Our Top 3 Puppy Training Tips: Take These Easy Steps Today!

New puppy? Check out our new series on puppy training. Our very own Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist offers 3 easy steps to get started today on puppy training. Calling all Christmas puppy owners! Want to get started on the right foot with a mess free, stress free home? Begin teaching the fundamentals and prevent common problem behaviors for puppies.

In our next series of puppy training, we cover the most common puppy problems.

Before we begin the series, I’ll cover my top 3 puppy tips to get you started!

1. Have your puppy drag a leash in the house

Having your puppy drag a leash in your home helps you more easily manage their behavior. By dragging a brightly colored leash your eyes more easily follow their movements. The leash can also be used to tether your dog to something stationary in your home to prevent them from sneaking off to soil or chew.

In addition to keeping a better eye on your puppy and managing his or her behavior,
having them drag a leash teaches your puppy to get more accustomed to wearing a collar and leash. It prevents problem behavior related to the initial steps with leash walking. It teaches them to walk freely on a leash and to tolerate the feeling of the collar. Tethering them to something stationary can further teach a puppy that tension in a leash doesn’t produce movement forward. In other words, if I pull on leash, I get nowhere.

2. Socialize your puppy to 20 new dogs and 20 new people per week.

It seems like nearly every new puppy owner knows it’s critical to socialize a puppy. What many owners don’t understand is the when, what, and how behind the socialization. A puppy’s socialization period is thought to be between 3-12 weeks.

It’s critical that puppies be raised with their litter and mother until 8-9 weeks. Potential owners should be very wary of any breeders selling puppies earlier than 8 weeks. In addition, puppies should be raised indoors with a variety of people present. Those first 8 weeks are incredibly important with respect to exposure to typical household sounds and varying people. Again, potential owners should be very wary of breeders who keep puppies in an outdoor building or away from the hustle and bustle of everyday noises.

Once a puppy is in a new home, it’s important that they begin having positive experiences with whatever they will be expected to experience as an adult. Other dogs and people tend to be the most common. It’s important to note that socializing doesn’t necessarily mean direct interaction. Taking your puppy to sit near a park bench where they can see other dogs and people pass by can count toward your goal for the week! In setting up play time with other dogs, make sure all other dogs are friendly and vaccinated. Given the importance of this period, visiting dog parks or play with unknown dogs is not recommended. Puppies should be exposed to a variety of people and strangers can easily offer treats to ensure it is a positive experience for them. Lastly, other considerations should be well thought out. Owners should consider where they might take their dog as an adult and begin exposing them to those activities. Soccer matches, boat rides, or workplace name just a few.

As you continue socializing your puppy, be on the lookout for any fear related behaviors. If present, be sure to dedicate extra effort to those areas.

3. Hand feed your puppy.

New puppy owners can begin hand feeding of portion of their puppy’s meals. The other portion could be fed out of food dispensing toys. Hand feeding helps establish your attention as a naturally occurring reward. It also teaches your puppy to “work” for the smallest reward. This comes into handy later in life when he or she is struggling with a behavior or two. If they are used to working for dog food and are struggling with leash walking, you can rest assure that leash walking will come much easier when introducing liver treats for a good heel position. As you hand feed, you can begin to establish appropriate behaviors like sitting as well.

The remainder of the day’s food can be placed in a food dispensing toy which will not only help keep your puppy entertained, but also promote appropriate toy play—reducing the likelihood of developing inappropriate puppy biting and chewing. As your puppy is eating from the toy, I recommend approaching your puppy, taking the toy, feeding a tasty treat, and returning the toy. This exercise helps to prevent any food guarding behavior as well as teaches your dog to willingly give up items when you approach.

Following these tips above will help you establish a good start to puppy training. Stay tuned for our upcoming puppy training topics including housebreaking, chewing, and puppy biting. If you’re looking for more individualized help, Beyond the Dog is available for consultation and training!