Training a new puppy can be tough, but the rewards you’ll get for your efforts are more than worth the work! a well-trained dog is easier to manage and control as he or she ages, and training your puppy can help you bond with it. Here are the most important basics you’ll need to put into action to train your puppy or young dog.
- Know when to use positive reinforcement
With puppies, you should always begin training with simple commands, like sit and stay. But no matter what command you’re trying to teach, it’s essential that you use positive reinforcement correctly. Positive reinforcement is when you give the puppy something (whether good or bad) such as a treat or a stern “No!”, whereas negative reinforcement is when you take something away, such as your puppy’s favorite toy.
Puppies respond best to positive reinforcement, but only when it is given as soon as they do a behavior. If you wait longer than a few seconds to positively reinforce a puppy’s behavior (such as holding their stay or sitting on command), they will not understand why you are rewarding or scolding them. This makes it almost impossible to train the puppy.
- Understand how to manage your dog’s attention span
Young puppies will not be able to learn new commands for more than five to ten minutes at a time. To train your puppy quickly, make sure to play training games with them in short bursts. Once your puppy is no longer interested in learning, continuing to try to train them won’t result in any meaningful progress.
- Consistency is king
You may run into setbacks while training your puppy, but don’t get discouraged! Every dog requires consistency from you to learn new things. For each command, use the same words and the same reinforcements in every training session. Practice the commands every day until your dog obeys you every time–if you pause for too long, you may lose progress in training.
Once you understand the basic principles of puppy training, you can apply them to teaching your puppy some basic commands.
The “Sit” Command
Sit is one of the easiest and most important commands to teach. First, get on the floor with your dog. Hold a small treat above their head. This will cause the puppy to look up at the treat, which naturally lowers their rear. The moment your puppy’s rear end touches the ground, praise them, say “sit,” and give them the treat. Be sure to hold the treat near enough to your puppy’s head that they won’t need to jump up to get it.
The “Stay” Command
Stay is an essential command for keeping your puppy out of trouble. To teach your puppy to stay, first put him or her on a leash. Wave your hand toward them and say “stay.” Then, step in front of your dog for a few seconds. If they stay in place, reward them. If they move, gently say “no,” pick your dog up, and place them where they were when you asked them to stay.
It’s very important to practice “stay” in different locations and at different times. Once your puppy starts to understand “stay,” you should teach them a release word, which tells them it’s okay to move again.
This is a great video by Professional Dog Trainer Kathy Santo. She reviews three basic obedience training commands—sit, lie down and stay.
Walking On a Leash
Walking nicely on a leash without pulling can be frustrating for many dog owners to teach. The trick here is simple: if your dog starts to pull, stop and do not move. When they reach the end of their leash, they will turn and look at you. As soon as you feel the leash slacken, praise your dog. If they pull again, stop moving until they stop pulling, then praise them again. Repeat this process and your puppy will walk nicely on a leash in no time!