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Training your new puppy

Wrigley 5 years
Wrigley 5 years
Photo by Sandra Eastman

Many people currently advocate adoption as their choice for a new pet, however, even when adopting a dog the training process still must take place. There are many things to keep in mind during the training process.

Consistency and determination are nouns often attributed to athletes or entrepreneurs, but let’s not forget – dog trainers.

The task of house-breaking a new puppy is often daunting and sometimes overwhelming. Just like children, each dog or breed has a different degree of capability and willingness to learn. The training process begins after weaning, anywhere from seven to ten weeks old. The process can last several months before the puppy is completely house-broken. Positive reinforcement is the most effective method of training.

As a puppy’s memory span only lasts about 30 seconds, it is very important to remember the number one rule: Never punish your puppy for an accident that happened while you were occupied elsewhere or away from home. This accident is your fault and not the fault of the puppy. Using your hands to hit him or rubbing his nose in urine will only make him nervous or fearful. Constant physical punishment can make your dog cringe when you reach for him or run and hide when you return home to him.

Crate or Paper Training

The two most common methods of training are crate training and paper training. Here are some helpful tips:

The crate should only be large enough for the puppy to rest comfortably. No water or food is placed in the crate. Some people put a chew toy in the crate or a soft blanket. A word of caution on the use of blanket: the puppy will often urinate and use the blanket as a cover.

The crate should be just big enough to allow the puppy to turn but not have room at the end for urinating or defecating. If the kennel is too large the dog will simply fill the contents at one end and sleep in the other end. You can purchase a crate with an expandable divider which can be widened as the puppy grows.

Puppies should have structured eating times and play times and only crated for a maximum of four hours at a time. Puppies usually need to eliminate about 30 minutes after eating or extended playing. When you notice the puppy giving off signals that elimination is eminent (sniffing the floor, walking in circles, trying to hide), you should immediately take him outside or to the area in which you wish him to eliminate. When he does his deed, you should praise him and immediately take him back indoors. He needs to learn that being outside is where he goes potty and that is reason he is taken outside. If you allow him to play first, he will think the outdoors is for playtime and not time to eliminate.

Paper training is still used on occasion; however, the process can give way to bad habits. The puppy sometimes becomes confused and deposits inside the house next to the door. If you are training your dog to eliminate outside, it is best that you start this process immediately. Paper and litter box training should be used only for apartment dwelling or very small breed dogs.

As dogs can be taught command words such as sit, lay down, etc., they also can be taught words for training. Using an expression like “go outside” or “go potty” can be very effective. Your dog will learn the words quickly, and each family member should use them consistently when training and throughout the dog’s lifetime. For example, when your puppy is showing signs of eliminating you could use the term “go outside”, and when placing him outside, use the term “go potty”.

Use a dog to train a dog

Another great tip –the easiest way to train a dog is, quite simply, with another dog. Dogs are creatures of habit, but learn very quickly. When training a puppy with an older dog the process becomes one of ease as the puppy will naturally follow the habit of the older dog.

Be very sure to heap tons of praise on your puppy when he does his job properly. The more time you spend with your puppy or dog, the easier it will be to train him properly. Consistency, determination and lots of love and patience will help your puppy grow into a loving and healthy dog.