Puppy Training Tips
Puppy Training!!! This is an important topic and should be used with the Puppy preparations and Puppy socialization pages.
Consistency: This is key. You have a very smart dog (4th smartest on the intelligence of dogs list). If you AND everyone in your family train, treat, and reprimand in the same way EVERY time you dog will learn faster and be more consistently reliable.
Tone of Voice: Secret ingredient #1 - If you do a cheery voice for good things - very high pitched and female (guys channel your more feminine side!) not only when good things are happening, but when patting as well; this messages to puppy that this is the sound we are working for. This tone of voice means my family is happy with me. Use a buzz or some other obnoxious sound for bad things. Don't overuse NO unless it is a danger or horrifically bad behavior. If you use no all the time it has no power. A buzzer sound is your new best friend. No one wants to hear it (and I have actually forgotten myself and buzzed my son before - he responded too!LOL)
Power of Sit: This is secret ingredient #2 - who would've thought such a simple command could have so much power - but it does! I promise my puppy families (and many other puppies too) that sit can easily be learned the first day you bring puppy home and possibly the first hour! Say 'Sit!' in a sharp, not angry tone. They won't know what you are asking, so you show by pushing back on the chest. Push back until sit is achieved - usually immediately. If you can't get a sit push back and lift a little under the chin and this should work. Only if all else fails would I include a push back and gentle push down on the rump. I have gotten a fully untrained adult of 85 pounds to sit in an hour using this method. I would then ask sit no more than twice before I was forcing compliance by the push back. On the first day and a half, sit is your goal. Why is sit important? - It is the basis of self control. You are messaging to your puppy that in order for anything with you to happen, they must be under self control. So once sit in mastered - these are the places it is ALWAYS used: out of crate, before a pat, before and after a leash walk, during meal preparation and lowering (we'll cover this later), and during all stops on a walk (more later). Sit is also the foundation to Stay, (Lay) Down, and come - so you need to master it first.
Sitting During Meal preparation: This is really critical and its not about good manners. It is the hardest time during which a puppy will have to practice its self control. Ask puppy to sit. Get bowl and start filling with food. Puppy will want to break the sit. Re-ask if necessary. Now we lower the bowl. At first puppy will want to break the sit while lowering. The bowl goes back on the counter and we ask a sit again. Start over with the process of lowering the bowl. This will get easy in about two days. If necessary use a partner to get sit compliance. Once the bowl is on the ground you can say OK - releasing the sit and allowing puppy to eat. Once you have mastered this the hardest of self controls to a young puppy, they will respect your authority on all matters usually. If you try this and puppy continually breaks the sit AND YOU LOWER THE BOWL ANYWAY - you will have messaged to your puppy that your command is strictly optional. Understand that what you do indicates your authority. Are you determined to have things work the way you say - puppy will get this. If you don't require compliance every time you ask something - you will end up not getting compliance at all. You will either teach the puppy to listen to you or you will teach the puppy to ignore you.
Leash Walk Manners: This is the secret ingredient that you build puppy training on, but can also fix some pretty uppity adults too! Believe me, I've worked many an untrained dog into shape this way. From crazy jumpers - to zero skills at all - they can get a well conducted leash walk in two days. Level 1) Walking at my pace on the left hand side no more than 12" from my knee. Level 2) Pace walking with a sit added when I stop. Level 3) Pace walking and sit/stopping with puppy looking in my eyes for direction. To accomplish this try the walk first and determine what your problems are. Is puppy lagging, tug a bit. Is puppy walking too fast or pulling, yank slightly. Lots of cheery voiced 'goods' when the pace is right; buzzing 'ennhhh' when misbehavior happens. Adding the sit is not difficult and can happen in a day. Be unpredictable and stop for no reason. Stop in 30 seconds or 5 minutes whatever you want, puppy must sit when you stop. The release which builds into the next command is OK - the 'release' from any sit. Practice this at home for sit episodes too and puppy will learn faster. The final form is attained after puppy has mastered the sit at a stop - then click or whistle to get puppy's attention. Once puppy looks to you, swing pointer finger with a flourish forward as you say OK. This tells puppy that he/she is to look to you for all directions. The purpose of the leash walk is not for good leash manners! It is because puppy is learning that the relationship with you requires control, compliance, and rewards.
