Puppy Training: Tips for Success

Bringing home your puppy is fun and exciting. It's also the perfect time to start training. Here's how to get things off to a good start.

Home Training

Set up a good schedule. Then stick to it, says Richard Green, DVM, owner of Mont Clare Animal Hospital in Chicago. "Your puppy should wake, eat, and sleep at pretty much the same time every day -- and that means weekends too."

Feed him at least three times a day, says Houston veterinarian Brian Beale, DVM, DACVS. Take him outside often, especially during housebreaking. Try for at least seven times a day, starting with first thing when you wake up.

Be consistent and patient. It'll probably take a few days to get on track.

Teach him the rules. Your dog won't know the rules when you bring him home. It's your job to show him what to do and what not to do. Is it OK to sit on the furniture? How about overturning the garbage can? Make it clear.

Teach him to sit, stay, and come when you call him, and walk on a leash without pulling. Say things like "good boy" when he does what you want him to do.

Praise good behavior. If he waits at the curb instead of running into the street, for example, reinforce the good behavior with a quick "yes" or "good" at the exact moment he does what you want, says Jonathan P. Klein, CDBC, CPDT-KA. He's a dog trainer and behaviorist in Los Angeles.

Set up a reward system. Reward behaviors you like. Don't reward behaviors you dislike. Always use immediate consequences.

Rewards can be simple, like a doggie treat or a good belly rub. Or they can be special, like playtime with doggie pals or a game of fetch. To teach him not to do something, ignore him or take away things he likes. For example, if he jumps up on you when he wants to play, show him it's not OK by turning away. When he sits down, shower him with attention.

Ward off biting. "Many puppies try and play with their new owners' hands and feet in the same way they played with their littermates -- with mouthing and biting," says Beale. You'll have to teach him it's not OK, so don't allow any type of biting or nibbling on people, even during play.

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"If your puppy does bite you, yelp loudly," he says. If he continues to mouth or bite you, step away and ignore him for 30 to 60 seconds. That will teach him that biting makes playtime end, so it should stop the behavior.

Give him appropriate things to chew on. "Remember, puppies need lots of things to chew on," says Greene. Give him appropriate toys that he can mouth, like chew toys. Leave lots of toys around so he doesn't feel the need to play with your hands or ankles.

Playing along when he chews on a toy will feel extra fun to him and reinforce proper chewing.

Teach good manners. When your pup is polite, everyone benefits. Train him to sit when guests come to the door instead of jumping up to greet them. Teaching him to sit will keep him calm when guests arrive, Green says. It may help to keep him on a leash.

Too much barking can be a nuisance. Ward it off by teaching him when it's OK to bark and when it's not. Try using a stern "no." It may also help to get rid of or minimize the cause.

Meeting Other Dogs

Introduce him to other dogs. The perfect time to have your puppy meet other dogs is when he's about 2 to 4 months old. That's the sweet spot when most dogs learn to accept animals, people, and new places and experiences more easily.

Puppy play dates and puppy classes are a good place to start. Stick to places where dogs are healthy and vaccinated. "Dog parks need to wait until all the shots are done," Klein says.

When your puppy meets another dog, it's best if they're both on a leash. That will give you and the other dog's owner better control of the situation. "Allow the two dogs time to smell each other," Greene says. "This is their way of getting to know each other." Praise him when he behaves well.

Go slow. Don't worry if your puppy doesn't jump right in and play with other dogs. Many puppies are reserved and need time to transform from wallflower to social butterfly, Klein says.

Follow your puppy's cues. "If he doesn't want to go, don't push it," Klein says. Give him the time and space he needs to feel comfortable. "The most important thing is that every socializing experience be a pleasant one, with no scary moments."

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on March 09, 2014

Sources

SOURCES:

Richard Green, DVM, Mont Clare Animal Hospital, Chicago.

Brian Beale, DVM, DACVS, Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, Houston.

Jonathan P. Klein, CDBC, CPDT-KA, dog trainer and behaviorist, Los Angeles.

ASPCA: "Training Your Dog."

Merck Manual for Pet Health: "Puppy Care."

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