Having a puppy is a fun and exciting experience. However it is a lot of work and can be very stressful. I am here to make this process easier and less stressful with these important puppy training tips.
Having bathroom accidents in the home is not something you want to deal with as a new puppy owner and not a behavior you want your new puppy to get accustomed with. So right off the bat, begin using my housebreaking protocol. This program is very successful when used consistently adhered to on a daily basis.
Next, begin following the criteria outlined in Guidelines for Dog Owners. Puppyhood offers you the opportunity to lay a proper foundation that will last a lifetime. You can prevent many future behavior issues that are common in adult dogs.
Puppies display a lot of behaviors that are unwanted, but not necessarily “bad” behaviors. Puppies mouth hands, chew clothes and other items, jump, display a high level of energy, etc., but that is normal for a puppy. If we saw these behaviors in an adult dog, that would not be acceptable. Just as we accept certain behaviors from a toddler that we would not expect from a 20 year old adult.
What do we do when our puppy shows this type of unwanted behavior? First make sure we do not unintentionally reinforce them. Unintentional reinforcement can come in the form of verbal communication on our part (often owners raise their voice and yell “Stop”, “No”, etc.). As humans, verbal communication is inherent and our default reaction, but that’s not true for dogs. Dogs can perceive your excited high pitch voice as reinforcing or “fuel to the fire” because you are adding excited energy to their already excited state. So calm and quiet is always best. Pushing your puppy away from you or grabbing their collar can also be interpreted as reinforcing to a puppy. It is providing them the attention they were originally seeking.
Dog training comes down to two things: Reinforcing the behaviors we like/want to continue and ignoring/discouraging the behaviors with dislike/don’t want to continue.
If your puppy is mouthing, jumping, barking, chewing on household items, etc. you can look to handle these issues in a variety of ways:
- Ignore the Behavior: If your puppy is barking or jumping on you, try turning your back and ignoring. By eliminating any signs of reinforcement, your puppy will learn that those behaviors do not work and will not elicit the attention they are seeking.
- Redirection: Puppies chew on everything. If you puppy is mouthing on shoes, furniture, etc. redirect them to a more suitable alternative. Provide them a chew toy instead.
Helpful Tip – maintain the novelty factor of each toy. Find five or so toys you know your dog likes to play with. Do not allow them free access to all those toys at once. Have a five toy rotation and only dispense one toy at a time. If he starts chewing on your shoe, try redirecting him to toy #1. If they are not interested in toy #1 anymore, pick it up/take it away, and replace it with toy #2. Toy #1 goes in the back of the rotation, and your puppy should now be actively playing with toy #2 because it is a novelty that they have not seen or played with in a while.
- Withdraw Attention: If you are petting your dog and they begin to get overly excited and make bad choices (mouthing, etc), simply stop petting, withdraw your hands, stand up, and walk away. Once your dog calms down, you can resume petting. We need to be cognizant of the energy we are showing our dog. Often times it is the owner who is causing their puppy to become over excited. We need to be calm when interacting with our puppy. Teach your puppy that calmness gets rewarded and high energy/excitement does not. Your puppy will soon learn that they will be petted and played with, but if they cross over that “threshold of excitement” and make bad choices, all the fun stops.
- Teach an Alternative Behavior: If your puppy is showing unwanted behaviors, redirect their focus using obedience commands such as “Sit” or “Down”. It is essential that you have properly obedience trained your puppy so they fully understand the command you are asking them to perform. If your puppy jumps on guests who enter the home, ask them to “Sit” in order to be greeted by the guest. It is physically impossible for a puppy to jump and sit at the same time. Quickly your puppy will learn that sitting gets them the attention they want and jumping does not. Have your puppy on a leash when people enter the home or greet new people. You can prevent them from jumping and it will help reinforce the “Sit” or “Down” command.
- Short-term Management: The purpose of our management plan is to limit the puppies’ freedom in order to keep them safe and prevent unwanted behaviors. Some possible management tools include: A crate, portable pens, baby gates, or containing them in a “safe room” that was puppy proofed.
It is important to prevent your puppy from getting into mischief by removing items that are on the floor or low to the ground that they can take, chew, consume, etc. When you are you’re your puppy, maintain direct supervision so you can see them and intervene to redirect or discourage poor choices, or confine your puppy when you cannot maintain direct eye contact.
I am a huge proponent of having puppies wear a short leash (drag line) when they are supervised with direct eye contact by an adult (never to be left on when not supervised or in the crate – as the puppy may chew and consume the leash…creating a major health issue). A drag line offers many benefits and enables us to more effectively communicate and address certain behaviors.
- Puppy is jumping on you – simply grab drag line and extend your arm out/away from your body creating separation between you and your puppy. This eliminates unintentional reinforcement such as grabbing the dog’s collar, physically pushing him away, or having to talk in a high pitched voice. Once the puppy calms down, you can let go of the leash.
- Puppy jumps on guests who enter home – Hold the leash as guests come in the door. This prevents any jumping from occurring. Ask the puppy to Sit, once he does, guests can calmly pet the dog. If he starts to jump, guide him off using leash, ask him to Sit again, and then petting can resume.
- Puppy Jumps on furniture/kitchen table/counter, etc – Grab leash, say “Off”, guide puppy off object, release leash when puppy is calm.
- Puppy steals a sock or other household item and runs around house – We can easily prevent this from becoming a game of “catch me if you can”, by taking possession of the leash and then taking the item from the puppy. Chasing the dog would be a form of unintentional reinforcement.
- Exposing puppy to new areas of the home – Take your puppy on leash with you to other rooms of your home in order to introduce them to those rooms in a safe and controlled manner. This helps prevent unwanted behavior from occurring in those rooms.
Learn about my successful In-Home Puppy Training Program