Problem dogs/situations and the leash walk: This is more aimed at the adult dog with no skills or the puppy that is more exertive in its desire to run the show. There is no terrible tragedy associated with the use of a choke collar. Though it is dangerous if left on, I can assure you that no dog has ever pulled so much as to make themselves pass out! If they pull, the choke gets tight; if they stop it gets loose. The collar MUST be applied properly for this to work. On your left hand side the choke should slip over the dog's head in a capital P formation. Only in this form can the choke release when puppy stops pulling. The choke collar need only be used for a couple days I assure you. Use the above leash walk protocols buzzing sound with the corrective yank (the tension on the yank should be appropriate to the size and age of the animal - a small puppy needs significantly less tension than say an 85lb male!)
Potty Training /Housebreaking: I have put a lot of time, yuck, effort and the occasional upset stomach into keeping the puppy area meticulously clean. As they get older - they do have a greater ability to mess and make a mess and I still have to keep them clean. There is a reason for this; they are den animals and they like to have a clean den! This is innate behavior and we want to keep it that way. So, I have messaged/reinforced your puppy that we don't go in the den - that there is a separate place for this. While in my care it is the litterbox of pine pellets off in the corner. When you get puppy we broaden the idea of den to the whole house and we broaden the idea of the litter box (dump) to the outside.
Puppy will learn to 'go' outside before they will learn it is a taboo to 'go' inside. To accomplish this you must be consistent, vigilant, and praising. If you work very hard the first 7 -10 days, you will be done. If you work hard sometimes and sometimes not so hard - it will take longer. At first puppy should be provided an opportunity to go outside every hour, every time it emerges from the crate, or immediately after every meal. These are all guarantees of success. This is how puppy knows what you are talking about. We use the command 'outside' at the door while puppy is sitting and getting the leash on. Use door bells in your training and you can get puppy to eventually ring the bells when it needs to go. Once the door has been opened and we are actually outside, I switch to the command 'go potty'. I say it perhaps a million times repeatedly and my whole neighborhood thinks I'm nuts! When finally, puppy goes; I say 'go potty' one last time - like you are doing it because I gave the direction, and then immediately praise and treat. Keep using the go potty command EVERY single time you go outside. When an accident happens inside you say firmly, but not angrily - NO! (or buzz; my carpet gets a NO, my wood floor a buzz!), you go outside! Then take them to a spot you know they have gone potty in and say - we go potty outside - let them smell and say good dog.
The dogs don't come with human language skills, but they learn very easily. Don't forget it is also in consistent tone of voice. Enunciate carefully and they will get the word faster. Though we used to stick puppy's nose in messes made inside the house, we now know that positive reinforcement is faster and better. I would only stick a nose in a mess if it was becoming a really bad chronic problem and you have been vigilant and exhausted every other method. A "pee stick' available at jefferspet (see link) is scented with phermones that make dogs want to pee on it - like the neighborhood fire hydrant! This may be a very well spent $7 if it saves your carpets.
***Warning****** I have come across a couple of websites recently who 'train' their puppies and sell them to you for exorbitant amounts of money!! Consider this carefully please. Are these the leftover puppies that didn't sell and so the breeder gave them basic skills so as to now try and market them as something superlative? I was just shocked to see some prices in the 7 - 9 thousand dollar zone. You could get a car for that! Please people. Training a smart puppy to be housebroken, and have CGC skills is about a 2K proposition at best. Maybe you would follow up for an additional 1K as the puppy gets older. Please don't get ripped off. Get a quality puppy from a quality breeder and train it. OR, get a quality puppy from a quality breeder and have it trained. These packages of getting a pre-trained puppy really stink in my book!