Puppy Training

Puppy training starts the minute you first meet your puppy. He starts learning what he can get away with, what pleases you, and what you will ignore.

The most important people in your dog's life (after you) will be his trainer, and his vet. So start training your puppy while he is young, before he gets set in his ways. Establish the rules up front, so you don't have to change them later on.

Puppy Wishes is a site dedicated to providing the best resources for training your puppy. You absolutely have to visit it to see the fantastic puppy photos, and to learn about the stunning 3D e-books on puppy training and behaviour. Just beautiful.

From about 4 to 12 weeks your puppy is in his socialisation period. This peaks at around 5-7 weeks. This is when he learns about other species. Try to make this a positive time with lots of play and hugs, so he gets the idea that children, adults and other animals can be nice. He won't be fully vaccinated, so don't let him mix with strange dogs in the park. At around 12 weeks he tends to avoid others, so try not to miss the opportunity. Use the socialisation time to get him used to crowds and noises, while protecting and patting him and keeping him safe.

In Australia there is Puppy Pre-school, to enable early socialisation in a controlled, clean environment. The most important thing my family learnt at Puppy Preschool was the concept of the Pack Leader. Establishing that a human is the leader of the pack is crucial. The vet teaching us practically insisted that we buy the book Leader of the Pack

Puppies should be at least 3 months old, and vaccinated before commencing external training with an obedience club, to minimise the risk of diseases such as the parvo virus. Clubs usually meet once a week, and owners are taught simple exercises to take home and practise. Your local vet/pet shop/council/county should be able to advise locations for puppy training.

When he is vaccinated and able to mix with other dogs, take him to dog parks to further socialise. This will get him used to different types of dogs and people. He will learn normal dog behaviour and recognise submissive and aggressive stances.

Dog Training

Psychology of Dog Training

The psychological benefits of training your dog are:
- Positive attention - dogs thrive on it.
- Stimulation - stop him being bored
- Communication - grow closer and learn to understand each other.
- Socialisation - allow him to join social occasions.
- Authority - training reinforces who is the leader of the pack

Training your dog contributes to his mental development, and will allow you to have a far more meaningful relationship with him. There are so many rules for dogs in society, that ensuring your dog understands basic rules will increase the pleasure of owning a dog.

Successful dog training is possible when you have started to think like a dog, and can therefore communicate with him in ways he will understand.

Dogs are better at reading our body language than interpreting words. But you can teach them to respond to specific words. Commands are best kept clear, simple and short.

Getting the relationship right is crucial. It's not about being completely dominant over your dog. It's about agreeing who is the leader of the pack. About having trust, love and devotion being the reason your dog obeys you, rather than fear.

Obedience dog training does not require dedicated hours of concentrated activities. It is best done in regular, small amounts, to avoid boredom and staleness, for example 5-15 minutes per day.

Use everyday activities as training opportunities to shape your dog's behaviour to fit in with your lifestyle.

For example, at meal time, say the word "come" as you show the food. The smell will bring your dog to you. But repetition of the word "come" will mean he associates the word with going to his owner. Repeat the command during the day, and when he comes, reward him with a treat or praise.

Patience will also get quicker results than aggressive, forceful training methods.

Positive vs Negative Reinforcement

The best approach to dog training uses rewards, and positive reinforcement of good behaviour, rather than negative reinforcement, or punishment of bad behaviour.

Positive reinforcement is the best way to teach a desired behaviour. Rewarding a behaviour tells your dog the action was well done, and to repeat the behaviour.

The first time you teach and reward a behaviour, your dog won't understand the meaning of your command. But repetition will teach him that the word, and behaviour, will result in a reward.

Over-repetition can also be a problem. If you reward "sit/stay" more than "come", your dog may stick with the first command and ignore the second command.

Your dog's personality should also determine (along with his weight) whether you reward with food or praise. Some breeds (eg my labrador) are extremely responsive to food as a reward. Others (eg a St Bernard) will go ga-ga over a little praise. Obviously food-based training works best when your dog has not just finished his meal.

Punishment may temporarily stop a behaviour, but it doesn't unlearn it.

Punishment can also lead to a dislike of the person doing the punishing, or to a dislike of the situation or place where the punishment is taking place.

Occasional punishment has its place. It must be unpleasant enough to stop or decrease the bad behaviour. If it doesn't stop, you're probably not being strong enough.

Punishment will be ineffective if it does not occur at the time of the bad behaviour. Otherwise your dog will not know what he is being punished for. It must happen absolutely immediately.

The balance between the amount of reward and punishment should relate to the personality of both the dog and the trainer. A submissive trainer should choose a submissive dog. An agressive trainer would do best with a boisterous dog.

A submissive dog that is over-punished may become introverted, and lead him to fear-biting. An aggressive dog that is under-punished or under-trained may become aggressive as it constantly challenges and attempts to become the leader of the pack.

General Dog Training Tips

During basic training dogs should learn to sit, drop, stay, heel and come, to become housetrained and to walk nicely on a lead.

If you can teach your dog to sit, you can pretty much teach him to do anything. Find which reward they prefer. Their confidence will grow, and learning will get easier.

Teach him bite inhibition - teaching to bite softly. Do it while young, while his jaws are not strong. If he bites too hard, yelp and withdraw attention. By 6 months, any contact with teeth should make you yelp.

Teach him controlled play. Don't whack him on the nose - this leads to aggression. When he's bad, stand still, turn around and take away your attention. Intersperse with short cuddle breaks.

Teach him toy ownership. Grabbing a toy off him will develop into chasing game, or growls. Start off with swaps.

Teach him about leadership. Make him wait for you to eat first. You own the most comfortable spot. Wait for him to sit nicely before coming inside, or feeding.

Call him once only. If you keep calling and he doesn't come, you are in effect training your dog to ignore you.

When he is young, it will be easiest to reward success with food. As your dog matures, favour praise as a reward, with random food rewards.

Always end your dog training with a successful command, for example, the basic site. That way you will both look forward to more sessions in the future.

Learning to Sit

Learning to Come

Learning to Stay

Learning to Drop

Learning to Heel

Toilet Training

Advanced Dog Training

Basic dog obedience training aims to produce a well-mannered dog that suits your lifestyle, and can be safely taken out in public.

Advanced obedience training can be undertaken for participation in obedience trials, to demonstrate the usefulness of dogs as companions and helpers.

Agility training involves owners running beside their dogs to guide them over, under and through a series of obstacles, to demonstrate their agility.

Lure Racing, as distinct from moneyed dog racing, involves dogs chasing a lure (usually plastic, and definitely not alive) around an irregular course, to demonstrate their speed, agility, enthusiasm, endurance and ability to follow the lure.

Endurance training tests the fitness of the owner and dog over 20km across various surfaces.

Gundog Trials test the ability of dogs to hunt, retrieve, flush, find and point. It is only for registered gundogs, and varies according to state laws.

Flyball is a fast, fun race between two dog teams, to go over hurdles, release and catch a ball, return over the hurdles, in typical relay manner.

Dog Shows are an excellent chance for owners of pedigree dogs to show off their dogs.

Sledding can be carried out on either snow, or on dirt tracks through forests.

More Dog Training Info

If you want to read more about training your dog, check out the books on my Dog Ebooks page in the left menu.

For example, Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer - All of the secrets, tips, and techniques you need to know to succeed with your dog.