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Bringing up baby: training tips for your new pup

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
Bringing up baby: training tips for your new pup

Advice on potty training, chewing, walking and more!

That sweet face, those adorable kisses, that unmistakable puppy breath! A new puppy brings so much joy into a home. As with any baby, though, you need to prepare for that little bundle of energy. Puppies need a lot of patience as well as loads of affection when you’re teaching them how to grow into responsible dogs. Here are a few indispensable tips:

puppy accidentHousebreaking

“The most important advice with housetraining a puppy is that it should be errorless,” says veterinarian and animal behaviourist Dr. Ian Dunbar. “One mistake means there will be more, so you need to implement a training program the moment you bring the puppy home.”

The best way to do this is to keep your new friend in a confinement area until he’s completely housebroken. At night, or when you have to be away, put him in a bathroom or other small area with his bed, water, chew toys and a doggy toilet in the form of training pads. “The purpose of the confinement is to prevent mistakes around the house and to allow the puppy to train himself to use his toilet,” says Dr. Dunbar.

During the day when you’re home, keep the puppy near you, on a lead, and take him out every hour. “Each time he goes, give him a treat. This teaches him that if he waits until you’re around before he goes, he can cash in on it for something to eat!” You can also use a command such as “Go potty” or “Go pee” to reinforce the action. Pretty soon your puppy will be going to the bathroom on command because he knows there’s praise and/or a treat involved.

Once you feel your puppy is housetrained, gradually increase the size of the confinement area until he finally has the run of the house. “If he makes a mistake, simply take him back to step one and start over,” says Dr. Dunbar.

Most common times for going potty:

  • Soon after waking
  • After a meal
  • After a play or training session
  • When excited

Renowned trainer and TV personality Victoria Stilwell warns against scolding a puppy or dog if he has an accident in the house. In her book, Train Your Dog Positively (Ten Speed Press), she recommends verbally interrupting your dog with a controlled “oh-oh” if you catch him in the act. Punishing a puppy for an accident will often backfire.The punisher becomes someone to be feared, and the pup will then be inclined to either toilet in secret or hold himself until the person is out of sight,” says Victoria. “This does not bode well for those who want their dogs to toilet when out on a walk!”

leashWalking on a leash

Teaching your puppy to walk on a leash without pulling is simpler than you might think. Begin by choosing a comfortable collar that’s not too tight (avoid choke chains) and invest in a good quality leash.

  1. First, teach the puppy to walk with you off-leash. “Start with what I call following exercises,” says Dr. Dunbar. “Get the puppy to follow you around the house. Once he has this attraction towards you, it will be much easier to teach him to walk on a leash.”
  2. Teach the puppy to heel and sit off-leash, using treats to help him learn him the commands. “Start with short heel/sit sequences, then take longer walks around the house with turns and changes of speed.”
  3. Put the leash on the puppy and practice the heel command. You can do this indoors or in your backyard.
  4. Finally, practice walking the puppy on a leash. Remember to use the heel and sit commands when needed, and reward him with praise or a treat. Stick to the house or garden until he has it down pat.

chewingChewing

Your new puppy needs to chew, but how do you prevent him from demolishing shoes, table legs and your children’s toys? The best way is to turn him into what Dr. Dunbar calls a “chew toyaholic.” Begin by introducing him to chew toys as soon as you bring him home, and put them in his confinement area so he always has something to gnaw on.

“Play is everything,” says Dr. Dunbar. “It’s how an animal learns which behaviours are appropriate and which are not.” It’s therefore vital to provide your little one with lots of toys, and to engage him in interactive play as often as possible. Choose toys made from non-toxic materials, and without any small parts that could be chewed off and swallowed

Barking

It’s fine for your puppy to bark when someone rings the doorbell, but you don’t want the noise to continue once your guest is inside. Praise your puppy for letting you know someone is at the door, then tell him to sit and shush by holding a treat under his nose. Once he obeys your command, reward him with the treat.

Jumping on people

Having a dog jumping all over you can try the patience of even the most ardent animal lover, and can even be dangerous in cases where the dog grows large enough to knock over a child or elderly person. It’s therefore important to train your puppy from an early age not to leap up at people.

“Have sitting as the default setting for greeting people,” says Dr. Dunbar. A dog jumps up because he expects to get petted, but if you refuse to do so until he’s sitting quietly, he’ll learn that jumping won’t reap any rewards.

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