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The puppy training tips listed here are designed to help a new puppy owner get started on the right foot.
The tips are not only practical moves, but also a few general pointers that will help you in every aspect of training and puppy care.
What Motivates Your Puppy
Getting results in puppy training is quite simple. It is all about learning to use your puppy’s motivations to get her to do what you want, when you want.
So, it follows that you need to understand what motivates your puppy – and what does not.
So, what are typical puppy-motivators? Well, there is the obvious one: food.
Another one is fun and exercise – playing games. And yet another big one is praise – getting positive attention from you, or another person.
You will find that a lot of bad behavior is done just to get this last one: attention.
See how understanding that motivation is already useful? A lot of the time, the best way to stop attention-seeking behavior is – yes, you guessed it – to take away your attention.
But let us come back to food. Usually the easiest motivator is a little food treat – but you will struggle to get the right responses from your puppy if you use a boring, bland food.
You should have one type of food for your pup’s normal meals, and a few ‘special treat’ foods that are only used for training.
Do not go overboard on treats though! They need to be rare and special enough to keep the motivation levels high (and besides, dog obesity is becoming a big problem now as owners ‘spoil’ their dogs with too many treats).
Can you imagine playing a sport where the rules change completely every time you play? It would get frustrating quickly, right?
Sometimes you perform a move and score a goal – sometimes you do the same thing and get penalized.
There is no consistency, so you have no idea what you should and should not be doing.
How a Command Works
That is how a puppy feels when you are not consistent. If you feed her table scraps one day and shoo her away the next, that is inconsistent.
If you stop a problem behavior one day, but other times you let her get away with it, that is inconsistent.
And guess what? If you are not consistent in when it comes to being an authority figure for your puppy, she will not see you as an authority figure.
And that means she will start doing whatever she feels like – and you will not be able to do a thing about it.
You will be teaching lots of your commands to your new puppy, such as ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay.’ What you will learn as you do so is that all commands follow a very similar structure.
That structure looks a little bit like this:
- Get your dog to perform the action you want.
- Reward and praise her.
- Attach a word to the action.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Step Number 4 is very important – you cannot expect your puppy to learn things the first time around.
Dog training is often a process of two steps forward, one step back.
In other words, you might be making great progress on a command, but then one day you sit down to train your puppy and she seems to have forgotten everything.
This is natural, so do not stress about it – just keep pushing forward, trust the process and enjoy yourself.
Your Secret Weapon
Now, that little title might have your mind racing – what could the secret weapon be?
Is it a fancy gadget? A special collar? A chew toy? Nope, it is none of those things.
In fact, it is something you may not even think of as being related to training.
The secret weapon is exercise. Now you might be thinking, ‘Huh?’ Let me explain.
You will be amazed when you know how many behavior problems in dogs are the result of a lack of exercise.
Take digging holes in the back yard, as one example. This is a behavior which can be greatly reduced or even gotten rid of altogether simply by increasing the dog’s exercise.
This is based on a very simple truth: when dogs do not get enough exercise, they will take out that extra energy in some other way.
That may be digging holes in your vegetable patch, or it may be tearing up your favorite pair of shoes.
But whatever it is, in many cases you can reduce or eliminate that behavior just by doubling your dog’s walking time.
Remember, different breeds have different exercise requirements. You will need to do a bit of research on your breed.
Some little dogs, such as Jack Russell, have extremely high exercise requirements.
Some big dogs, on the other hand, are content with a small stroll each day.
Age will also play a factor – young pups do not need much exercise as their joints are still developing.
Play Time Matters Too
Life cannot be all work and no play, and this is especially true when it comes to your new puppy.
You do not want to ‘wear out’ your pup with too much training. This means do not train too often, do not make training sessions too long and make sure there is a healthy helping of fun mixed in.
A dog can get burned out from too much training. (Not to mention, you can stress yourself out by trying too hard to fix problem behaviors and teach commands – remember, many problem behaviors take care of themselves in time as long as you follow a few basic principles).
Your Puppy’s Growing Brain
Just like a human baby, your pup’s brain becomes more advanced as she gets older.
When you first pick her up at about 8 weeks of age, her learning abilities will be very limited, and she will not remember much of what she learns anyway.
The world will be a big, confusing place. Those first few weeks will be all about exploring for your puppy – and often exploring involves picking things up in her mouth!
As she grows older, she will be able to pay attention for longer periods, understand more complicated commands, and develop a better memory.
So, the key is to know what to expect at each stage of development, and train accordingly.
This is perhaps the most important training tips here.
If you have read a few other puppy training guides, you would be forgiven for thinking that a puppy is a ‘machine’ you can ‘program.’
This is how some training book writers seem to approach it. Do this, do that, do not do this, do not do that – and voila, your puppy will be trained.
The real process is not so straightforward. The effectiveness of many of the techniques you will use will depend on the bond you are able to develop with your pup.
An owner with a good bond and an owner with no bond, can use the exact same techniques – but the owner with the good bond will get better results, because her puppy actually wants to listen, pay attention and behave well.
Bonding is kind of the ‘x-factor’ of puppy training.
It is hard to give an exact guide to how to grow your bond with your dog – it is something that happens on an individual level between you and your own unique dog.
But it is certainly something you should not ignore the importance of. It will influence literally every other aspect of training.
Hopefully these 7 training tips have given you a few things to think about and made you look at the art of training a puppy in a different light.
But at the end of it all, there’s only so much information an article can give you, and even after this long list of tips there’s still more key information for you to find out in the future. It is your responsibility as a puppy owner to make sure your pup grows up happy, healthy, and well trained. And to do that, you need to have the right info on hand – a complete resource you can turn to any time you are confused or stuck.