If you’re a bit of a control freak and you expect your puppy to have mastered all of your commands in the first couple of weeks, you may be disappointed. Young puppies, in particular, have a lot to take in in the first few weeks as they settle into their new home away from their mom and litter mates. Start off with two or three commands at the most – sit, come and down should take priority – and don’t move on to new commands until such time as your puppy has mastered the basics.
With your dog sitting at your side, set off and give the command “heel” (so that your dog is aware you are about to move). If the dog gets ahead, stop and encourage it back to your side with a titbit. Repeat. To begin with, stop every three to four paces to praise your dog and give a titbit. Do not use your voice unless your dog is at your side. You can also practise this off-lead in a secure area – this makes you work really hard at keeping your dog with you, rather than relying on the lead.
When it comes to house training, you don’t have to be a scientist to work out what goes in must come out. If you feed your puppy a quality, balanced dog food and stick to regular meal times (3 times a day for young puppies, dropping down to twice a day for older dogs), then your puppy is more likely to have regular toileting habits – which means you’ll have more of an idea of what time to take him out. If, on the other hand, you offer your puppy constant treats and tidbits and feed him at different times of the day, you can expect your puppy to need to toilet at any time of day too.
I don't teach or recommend so-called "purely positive" methods that allow misbehaving pups to continue misbehaving, instead of teaching them which behaviors are and are not allowed. "Purely positive" is fine for teaching tricks and high-level competition exercises, but NOT for teaching the solid good behaviors that all family dogs need to know, and NOT for stopping behavior problems such as barking, jumping, chewing, nipping, chasing, etc.
Before enrolling with a particular club contact them and ask if you can go to watch a class without your dog. This will help you decide if this is the right environment for you and your dog. Some clubs have waiting lists and you will need to book ahead, some accept people on a roll on roll off basis. Prices will vary from a joining fee and then weekly payments to a one off fee for a certain length of training.
Remember that training is an ongoing process. You will never be completely finished. It is important to keep working on obedience training throughout the life of your dog. People who learn a language at a young age but stop speaking that language may forget much of it as they grow older. The same goes for your dog: use it or lose it. Running through even the most basic tricks and commands will help them stay fresh in your dog's mind. Plus, it's a great way to spend time with your dog.
Puppies are capable of learning simple commands from a very young age but don’t try to give your puppy a meaningful training session if he is tired, highly excited or busy exploring. You need his full attention, otherwise you’re wasting your time. You can build up to training sessions in more distracting environments once your puppy is reliably responding to your commands at home.
Like small children, puppies have short attention spans and get tired quickly. Keep your puppy training sessions short – 5 to 10 minutes is enough – but regular. Two or three short training sessions every day is ideal. And, remember, you can build in the ‘come’ command throughout the day; for example, when you want to feed your puppy or play with him.
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