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Raise a Good Pup — our 9 Best Puppy Training Tips!
Congratulations on your new puppy! Adding a furry friend to your home brings excitement, fun, and a lot of work. But with our best puppy training tips, your new puppy will soon be the envy of all your friends!
Puppy training often seems overwhelming. There’s so much for a new puppy to learn. And you want him to learn good manners right from the start.
Not to worry! With our tips, you will see how quickly your new pup becomes a happy, healthy family member.
Puppy Socialization 101
Imagine if you grew up in a tightly secured area, only knowing your immediate family. You never traveled to other places and never experienced different sounds and sights. Your family protected you from everything.
Suddenly, one day, your family whisked you off to the doctor. Imagine the fear you might feel. The car ride causes your stomach to rumble. You feel sick. Then they take you into a strange place and other people pick you up, weigh you, check your temperature. It’s horrible and you are terrified.
Likewise, a dog that has not been socialized becomes agitated and fearful when his world suddenly changes. He is not prepared for such events. His world has always been constant and now it’s completely disrupted.
Socialize Puppy, First of our Best Puppy Training Tips
Our best puppy training tips start with socialization. In fact, this one overlaps with each of the others in one way or another. Socializing your puppy helps him adjust to the big world when needed. Even if you intend for him to be a homebody, at some point, he needs to venture out.
In reality, most dogs enjoy socializing if they have a balanced life from birth. Like people, some are naturally more outgoing than others. Genetics plays a role, too. But even a fearful pup benefits from socialization training. And that outgoing pup needs to learn his boundaries, too.
Puppy socialization simply means taking him places and introducing him to new sounds, smells, and people. But exposure is not the only consideration. Keep all of these events as positive as possible. If he fears the vet, for example, take some favorite treats along. When visiting your local pet store, buy him a new toy or treat to inspire his interest.
If a puppy seems afraid of new people, don’t show your concern. Often, such behavior is actually created by well-meaning owners who say things like, “Oh, poor baby, you are so scared! Don’t be afraid of that man” Keep in mind, he follows your tone of voice, too. Keep your tone and words steady and friendly. He’ll learn to respond accordingly.
Of all the best puppy training tips, this one might be the first people remark about. Many dogs in rescue and in shelters failed house training.
However, it’s not their fault. Most dogs respond to house training when you keep a schedule for them and give them time to learn.
Punishing your new pup for a mistake usually fails. Instead, make a routine that you and he can maintain. Like young children, puppies cannot wait 8 hours to go outside. Their bodies are not able to hold it that long.
Feed at regular intervals and always take him outside when he first awakens, after he eats, when he wakes from a nap, and any time you see him sniffing around looking for “a spot.” When he succeeds outside, praise him. Verbal praise is fine for some. Others appreciate a small treat.
Over time, he’ll get the idea. It probably won’t happen the first day he’s home. In fact, most pups are not reliably house trained that first month. But if you stay with the training, it happens.
Keep some cleanup tools handy for those “misses.” We keep Nature's Miracle products in our home at all times. Even well-trained pets occasionally vomit. And as they age, our senior pets may occasionally have an accident. It happens. We plan for it by having cleanup tools on hand. For a puppy, that recommendation holds true, too. Read on for my favorite house training tool.
Puppy Crate, His Den
Most puppy owners have times they can’t watch puppy. Use a crate for such times. It’s not torture. In fact, most pups consider their crate as their den, their own room.
Unfortunately, many people use the crate as punishment. If he is put in the crate when he has chewed up your favorite sweater or when he should have gone outside, it’s unlikely he will learn to love his personal space. I can’t emphasize this enough– NEVER use the crate as punishment!
If puppy whines and cries when he is crated, you may need to step up your approach. First and foremost, do not take him out of the crate when he protests. That just teaches him to complain to be let out of the crate.
I’ll emphasize this, too–NEVER take him out of his crate while he is complaining. With one exception. If he is hurt or injured in some way, you need to see to his problem. But if he is just complaining, he stays in until he stops protesting.
A better approach is pre-emptive. Give him treats to go into his crate. If needed, feed him his meals in the crate. Make sure he has water available, too. A favorite toy sometimes helps, too.
Remember I mentioned a house training tool? Yes, the crate offers the best method when you cannot watch him for signs of needing to go. Most dogs will not relieve themselves in their sleeping area. A crate-trained dog house trains much faster than a dog that wanders the house unwatched part of the day. Essentially, every accident, he has when you aren’t there to take him out makes it harder to finally get him trained.
For further emphasis, the crate is not torture or punishment. It will become his personal space. Even after he is housetrained, you may use the crate for travel, rest times, and other times. And if you leave the door open, you may find him, resting there when he needs a few moments to himself.
Playpen, Exercise Pen, Gates
The playpen or exercise pen
This is a bit like a larger crate, often without a top on it (watch out for climbers–they can get hurt if they get a foot caught as they climb.)
