Getting a puppy is a great experience. However, most new puppy owners do not realize that puppies come untrained. An untrained puppy is both a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand you get to train them the way you want. On the other hand you need to know how to train them first. There many books and websites that will show you the best methods on how to train a puppy. But they are often missing some very important parts of puppy training. Let us fill you in on the secrets to easy puppy training.
The Secrets to Easy Puppy Training
Puppy training is really not that hard to do. You do not need to be a professional dog trainer to train your puppy. Nor should you send your puppy to a dog trainer to be trained. If you send your puppy away for training, they will learn to listen to the trainer, but not to you.
So why do some people make it look so easy while others struggle to train their pup? This is because the people who make it look simple know the secrets to easy puppy training. These secrets will help you with every type of training from housetraining to agility training. You just need to follow the rules each time you train your pup.
Before we get into the ten tips on puppy training, I just want to touch on the Puppy Blues. Dealing with a new puppy can be hard, especially if you are a first time puppy parent. It’s common to feel like you made a mistake. But it does get better. It’s important to understand that you are not alone. I also went through the puppy blues. You can see how I handled my own puppy blues in the post on Puppy Blues: Dealing with the Regret.
Here are the top 10 secrets to easy puppy training.
There is evidence that dogs and man lived and worked together as far back as 14,000 years ago. During this early time, it is believed that wolves would follow hunters in hopes of finding scraps of food. As wolfs and hunters evolved and began to trust each other they started working together to hunt. Overtime wolves became domesticated and evolved into dogs. Dogs would than work side by side with farmers to help protect the flock or kill vermin on the farm. In return they were given food and protected from bigger predators. As you can see the relationship between man and dog has always been a partnership. Not that of a master and servant.
Too often people feel they must dominate over their dog to train them. But if you look back at the history of dogs it shows us that we need to bond with our dogs through a mutual respect.
Now that doesn’t mean you should not be your dog’s leader. A dog still needs to know that you are the leader of the pack. But taking your place as a leader should not be done by fear; instead you want your dog to respect you.
This is where bonding with your dog comes in. When you bond with your dog you create mutual respect. You do this by taking care of them and taking the time to train them. By training them you are also showing them you’re their leader.
Bonding with your puppy does take time. It will not happen overnight. You will know when you have bonded with your pup when they always want to be by your side.
Some dogs can become too bonded with their owners. When this happens they may get separation anxiety when you are not with them. It is important that your dog learns that it is ok to be alone. To learn more about how to prevent separation anxiety in puppies, read our post: How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Example of Bonding
When we first brought home Bella, we allowed her to be on our enclosed deck without a leash. We didn’t realize she was small enough that she could slide through the railing. A portion of the deck is just above ground level so it was easy for her to hop off. One minute she was running around the deck, the next she was running around our unfenced backyard. We called her but she didn’t respond. She was having too much fun running from the kids. Clearly she was not bonded to us. Fast forward to two years later, we can now let her out in the backyard without worrying. Bella will not let us out of her sight. Even if it is just to go around the corner.
2. Puppy Socialization
People tend not to realize just how important puppy socialization is. A puppy that has not been properly socialized will be too afraid to focus on training. Socializing your puppy is also a great way to bond with them. When you socialize your puppy you are taking the time to teach your puppy not to be afraid. This in turn shows them that you will protect them and that you are the leader. To learn more about the proper way to socialize a puppy, please read our post How to Socialize A Puppy – Made Easy
Getting enough exercise is very important to puppy training. If you have a puppy that is full of energy, they will not be able to focus on training. Always spend some time playing with your pup before getting down to training.
In the first of the secrets to easy puppy training I mentioned that dogs and people worked together because it benefited them to do so. That is still the case today. Dogs still want to be rewarded for a job well done. What you use as a reward depends on your puppy. Some may like a toy but most will respond to a food reward. For older dogs, praise, a toy or a food treat may all work. Remember it takes time to bond with your dog so food will get a better response then your praise right now. Over time that will change as long as you give praise along with a treat in the beginning.
Since your puppy is still young they will want their reward immediately. When using a food reward make sure it is something your puppy really likes. It should also be something that they don’t get otherwise. I have been told that the worst smelling rewards are often the most liked by dogs. Just don’t give your pup too many food treats at one time.
When rewarding your puppy do it often and generously. In the beginning you will need to break down each request in to small steps. You only need to give them very small pieces of a high value treat but give it each time they do what is asked.
5. Take Small Steps
Young puppies will not be able to master complicated commands at first. Each time you train your puppy break down the command into small steps.
