Awwwww…. so cute! Soft, darling, adorable and precious puppy…. who will chew your shoes, leave fecal and urine specimens behind as they tear through your home, shed hair everywhere, nip at your ankles and fingers, slobber your work clothes, become your nighttime alarm clock and steal your heart!
Now that you have this darling Tasmanian devil of love, what are you going to do with it?
I hope your answer includes LOVE it and TRAIN it.
Easy to say, right? A bit harder to do. This blog will show you how to get started! Every lasting and sturdy home is built on a solid base, every wonderful and beneficial relationship is created with love and… you guessed it…a secure foundation.
There are countless articles and books on every aspect of dog training. Some are inspirational and will help you succeed (My personal favorite: Bad Dogs Gone Good) and some are barbaric and will end in misery for both you and your dog. I will give you what I have tried, tested and found truth in. The rest is up to you!
“…LOVE it and TRAIN it”.
This article is not about how to train your dog to fetch your beer or how to make your dog stop freaking out at the unruly neighbor’s kids. This article is about setting up the functional, secure, and necessary foundation for you and your dog to succeed.
“…every wonderful and beneficial relationship is created with love and… you guessed it…a secure foundation”.
Where do you start? That’s an easy answer. Love, compassion, and respect! It doesn’t matter if your pup will be the next show champion, a scent detection medal winner, a lap pooch to keep you grounded or a tool to motivate you to get out in this world. You must have a love for your animal. If you do not love your pup you will have trouble accepting all the crazy things it will do and you will struggle with compassion. Compassion for a brat that craps on your carpet? Yes! Compassion because this is a sweet little furball that is learning. It doesn’t know the rules yet, it doesn’t understand what comes along with being domesticated and placed in a human world with human boundaries. It’s mom let it crap wherever and bite when it played with its littermates. Now, it has so much to learn at the same times as it is going through developmental stages. Yes compassion! With that love and compassion must come respect. Respect that this is not a human child but a canine species. Respect of the breed and instincts. Respect that you are expecting a whole lot from this little darling who was just taken from its world and brought into yours.
Love, compassion, and respect.
Next, we want this fuzzy creature to be healthy, right? Yes, we do. Let’s give it some good food. Let’s not raise it on unnatural crap from Walmart which will cause your pup to feel yucky. Would you want to learn, grow, perform if you were living on dried noodles? No, you wouldn’t. Do some research, talk to your vet (You have a Veterinarian now, right?), talk to dog trainers and pet store owners. Feed your love muffin a healthy diet. With that balanced sustenance, your pup is going to need exercise. You would not be happy and agreeable if you were stuck in a house with nothing to do. And either will your pup. Get outside, walk, play, have lots of safe toys, games, and excitement to stimulate your little wonder physically and mentally.
“A tired, well-fed pup is a happy pup!”
Carrying on, this one may be slightly controversial but I stand by my opinion that pups should be crate trained. Should they live in their crate? No. Should they fear their crate? Definitely no! Their crate should be their safe haven. A place to sleep and go to when they are sick of humans and their crazy rules. The crate will help them with bladder/bowel control, keep them safe, help them feel safe and is a necessity for teaching impulse control and boundaries. There are tons of great articles on crate training but remember…
…”Love, compassion and respect”
Great start, but there is more. Because you love your pup, want it to be healthy, safe and happy, you sure do not want to ruin all that with fear, right? Fear is natural. A loud bang, a blender, kids on skateboards and so on, will elicit natural fear and curiosity in many puppies. You will want to sooth your pup and help them feel safe. So naturally YOU should not be the source of causing fear in your growing, impressionable puppy. No loving, healthy and safe relationship is based on fear… ever! We do not learn when our brains are flooded with fear chemicals and neither do dogs. Nor do dogs respect an owner that causes them fear and pain. They may listen but they do not respect you. Yelling, hitting, pushing, man-handling and choking your pup will NOT benefit your pup. This type of training, in my opinion, is not safe, effective or a practice of a good trainer or owner.
“No loving, healthy and safe relationship is based on fear… ever!”
