Giving your new puppy a proper education!
As well as socialising your puppy, you’ll want to spend lots of time teaching them how to behave appropriately, both inside and outside your house
Dogs that are well behaved are a pleasure to be around and they’ll often be able to join you on days out. They’ll get to enjoy the freedom of going off lead if they have a reliable recall and if they walk nicely on the lead, then you’ll also love taking them on long walks!
Although you can teach puppies and dogs a great deal (the list is endless!), the most important are the basics, some of which may even save your dog’s life one day. These include recall, sit, stay or wait, how to walk on a loose lead and how to “leave” or “drop it”. Here are some helpful tips, courtesy of the Bluecross animal charity in the UK.
Keep sessions short. Puppies, just like young children have short attention spans and tire easily
Make learning fun and exciting. Dogs who enjoy learning new things are much keener students than those who find learning stressful or scary. Don’t be disappointed if your puppy gets it wrong or tell them off – just think of ways to help them get it right next time!
Dogs learn by association and tend to repeat the things they find rewarding. Reward good behaviours using praise, titbits or toys (whatever your puppy enjoys the most) and you should see that your dog will repeat them more frequently. You can ignore some behaviours you don’t want your puppy to repeat, but this might not be sufficient enough to prevent the behaviour from happening – so teach an alternative behaviour instead.
The majority of dogs love to play. It’s lots of fun for them and it’s also a fantastic outlet for their natural behaviours – dogs who don’t have the opportunity to play safely might find their own ways of meeting this important need which can be problematic and sometimes dangerous.
Playing with your puppy regularly will also teach you about your dog’s personality, their preferences for games and also strengthen the bond between you.
All puppies can be excitable, lively and boisterous. However some are more so than others – these puppies may play-bite more often or harder, or they might constantly be looking for something to do, often getting themselves into all sorts of trouble! Your puppy won’t always be this much hard work, but they will need lots of your patience and guidance to help them (and you!) get through this sometimes challenging time.
When your puppy is in an excitable mood, try to channel their excitement into a play or training session. This will help provide them with the mental stimulation they need. Clicker training is great for bright puppies and something you can both have a lot of fun doing.
Encourage cooperative behaviour and self-control before you train, play with or feed your puppy – this helps teach them that all good things come to those who wait calmly. Ensure that your puppy gets lots of quiet time. Puppies need to sleep and rest a great deal, and a tired puppy can be irritable or overstimulated, just like a person can be. Make time in the day for your puppy to have regular breaks, with a chew and a comfortable bed. If your puppy finds it difficult to switch off, then popping them behind a stairgate or in a crate should help with this.
‘Puppy proof’ your home to make sure your puppy doesn’t get the opportunity to pick up too many items that you’d rather they didn’t. Puppies are naturally curious so don’t punish them when they do pick up things you don’t want them to (this may frighten them and cause defensive behaviour which should be avoided) – calmly remove the item from your puppies mouth and reward them with a titbit for releasing. Avoid chasing your puppy in this situation, as most puppies will think this is a fun game – they may learn to enjoy stealing as it results in lots of attention from you. Provide lots of items that you are happy for your puppy to explore and pick up and it’s a good idea to teach an ‘off’ or ‘leave’ command which you’ll be able to use for the future .
Avoid punishing your puppy for mischievous behaviour. Quite often they won’t understand what it is they are being punished for, only that you get angry sometimes. This won’t be good for your relationship as your puppy might begin to fear you. It’s much better to show your puppy what it is you want them to do and manage carefully the things you’d rather they didn’t.
Jumping up is a very natural behaviour for puppies. Most just want to say hello and they quickly learn that this is a great way to get attention! Many people don’t seem to mind a small and cute puppy jumping up so it’s easy to see how this can become a strong habit for the puppy. It’s only when the puppy gets bigger that it can be an issue, so the best advice is not to encourage it in the first place.
Try to give your puppy lots of praise and attention when they have all four feet on the floor when greeting you, and ask anyone interacting with your puppy to do the same. Turning your back on a puppy can lessen the jumping up, but it may also cause them to become frustrated. Teaching them an incompatible behaviour (to jumping up), such as a good ‘sit’ is often easier for the puppy to understand. Try practicing this simple ‘greeting exercise’ at home.
Why do puppies ‘bite’ and what is ‘bite inhibition’?
Puppies investigate the world using their mouths so it’s perfectly natural to expect them to nibble and bite fingers and hands when they are young. Puppies need to use their mouths and teeth a great deal to find out how this important part of their anatomy works. Puppies will also play with other puppies using their mouths so puppy biting also occurs when they are trying to elicit play from other dogs (and later people). It’s also important to remember that puppies will be experiencing some discomfort during the teething period, so make sure that you provide them with lots of chews at this important stage.