Let’s start at the beginning, I have worked with dogs since 2003 and these tips are a guide based on my own experiences. I am NOT a qualified dog trainer but hope you find these tips useful. Need more help..call me!
So your of to get a puppy, you have probably already chosen the breed and the colour of the lead and collar, you may even have bought a pretty blanket for your new friend.....STOP !! Before you even consider a breed, check to make sure that this type of dog suits your lifestyle, your pocket and your physical ability. We are all familiar with the “Andrex” puppy and I admit they are irresistible, but Retrievers are notoriously stubborn and grow up quickly into large, strong dogs. Similarly working breeds such as the Border collie and Springer spaniel need regular exercise and intellectual input to prevent them becoming bored and destructive.
You must also consider that breeds such as the Bullmastiff and Akita will cost more to insure and other breeds, such as the German Shepherd and Bulldog may be pre-disposed to joint and breathing problems or skin ailments. So take a step back, list all that you want from your dog and all that you can give to your dog, work out the finances, check out the insurance cost, feeding cost (most feeds have a recommended daily weight on the side of the packet for small, medium and large breeds) and possible medical problems (chat to your local vet) then check out shows like “discover dogs” and have a chance to meet the breeds face to face, this also gives you the opportunity to chat to the breeder clubs for advice.
Ok so we have the little rascal chosen now we need to prepare the house & most importantly the house rules. In order to train your puppy quickly and easily everybody who has input into the puppies life has to stick to the same rules, consistency and place are paramount to your dog’s development.
Firstly remember that a dog is a valuable addition to your family, he/she must know their place in your family and the extent of their boundaries within the home.
Try this as a basic list:
· Puppy sleeps downstairs in his own area
· Puppy will go to the toilet in a set area of the garden
· Puppy will NOT go on furniture
· Puppy will eat away from the family eating & will allow his food to be taken off him. This is very important, food aggression is a major concern
· Puppy has a set diet with set amounts of treats / rewards
· Puppy will not eat off peoples plates
· Puppy will walk nicely on the lead
· Puppy will return when off the lead
· Puppy will be social and friendly with people and other animals
· Puppy will travel, calmly and quietly in the car
· Puppy will be given dedicated time for training and exercise
· Puppy will be able to be left at home for a reasonable time
So how do you achieve this? Firstly print this list (or one of your own) off and stick it to the fridge, it is all too easy to deviate when those big eyes look up at you.
1. Set your Puppy’s boundaries, you can use a baby gate, puppy pen or just something to prevent him/her from going into areas they are not allowed. Initially this should be a hard floor area such as a tiled utility as it is inevitable that there will be accidents during toilet training. Make sure everyone is aware of this area.
2. Puppy will need a bed to sleep on, you can pick up bedding from all pet shops, but be aware that your puppy may chew in the early days, whilst this should be discouraged it is going to happen, so a £200 faux leather bed is probably impractical, I would recommend Vet bedding, this is soft and washable.
3.Crating? Consider using a crate in the early days. Crate training is great! I personally have trained all of my dogs in crates and they love it. You basically start with an open crate with your puppy’s bed placed in it. You can also put some toys in there to encourage your puppy to go in...never force your dog into the crate the first time...many dogs use crates and see them as a den, this is also very handy when you have visitors or for future when your dog needs to travel or go to the vets. Dogs are naturally reluctant to go to the toilet in their beds and so this can also help with toilet training too.
TIP* Buy a crate large enough for your dog when he/she is fully grown, you will save money as you will not have to buy one every time they have a growing spurt.
4. Essential Kit. You will also need to provide the following things for your dog
· Water bowls
· Feeding bowls
· Doggy towel
· Training pads (toilet pads)
· Poo bags
· Kitchen roll
· Anti-bacterial cleaner
· Chewable toys (for teething)
· Soft toys for playing
· Lead and Collar
· Dog identity tag including your name, number and postcode
· Mop and Bucket (never have a dog unless you have a mop)
· Shampoo (your dog is a pup and will roll in stuff)
· Dog food (puppy food and treats)
5. Toilet Area. When you get your new puppy home you will have to introduce puppy to his/her area initially and then to the other areas of the house in due course.
