So you’ve got a new puppy? Ok so there are lots of things that you must do, socialisation, toilet training, chew toy training …… but what about basic life skills training, when should you start? The answer is immediately. Puppies are like little sponges who are able to learn lots of different behaviours very quickly. Of course you are likely to carry on throughout her life, but there is no time like the present.
Below is a list of only the very basic behaviours that you should train with an explanation of why each is important. It is not a how-to guide, as there are many ways to train each of these behaviours. Speak to your trainer or research the best methods online, ensuring that both use only positive training methods.
The most important rule to remember is that rewarded behaviour continues and becomes stronger; sadly this includes bad behaviour! You must ensure that you reward your dog when she is being good. Don’t forget to do this when she is lying nicely at your feet, or chilling in her crate, after all, we all want that sort of behaviour to continue!
Having your dog respond to her name reliably is an important requirement which helps with training many other behaviours. If you want her to do as you ask, she must learn to pay attention and focus on you. Start by training her to respond to her name. When she looks at you play with her or give her a treat. Later you will be able to use her name as a prefix to other requests; upon hearing her name she will automatically be waiting for further instructions, only if it is worth her while of course!
Having your dog sit on command has endless uses. It is the easiest behaviour to teach and by far the most useful. The following are the main benefits of teaching a solid sit:
|Control at doorways||Control on roads||For ease of grooming|
|Politely greeting guests||Self-control at mealtimes||For putting lead on/off|
|For petting and inspecting||For teaching focus||For teaching other behaviours|
Reinforcing your dog when she is chilling beside you is a particularly good idea. The behaviour can be put on request, so that she will do it when you ask. This can be useful when she is overstimulated and you want to calm her, or when you simply want to relax with a glass of wine or read a book or newspaper.
It is extremely useful to teach you dog to leave things on command. There are any number of dangerous items that your dog can pick up when out for walks that could cause her harm. In addition, there are many exciting things for her to steal indoors such as socks, slippers, the mail or the remote control. Establishing leave-it on command will ensure that she will drop items immediately in exchange for a better prize.
Go to Bed or Crate
Crates are an ideal sleeping and safe area for your puppy. They can also significantly enhance toilet training, which is one of the first lessons that your puppy should learn. Introduced correctly your dog will love her crate and will happily go there of her own accord. Once trained, you can also use your crate to keep your dog safe when travelling, visiting friends or staying in a hotel.
You can use the go to bed/crate command at bed times, or other times when you want her to go and chill out on her own. Also, if you train her that the doorbell or door knocking means go to bed/crate, then your visitors will be able to enter the house safely without being mauled by an over exuberant friendly puppy!
If you can get your dog to come when called, irrespective of what is going on around her, then together you have mastered one of the most important doggy lessons. This will give you the confidence to let her exercise off-lead, explore the world and have the freedom to behave like dogs should. That said, training a solid recall takes time and should be practiced in many different places in order to ensure she fully understands. She should always be rewarded for coming when called and never be met with anger or punishment for something she may have done previously such as chasing a squirrel or rabbit.
Walking nicely on a loose lead is another important lesson that is much easier to teach to a young puppy than to an adult dog that has pulled for years. To that end, be patient and never allow your puppy to pull you. Don’t get frustrated if she tries to pull, instead just stop and wait for the lead to go loose. When it does, start to walk and she will soon learn the game. Remember it is normally her exuberance that is causing her to pull; do not punish that enthusiasm, but be careful not to reinforce it.
Providing interactive owner-pet play will significantly enhance the bond between you. Not all dogs will initially want to play games, chase balls or tug on ropes, but it rarely takes long for them to learn. Just remember that play can lead to over stimulation and should be controlled with frequent breaks. Being able to stop play and relax is an important lesson for every dog to learn.
Along with play and training, exercise is an important requirement for the welfare and wellbeing of your pet. Regular walks should be undertaken along with off-lead exercise if safe. Many behaviour problems can be attributed to a lack of exercise or mental stimulation, therefore having a regular schedule of exercise and training is advised. As a guide, a puppy should have 5 mins of exercise per month of age twice daily; a 3 month old should have 2 x 15 min walks.
If you are fair, calm and consistent, and train and socialise your dog, you will have a wonderful companion who is calm, well-mannered and a pleasure to be around.