Basic puppy training
House training or toilet training is the first priority when you take your puppy home. Puppies usually need to go to the toilet shortly after waking from a sleep or after a meal. Aim to take him outside at least every hour as well as after a meal and on waking. Choose the same patch of garden each time and take him there, place him on the ground and stay close by. The minute he squats to urinate praise him and offer a food reward. To begin with you will need to be patient as he may rather explore the garden than empty his bladder! Use a word that he will start to associate with going to the toilet which you repeat quietly while you wait for him to “perform”. Guide dog trainers say “get busy”! Avoid punishing him for making mistakes. Accidents in the house are due to his immaturity and sometimes because you were not able to keep a close eye on him. If you reprimand him for wetting on the floor he will think you are cross because he has urinated in front of you and he may well try to be secretive the next time by going behind the sofa! Don’t train him to use newspapers or training pads as you are allowing him to use the house for toileting purposes which is confusing when you ask him to go in the garden.
Train your dog to use his crate or puppy play pen as this makes house training a lot easier as well as preventing him from developing destructive behaviours.
The crate or indoor kennel must be introduced carefully so that the dog is not apprehensive about going into it. It is perfectly acceptable to use an indoor kennel as long as the dog does not spend an excessive amount of time in it and that it is both mentally and physically stimulated the rest of the time. The crate can provide an ideal sleeping and resting place for a dog and once trained to use it the dog will come to regard it as a safe place to be.
The most common type of crate is collapsible with a plastic base. These can be easily folded up and transported to other locations providing the dog with a familiar “den” wherever you happen to be.
The cage should contain food, chews, water, toys and a comfortable place to sleep. The dog should be able to stand up, turn round and lie down in whatever position he wishes. He should associate the crate with things he likes so he should be fed there, have chews there and get attention when he is inside. Once the dog is happy to go into the crate he can be trained to go into it on command using rewards and you can start confining him in side for short periods. Put him into the crate when he is tired. Never send the dog to the crate as a punishment in case he starts to resent being put there.
Your puppy should begin the process of socialisation during its time with the breeder. From an early age the puppies should be handled individually so that they can be checked, weighed and gently stimulated. Once their eyes and ears are functioning they should be introduced to different sounds and experiences and continue to be handled frequently. They should be introduced to all sorts of human visitors including children and older people. They should be gently handled by strangers for short periods of time and the breeder should practise “examining” them by looking inside their mouths, ears and touching their feet. A comb and brush should be introduced so that they will tolerate grooming and understand about being washed and having their paws wiped. They should be allowed to hear all sorts of household noises such as the vacuum cleaner and the door bell and a sound effect CD should be played in their vicinity to introduce them to more extreme noise such as thunder and fireworks. Towards the end of their time with the breeder it is a good idea if they can they have a short car ride (in pairs and with their mother to give them confidence) and they should be left alone for very short periods to accustom them to the next part of their life as they adjust to being away from their mother and litter mates.
Once you have your puppy at home, this process of socialisation must be continued. Until the age of fourteen weeks( the end of the so-called critical period), a puppy is very adaptable and will get used to (or habituate to) novel situations such as busy roads, the veterinary surgery and other people’s houses. Expose the puppy to noises inside the home either by using a CD as mentioned above or by playing a DVD with loud bangs etc at a moderately high volume. We can recommend “Saving Private Ryan” for this purpose. Try not to give the puppy attention or reassurance if he appears apprehensive and praise him if he is relaxed.
Once the initial critical period is over it is still important to carry on this training by gently exposing the puppy to all sorts of experiences. Try to find a footpath which goes under a railway bridge and wait for a train to pass. This is a very good preparation for the puppy’s first thunder storm.
Enroll in a well run training class and go along and watch before you take your puppy to make sure you are happy with the training methods employed there.
Other puppy problems
Puppies love to play fight with one another. Once the puppy is away from its litter mates, it needs to learn that nipping and biting hands and clothing is unacceptable. To learn this the puppy needs to understand something called “bite inhibition”. Allow the puppy to “mouth” or grip your hand and as soon as it hurts give a sharp yelp of pain or say “ouch”. In some cases this may be all the puppy needs to moderate its behaviour in the future. However, some puppies take a little longer to understand this important lesson! In these cases, you may need to physically withdraw from the puppy for a short while.
Avoid play fighting or wrestling games with the puppy which he will find hard to interpret.
Try to centre as much of your play with the puppy around toys which you retain at the end of the game. When a toy is brought out the puppy understands that play may begin and when it is put away, the play stops.
Try to teach the dog a command such as “settle” or quiet and train him to lie quietly with a toy or chew when you are busy. Try not to respond to attention seeking behaviours by turning away or folding your arms. Never push the dog away as touching him reinforces the behaviour.
Some dogs are rather fond of their food and can become “food guarders” if you are not careful. This problem seems to arise if you follow advice commonly given by dog trainers to remove a dog’s food bowl while it is eating. This practice makes the dog think you are competing for his food and he may then growl to defend it. The best way to prevent food guarding is to sit close by your dog while he is eating and gently stroke him and talk to him. From time to time add small morsels of food to his bowl while he is eating so that your presence at meal times is always a positive thing.