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The best way to train your puppy - tips and tricks

Telling the owner of a new puppy that it will need training, more often than not, falls on deaf ears. But it is the only way to prevent the misery and sheer hard work caused later on in life by so many badly behaved dogs. Badly behaved dogs are the main reason or excuse used by owners wanting to re-home their dog after it has wrecked the house or bitten someone, yet 99 times out of 100, it is not the fault of the dog, but the owner who has failed to TRAIN his puppy from the minute it arrives home that first day.

Many breeds are classed as "Dangerous" and to a certain extent, some strains within a breed are likely to have more vicious tendencies than others. But even a "Vicious" breed can be trained to fit in with a family and lose any unwanted traits if it is in the right environment, is looked after and loved and most importantly is trained well. Training clubs exist to help you in this task, manned by volunteers in most parts of the country. They do not admit puppies until they have had all of their inoculations at around 14 weeks old, so many that arrive there are almost past training as the rot has already set in.

The period from seven weeks onwards is crucial as the pup develops its independence from dam, brothers and sisters. By 16 weeks old, the domestic problems which bring older dogs to a training club, are well rooted and flourishing. Ideally, you should not purchase a puppy unless someone is home all day to look after it. That person must be prepared to be its trainer, the one who makes the rules and ensures they are obeyed. Other members of the family must keep to the rules or the pup will become totally confused and fail to pick up the right routine. This does not mean that they should not play with the pup, but they must not override the trainers decisions.

The biggest nightmare with a new puppy is the nightly howl. You need to provide your puppy with a bed in a quiet warm place. A large cardboard box with one side cut down and lined with a blanket is fine. Never buy a wicker basket as this will be eaten in a week! Your pup must sleep here at night, not on your sofa or the hearth rug as he will grow and must know his own place. Try to fix the habit of day sleeping in this one place as soon as possible, away from noises and children. Ensure there is newspaper laid down nearby just in case. Feeling lost and alone at night he may start howling! Make the night as short as possible by giving him a late night snack, not forgetting to let him out to do his business. Get up early the first few days and let him straight out to relieve himself again. If during the night he starts screaming you have two choices;

1 - Ignore the noise completely until he gives up calling for your attention. If he gets no response it may die out. This takes nerves of steel on yours and the neighbours part, but must be total. Give in once and he will have you dancing up and down the stairs all night long.

>2 - Arrange to stay downstairs near but not too near, without taking any notice of him. Don’t comfort him, praise him or shout at him and if he comes out of his box, simply put him back. The problem usually only lasts a few days if you follow the above advice, but it may be worth informing the neighbours in advance of bringing home your pup and apologising before they get the chance to complain!

Sometimes a puppy is purchased who is already house trained, but it cannot be expected to recognise where you desire it to do its business, for a few days. It must still be watched closely, taken straight outside on waking or after eating and highly praised the minute it does what it is supposed to do, where you want him to do it. Try to use the same door and take him to the same area each time so that the pup soon learns which door to go to when he wants to relieve himself. If you catch the puppy relieving himself on the carpet, a loud NO is preferable to a smack! The tone of your voice is far more effective than the back of your hand. Take him straight outside to remind him that here is the correct area and wait for him to finish giving him then, his normal praise. If you find a deposit indoors some time after the event, do not chastise him as he will not know why you are doing so. We personally feel there is no value in rubbing a puppies nose in it!

There is of course, more to training a puppy than toilet training! You have to be in charge, so in those first few weeks, learn to capitalise on the pups natural actions. Every pup can sit or lie down, he doesn’t need to be taught. But we need him to learn to do it on command. Use the word SIT as the pup is actually in the process of doing it himself and this will quickly reinforce the formal training you will be doing and an immediate GOOD BOY will strengthen it even further. Remember, you must praise immediately, if the pup is going to connect his action with your praise, and for it to be effective.

