You’ve found the perfect little addition to your pack! Now it’s time to get your puppy’s training off on the right paw.
Dog training is a lifelong journey that starts with shaping your puppy’s behavior so you can nip behavioral issues in the bud and lay the foundation for a healthy relationship with your pet.
Below we’ve answered five of the most-asked questions new dog owners have about puppy training to help you both succeed.
When should I start training my puppy?
The short answer is that you should begin training your puppy immediately. Start training your puppy the moment you bring them home.
Your dog has a window during the first four months of their lives, called the imprinting period, when their behavior is most easily influenced. During this imprinting period, you should focus on shaping your puppy’s behavior by rewarding the good (more on how to do this below) and redirecting them when they do something wrong.
Your role in your puppy’s training is crucial. Here are two important things to remember when you start training your puppy:
1. You need to put in the time it takes to train your puppy. That means you can’t offload the responsibility on a dog walker or dog sitter—you have to spend time with your puppy to develop a relationship, a bond and an understanding.
2. Treat every minute and every interaction with your puppy as training. Your puppy needs structure, rules and boundaries in their lives to thrive. Where we most often see behavioral issues develop is when dogs are given too much freedom too soon. Your puppy will be at their best when they always know what is expected of them.
How can you turn every interaction with your puppy into a training opportunity? With what we call the “No Free Lunch” policy. Keep reading to learn more.
What are the first commands I should teach my puppy?
The first basic commands that you should teach your puppy go hand-in-hand with the “No Free Lunch” policy.
The “No Free Lunch” policy is simple: your dog must always do something to get something. Whether it’s a treat, feeding time, play time or even just a sit, your puppy should be doing something for you to get everything good in their life.
This type of obedience training helps your puppy understand that you’re the most important person in their life and that everything positive comes from you.
The easiest way to implement the “No Free Lunch” policy is by teaching your puppy basic commands. Here are four commands you can teach your puppy and how to use the “No Free Lunch” policy to shape their behavior:
· Sit — Put a treat just off your puppy’s nose, guide them to the ground and mark it with a “Yes!” when they sit down. Then reward them with a treat.
· Down Stay — Once you’ve taught sit, teach your dog to stay down using a treat as a motivator. After they’ve stayed down for the desired period, mark it with a “Yes!” and reward them with a treat.
· Recall — Let your puppy explore, then call their name until they come back to you. When they do, mark it with a “Yes!” and reward them with a treat.
· Heel — When leash training, hold a treat at your side so that your puppy is walking beside you and not in front of you or behind you. As they do that properly, mark it with a “Yes!” and reward them with a treat.
Repeat these commands during training sessions to help your puppy fully understand what’s expected of them. As you start to build engagement with your puppy and they’ve learned these basic commands, you can begin to add distance and duration into each command.
Remember to have fun and be exciting, no matter what kind of training you’re doing! You’re competing with a lot of outside factors for the attention of your puppy. Make your training sessions so much fun that engaging with you is all your puppy wants to do.
Finally, on top of these basic commands, we highly recommend crate training for your puppy. There are numerous benefits to crate training your dog, including that it’s the easiest way to do potty training.
How do I potty train my puppy if I work long hours?
You simply have to find the time. There are no shortcuts when it comes to puppy training, and potty training is no different. It’s going to be full-time work with your new dog.
But putting in that time is worth it. With proper and consistent potty training, you’re setting your puppy up for the rest of their lives rather than having to deal with the consequences of improper or prolonged potty training.
Here’s a puppy training tip to help you during the potty-training phase: create a poop and pee log.
How does it work? Write down when your puppy goes outside, whether they pooped or peed and, if so, how many times. Record what time your dog eats, drinks, or has an accident inside the house.
Over the course of two or three days, you’ll start to see a pattern. Then, instead of guessing how long it will be before they have to go, you can use the information you’ve put together to decide when they should eat or drink, when they need to go on walks, and how many trips outside you should make.
Potty training accidents are the one and only behavior you should never correct your dog for because they don’t understand it. If your dog has an accident in the house, you have to ask yourself, “Why did I allow this to happen?”
Keeping a poop and pee log, and being organized about your puppy’s potty training, will give you a clearer picture of how you can be successful.
How consistent do I have to be with puppy training? For how long?
Consistency is the key to successful puppy training. If there are gaps in your training consistency, your puppy will test your limits to see what they can get away with and eventually start to understand that your commands are merely suggestions.
That’s why it’s so important that you treat every minute with your puppy as an opportunity to train and ensure that 100% of the commands you give to them are obeyed.
If you take the time to shape your puppy’s behaviors when they’re most impressionable, they’ll understand what behavior is wanted, what is unwanted and that every command is meant to be followed.
How long do you have to train your puppy? Dog training never stops. It lasts for their entire lifetime.
The behaviors you shape when they’re a puppy are the behaviors you begin to enforce as they grow older. And, like humans, your dog will change as they age, meaning that consistent training throughout their lives is the key to avoiding behavioral issues and maintaining a healthy relationship with your pet.
Should I get puppy training at a big box pet store?
We always recommend doing your puppy training with a professional trainer who will shape your dog’s behavior in a low-distraction environment.
Solidifying behavior during puppy training works like this: you introduce behavior, you get repetition in, and then you test it with levels of distraction.
If you try to shape a puppy’s behavior in a high-distraction environment, like a big box pet store, your dog will have a harder time learning than if you started in a low-distraction environment. It’s like beginning at the highest level of calculus without learning basic math.
That’s why professional puppy training services, like Koru K9’s Puppy Training Program, are your best bet if training your puppy feels overwhelming or you don’t have the time to do it yourself.
Our program establishes effective communication and boundaries for you and your puppy by shaping their behavior through our holistic approach. Your puppy will be immersed in our training program that’s designed specifically to give them a positive head start and build their confidence.