It seems that this general time of year is the puppy time. With the holidays just finishing up and spring on its way, I bet a lot of you have puppies in your lives or are considering getting a puppy. Is a puppy the right answer for you? Puppies are hard work; there is no doubt about that. There are lots of accidents, lots of sleepless nights, lots of bite-y behavior, and lots of rushing outside to potty train in bad weather. But, those negatives can absolutely be outweighed by the joy and satisfaction from training a dog from puppyhood to adulthood, if that’s your thing. If you are seriously interested in dog training, are a dog trainer, want to compete in sports with your pup, then a puppy may be the right answer for you. For most people that just want an excellent family companion that isn’t quite as much work, then likely, adopting a young adult or even a senior dog is probably the better option. Whether you’ve decided to get a puppy or an adult, these 5 training tips will be applicable and help you in your journey with your new dog.
#1 – Crate Train
Crate training is essential for any and all dogs. I guarantee you will need to crate your dog at least one time within his life – whether he’s kenneled while you’re on vacation, has to be hospitalized, needs to be contained when you have family or friends over, etc. It is so much easier if you have already exposed and trained your dog to love his crate. Here are a few general tips to crate train your dog:
- Never, ever use the crate as punishment. Do not put shut your dog in the crate after yelling at them for doing something wrong.
- Always give your dog some sort of safe chew inside the crate. I recommend the Extreme black Kongs, either Large or XL. You can fill them with some peanut butter, canned food, pumpkin, kibble soaked in water or broth, etc.
- When you first introduce the crate, only keep your dog in there for short periods of time with the aforementioned chew. Gradually increase the time the dog is inside the crate over several weeks.
- Only open the crate when your dog is being quiet. If your dog is whining or barking, wait for just 1-2 seconds of quiet and then open the crate.
#2 – Muzzle Train
Similar to crate training, it always a good idea to muzzle train all of your dogs. All dogs have teeth, which means that all dogs have the ability and potential to bite. In an event of a true emergency, it is much easier for veterinary staff to administer emergency first aid if your dog is muzzled. Your dog will also be less stressed if they are already familiar with the muzzle. Here are some general tips in muzzle training your dog:
- Choose the right muzzle. I recommend a basket style that allows the dog to pant, drink, and take treats.
- Start slow. Allow your dog to sniff the muzzle on the ground. Hold the muzzle in your hand, and give your dog a treat for simply sniffing or getting near the muzzle. Eventually, work up to placing the muzzle on their face for 1-2 seconds while treating.
- Using spray cheese or a wet food mixture in a squeeze tube may be easier to squeeze through the muzzle instead of trying to shove small pieces of hard treats inside.
- Allow your dog to wear the muzzle occasionally in other places outside of the vet or other “scary” situation. For example, allow your dog to wear the muzzle for just 1-2 minutes on a leisurely walk or while inside the house training.
#3 – Clicker Train
Clicker training is a beautiful thing! The clicker enables very clearly defined communication between you and your dog. The click should be applied at the exact moment the dog does the behavior you are looking for, and the dog learns exactly that! After you click, you will reward your dog. The dog learns that the click means he did the correct thing. This very clear communication allows other aspects of training to happen quicker and faster. Here are some general tips for clicker training your dog:
- The mechanics can be challenging, so learn them on your own without your dog. I recommend holding your clicker and treat and demonstrating on yourself. Learn to click at the correct time. For example, go from a standing to seated position on a chair, and learn to click the second your butt hits the chair.
- Get used to holding the clicker, leash, and treats without your dog so you are comfortable.
- Practice holding the clicker, leash, and treats with your dog inside the house or in your fenced in backyard before you try to go on a walk.
- You will need to “load the clicker” with your dog, and teach your dog what the clicker means. Likely, your dog already knows how to sit, so just start using the clicker the moment your dog’s butt hits the ground. Do a few repetitions for a few days, just so you can teach your dog what the clicker means.
#4 – Train a Collar Grab
There will be times in life that you will need to grab your dog by his collar, likely for his own safety. From a dog’s perspective, this can be a terrifying and threatening thing! They are happily wandering around and all of a sudden a human hoovers over them and applies pressure to their neck. Many dogs will instinctively react negatively to this and could potentially even bite. You want to teach your dog that collar grabs are not scary or threatening, and in fact, mean food is coming! Here are some tips for teaching a collar grab:
- Starting inside in a familiar room, simply extend your hand towards (but do not touch) your dog’s collar, and give your dog a treat. Repeat several times for 1-2 days.
- Once your dog is comfortable, extend your hand, lightly touch your dog’s collar, immediately remove your hand, and reward your dog. Repeat several times for 1-2 days.
- Once your dog is comfortable, extend your hand, lightly grab your dog’s collar for 1-2 seconds, let go, and reward.
- Once your dog is comfortable, grab your dog’s collar lightly and walk 1-2 steps while luring with food, and then reward.
#5 – Train a Recall
If you only teach your dog one thing, let it be a recall! Every dog needs to know a recall, and in some cases, it could actually save his life. Here are some tips to train a recall:
- Pick a word (also known as a cue) that you only use for recall and don’t often use in everyday language. This will maintain clarity for your dog. Many people use the word “come” or the phrase “come here,” and while that may work, I would recommend a unique word if possible.
- Train the recall inside your house in a familiar environment before trying it outside. Start small – only call your dog from a few feet away before widening the distance.
- Train your recall outside in your back yard from square one from only 1-2 feet away, no matter how well your dog is doing inside.
- Make sure you aren’t only using the recall to call your dog to you to end fun behavior. For example, if you allow your dog off leash, don’t only call your dog when you are getting ready to leash him up to put him in the car to go home. Call him to you at least 2-3 times throughout the walk just to give your dog a treat and let him go back off on his merry way again off leash.
Do you have a new puppy or dog? What are you working on? If you follow my tips and start training these five behaviors, let me know how it works out for you!
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