Not sure what to do with your new pup? Once you are able to resist the cuteness of your new family member, it is time to start training. Dogs can be trained from an early age, so begin teaching your puppy about your expectations and the world around them as soon as he or she arrives in your home. The sooner you begin teaching them good manners and social skills, the easier it will be for you when they hit the difficult period of adolescence.
As the excitement of bringing home a new puppy wears off, many owners face an annoying task of cleaning up the accidents and housetraining. The sooner you start teaching your dog appropriate toilet behaviour the better. If you are lucky to have a garden or at least to live on the ground floor, you task is much easier. But don’t worry; living in a flat shouldn’t be a problem.
Most owners will face the task of housebreaking only once in their dogs lifetime. However, sometimes stress, moving to a new house or illness can cause problems in adult dogs as well. This post will cover the main principles of housetraining, which apply to both puppies and adult dogs.
I’ll be honest: dog training is not that complicated. There is a limited number of tools that every dog owner can learn. The only difference between an experienced dog trainer and an owner is that the trainer is used to spotting opportunities and creative ways of applying the tools. Alright, we, dog trainers, also have experience and theoretical knowledge that allows us to apply our tools to different cases. However, I am convinced that any person can learn to apply the basic tools to their own dog. That is why I would like to share with you the three most important principles of dog training, on which the major part of dog training is based.
If I could use just one dog training technique apart from clicker training, I would choose “time-out”. It can be used to correct so many behaviours: inappropriate barking, jumping, aggression… Although it clearly shows the dog that his behaviour is not acceptable, it is quite gentle and does not involve physical force. As my readers know, I will never recommend using physical force for correction, because it leads to aggression and damages the relationship between the dog and the owner.
“Time-out” is a very simple technique that even a child can use. It is a type of negative punishment, which means that you punish behaviour by removing something. In this case, you will remove one of the things your dog values most (besides food, of course!): your attention. You will need a light 5 ft. /1.5 m leash and a designated space. The designated space should be isolated from the rest of the house, and you should be able to physically prevent your dog from leaving it. Let’s try.
Many dogs have this annoying habit. They would employ all the power of their large sad eyes to get a piece of that you’re eating. They would place their muzzles on your lap and look like they haven’t eaten for a week. They would make you feel ashamed of starving the poor animal. Dogs know how to get what they want. So, why are they begging so persistently? Even dogs that are not as crazy about food as Milo, sometimes beg. The answer is very simple. Dogs beg, because we taught them too. Remember: any behaviour that is reinforced will be repeated. Behaviours reinforced randomly are more likely to be repeated. If you give way to your dog’s begging even on rare occasions, he will continue begging.
How to stop your dog from begging?
When Milo came to live with us, he had no idea about such a thing as “recall.” Let off-leash, he would just run until he was bored or hungry. Our attempts to catch him would turn into playing “tag.” Of course, we immediately started training him to come back when called, but this is not what I wanted to share with you. There is a technique, which is especially useful for newly adopted dogs and puppies: “hide and seek.” At first, I started doing it just for fun and quickly noticed how useful it was. This exercise will teach your dog to keep an eye on you, to be aware of your location and to follow you. Believe me, dog walks are much more pleasant, when it is you, who decides where to go and is followed, instead of your dog. What is more important, your dog will have less chances of getting lost.
Exercise: “Hide and seek”.
Earlier this week I wrote about common mistakes that owners make when using a leash. Avoiding these mistakes will make your dog less likely to pull on his leash and will help to reduce existing leash pulling. Puppies are especially prone to pulling, because of their high energy and curiosity. Moreover, when a puppy is small and cannot pull hard enough to bother anyone, his leash pulling is more likely to be neglected. Only later, when the dog becomes stronger and heavier, the owners usually ask for help.
So now that we know what not to do, let’s talk about teaching the dog not to pull the leash. One of the best techniques is described in “My Dog Pulls, What Do I Do?” by Turid Rugaas. I tend to stick to this method, because it can be modified for each individual case and works reliably. The technique is built on the discovery approach. I strongly suggest that you read this book, if your dog is pulling a lot. I will outline my version of this technique.