Monday, March 29, 2010

5 puppy training tips

One of my best friend just got her first puppy!  And there's nothing that I love more than giving puppy advice.  Or talking about puppies.  Or holding puppies.  Or smelling their delicious mocha smell.  Ok, I've obviously lost track of where I was going here.

Anyways, this isn't really a top 5 but I figure I'd throw 5 puppy tips out there to new puppy owners or just anyone who's interested.  Over the past 5 years I've read about 5 million books, articles, and posts about dog training and participated in many puppy and dog behavior classes.  This doesn't make me a professional or an expert, but I'd like to think I'm a pretty dang good dog trainer, especially when I pay attention to my own advice. So without further background chat from me,

5 puppy training tips that I've learned over the years:
1.  A mistake that your dog makes is always your fault and never your dog's fault.  Especially when it comes to potty training your puppy.  Dogs are not humans, they are not babies (I know - hard to tell that from my dogs, right?).  They don't go out of their way to make your life miserable.  They're dogs.  So when you don't notice that your puppy had to go and couldn't hold it anymore, it's not his fault.  It's yours.  When you leave something of interest on the floor and your puppy chews it up, that's your fault too.   But don't be too hard on yourself.  They're just puppies after all. 

2.  Exercise, exercise, exercise.  I can't stress this one enough.  A tired dog is a good dog.  The more energy they drain running, playing, walking is less energy left over for mischief.

3.  Consistency is key.   Pick a tactic, a command, a gesture, a rule and stick to it.  Dogs learn by your consistency.  So if you're telling your dog "no" when they jump on the couch and then cuddle them the next time they do it, how are they to guess what you want?  Heck, even I'd be confused.

4.  Have fun.  When training, you have to have fun.  If you're not enjoying it, it's work for both of you.  If you notice that you're getting frustrated, end the training session.  But try to end on a good note - like a command you know your puppy knows for sure.

5.  Don't praise any behavior that you don't want repeated.  This is a big one, but a tough one.  If your puppy bites the sleeve of your shirt and you find it SOOO adorable, just imagine your full grown dog chewing the sleeve of an expensive shirt your friend is wearing when they are over your house.  If that's not something you want to see repeated, ignore the bad behavior and redirect.  For chewing habits, firmly but calmly say "no" then grab a new toy and praise when she plays with it.  For jumping up, turn away and ignore your puppy then when he sits down, confused, turn your attention back to him and praise.  This goes for whining, barking, and being scared too.

So these work for puppies.  Tactics with older dogs will vary especially when trying to break an existing habit.  I'll have to post those another time.


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