How to train your puppy
Getting a new puppy is an exciting time for everyone, including the puppy. This bounding ball of energy and enthusiasm is a fantastic addition to your home and family, but like any youngster, they have to learn a few rules.
House-training, obedience and socialisation – all are important skills that every dog needs, and the sooner you start teaching them, the better. Each one needs consistency, patience and positive reinforcement in order to create good habits and build a bond with your pet.
For the sake of your carpets and upholstery, house-training should be tackled first. You can begin to introduce your puppy to the basics of house-training from as early as eight weeks, although do not expect or demand immediate success. It typically takes four to six months for a dog to be completey house-trained and accidents are common up to twelve months, so be patient with your young pup-il!
It may help to think of day and night-time house-training separately. In the daytime an eight week old puppy will probably need to go at least every hour. Therefore, you must take him outside frequently during the day – first thing in the morning, and then throughout the day, particularly after he eats or drinks. His toilet area should be free of toys and distractions, and you should not play with him until he has gone – after which you can praise him. Remember, every time your puppy does a poo, it is your responsibility to pick it up with a disposable bag and deposit it in the bin.
If he doesn’t go when you take him out, take him back to his bed area (animals do not like to soil their beds), and then try again a few minutes later. Do not allow your puppy to leave its bed area until he has gone – we want to avoid accidents as much as possible even at such a young age. As your puppy gets older, he will need to go less frequently during the day.
During the nightime a puppy can typically hold on for longer than during the day. At eight weeks 4-5 hours is normal, rising to 5-6 hours by around 12 weeks. At four months your puppy should be able to go the whole night. It is helpful to use a crate for overnight house-training, keeping the puppy’s bed divided from the rest of the crate. Give your puppy his last meal of the day several hours before bedtime. Do not let your puppy go to bed until he has peed and poo-ed!
Finally, never scold your puppy if he has an accident – this will teach him that going to the toilet is a bad thing, and he may be reluctant to go even in his outside toilet area.
There are many things your puppy won’t be used to yet, such as children, noise and other animals, so it’s important to socialise him to acclimatise him to the human environment. Well-socialised puppies are less likely to develop behaviour problems and you can help avoid fears and phobias in the future.
You should introduce your puppy to as many different people and social situations as possible. Expose him slowly to traffic noise and crowds of people, and let your puppy see large objects move or fall. Introducing him to different animals is fine, perhaps with puppy training classes, as long as your puppy has had all his vaccinations and parasite control (particularly deworming), but keep it at a safe distance and don’t force them together. Whatever the situation, always reward him when he has remained calm.
Third on the list for a puppy is lead training. Every dog needs to walk on a lead, whether for their own safety or legal reasons, but many puppies will pull, making life difficult for you both. To get him used to it, start in an enclosed area and clip the lead to his collar. But instead of holding it, let it go and allow the puppy to run around trailing the lead.
Once he is comfortable with this, pick up the lead and give your puppy some treats while you hold it. If your puppy pulls on the lead, drop it and try again in five to 10 minutes. Eventually, after a bit of practice, he will get used to it and you’re ready to teach walking on a loose lead. This gives him the freedom to explore while you train him not to pull. When he is comfortable walking on a loose lead, try introducing him to different underfoot textures, such as grass, gravel, wood chips etc.
Now your puppy is used to walking on a loose lead, he can progress to heel training. Start with a short lead, just 1-2 inches of slack – any more than this will allow your puppy to pull ahead, which is what you’re trying to avoid. Always have your puppy on the same side to prevent confusion. Begin walking with your puppy – if the lead is relaxed and he isn’t pulling, then mark this by saying ‘good’ and ‘heel’. Imagine you are a parent holding your young child’s hand and walking in a busy area – you need to be calm and purposeful, not allowing the child to take control and pull you. When you get to an area where your puppy can have more freedom, let them know this by telling them they can ‘release’.
Training a puppy is fantastic fun and rewarding for both of you. As long as you give yourself enough time and stay calm, it will be a great experience you will remember for the rest of your life.
Help your puppy learn how to cope when you’re not there, with our guide to dog separation anxiety.