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Congratulations on bringing home your new puppy! Learn a few training tips now to build good habits that will last a lifetime.
What Is Puppy Obedience Training?
Puppies learn from the moment they set paw in your home. This "accidental puppy training" teaches powerful lessons through trial and error. Puppy obedience training emphasizes these lessons by clearly communicating what behaviors you want and expect from your pup. Read on to learn more about obedience training, starting with these quick tips:
- Keep training short: Puppies have short attention spans, so practice five minutes at a time. Focus on one skill and move on once they've mastered it. End training on a positive note so your pet feels excited about their next lesson.
- Reward your puppy: You want to get paid for working, and dogs do, too. Use praise and rewards to shower them with a doggy payday. Catch pups doing something right, and they want to do it again. Choose healthy dog treats that won't upset puppy nutrition. Many puppies work for toys, too. Choose whatever floats your puppy's boat and reserve it for training.
- Be consistent: Puppies thrive on routine, so set a convenient time and place for daily training. Choose a single word to communicate what you want. Family members using different words for the same command can confuse puppies.
This method uses a unique clicking sound to identify the behaviors you like. Then, you'll reward with a treat. Choose a tiny, yummy treat your pup only gets during training sessions.
Start with a normal puppy behavior like a sit. As soon as their tail hits the floor, click and give them the treat. They'll look puzzled, paw you, or bark and whine. Say nothing, don't touch them and let them work it out. When they sit again, click and treat them. Once the puppy lightbulb turns on, they'll sit over and over to get their reward. Clicker training teaches puppies that good behavior earns rewards. They'll look for ways to please you. Once they volunteer the sit behavior, you can name it ("sit"), and they'll learn the meaning of the command. You can use clicker training with any behavior, like a paw wave or a fun trick.
Lure training works faster than clicker training. You can use treats or a favorite toy to lure train puppies. With this method, you don't touch your puppy or force them into positions. Instead, using the favored reward as a lure, you guide them into the requested position. When they comply, they get the reward.
Show them the treat or toy lure. Be sure you choose something they adore and only get during training. Hold it out of their reach, up and in front of your pup's head. Then, move the lure forward, just above their head. To follow the motion, they must look up, and to keep their balance, your pup's tail should hit the floor in a sit. Immediately say "Sit!" as they pose and give them the treat or toy.
Teaching Basic Puppy Training Skills
While puppies enjoy learning tricks, puppy obedience training goes beyond teaching "sit." It helps puppies learn polite behaviors to become a welcome part of your family and the world. Use these methods to encourage acceptable behaviors and redirect negative ones.
A leash provides a ticket to visit places away from home. Use lure training to entice your puppy to walk alongside you while wearing a halter and leash. Teach loose leash walking while they're small to prevent tug-of-war struggles when they grow up.
Basic Command: Come
You can teach your pup to come to you in a couple of different ways. When your fur buddy voluntarily runs to you, click and treat to reinforce the skill. If you use lure training, call their name — "[Name], come!" — and show the reward to lure them to you. If they refuse to come, turn around and run away from them while calling their name. Most puppies can't resist chasing you. If all else fails, fall on the ground and feign crying. Pups will often return to comfort you. Always reward dogs for returning, no matter how long it takes. Punishment teaches them to refuse coming back.
Basic Command: Wait
A "stay" command means a dog doesn't move — a bit much to ask of puppies. Instead, teach "wait," meaning your pup shouldn't advance forward. Use a doorway to teach this skill. Tell them to wait, then open the door. If they move forward, close the door. Repeat until they understand the door opens only if they wait 10 seconds. Once they've got it, give them permission to move ("Let's go!"). Moving forward rewards them without the need for a treat.
You can use a crate as a feeding station, bed and safe confinement. Meals, beds and rewards only available in the crate build positive associations.
For potty training, time bathroom breaks after meals, playtime and naps. Go to the same spot for consistency. Teach a potty phrase like "take a break" so they know what you expect. When you can't supervise, confine them in the crate. Since puppies rarely potty where they sleep, they'll let you know when they need to go.
Mistakes Are Good
Puppies — and humans — must make mistakes to learn what works. Practice patience as you learn together. You may even consider puppy obedience classes from professionals. Puppy obedience training prepares you for a lifetime of love together. That builds a strong bond to sustain you through the years to come.
Amy Shojai, CABC
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, and nationally known authority on pet care and behavior. She began her career as a veterinary technician and is the award-winning author of more than 35 prescriptive nonfiction pet books.