We use these for times we can’t watch too closely but puppy needs playtime. They also work well for keeping more than one together for a short time.
Again, these are not meant to imprison your pet. Instead, they keep him safe when needed.
Some areas of your home may not be appropriate for puppy. Perhaps you have a steep staircase he isn’t ready to navigate or a laundry room that you like to leave open but can’t have puppy enter. Many times it’s more that you need to keep him with you in one room to watch him and keep him safe.
Just like a crawling baby or walking toddler, puppies need confinement and sometimes a gate makes the best solution. Yes, he wants to follow you from room to room. But if he is safest in the kitchen, use the gate.
- Some puppies learn to push the gate, chew it, or even attempt to jump or climb. Any of these actions create a situation where he may be injured. Use a tall enough gate (these walk-through models are wonderful!) to discourage jumping and metal works best against puppy teeth.
- Avoid penning puppy away from people all the time. Sometimes it might be necessary for a short time. But puppy needs to socialize with the family. You are his pack. Separating him often leads to bad behaviors. Your puppy is part of your family. Keep him with you whenever possible. Doing so ensures the best lifelong pal.
Prevent Problem Behavior
As we shape our furry friend’s behaviors using the best puppy training tips, we focus on prevention, rather than correction.
As with most things in life, preventing destructive behaviors is easier than correcting and retraining. With that in mind, understand that puppies love to chew. Puppies teeth like children do. Just as you would give a baby a teething ring, provide your puppy with chew toys. If he starts chewing on the furniture, use a firm no, then give him his chew. He will soon learn to choose the appropriate item to chew.
His crate, pen, and gates also help prevent him from chewing on items he should not have. They may even save his life. Vets often see pups that have ingested the wrong item. They may need surgery to remove it. Sometimes the result is fatal.
NOTE: It’s not enough to just tell him No. You need to redirect him to the correct chew item.
No Biting Allowed
Puppies nip and bite each other in play. But you are not his littermate. When puppies nip their mother, she teaches them not to do so. You need to do the same. A nipping puppy leads to a dog that bites, either purposely or in play. Either way, it creates a dangerous situation.
When you are playing with him, if he nips, tell him no. If he continues, end the playtime. He will soon learn that nipping is not allowed.
Similarly, when you are giving him treats, don’t allow him to grab. He takes them nicely or he doesn’t get them.
Use Positive Reinforcement
I’ve given you examples of using the word No to let puppy know his behavior is not acceptable. But we use positive reinforcement for rewarding good behavior. I lavish with praise, treats, games, and his toys. Most misbehavior is ignored or more likely, redirected, to give them the better option. Just as Pavlov’s experiment showed, positive reinforcement is a strong training method.
However, I don’t consider this pure positive. If he nips too hard or shows intentional disobedience, I use mild corrections.
NOTE: Mild corrections do not include hitting, tossing, or even yelling at the puppy. Such corrections almost always lead to creating bad behaviors that are then much more difficult to change. I’ve retrained many rescue dogs that were strongly handled as puppies. It is not a good training method.
Providing exercise, playtime, plenty of chews and toys, and a lot of human interaction will prevent most bad behaviors. Puppies want to be a part of the pack. Unless they are a true alpha personality (rare) they want you to be the pack leader.
Just as a toddler left to his own devices will find something to get into, so will your puppy. Provide for his needs. Exercise is so critical. They need playtime. Frequent outside times to walk, play, and relieve himself will often avoid many behavioral issues.
Raise him within your family and he will become a part of your family!
Teach him the basic commands. I start early with “come” and “sit” commands. And I use treats profusely, along with a lot of verbal praise. Those treats will be cut back eventually, but I am creating a tight bond with high expectations.
Basic obedience teaches good manners. And it provides a safety measure, too. If puppy is headed into a dangerous situation, that “come” command might save his life.
But it also helps create that all-important bond between the puppy and me. We are communicating, much like he did with his mom while still in her care.
Use These Best Puppy Training Tips
All the advice, tips, and techniques provide no help unless you use them. Life gets crazy at times. We all feel that. However, if you take the time to establish a routine with your pup, you mold your dog into a lifetime family member.
If you have questions, send me a message directly. My goal is to have everyone’s furry friends become the most adored family member possible. Your life and happiness benefit, too!
If you need training help, seek out a reliable trainer. Your vet may know one to refer you to. Or search for a training club near you on the AKC page. Many training groups affiliate with AKC allow mixed breeds as well as purebreds in their classes. In fact, you can even compete with your mixed breed pup in most AKC dog sports.
Imagine, your pup navigating that crazy agility course at top speeds. Or perhaps showing off his trained skills in obedience or rally. Many also enjoy the fun of Canine Freestyle, available through AKC or WCFO. See the video below for an example of what freestyle can be. Watch for our future article on this fun sport!
Probably the best known Freestyle Team is Carolyn Scott and her beloved Golden Retriever, Rookie. This video shows the amazing bond Carolyn and Rookie shared through many years.