How to Train your Puppy?
Dogs have come a long way from wild life to domestication, yet their instincts are not fully subdued. At a rare midpoint where humans and dogs co-exist, a compromise is essential– dogs need to adjust to our society and we need to understand dog psychology.
Dogs are used to living in packs and every pack has a pack leader - now that this puppy has come into your household, one of you should decide to take up that role for him/her. Being a pack leader for your puppy is not all about ownership, it involves the responsibility of communicating, instructing and sheltering this puppy with your heart and mind.
7 steps to train your puppy:
- 1. Basic commands: Dogs learn from our voice vibrations and body language more than big words or sentences. So teach the basic commands using small words such as Sit, Stay and Come. Dogs, like children look forward to be instructed in order to get approval from mom and dad.
- 2. Introduce the society: Be clear about choosing the right breed that befits your household – this way you have won half the battle. Take him to social places where dogs are allowed to go, such as parks and pet stores. This way your puppy learns the social skills - to be quiet, to get along and never to jump on others.
- 3. Obedience lessons: Dogs need a rigid routine –they need to be instructed repeatedly till they learn that these are commands that should never be ignored. Use positive reinforcements in the place of negative ones to train your puppy. Save the negative commands and the strict tone for specific commands such as STOP or NEVER to protect your dog from danger (e.g. running to the road/destructive behavior).
- 4. Listening: Generally pet parents train their dogs, using treats or yelling orders – in such cases, your puppy may not fully learn what he or she is supposed to learn. Your puppy needs to listen to your command with full attention and respond naturally – this is possible only if you establish a connection with your pet. It probably is a human error to convert these unconditional lovers into reward seeking pets.
- 5. Engage the little trouper: A pack not only has a leader, but also has workers. Your dog instinctively knows this and would be willing to do his part of the job for the family –guarding or guiding. Give him little tasks such as fetching the newspaper or a grocery bag. Sometimes these tasks need not be useful to you, but only useful to your pet. Dolly, my co-worker has a collie named Ally, who needs tasks to stay alert and active. There is a mental exercise Dolly practices with her dog - Ally needs to stay put in a place and watch her mommy walk 10 feet away and come back to her. If Ally gets distracted, and misses the link, she knows it instinctively and puts her head down. Watch Ally perform her task in this You Tube video – Ally Stay!
- 6. Leashes, Collars and leads: Leashes, leads and harnesses are tools to improve your puppy’s behavior. When you use a leash or a harness, you are actually communicating through the pulls and tugs to instruct him to behave in a certain way - such as not to walk too fast; not to go on his own; and above all that you are the one in charge. Dogs are creatures of habit and learn to behave in a certain way with or without a leash. If you have a barking dog bringing the roof down, a bark collar would help.
- 7. Crates and Enclosures: If your puppy is a chewer or a wanderer, you could use a crate to train him or her to stay in one place. This way you are instructing, not to chew the couch or wander away to the garage when nobody is watching. Crates are very useful for potty training and also to keep your puppy away from ingesting harmful objects. Allow your puppy shorter periods of rest time in the crate with frequent chances to be allowed out. Teach your puppy that the periods of rest are good, and the crate can be fun. Also remember to have adequate padding of safe materials for your puppy, and also include fun “special” or “crate-only” toys for the puppy to look forward to when he/she is in the crate. Also keep the crate not far from you; these are social creatures that need to see, hear and smell you and your family around them.
Dogs do better when they have a home with a stable structure and a leader to rely on. Give clear instructions and encourage the progress with full heart, positive reinforcements and timely rewards.