General Puppy Training Tips
Lotte Griffiths- Accredited Animal Behaviourist(Canine) ABC of SA
Do not bore your puppy with endless, repetitive training sessions. Keep sessions short and most of all fun!
- You should, ideally, train around 3 times daily … about 5 minutes per session is quite sufficient at this stage.
- Build the training into your daily routine. You can even incorporate some of the training sessions into your daily walks.
- Have your puppy ‘work-to-earn’ every treat you give him for example by sitting nicely.
Rewards are not restricted to food, praise, attention or play only. In fact, there are many types of rewards and it is worth bearing in mind that a reward is whatever your puppy wants at any given moment … even being allowed to go outside or come inside, etc. may be rewarding if that is what your puppy wants. What is more, rewards are relative; what you like may not be what your puppy likes and, in this case, it is your puppy that gets to decide what is rewarding for him!
With the signals you give to your puppy … do not change your signals as-and-whenever you feel like it and do not use the same signal for two different behaviours/responses. It is difficult enough for your puppy to learn a new ‘language’ as it is, so don’t use the same signals for different behaviours/responses. For example, ‘off’ means “get off the furniture” or personor whatever else your puppy might be on, while ‘down’ means “lie down flat on the ground” and ‘come’, means come and sit right in front of me, it does not mean follow me, etc.
With what you allow or do not allow your puppy to do. Whatever he or she learns at this stage will be very difficult to ‘unlearn’ later … for example if you allow your puppy to jump-up at you now, you may find it very difficult to teach him not to jump-up when he’s a grown dog weighing in at, say, 50kg. Conflicting signals can cause a number of behavioural problems and have even been implicated with conditions such (for example)ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in some children and dogs (Prof. A Amsel, 1962)! It is therefore essential that the entire family agree on what you will and what you will not allow your puppy to do and that you all stick to the agreed rules at all times.
Become aware of how you use your body: Puppies learn to read our subtle body movements long before they learn any of the acoustic (verbal) signals associated with a behaviour or action. In fact, your puppy automatically assumes that every change in your posture and/or facial expression has a meaning and even the smallest change in your own posture or facial expression can result in enormous changes in your puppy’s behaviour … this, by the way, is how your puppy knows when you are going out and whether or not she is coming with you, etc., before you have said a word!.
Use precise timing when you reward or reprimand your puppy: If you praise, reward or reprimand even 2 seconds after your puppy has done something it is too late because your puppy will not be able to associate the reward/reprimand with whatever it was he did and you will in fact be rewarding/reprimanding another often totally unrelated behaviour i.e. whatever your puppy is doing exactly when you reward/reprimand.
Use of lures
Whenever you want your puppy to move or assume a particular position, use your lure rather than pulling on the leash and/or pushing him or her into position.
Use the lure slowly, precisely and consistently to guide your puppy, remembering that, at this age, your puppy’s eyes have not developed fully and if you move the lure too fast he’ll not be able to keep track of it.
To avoid confusing your puppy it is often a good idea for you to first practice the movements required of you without your puppy, so that you’ll be confident that you know exactly how to do your part of the practice.
Train for success: do not make the exercises too hard for your puppy and remember that, at this age, his ability to concentrate is still relatively very poor.
Finally: Puppies do not feel guilt and neither do they associate behaviours they did EARLIER with corrections happening NOW … therefore if you do have to interrupt inappropriate behaviour, please make sure you do so while he is doing whatever it is you do not want him to do and not when he is doing something else – otherwise he will associated the punishment with whatever he happens to be doing at the exact moment when you punish him.
Enjoy your training … and remember to never train if you are tired or angry and to always finish all training sessions on a positive note.
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