Ok, he’s finally home. Training needs to begin immediately, considering the new pattern on the rug, not to mention the dog’s breakfast he’s made of your new Manolo Blahnik strappy sandals. But where should you start?
Whether you train your new puppy or dog yourself, take classes, or hire a private trainer, some basic training tips should be tackled right out of the gate. These top 10 tips from professional dog trainers at the top of their game will help get you going.
Aside: When your puppy is old enough, think about getting him or her neutered or spayed, likewise if you adopt a dog. A neutered or spayed dog is more docile, less aggressive, and may be more open to successful training.
Top 10 training tips
- Choose your dog’s name wisely and be respectful of it. Of course you’ll want to pick a name for your new puppy or dog that you love, but for the purposes of training it also helps to consider a short name ending with a strong consonant. This allows you to say his name so that he can always hear it clearly. A strong ending (i.e. Jasper, Jack, Ginger) perks up puppy ears—especially when you place a strong emphasize at the end.
If he’s an older dog, he’s probably used to his name; however, changing it isn’t out of the question. If he’s from a shelter, they may neglect to tell you that he has a temporary name assigned to him by staff. If he’s from a breeder, he’ll come to you with a long name, which you may want to shorten, or change. And if he’s coming out of an abusive situation, a new name may represent a fresh start. But we’re lucky: dogs are extremely adaptable. And soon enough, if you use it consistently, he will respond to his new name.
New name or old, as much as possible, associate it with pleasant, fun things, rather than negative. The goal is for him to think of his name the same way he thinks of other great stuff in his life, like “walk,” “cookie,” or “dinner!”
- Decide on the “house rules.” Before he comes home, decide what he can and can’t do. Is he allowed on the bed or the furniture? Are parts of the house off limits? Will he have his own chair at your dining table? If the rules are settled on early, you can avoid confusion for both of you.
- Set up his private den. He needs “a room of his own.” From the earliest possible moment give your pup or dog his own, private sleeping place that’s not used by anyone else in the family, or another pet. He’ll benefit from short periods left alone in the comfort and safety of his den. Reward him if he remains relaxed and quiet. His den, which is often a crate, will also be a valuable tool for housetraining.
- Help him relax when he comes home. When your puppy gets home, give him a warm hot water bottle and put a ticking clock near his sleeping area. This imitates the heat and heartbeat of his litter mates and will soothe him in his new environment. This may be even more important for a new dog from a busy, loud shelter who’s had a rough time early on. Whatever you can do to help him get comfortable in his new home will be good for both of you.
- Teach him to come when called. Come Jasper! Good boy! Teaching him to come is the command to be mastered first and foremost. And since he’ll be coming to you, your alpha status will be reinforced. Get on his level and tell him to come using his name. When he does, make a big deal using positive reinforcement. Then try it when he’s busy with something interesting. You’ll really see the benefits of perfecting this command early as he gets older.
- Reward his good behavior. Reward your puppy or dog’s good behavior with positive reinforcement. Use treats, toys, love, or heaps of praise. Let him know when’s he’s getting it right. Likewise, never reward bad behaviour; it’ll only confuse him.
- Take care of the jump up. Puppies love to jump up in greeting. Don’t reprimand him, just ignore his behavior and wait ’til he settles down before giving positive reinforcement. Never encourage jumping behavior by patting or praising your dog when he’s in a “jumping up” position. Turn your back on him and pay him no attention.
- Teach him on “dog time.” Puppies and dogs live in the moment. Two minutes after they’ve done something, it’s forgotten about. When he’s doing something bad, try your chosen training technique right away so he has a chance to make the association between the behavior and the correction. Consistent repetition will reinforce what’s he’s learned.
- Discourage him from biting or nipping. Instead of scolding him, a great way to put off your mouthy canine is to pretend that you’re in great pain when he’s biting or nipping you. He’ll be so surprised he’s likely to stop immediately. If this doesn’t work, try trading a chew toy for your hand or pant leg. The swap trick also works when he’s into your favorite shoes. He’ll prefer a toy or bone anyway. If all else fails, break up the biting behavior, and then just ignore him.
- End training sessions on a positive note. Excellent boy! Good job, Jasper! He’s worked hard to please you throughout the training. Leave him with lots of praise, a treat, some petting, or five minutes of play. This guarantees he’ll show up at his next class with his tail wagging—ready to work!