Congratulations on getting a new fur baby! Having a puppy by your side is both a happy and challenging feat, as they need a lot of training as much as play time. It’ll require your and every family member’s time and patience, consistent efforts, and some training tools along the way.
Puppy training can be overwhelming at the start as they have so much to learn, but don't worry! There are a lot of tips you can follow. These tips will help you in navigating puppy training so that your new pet becomes a happy and healthy member of your household.
10 Essential Tips for Training a New Puppy
1. Start training early
Isn’t it fun to see your puppy play and run around the house freely, full of cuteness and excitement? Yes, absolutely! And puppy training doesn’t have to hinder them from doing those things, but instead, help them have fun without being a nuisance.
Start training your dog early. This will help them learn proper behaviour and manners as early as possible, which they’ll carry with them growing up and will positively influence their life in the long run.
2. Begin with house rules
You might want to start to teach them some house rules to set some boundaries. This is both for their and you and your family’s sake. And your furniture. Here are some of the basic house rules you can start teaching your puppy.
- Mealtimes - Start by training your puppy to eat at a certain schedule. Give them food at a certain time, and try to follow that routine. Also, you can train them not to eat in the dining area while you are eating. This helps them not nudge you for food.
- Potty training - One of the first things you'll work on with your new puppy is potty training. Feed them at regular times everyday. Take them outside to potty every time they eat, drink, or wake up from a nap.
- Crate training - If your puppy is given enough time to become used to their crate, it may become one of their favourite places. Crates may help your puppy avoid bad behaviours such as inappropriate chewing or soiling.
- Bite inhibition - Bite inhibition is an important part of puppy training. It involves carefully educating your puppy to use their teeth. Start teaching your puppy bite inhibition by allowing them to use their mouth while playing and ending the game if they bite too hard.
- Destructive chewing - Puppies enjoy chewing, and instead of trying to stop them, teach them which items are appropriate chew toys. Redirecting him to appropriate toys is another part of chew training.
3. Maintain a daily schedule
Getting your puppy on a schedule is the key to effective training. Maintain a feeding schedule so that their potty times and meal times stay consistent. Allot a certain time for their training sessions, starting from a few minutes, then gradually increasing the duration.
A consistent schedule helps your puppy remember things faster.
4. Train your puppy at the right time and place
When training your puppy, find a quiet place where they can concentrate. Too many distractions will not help especially when they’re just starting to learn. Help them focus more on you and the task at hand.
It's also important that your puppy is in the right mood or condition to learn. Training them when they’re tired won’t work as much as training them when they’re energetic.
Train your puppy when they’re lively, because this gives you a higher chance of them responding to your commands as they are craving attention and are willing to cooperate and listen.
5. Incorporate training into daily life
"You don't have to commit 30 minutes of undivided attention to training your puppy," explains certified dog trainer Gillihan. "Practise basic cues like sit and stay while your coffee is brewing or there's a commercial on TV," she says. This way, your dog can easily associate that the things they learned aren’t expected and appreciated only during training, but in real situations as well.
Here are some commands and habits you can incorporate into you and your dog’s daily routine.
- Practice calling your dog from other rooms. Recall is one of the most basic commands you can teach your dog. Call for them in various rooms at varying times of the day, so you can easily get their attention later on in less quiet environments.
- Train your dog to wait before meals. Allow them to eat only if they sit still in front of the bowl for a short period. You can later use the “Wait” command in public, like near doorways or before leaving the car, to keep them from bolting into streets.
- Have them sit before you put a leash on. The “Sit” command is incredibly versatile. You can instil patience in dogs by having them sit before and while you attach their leash before taking them out for a walk.
- Crate training. Crates do not only provide a place of comfort for your dogs—they make for great potty training tools, too. As dogs rarely ever relieve themselves in the same place they sleep in, crate training teaches them where in your house they can go to when nature calls.
- Teach the “Leave it” command. It happens to the best of us: we drop a portion of meat, knock a cup of coffee over, or misplace some batteries. In instances like these, teaching your dog to “leave it” keeps them from mistaking hazardous objects for tasty morsels.