Feeding time is ideal for further training as both praise and food are the reward for doing as he is told! (verbal commands in capitals) Prepare the food out of his sight, then call him by his name and COME. Make him SIT if necessary by gently pushing down his back end, then make him WAIT. Put the food down a short distance from him and make him WAIT. Give him plenty of praise as usual if he is doing as he is told and then say TAKE IT and allow him to eat in peace. When he has finished, make him WAIT for a few seconds more, then take him outside to relieve himself. This ritual may seem tiresome, especially when in the early days and all he wants to do is scoff down his food and the bowl as well, but it will pay off in the long run. Don’t fall into the trap of skipping a few sessions as it will take you twice as long to get him back into the ritual if you do.

Lead training can be a nightmare. All those weeks of running around un-hindered are now at an end, its the end of the world he thinks! Before you even think about lead training, put on a flat leather collar, or "choke chain" for a few days or even weeks, to get him used to something round his neck. Then preferably in the garden, attach a lead and let him fly round with it trailing behind him. Then pick it up and without putting any restraint on it, try to get him to run along side you, making it a fun game with his favourite toy in front of him. The neighbours might think you are mad, but who cares as long as the pup is having fun. Slowly and over time, get him to run up and down the garden by your side, not letting him lurch out in different directions which if allowed now could be hard to cure.

You cant of course take him out into the big wide world, until he has finished his inoculations. Don’t be tempted to do otherwise! You will need to take him out for further lead training and socialising. Don’t let him run off the lead until you are happy he will come back and is in a safe area. Take him to an open space and during your walk, get him to SIT and WAIT for a while. If you have a longer lead, practise GO ON, letting him out to play and investigate, then COME to bring him back to you. If he wont come, then a gentle tug on the lead calling COME again until he gets used to it. Encourage him as he comes giving plenty of praise and he will realise how clever he is. Repeat these steps a few times before being tempted to let him loose.

Getting in and out of the car is another time for training practise. Don’t let him leap straight in but get him to SIT as you open the door and WAIT until you are ready to pop him in. IN THE CAR when you are ready, and say it even if you have to pick him up and put him inside. Getting out it is even more important that he will SIT and WAIT until you are ready, have the lead in your hand and have checked that the coast is clear. Just reverse the operation, calling COME when it is safe.

The first visit to the vet is another new experience. Carry the pup in your arms and do not let him contact the floor or other dogs. The vets surgery is a place for sick animals where anything can be picked up. Keep him quietly comfortable on your knee and try to avoid him barking, whining or wriggling about, just put him at ease. Do not allow any bad behaviour now and you are well on the way to owning a pup to be proud of.

Playtime is most important for a puppy. Although he has to learn who is in charge, he is not in the Army and even here, a lot can be learnt. You must be fun to be with and he must learn that attention to what you want him to do pays off. Try hiding his favourite toy and encouraging him to look for it. If you are close when he finds it, take it from his mouth saying GIVE and then GOOD BOY when he lets go. Repeat this until it becomes second nature and a great game. It will come in useful later on! If you allow him to rush off and chew it, you are heading for trouble. If he picks up something he shouldn’t, gently go over to him and say GIVE and your training has paid off.

If your puppy gets too excited and starts to use his teeth, you should use a loud NO and quieten him down. Do not take a swipe at him as he will take this as being part of the game and it will increase his excitement. If NO does not have the desired effect and his excitement turns into aggression, you must stop the game immediately and ignore him. After a few minutes, when he has cooled down, allow him to get your attention again provided he has learnt his lesson. This action is of vital importance as aggressive now will spell BIG TROUBLE in an adult dog and cannot be overemphasised.

In conclusion, to enjoy your puppy throughout its life, he has to soon learn who is in charge whilst enjoying life to the full. He has to be raised as you would a child. If he is not to grow up into a villain, a little training is worth its weight in gold. Violence towards him will result in violence returned, and it may be when you least expect it. The tone of your voice should echo your feelings, GOOD BOY should be in a light jocular voice, SIT or STAY should carry a sense of authority and NO should be short, sharp and loud. In your infant puppy training you should not be using these deep harsh tones but after four months of age your puppy should be introduced to them provided he has been taught their meaning through the above exercises.

Training in the main is just a matter of using good old fashioned common sense, but there are those who would say, if you had any common sense, you wouldn’t take on a puppy!

We beg to differ.

Good Luck!