As an example when you are trying to teach your puppy to stay, have them sit and then take one step back. If they managed to stay, give them a treat for staying. Next time try two steps and so on. Soon enough you will be able to leave the room while they wait for you.
6. Only Focus on Good Behavior
Only focus on what your puppy did right. Not on what they did wrong. In other words don’t reprimand them when they do an unwanted behavior during training. Just ignore it instead. By focusing on bad behavior you are rewarding them for it with your attention. If it is easier to get your attention doing something bad instead of something good they will repeat the bad behavior more often. This leads us into our next secret to easy puppy training.
7. Reward Only for the Correct Behavior
You only want to reward the right behavior, not the wrong one. This one is a tricky as it’s all in the timing. Let’s say you give your puppy the sit command and they follow it. But before you give them the reward they jump up on you. If you give them a treat after they jumped up, they will think that jumping up is what is being rewarded. Not only are you rewarding the unwanted behavior but you are also missing the opportunity to reinforce the good behavior. To ensure that you reward the right behavior have the reward in your hand before giving the command. That way you can give them the treat as soon as they complete the request.
8. Use Your Voice as a Training Tool
No dog is born knowing how to communicate with people. They do instinctively know how to communicate with other dogs through sounds and actions. We see this when a dog wants to play. They will bark in a friendly, high pitch sound and lower their head. When they don’t want to be bothered they will growl in a deep voice.
We too can use sounds and actions to communicate with them. When your puppy does something good, speak to them in a friendly, high pitched sound. If they do something wrong, respond with a firm, deep voice. The closer to a growl sound the better. Just remember using a deep voice does not mean you need to yell.
You may learn that your dog is very verbal once they learn to communicate with you. Our dog Bella lets us know what she wants through sound and action. If she wants to play fetch she will let out a loud bark and drop the ball at our feet. When that doesn’t work she will change her tactic by making a pleading whine instead.
9. Say It Once
When training your puppy you should only give the command once. If the puppy does not preform the right behavior, stop for a minute. Then show them what you want them to do while saying the command again. If they are still not listening do something else and try again later. Also make sure everyone uses that same word for each task.
10. Keep It Short
Young puppies have short attention spans so you need to keep the training sessions short. Instead of one long session have mini sessions throughout the day. This will help reinforce what they are learning. If you can, aim to train them for at least 20 minutes a day at 5 minute intervals. The training sessions should be done in different areas throughout the house. This will ensure that your puppy learns the command by sound and not by place.
When possible include training in normal everyday activities like during dinner time. Have them sit while you are placing the food on the floor. If they move before you give them a release command take up the food and start again.
Also everyone in the house should practice training the puppy. That way the puppy will learn to listen to all family members, not just you.
When to Start Training a Puppy
Young puppies have short attention spans and lots of energy so getting them to focus on training can be tough. But you can begin to train them on the 5 basic commands; sit, down, stand, come and stay, as soon as you pick them up at around 7 to 8 weeks of age. Puppy Kindergarten classes are a good way to get started. Just make sure to practice the training when you are not in class.
Formal dog obedience training is typically offered at 6 months of age but you should not wait that long to start training your puppy. The sooner you start, the quicker they will learn what is expected of them. Plus as I already have stated training your puppy is a great way to bond with them.
How Long to Train a Puppy
How long it takes to train a puppy has a lot to do with how much time you put into training them. Training a puppy on basic commands can take less than a month, if you consistently train them, reinforce the commands and follow the secrets to easy puppy training. By the way you will never be done training your puppy. Once they master the basics you will want to move on to move advanced training like loose leash training.
How to Train Your Puppy
Before you can begin to train your puppy on any commands they first need to learn their name. This can be done by playing the name game.
To play, sit in an enclosed area like your kitchen near your puppy but not right next to them. Wait until they are distracted, than call out their name with a bright, happy voice. When they look towards you, say yes and give them a treat right away. Remember the secret training tip #7 and have your treats ready in your hand so you only reward them for responding to their name. Repeat the process a few more times. After the first few times start to mix giving them treats with lots of praise and attention. It should only take a day or two for them to learn to respond to their name.
Once they have learned their name you can begin to train them on these 5 basic commands: Sit, Stay, Down Heel and Come, also known as recall. Recall is the most important command to teach your puppy. It may one day save their life.
Do You Have the Right Tools?
Having the right stuff for your new puppy is half the battle. Take a look at the 7 essentials you need to care for your puppy in our post What You Need for a New Puppy