The initial anxiety and change of surroundings will probably make your puppy want to widdle, so why not make the most of this opportunity and introduce your dog to the area of the garden you want him/her to use. (I have many clients who actually use a sand pit or a plastic paddling pool linked to a drain..clever)
6. Leaving. You must, must, must get your puppy used to being left for short periods of time from day one. The quicker you get it over with the better. Wait until your puppy is tired and whilst he/she is still awake leave the room and do not return, you will probably get a bit of protest crying/ yapping, DO NOT RETURN your puppy is tired and will go to sleep. When your puppy wakes the first thing to do is take them back out to toilet area, your puppy must stay there until he/she goes to the loo. Now you’re already starting to make progress
7. Summary. Every time your puppy wakes, eats or plays make sure you give him/her ample opportunity to use the toilet area. And always leave whilst your puppy is awake so he/she gets used to being left. It is good to leave your puppy in his/her area whilst you are still in the house, for instance “Fat Dog” is currently lying in the kitchen chewing a rather tasty bone whilst I am sitting in the lounge writing this. There is a dog control gate (Lyndam babygate) on the kitchen door, his bed and fresh water are down so he’s occupied and I have quiet time to do something else, he’s happy and so am I.
8. Time to settle. The first few nights will be hard and puppy is most likely to cry and yap, It is always worth having a chat with the neighbours prior to puppy coming home so they are aware there may be some noise. Many people have a week or two off work to settle puppy in, this is a great idea as it gives you time to get the basics done and most puppies can be house trained quickly with this kind of input, however if you take this option DO NOT be around your pup 24hrs a day as, when you go back to work your puppy will go from all to nothing over night.
So you have the basics of getting puppy home and starting the house training, you have puppy’s living area established and you can pop out to the shop without puppy stressing out. You have a box of kit including leads and feeding kit and a stable puppy. So Read on.........
9. Toileting: By now your puppy should be well on his/her way to knowing where to go to the loo but may still need some help. Many people use training pads, a large absorbent pad designed for puppy to have accidents on. By placing this close to the back door puppy will get used to the idea of heading in that direction when he/she wants the loo. If you have a used one you can always leave it in the designated area for puppy to sniff out and figure out where to go.
10 Feeding. Lets have a quick chat about food. Puppy will most likely have come with a feeding guide from mum and dad’s owners, and will probably be on a few small meals a day. Soon puppy will be down to two feeds a day and maybe even one meal a day (dependant on breed) when they grow up.
So what’s the best way to get puppy eating? Firstly do not fill him/her up on treats during the day if puppy isn’t hungry the puppy won’t eat. Have regular (but not set) meal times. If you always feed your dog at exactly 5pm every day your puppy will become “institutionalised” to this time and when he/she is older you will be tied to this time or you will have to suffer a whiney dog every night, so have a regular slot of say 5pm -7pm or 6pm -8pm. Next, dog food should be put down for 10 minutes max. If after this time puppy hasn’t eaten the food then take it up and DO NOT put it back down until the next feed time. Puppy will soon learn to eat when the food is put down, this will be helpful if staying at relatives or going on holiday, kennel stays or overnights in the vets. It is also a good way of getting medication down if required at any point.
Now to point number two about feeding, there will be times when your dog is in the company of other people and other dogs. Hands and paws will inevitably wander into puppy’s bowl and puppy should not be defensive of his/her bowl. To achieve this make sure you take food away from puppy from his/her first meal, do not allow puppy to grizzle or growl when you take the food away, you can also add food to puppy’s bowl. I have lost count of the times I have been bitten when a dog has a bowl of food or picks up food in the street. This is just not acceptable with any breed or size of dog, so be a good owner and teach puppy that food is given and can be taken away.
What should you feed your puppy? Your breeder (who should be reputable) will probably have their dogs on a certain brand of food and initially you should continue this to avoid any upset tummy’s. Ultimately what you feed your dog will come down to what you can afford and the age of your dog. There is no point in paying £50 for an adult dog food when you have a puppy Labrador, for instance.
Food manufacturers have made it very easy by breaking down foods into various age ranges, most commonly Puppy (up to 6 months) Junior (6-18 months) Adult (up to 7 years) Senior (7 years +) there are also various diets that are breed specific e.g. Supadog Greyhound or Royal Canin Boxer and some that are for certain diets e.g. Hypoallergenic or light meals.
If you are uncertain consult a nutritionist or pet shop dietary advisor. Often vets will recommend food based on what is sold in their practice, whilst the advice given may be correct, remember there are many brands on the market catering for a variety of budgets.
11. Chewing. When puppy is....well, a Puppy he/she may start to chew. Chewing is a natural part of growing up, it helps with teething, jaw development and is great fun. Puppy, should, have designated toys to chew and be discouraged from attacking furniture and other parts of the house (doors, skirting boards etc). Often catching puppy in the act is the best way as you can discipline there and then, there are sprays on the market that can be put on items to discourage puppy but the best way really is to have plenty of toys to keep him / her occupied and regular exercise and feeding. Bored or hungry dogs will chew to occupy themselves. Teaching puppy the word “NO” from an early age is paramount to training, if you catch your puppy chewing a stern “NO” in a firm tone lets puppy know he/she is doing wrong.
