While taking your dog to puppy classes is strongly recommended, you can start with some simple training with your puppy at home. Much of the training you do at home will occur during everyday interactions with your dog. For example, when your puppy jumps up on you, you should turn your back, fold your arms, and reward the puppy with attention only when all four feet are down on the ground. Be conscious of all your interactions with your puppy, and be consistent. Make an effort to reward good behavior and avoid rewarding behavior you do not like.
Devoting a few minutes every day to a training session with your puppy is very important. The goal, besides having a well-behaved dog, is for you and your dog to learn to communicate effectively. Training sessions allow you and your puppy to focus exclusively on one another and learn each other's "language."
Rules for Training at Home
- Make sure to have one trainer and one puppy at a time.
- Reward your puppy with treats (preferably soft, very tasty treats), as well as praise.
- Set your puppy up to win. Progress comes from building on success.
- Be consistent and use the same commands and signals for a specific behavior every time.
- If your puppy is not "getting it," change something you are doing.
- Keep your training session short (10 minutes tops), keep it happy, and always end on a high note.
A session that ends with both of you happy is a successful session!
Putting Together a 5-minute Training Session
- Find a place to train where you and your puppy can be alone.
- Spectators are allowed if they sit and watch quietly so as not to distract your puppy. Other dogs in your home should wait their turn outside the training area.
- Get Your Treats Ready.
- Treats should be small and something your puppy is willing to work for. Reward your puppy's successes with positive reinforcement (like a pat on the head or a "happy" voice) as well as a treat.
- Pick a few behaviors to work on before you begin.
- Having a clear idea in your mind of what behaviors you want to work on will make it easier on both you and your puppy. Pick different behaviors to work on at each session. This keeps it interesting for both you and your dog. Avoid making training sessions into repetitive drills. Remember to start with only one behavior, like "Sit."
- Set your puppy up for success.
- Give treats frequently to keep your dog in the game - learning comes when your puppy gets it right and is rewarded for it. If the behavior you want does not come within a minute, switch to an easier behavior or take a break. Then try to figure out what's wrong and try to fix it. Repeated failures may establish a pattern in your puppy's mind of behaviors you do not want.
- Always end positively.
- A good training session has a beginning, middle and an end. Begin with a few easy behaviors that your puppy already knows, so that you can give a treat right away. Then move on to a new behavior or improving an old one. End the session with success. If needed, return to an already learned behavior, give your puppy a good treat and let your puppy know the session is over. After a session, some playtime or a walk is a nice plus for both of you.
If you are getting frustrated or your puppy is losing interest, try again later. Forcing yourself or your puppy to continue will do more harm than good. Do something simple to end the session on a positive note. It is important that both you and your puppy enjoy your sessions so you are both motivated to train again the next day.
Commands and Hand Signals
Combining verbal commands with hand signals will make it easier for you and your puppy in the long run. It gives your puppy a sound as well as a visual cue; both are important in communicating with your puppy. Eventually you should be able to give a hand signal without a verbal command and your puppy will know what command you are giving and obey it.
Make your commands and hand signals short and sharp. Also, it is very important to be consistent in the commands and signals you use. This will avoid confusing your puppy.
The following commands provide good basic training for your puppy. There are many other commands and tricks your puppy can learn. Just remember to be patient and always end on a positive note.
Teaching Your Puppy to…
Hold a treat in front of your puppy's nose and slowly move it up over your dog's head and slightly towards its tail. As your puppy's head goes up, its back end should naturally go down. When the back end is almost to the floor, say "Sit," then give the treat and praise. After a few moments allow your puppy to stand and then repeat the process. "Sitting" is the base to many other commands.
With your puppy sitting, hold a treat in front of your puppy's nose. Slowly bring the treat down to the floor. Your puppy's head should follow. Pull the treat slowly along the floor directly away from your puppy's head. As the head follows the treat, the body should follow the down. Just before your dog's body reaches the floor, say "Down," give the treat and praise your puppy.
Always use "Release" after "Stay" so your puppy will learn when it's okay to move. Have your puppy "Sit." Then tell your puppy "Stay" in a firm voice while holding your hand in front of your puppy's face like you're saying stop. Wait a few seconds while your puppy sits waiting, then calmly and quietly reward and praise. After you have praised your puppy for staying, give a release word, such as "Release" or "Free" to encourage your puppy to move out of the stay. As your puppy progresses, you can slowly increase the length of time and the distance you move away.
With your puppy a short distance away, even a few steps, call your puppy's name. Use a positive, happy voice to get your puppy's attention. Show that you have a treat and say "Come" as your puppy starts towards you. When your puppy reaches you, gently take its collar in hand and give the treat as you praise. Gradually increase the distance your puppy must travel to come to you. After only a few times you should be able to just say your puppy's name and "Come" without having to show a treat (i.e. "Fido, Come"). "Come" can be used after Stay/Release.
This command is taught when your puppy jumps up on you, which all puppies do at some point. When your puppy jumps on you, fold your arms and either take a step back or turn a little so your puppy has no choice but to return to all fours, saying "Off" at the same time as your puppy is sliding off you.
We highly recommend puppy classes. Not only will you and your puppy get extra training time, but also your puppy will learn to pay attention to you despite a lot of distraction and also will become socialized through interaction with other puppies.
If you have any questions about training your puppy, feel free to call us at (978) 453-1784.