead doesn’t mean you and your puppy should engage in an endless game of tug-o’-war. Your puppy must learn to walk without pulling on the lead, so try not to pull on the lead yourself, or it will invite them to retaliate.


Use treats
Use the lure of treats to keep your puppy by your side when walking on a lead. Keep a little supply of treats in your pocket to lure them into sticking close by.


However, remember to keep your hand low. By raising your hand with a treat in it, your puppy will get into the habit of jumping up at you to get hold of it.


Effectively disciplining your puppy

When puppies do something naughty or wrong, they need to be disciplined. So, how you do you effectively discipline your dog?

Be consistent
If you reprimand your puppy for chewing your favourite shoes but let it slide when they’ve got their jaws around an old chair leg, they’ll become confused about what they’re allowed to chew.

Reprimand once – reprimand every time. Keep it consistent to avoid confusion.

Use positive reinforcement
Reward your puppy for good behaviour. This includes when they respond positively to a reprimand – like stopping barking at passing neighbours when you command them to.

Be firm but kind
Firmly stating “No!” accompanied by a palm-down hand movement is far more effective than shouting and becoming angry when your puppy has done something wrong. This will just make them frightened of you.

Be timely with discipline
Reprimand your puppy as they’re doing something or right after they’ve done something. Telling them off two hours after they’ve urinated on the kitchen floor will confuse them.

And finally, don’t be afraid to ask the experts. Speak to your vet if you’re worried or frustrated. Plus, there are plenty of dog behavioural experts and dog training academies willing to help.

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