12. Commands: Choose what commands you want to use for your puppy and what they will mean. Is “down” to put down or to lie down? Try the list below as a basic start.
“Sit” For a dog to sit on his/her hind quarters
“Stay” To sit, lie or stand in a position until told to move or called.
“Wait” Either for the above application or as I use it on walks to make Cerby stop
“Off” To come away from something or to get down off furniture
“Paw” To give a paw for reward you can also use “Shake”
“Kiss” A popular one for the dog to lick you face
“Catch” To catch a ball or other toy in the mouth when thrown
“Beg” To raise one or both paws for reward
“Speak”To bark on command
“Drop” to let go of something held in the mouth
“Give” as above or to place in the hand
“Heel” To walk at Heel
“Come” To return off lead to your side
“Stop” To stop playing
“Wee” Encourage your dog to Wee when they go
“Poop” As above. There are many variations, including “be Clean”
“Up” To jump up (into car)
“Walkies” To go for a walk
“Move” Simply to move out of the way..a good one for large breeds!
To get puppy to do these you need two things, perseverance and repetition. If you repeat the commands every time you puppy does something and you praise the action with good boy / girl in a positive voice then puppy will learn quickly. But you will need to do this consistently and persistently. Some breeds are natural learners and others aren’t. Be patient a few months hard work will pay off in the long run. Fat Dog is now around 11stone but a child of five could walk him. I put lots of effort into his first 6 months and the rest was a walk in the park. Many people neglect the first 6 months when puppy is cute and cuddly but do not fall into this trap, get in quick.
13. Lead and off Lead This is another area where you need to get in quickly. Lead walking can be done from day one and you can do this in and around the home. Get puppy used to a collar and lead and start basic heelwork immediately. When puppy has had the second vaccination and can go outside then it’s off to the park. Keep puppy on the lead initially whilst he/she adjusts to the surroundings, then just let puppy off. At this early age (presuming 10 -12 weeks) puppy will not wander far away from you. Let puppy explore the new surroundings and encourage him/her to return to you using the word “come” and a lot of praise (and maybe a few tasty treats)
14. Socialising Puppy needs a good social life, like we all do. It is important to let puppy mix with other dogs, old and young, male and female, and all breeds. Puppy classes and dog training are great, controlled, forums for this type of activity. I often hear people say that their dog had an “issue” at 3 months old and now have aggression problems with other dogs. However I know dogs that have come out of rescue centres with dog aggression problems and within 6 months are running around off the lead with other dogs playing. It all comes down to controlling the initial meeting, utilising a neutral area such as a park and removing any issues, foods or favourite toys. Walking side by side with another dog for a short period of time prior to playing is a good start too.
15. Picking the right lead & collar pink or blue? Diamante stud or paw print? None of the above!! Try a robust, washable collar with enough adjustment for your puppy to grow; you should be able to get 2 fingers between the collar and the puppy’s neck. Check chains and semi checks should be avoided for the first 12 months. The collar should be wide enough to support the lead and not to choke the Dog. If you have a wippet or greyhound then there may be specific collars designed for your dog. Ask your local pet supplier for details. The lead should be long enough to allow you to comfortably walk your dog and be comfortable to hold. Ancol do some really nice “airflow” handle type leads, there are also a number of these leads that glow in the dark and have multiple numbers of hooks to aid with training. Flexi type leads are good if you have to limit your pets movements but still want them to have a little freedom, such as in a field occupied with livestock, but are practically useless for training.
There are a number of other lead and training products on the market and these can be confusing so here is a quick guide.
1. Lead: A length of nylon or rope with buckle to clip onto a collar
2. Collar: A shorter length of rope or nylon that goes around the dogs neck
3. Extendable lead: Retractable length of nylon or rope in a casing
4. Training Lead: 30-50ft length of nylon lead to help with recall training
5. Halti: A specific brand of head collar to help stop pulling
6. Canny Collar: Similar to above but a spate brand with integral collar
7. Harness: A body fitment wrapping around the body to attach a lead to.
8. Car Harness: Similar to above with integral seatbelt clip
9. Loopy: Harness made of flexi rope, useful for heavy dogs
10. Clicker: Device that clicks when pressed, used for treat training
11. Training dummy: A floating tube used for retrieval training in water
12. Kong: Hollow rubber item that can be stuffed with food to relieve boredom
13. Training bag: Belt bag specifically used to keep treats
All of the items you need for a new puppy can be found on our pet supplies web site, everything from leads and collars to food and bedding. Click here to browse the site or drop us an email for advice.
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