6. Use positive reinforcement
Dogs respond better to positive reinforcement. Get them to repeat the behaviours you like by rewarding them with praise, treats, or games, and ignore or redirect them when they misbehave.
Punishing your dog may stop unwanted behaviour, but it doesn’t tell them what you actually want them to do. Harsh punishments may cause issues like fear and aggression to develop.
To deal with misbehaviours, provide your puppy with enrichment such as toys, exercise, and training. This allows your dog to find entertainment in other places, instead of resorting to unwanted behaviour.
7. Help your dog associate human touch with love
We get it—your dog is the cutest thing on the planet! Other people will agree too, which is why your dog will be subject to a lot of human touching. That’s not something they’ll always enjoy, so teach them early on that human touch is not a bad thing.
Help your puppy associate human touch with good things. Start by petting some non-invasive areas, such as the side of their neck, and reward them with a treat. You can then slowly move on to more sensitive areas, like their ears, paws, chest, and belly. Make sure to let them know that when they allow you to touch them, they get something good out of it.
This process helps when your dog has to deal with unwanted human contact, like being examined at the vet or having their nails clipped at the groomer’s.
8. Begin socialising as soon as possible
Your pup needs to be comfortable not only around other people and other dogs, but all sorts of situations.
Try taking your dog out for walks at a nearby dog park, or to whatever public space they are allowed to play around in. If you think you’ll bring your dog to work, bring them there as a puppy. If you think you’ll be with babies and kids at home, your puppy should meet kids of all ages.
Beyond cleaning tools like the vacuum, if you work with power tools when you do projects around the house, let your puppy hear them early on.
A social dog is a well-adjusted dog. Exposing them to all kinds of sights and sounds early on keeps them from reacting negatively to them later on.
9. Being alone is no big deal
Dogs shouldn’t be left alone. If you get a dog, it’s understood you work from home or you have other people in the family to stay home with your dog. As hard as it might be for us to leave our dogs for any amount of time, it’s important to teach them that there’s nothing to worry about when you do leave.
Here are some tips to prevent separation anxiety in dogs.
- Avoid overenthusiasm during greetings and goodbyes. Don’t make a huge fuss while saying goodbye to your dog. Once you come home, maintain that calm—you could also even ignore your dog until they themselves have calmed down. This teaches your pup that you coming and going is not a big deal.
- Keep your dog active. Some owners take their dogs out for a walk before heading to work. Engaging your dog in physical activities tires them out enough to sleep throughout your absence, instead of getting anxious about it.
- Provide enrichment. Give your dogs some toys to play with, or get them some puzzle feeders, which dispenses food or treats whenever your dogs manipulate them. Do any of these before leaving, which lets your dog look forward to your departure instead of stressing about it.
- Stick to the same schedule. Consistency fosters a feeling of security. Try to maintain the same routine every day, but in case of drastic schedule changes, ease your dog into it by making small changes every day leading to the adjustment.
- Hire a pet-sitter, ask a friend, or try doggy day care. Some dogs find it harder to adjust than others. When all else fails, consider hiring a pet-sitter or asking a friend to stay over during your absence to keep your dog company. Some cities also have doggy day cares that you can drop your dogs off at, allowing them some socialisation in the process.
10. Set them up for success
When teaching every new command, make sure you’ll be successful. This depends on how old your dog is and how well they responded to previous commands.
For example, don’t expect to execute a recall when your dog is too young and easily distracted by new toys or new people; you also don’t want them to learn they can ignore their name. Neither can you teach “Stay” when you know they might follow you because their current instinct is to want to stay close.
Match your training to your dog’s age and take note of their progress, while making adjustments along the way.
Bonus: Be patient!
If all these tips sound like a lot of work, well, it is! It takes a lot of patience to get your dog to follow even the simplest of commands, and a lot of effort to redirect misbehaviour. But when you start training early, you’ll also enjoy the fruits of your labour earlier on, and make your best pal’s as comfortable as they can be.
Life with dogs is a life already made better—why not also make it easier?