Training Your Puppy Keeps Him Safe

When you bring home a new puppy, it may be that the first thing you think about training is house-breaking. A laudable goal, to be sure, but did you know you can also start obedience training just about immediately? In fact, training your puppy as soon as possible will help assure his or her safety for many years to come.

puppy training
Training your puppy as soon as possible will help assure his or her safety for many years to come.

General Tips for Training a Puppy

If you have human children, you know that youngsters aren’t known for having especially long attention spans. This is true of puppies as well, so you will want to keep your training sessions short and fun.

Work with your dog for no more than five minutes at a time, but you can do several sessions each day, as your schedule permits. Use your puppy’s natural desire to play as a motivator to help him or her learn the lessons you want to teach.

Positive training methods work much better than aversive training, allowing the dog to learn a skill more easily and to retain it for much longer. Your primary tools for positive training are attention from you, play time, and treats. With puppies, you’ll want to rely mostly on the first two to keep from upsetting immature tummies.

Never, never, never hit your puppy. They have delicate bones that can break easily, and hitting will only make them more ornery. It will not make them conform to the rules.

Dogs, as well as people, can be intimidated into doing only exactly what you tell them to do. However, they can be encouraged to work to their fullest potential, even when you don’t make specific requests by using positive training such as praise and attention.

It is easiest for puppies to learn if only one person is in charge of training, so choose a person who has enough time to devote to the effort each and every day. Once the dog learns the commands, he or she should respond to other family members saying them.

Teaching your puppy to walk on a leash

Before you can teach any of the other commands, your puppy must accept the idea of being attached to a leash. In most jurisdictions, your dog must be under your control at all times, and a very good way to achieve this control is to keep your dog on a leash whenever he or she is off your property.

Some dogs take to a leash immediately, while others need a little encouragement. You might start by letting the dog sniff at the new collar to see what it is before it is put on his or her neck. Leave the collar on for as long as the dog will tolerate it, building up the amount of time each day. By the end of a week or so, the dog ought to stop noticing the collar, so it is time to start with the leash.

Again, let the dog sniff at the leash to check it out before you attach it to the collar. Start by allowing your dog to carry “your” end of the leash around the house for awhile on the first day. Monitor the dog to make sure he or she doesn’t get stuck on something that could cause strangulation. Again, build up a few minutes each day until the dog thinks nothing of having that extra weight around his or her neck.

Next, begin taking the dog outside, with you holding onto the end of the leash. If the dog lies down or plants his or her feet, refusing to walk, you may want to have your spouse, child, or some other assistant walk in front of you holding or shaking a favorite toy for the dog to follow.

Entice the dog to walk toward the toy, then praise your baby as if he or she is the smartest animal in the world. Play with the puppy and the toy as a reward for walking even a few inches on the leash to get the toy. Increase the distance to the toy by a few feet each day, and soon you will have the dog wanting to walk on the leash because you have taught him or her that play time comes soon after a walk.

Once your dog is fully comfortable on the leash, you can move on to basic obedience commands. Your dog should now be able to concentrate on the new commands because the leash has begun to feel natural.

Teaching your puppy to sit/stay

puppy training
The best way to keep your puppy under control is to teach the sit/stay commands.

The best way to keep your puppy under control is to teach the sit/stay commands. To get the dog to sit, think of your dog’s body as a teeter-totter. In order for the back end to go down, the front end must go up. Hold the dog’s toy in front of his or her eyes, then slowly raise it and move it back toward the tail so the puppy must lift his or her snout to see the toy.

As you are doing this say the puppy’s name, then say, SIT, in a loud, serious voice. This is not the time for baby talk or begging. You are the alpha dog in your family, and showing that you mean business is the only way your puppy will learn this.

If the dog doesn’t start moving his or her rear end toward the floor when you hold the toy above the head, you might want to gently push down on the dog’s back at the base of the tail, just enough to give a hint of what you are trying to accomplish.

The dog may not end up totally seated, but be sure to reward each small step toward success. Even if the dog’s back end only sinks a little, give praise and affection for partial compliance, and for each time he or she gets closer to the goal of getting butt on pavement, even if the puppy jumps back up immediately afterward.

Once your puppy has SIT mastered, you want to work on STAY. To do this, give your dog the sit command, and once the dog is seated, place the palm of your hand in front of the dog’s eyes and say the puppy’s name, then say STAY in your command voice. Wait a second or two, then say “okay” and move your hand back to your side. If your puppy remained seated for the few seconds you had your hand up, give praise, and play time.

Work your way up a few seconds at a time, and when your dog is capable of staying seated for about 30 seconds, you will begin to work on distance. Put the dog in a sit, give the stay command, then back up a step or two. Your goal is to have the dog remain seated no matter how far you back up, so you will increase the distance you back up by a few steps each day.

The final goal for sit / stay is for the dog to remain seated even when you are not focusing your entire attention on him or her, and without maintaining the hand signal. It may take several weeks to work up to this, but your dog will eventually master the skill if you work consistently each and every day.

Teaching a puppy to come when called

The “come” command is one of the most important commands for safety. Puppies, like toddlers, are naturally curious and fearless. They are going to explore everything they come into contact with, and they explore by using all of their senses, including their sense of taste. If your puppy wanders away to investigate something new, whether it’s a passing car, a yellow jacket, a can of paint, or a much larger dog, you can only assure safety by teaching the youngster to come back each and every time you call.

To teach the COME command, you will want to have your dog on a leash in a sit / stay. Holding the free end of the leash, walk a few steps away from your seated dog. Turn to face the dog, say his or her name, then give the command COME. Again, no baby talk or begging. You want the dog to know you mean business. If the dog doesn’t come independently, you can tug gently on the leash for encouragement. Your dog will likely want to come see you, so this isn’t usually a hard command to teach. Of course, if compliance with the command is followed immediately by play time, affection, and praise, it will make learning that much easier.

Teaching the LEAVE IT command

The last safety-related command is LEAVE IT. This command is used when your dog takes an interest in something you would really rather he or she didn’t. It might be a dead animal, a poisonous substance, or even the holiday ham on the kitchen counter.

When your dog begins to sniff at something undesirable, you will want to immediately say the dog’s name, followed by the words LEAVE IT. This really needs to be your best command voice because there can be no doubt in your dog’s mind that you are not to be ignored.

Get your dog to turn his or her head away from the item by presenting a treat or favorite toy on the side of your dog’s head away from the item. As soon as the dog walks away or stops sniffing the object, give lots of praise and attention.

This skill is sometimes hard to work on because you might not encounter undesirable substances every day at training time. You will have to plant some objectionable items in the dog’s training area in order to get some regular practice. As your dog gets better at leaving things alone, begin to move the treat further away from his head so he will walk away from the objectionable item.

Don’t forget to socialize your puppy!

Although you might not set aside a formal time to work with your puppy on socialization, it is an important part of training. Exposing your dog to many different sights, sounds, situations, and both human and non-human playmates will help the puppy feel comfortable throughout his or her life no matter what pops up.

The best way to socialize a puppy is to take the animal with you everywhere you go. Of course, this may not always be possible – not all of us are lucky enough to bring our dogs to work every day – you should try to bring the dog everywhere possible. Doing so may prevent fear-based aggression problems later in life.

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