Welcoming a new puppy into the home can be both an exciting and daunting experience, especially for first time dog owners. You need to spend time getting to know your addition to the family, and the first year will be full of trial and error as you work out what suits you all best. However, there are a few basics that can really help, and puppy training is the best way to start the canine-human conversation and bond.
Why train your dog?
We love the craziness of a puppy running around frantically trying to get to everyone and explore everything. However there are times when this behaviour is not appropriate and you will serve your puppy well to teach some manners early on. Older or less able people do not like a dog of any size jumping up at them, but it can be particularly hazardous for bigger breeds who might knock someone over. Likewise, a visitor in their best suit or dress might not appreciate muddy paw prints or hair over their outfit.
When you’re walking in a busy town or along a main road, you want your dog to listen to you rather than be distracted by the hustle and bustle. If your dog is off lead in the park, you need to know that she will come back to your recall. Crossing a road, opening the front door, getting in and out of a car – there are many times when you need to communicate with your dog to keep him safe. The best way to achieve this communication is through training. Once your pup starts to listen to you, knows how to respond and receives the appropriate reward, you are on the path to a great bond.
How to train your pup
Much like children, puppies benefit from rules and routine. Many puppies are ready to start learning basic commands – such as “sit”, “stay” and “come” – from around six to eight weeks and certainly an older puppy should be taught these crucial commands as early as possible. While you can do this at home, puppy training classes are a great way to socialise your pup and meet other new owners.
Make sure that you choose a reward-based trainer and remember that the reward needs to be equal to the task at hand. Basic pay for basic work – enhanced pay for advanced tasks. Most dogs are interested in one of the three Fs: Food, Fun or Friendship. If tasty treats don’t tempt your pup, then perhaps a squeaky toy and a bit of fun will get the behaviour you want. Alternately, friendship works for dogs who simply crave human interaction and would do anything for a bit of fuss from their owner. Puppy training will give you the opportunity to find out what reward is most appealing to your pup.
Don’t forget to keep reinforcing the training to consistently get the behaviour you desire. You can’t train a young puppy once and expect them to remember all the lessons for the rest of their life. As well as asking them to repeat the same actions, add new commands or teach them tricks. By making learning fun and rewarding for your dog, you are stimulating his mind. Working at this human-canine communication is exhausting for dogs and is particularly useful if you are unable to exercise for a period due to illness or injury.
If you learn how to connect with your pup at a young age, you will set the foundation for a great lifelong relationship. Start training your dog immediately and make it part of your everyday routine.