When you bring a cute little puppy home, all you want to do with them is play and snuggle. And while there’s nothing wrong with doing either, puppies are like sponges when it comes to taking in new information, so starting them off with some basic training straight away is the best way forward. Believe it or not, at eight weeks old when your puppy first leaves his mother and goes into the big wide world to his forever home, he’s already started learning quite a lot. And what you do with him now will shape the dog that he grows up to be. Training can be a huge amount of fun for puppies and their owners too. Here are some basics that every pup should learn as early as possible.
First of all, socialising your pup is hugely important. The experiences that they have now will shape their personality for the future, and the more you can get them used to, the more confident they will become. If your pup hasn’t had her vaccinations yet, walks are off the table, but you can still carry her around the neighbourhood to get her used to passing traffic, bicycles, and strange people. Take her to visit friends and have friends come to visit you, to get her used to being around people and figure out how to behave.
Potty training is usually the first thing that you will start teaching your puppy, and for obvious reasons. Nobody wants a dog that doesn’t know where to go to the toilet and ends up doing it in random places in the house; it isn’t nice for anybody. And, a dog who knows exactly where to go potty and how to let you know he needs to go will always be happier – it just takes a little bit of training to get there. Puppies are likely to have accidents, and a good way to correct them is to calmly interrupt them if you see them preparing to go potty in the house and take them outside to the right location instead, with plenty of praise when they go.
Supervise your puppy at all times and take them outside regularly to use the toilet; offer lots of praise when they do go outdoors. If they potty in the house and you miss it, don’t scold them – this will only make things worse and they might end up hiding when they do their business indoors.
Puppies have a natural instinct to protect the things that they love. This could be their favourite toys, their food, or even you! But some puppies might end up falling in love with something inappropriate, like your shoe or your best cushion. It’s normal, but taking these things away from your puppy when they’re in the middle of enjoying them will only end up with them guarding the object even more. Instead, the best way to approach this is to distract your puppy with something else. If you see him with your shoe in his mouth, offer him to trade for something of high value, like a favourite toy or even better, a tasty treat. Only give the treat when the puppy drops the object so that he gets the point.
Puppies naturally explore the world with their mouths and a teething puppy will usually have a constant desire to be chewing on something. Anyone who’s had a puppy will know that their tiny but razor-sharp little teeth are never too far away, and it can seriously hurt when they get you around the wrists or ankles. The first thing to remember is that this doesn’t mean that your pup is vicious or dangerous; it’s normal behaviour for any puppy and most will grow out of it. However, there are several things that you can do to teach your puppy that nipping you isn’t good behaviour.
When they go too far with their mouth, exclaim ‘ouch!’ loudly and remove the body part they were chewing on for at least thirty seconds. If they don’t calm down, completely separate yourself from them for another thirty seconds. If all else fails, try the trade option that you use for guarding and have them swap your arm or your ankle for a more suitable chew toy. It goes without saying that your puppy should have plenty of pup-proof toys to chew on anyway.
Barging past you to get to their food and scoffing it down might seem cute now, but it won’t be so much when your puppy has grown into an adult dog and still thinks that this behaviour is OK. Remember that while your puppy is young, he’s learning about etiquette and it’s down to you to teach him what’s acceptable and what isn’t, especially when it comes to food. Most puppies are used to barging their littermates out of the way to get fed, so this behaviour is fairly normal when they are young and does not mean that they are naughty. The good news is that your pup can be trained not to do this with basic obedience training, such as telling him to ‘wait’ or ‘sit’ and only allowing him to get to the food when he does this. After a couple of meals, he’ll understand that being calm means he gets to eat sooner.
Basic Obedience Training:
Puppies can start learning some basic obedience training commands right from the get-go. And since puppies love playing so much at this age, you can use a combination of treats and their favourite toys to provide rewards and positive reinforcement for when they do well. Most puppies will quickly pick up commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. Bella and Duke provide a great range of tasty raw food treats that are perfect for puppies, along with meals designed to provide them with all the nutrient that they need, if you are interested in switching your puppy to a raw food diet. You can find out more about making the switch with their puppy feeding guide. Their in-depth puppy feeding guide covers everything you need to know, including weighing your pup and essential minerals for optimum health.
Finally, remember that whatever you are teaching your puppy, positive reinforcement is key. Scolding your puppy will only set them back, which is why tons of patience is key when puppy training. Bear in mind that your puppy is not being naughty, even if they’re being destructive or not listening to you – they’re just doing what all puppies do. The best thing to do is ignore any behaviour that you want to discourage in your puppy and praise them a lot for the behaviour you want to encourage, whether you’ve asked them to do that or not. For example, if your puppy takes themselves quietly to sit on their bed instead of begging when you’re preparing food, make sure that they know that’s the behaviour you want from them with an enthusiastic ‘good boy!’ that gets their tail wagging. Consistency is key and after a while, your puppy will begin to understand what is expected of her.
Whether it’s teaching them where to go potty or not to nip your ankles, puppy training begins as soon as you bring them home. When done right, training can be a lot of fun for puppies and the earlier you start, the better behaved they’ll grow up to be.