How to train a puppy

Welcoming a puppy into your family is exciting, but it is essential to properly take care of it with training. A trained puppy will grow to be a confident adult who respects the rules you set. Find out in this article the important steps to follow as well as the difference between training a puppy and an adult dog.

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It is always a great joy to welcome a puppy. It is an opportunity to prepare your house for its arrival, make room for, buy a new bed, bowls, puppy food and other toys. It is essential for the puppy to find its bearings and to get used to its new territory. A new member whose arrival delights the whole family, but which will also require total dedication.

Although a happy decision, it is far from being insignificant. It will change your family life for at least the next 10 years. The education of a puppy is therefore very important.

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The main steps in puppy training

Although dog training is intended to provide a structure, teach obedience, cleanliness or not to bark, it can in no way change the dog’s nature and character. In other words, dog training can never turn a Jack Russell into a calm and composed dog, just as it cannot turn a Beagle into a couch potato.

Indeed, training a Chihuahua puppy is not quite the same as training a Labrador puppy or a Border Collie puppy. It is important to consider the character of the adopted puppy, even though the basic commands remain the same. And of course, the prerequisite for a good education is successful socialisation.

The importance of socialisation in puppies

Successfully training a puppy is only the result of good socialisation. If the puppy was separated too early from its mother and littermates, it can have an impact on the puppy’s well-being and it can become a challenge to train.

In the UK, it is a legal requirement to leave puppies with their mother until their 8th week of age. During the first eight weeks of its life, a mother will teach her puppies touch and affection by licking them, which is vital in their bonding process and making them feel safe. A puppy will learn about competition for resources and attention and how to coexist with other dogs. The mother will also make sure to keep her puppies in check by telling them off and moving them.

Some breeders prefer keeping puppies with their mother until they are 12 weeks old, leaving time for the first two terms of vaccination. During these four weeks, puppies will develop their personalities and will also be less likely to contract any diseases.

Therefore, it is possible to adopt a puppy by 8 weeks, as it is independent of its mother can eat solid food and, but it is highly suggested to wait until the 12 weeks mark to be sure that the puppy will be fully ready to join its new forever home.

First tricks to teach a puppy

When training a puppy, you should teach one trick at a time as to not overwhelm your dog. Training sessions should remain short, fun and happen regularly, as puppies have short attention spans.

Teaching a puppy its name does not require any techniques, but you should avoid calling your puppy by other nicknames at the beginning as it could be distracting.

The collar should be put on as soon as possible so that the puppy can get used to it. If it has trouble with it, you might prefer using a harness. A lightweight collar or harness made of fabric or woven nylon is best. At first, the puppy will wear the collar or harness for a short period. Then, as the days go by, it will wear it longer until you never remove it. This is the first essential step in learning to walk on a lead and to wear a GPS collar. It will then be possible to walk your puppy without fear of possible runaways.

When adopting a puppy, the first trick you should teach is potty training which can take up to two months.

How to potty train a puppy

When potty training a puppy, it is important to use positive reinforcement: you should never scold it for mishaps in the house, but praise and reward your puppy when it does its business outside. Of course, it is important to take the puppy out as often as possible to help it understand the connection between doing its business outside and receiving a reward. You should take the puppy out first thing in the morning, after every meal and before going to bed. As time goes by, the rewards will become less frequent, but potty training will be acquired.

Once wearing a collar and potty training have been acquired, then you can start teaching your puppy to sit, lie down or stay, always with the same principle of reward, whether it be treats, petting or just praise.

Training a puppy through games

How to train your puppy? Cooperative Care, known for positive reinforcement training, is the best way to train puppies and can be done during walks. Hide-and-seek is a fun way to train a puppy to recalls. While another person holds the puppy, the owner hides behind a tree or bush not far from the puppy at first. Then the owner will call the puppy and reward it as soon as the puppy finds him. Then repeat the process, increasing the distance by a few steps each time. In this way, the puppy will associate the recall with a positive experience and will not be reluctant to come back as soon as the owner calls.

Toys are very useful when training your dog. Many puppies love to chase balls or Frisbees, so you should not hesitate to mix games with training sessions. However, they are often less inclined to give the object back. When the puppy returns to the owner, simply crouch down and present the puppy with a treat, then exchange the treat for the object to get the puppy to let go. You should not hesitate to use words like "drop" or "give" as long as they are always the same. You should only use rewards until the puppy understands what is expected of him.

These games based on mutual happiness reinforce the complicity in the relationship between an owner and his dog. Good communication with the puppy enhances the bonding and trust that is established. In addition, these training games are a pretext for prolonging walks without them being perceived as boring for the owner.

You should frequently change your walking routes to refine the puppy's already well-developed sense of smell. It is also important to differentiate between potty training walks and longer walks to release your dog’s build up energy.

Mistakes to avoid when training a puppy

It can be tempting when you get a dog or puppy to take a few days off work to look after it and be around more. It is, however, not necessarily a good idea. It is important not to change your habits. The puppy will quickly understand that it will have to be left alone during certain times of the day.

It will have to learn how to occupy itself, how to restrain itself from doing its business, etc. To help the puppy not feel lonely, the owner can place an old piece of clothing with its scent in the puppy's basket. They can also provide dog toys or even make a simulation game for the puppy that involves retrieving treats. This is a fun way for the puppy to kill time without feeling the loneliness of its owner's absence.

Another important trick to teach your puppy is to stop leash pulling and stop your dog from running after small animals. Although it can be fun to let a puppy chase a cat on a walk without catching it, the running animal is naturally identified by the dog as a target. Allowing the puppy to chase small animals, even in an innocuous way, reinforces its predatory instincts. As the dog grows older, it will identify a running animal or even a child as a target and this behaviour may be difficult or impossible to correct.

Finally, the puppy is particularly sensitive to voice variations, so you should try to not raise your voice and always encourage it to adopt the right behaviour. Similarly, violence is not indicated in puppy training, otherwise, the puppy will close in on itself and, worse, adopt a behaviour opposite to the one desired.

The difference between training a dog vs training a puppy

Once the puppy has become an adult, some owners may decide to further train their dog. A relationship and bond have already been established between the owner and the dog, thus making communication easier between the two.

Adult dogs also have a higher concentration capacity than puppies, meaning that you will be able to train with them for longer. Generally, adult dogs remain playful, so they will not be reluctant to cooperate with anything their owner may suggest.

10 questions to test your pet training knowledge

Do you know everything there is to know about training dogs and cats? Answer our 10 questions to find out!

Whether it is a puppy, or an adult dog, patience, consistency, and affection are essential in dog training. The training aims to get the dog to behave in the right way, but this only works if the owner observes the right attitudes. Its education involves the whole family, and all members of the family must be consistent in the instructions given to the dog.