They're small, they're adorable, and they're part of the family. It's no wonder that it can be hard for us to lay down ground rules for puppies. But it's actually incredibly important that you begin helping your puppy understand the strange ins and outs of our domestic world early on. So, I've compiled some of my top puppy training tips to help you minimize the risk of future behavior problems.
I have found that puppies that are taught fair and consistent boundaries from the beginning and that don't receive mixed signals from their owners are generally more confident, well-mannered, and have strong relationships with their owners. The communication is clear, and they understand what they can do as well as what they cannot do.
At no point during these learning processes do you need to physically punish your puppy or resort to things like shouting, spanking, jerking on the leash, etc. Not only will it not solve the problem; it'll leave your relationship with your puppy damaged. If you're frustrated with something your puppy is doing, there's nothing wrong with removing yourself from the situation until you can address the issue calmly.
So, rules that you want applied as adult should be instilled in puppyhood. Here are a few examples:
Jumping gets less and less cute over time.
I see puppies every day that are being rewarded for jumping. When they're small, it's cute! But over time, it becomes more and more unpleasant. Punishment-based fixes (like kneeing the dog in the chest, which is the one I hear most often) for jumping on guests may work in the moment, but they can create a dog that is wary of anyone coming through the door.
Instead, start early on with not rewarding your puppy for jumping with any sort of attention. As they approach you, preemptively ask them for a "sit" (an easy behavior that's not compatible with jumping!) and reward them for that behavior instead. If jumping doesn't work to get attention, but sitting does, they will learn to choose the latter.
Here's a good video on the subject (note: you can use a word like "yes!" to mark your dog's good behavior instead of the clicker.)
Barking might be funny at first, but it's a tough habit to break later on.
Be careful that you're not egging your puppy on for barking at their reflection, at the doorbell, or at things they see outside. You can accidentally create a habit that's difficult to change in adulthood, and you even run the risk of your dog becoming fearful or aggressive towards those triggers.
Chasing a laser pointer can lead to compulsive behaviors.
It may be cute to watch your puppy chase a laser pointer, but this can lead to compulsive light chasing and other OCD-type behaviors in adult dogs.
The sooner you start on leash training, the better.
Puppies are not born out of the womb knowing how to walk nicely on a leash. It's much easier to teach leash manners to a 10lb puppy than it is to teach a 60lb adult dog that's been pulling on leash for a year. The concept is simple, but requires patience and consistency.
- If your dog pulls, you change direction or stop and get your dog back to you. They simply don't get where they want to go if the leash is taut.
- If your dog is walking nicely beside you and/or offers eye contact while you're walking, reward with praise and/or food rewards.
- I made a short video on the subject here.
Don't confuse your puppy with mixed signals.
The biggest issue I see this with is getting on the furniture. Sometimes it's ok, and other times the behavior gets punished. This is extremely confusing and unfair to your puppy. As a family, make a decision about whether or not your dog is allowed on the furniture. And stick with that decision!
Need help making sure your puppy grows up to be a well-mannered member of the family? Contact us!