So you’ve just welcomed a puppy into your household and there’s so much to be excited about. The first few months can be very challenging though. Much like babies and children, puppies are quick learners if you give them the chance. It’s in the first weeks at home that you can really make great progress with your puppy and set them up with skills they will retain for life.
In the first 6 months, your dog will be learning lots of new things. The key thing during this time is to stick to only basic commands. There will be plenty of time later on after your dog has established the essentials. You don’t want to overwhelm your puppy. Teaching your puppy can be a lot of fun and very exciting. It’s also very easy if you stick to the same cue words and provide rewards. A key tip is not to reward your dog with a treat every time they perform an action, otherwise, they will always expect one. Instead, offer rewards randomly but always offer praise. Here are our top five training tips you can start with for those vital first weeks at home.
What’s in a name?
Having a name doesn’t just give your dog an identity. It may also save their life one day. In times of imminent danger, you need to be able to command your dog’s attention instantly. Their name is no exception. You need to make sure when you call their name they will turn to you every time without fail. It should mean “stop what you’re doing and look at me”, not just a means of identification.
Try not to shout a dog’s name for correction or punishment, as they may then associate it with negative experiences. To teach them, call your puppy’s name in a friendly tone and attempt to get their attention. As soon as they turn to look, immediately praise and reward them. Once you no longer have their attention repeat this 5 or 6 times for each sitting to reinforce the behaviour. Eventually, you can start adding additional distractions and move the activities outside. You will have now conditioned your dog to associate their name with receiving praise (and occasionally a reward) from you, so they will give you their attention. This is an important first step towards training your dog, as it will make other tasks much easier and really help with recall training.
The sit command
For this routine, you will need to spend about 10 minutes 3 times a day, at a time when your puppy is most alert. You’ll want to use this command to calm your dog and stop them from jumping up onto people. Hold a treat just above their nose so they can smell it, and then slowly bring it down. With enough patience, eventually, your dog will sit. The moment your dog sits, praise them and immediately give them the treat. Once you’ve got the hang of this, add the cue word. Say “sit” as you’re bringing the treat down so that the dog associates the word with the action. If you’re struggling, you can help them out a bit by pressing lightly on their hindquarters and repeating “sit”. Patience will be rewarded and after several days your dog should be able to sit on command from a standing position.
How to socialise
As soon as your puppy is old enough to meet other dogs it’s important to socialise them. The best way to do this is to go on walks where other dog walkers will be, whether that’s the beach or the park. If you know other dog owners, take your dogs out together for a walk. It’s probably best to socialise them in neutral territory as some dogs may become very territorial. These early stages of a puppy’s life will be a time when they are still developing their personalities, so meeting other dogs will build confidence levels and teach them how to act around other animals. Likewise, try to familiarise your dog with people of all ages.
Walking on a leash
Soon it will be time to go outside for the first time. Introduce them to the collar and leash indoors first. Make this a playful experience by giving your dog a treat when you put the collar on. In this way they learn to enjoy the experience. When you’re practicing around the house, lure the puppy to walk at your side using treats or a favourite toy. Eventually, they will learn to walk at your side with neither of you pulling on the lead. You can add the cue word “heel” as you give the treat to reinforce this behaviour. Once you go outside for the first time there will be lots of distractions. With enough patience and repeated training, your dog will calmly walk at your side On a loosely hanging leash. You won’t need to pull on the lead as your dog will have been conditioned to respond to the “heel” command. Practice makes perfect. Don’t let your dog walk you.
Puppies are very cute but they have very sharp little teeth. They also love mouthing everything and anything. When puppies bite each other, they have a high pitched yelp that tells the offender “that was too far!”. Do the same! If your puppy is being too forceful with their mouthing, let out a yelp and recoil your hand. Turn away, don’t make eye contact and make sure the fun and games stop for a short time. Keep doing this until your dog has an understanding of their bite pressure. They’ll learn to be much more gentle. As the training progresses they will soon learn that biting is never acceptable during play and the mouthing behaviour should stop altogether. That’s what their toys are for. Make sure they have a few teething toys that can be used instead, particularly when they have their puppy teeth.