Excellent! Now it is time for exposure. Oh, wait, did I say exposure? Did I mean socialization? No, I didn’t. I do not like the term socialization that hundreds of trainers and dog people throw around. You do not need your dog to make BFF’s with every dog on the street and have little parties together. You need to expose your pup to as many things as possible. Let me give you a few crucial examples… you want your pup to be exposed to: men, people with hats, women, people wearing sunglasses, young children, older children, crying children, different nationalities, different types of clothing, people with ski-masks. Don’t forget: other dogs, cats, squirrels, birds, ferrets and other moving critters! You want your pup exposed to: cars, trucks, motorbikes, strollers, skateboards, sound of an airplane, train, bus and bicycles. You want your pup exposed to: walking on grass, pavement, gravel, snow, ice, mud and hay. You also want your pup exposed to loud things, quiet things, moving things and still things, inflated Halloween and Christmas decorations….do you get the picture? Expose your pup to everything except for dog parks, and the grassy area beside the Veterinarian office and sick puppies/dogs.
Fantastic, now that you have the beginnings of an amazing foundation for training your new fuzzy friend I will add some foundational commands/cues that are the basis for countless other commands/cues, daily safety in and out of the home and needed for a happy owner-dog relationship.
Watch me/Focus…It really doesn’t matter to me or your pup what words you use, if you will even use words, a clicker or hand motions (personally I use and train all three), what matters is the principal. You want your pup to feel like you are king/queen of their world. You want them to look at you when you need them to so you need to teach them to want to. I do this by rewarding my pup each and every time they look at me. You can click and treat (most effective), say “yes” and treat, or give them tons of scratching behind the ears or their favorite ball. The trick is to give them something they really want and really love every time they look at you. Add a cue word like “focus” or “look” or “watch me” and/or a hand signal to the cue/reward and you are training your pup! Do this in the house until they are looking at you every time you give them the command/cue. Then add some distractions like another person they love, knocking at the door etc and train them again. Each step you are adding distractions and rewarding them for listening to you. Repeat steps when you go outside and in many different environments.
“The trick is to give them something they really want and really love…”
Stay…. It is very important that your poochy will stay put when you need them to. This is particularly important in public, by a road and around other dangers. You have that bag of goodies. You know you need to reward your pup each time they do what you want them to and they are watching you so much more now that you have engaged them. Put your pup in a spot, say “Stay”, add a hand signal if you wish, wait a few seconds then treat. If your pup moves, gently guide them back to the exact spot and start over. Keep adding time and distance away from your pup as they perfect the command. Then add distractions. Be consistent. Training is a lot of work. Make it fun! Own it. Love it.
“Repeat steps when you go outside and in many different environments.”
Place…Use the same training principals above to train your pup to go to a certain place. This could be their crate, a bed, a mat, or wherever you want them to be. If they go to the chosen spot on their own, make a huge, positive deal about it. Click, treat, scratch the ear or whatever makes them the happiest. If they don’t, then lure or take them to the spot and again give them a reward. Add in the “Stay” command. Keep this up multiple times a day, every day. Add in a cue word such as “Place”, “Bed”, “spot”. When they are going to the place each time they are told then you can add some distractions; people at the door, someone else calling their name etc.
“Be consistent. Training is a lot of work. Make it fun! Own it. Love it.”
Don’t reward undesired behaviors! This is so important and such an easy mistake to make. We get all gooey inside when our love-bug jumps up for a kiss when we get home from work so we pet it and reward the jumping. If you don’t want your pup to jump on others (especially children) do not reward it for jumping on you! You don’t want your pup to beg for food, don’t feed it at the table, you don’t want hair on your bed, don’t let the pup on your bed and so on…. Think of your pup as a full-grown dog…what behaviors do you want and what behaviors do you not want. Rewards the behaviors you want and do NOT reward the behaviors you don’t want! Your pup is constantly looking for and receiving reinforcement for each and every behavior. Your job is to adjust that reinforcement. Look up Behavior Modification and learn about Desensitization, Counter-Conditioning, Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible and Opposite behavior, and Positive/Negative Reinforcement and Positive/Negative Punishment. And of course check back for more dog training blogs from me! ????
Wow! Well Done! You now have an amazing foundation of knowledge and foundational training skills. You and your pup are on the way to a fabulous, life-long relationship! You should be proud of yourself. There will be days when you cannot or do not want to train… and that’s ok. There will be times when you want to chuck your pup outside and will it to go away… and that is okay too. Training is hard work but can easily be incorporated into your everyday life.
Do you have any questions about the foundation on puppy training?
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