After their first series of puppy lessons most new puppy owners are surprised at the amount of time it takes for puppy training. Why would they think such a thing?
Maybe it’s because when I go into their homes to train, and the puppy training is relatively easy for me, they think it will be as easy for them. They expect they will be able to accomplish what I can accomplish with a puppy on the first lesson” (sit, down, come and go to their place).
This incorrect assumption sets up new puppy owners into thinking the puppy training progress will be fast for them also. This is actually beyond what is the norm for most owners and their puppy.
Most owners stumble over and get hung up on the behavior part of puppy training, you know the housetraining, biting and the jumping.
So maybe it’s time for a reality check.
The reality is that there is a lot of repetitive training and redirecting to the appropriate behavior needed at this point.
For example, “Don’t bite me, instead, chew this! Don’t jump. Sit!”
How puppy owners accomplish this without stressing the puppy is important. If not done correctly, these out of reach expectations, can put a lot of pressure on a little puppy that is in a new environment, filled mixed signals and rules that are way different from those when he lived with his mom and litter mates.
Puppy training will move quickly using food treats because puppies and dogs will work for food. It will take far longer to teach that same excited puppy to sit instead of jump around distractions like other family members (especially kids) or house guests.
Here are some things that further complicate new puppy training
Puppies are so darn cute new puppy owners tend to cut their puppies a lot of “cute slack.” They think it is cute when puppies jump and because puppies are so cute they tend to get picked up and held a lot. Puppies get lots of free love and affection.
Many puppy owners get on the floor and wrestle with their puppy and cuddle on the floor with their puppy for 30 minutes or longer frequently each night. And many new puppy owners rarely crate their puppy except at night or if they have to leave the house.
It seems to go against their nurturing nature to do otherwise. It seems grossly unfair to set rules and require little cute puppies to adhere to the rigors of a structured lifestyle.
For gosh sakes, it’s just a puppy. There’s always time later for training, right?
Now don’t get me wrong. I love to love on a cute puppy as much as the next person.
However, puppies are learning even when you are not formally teaching or training with them.
The very day you bring your new puppy home he begins to learn what works and doesn’t work for him, not you.
From your puppy’s point of view
From your puppy’s point of view, jumping gets him picked up, carried and/or hugged. The more he’s hugged on and loved, the less he is crated.
Biting and running gets your attention and puppies do love attention.
See how your puppy is learning even when you are not teaching or training.
“We thought our puppy training would go fast.” It might have, but not if you have to undo all the learned behavior you created. Here’s what I mean by that.
Time flies when you’re having fun but seems to drag on forever when you want to fix it
More time out of the crate than in the crate early on in the formative weeks and months of a puppy could mean that he may not like confinement now. He prefers to be with you.
Now you get barking and whining in the crate. He’s learning even when you’re not training.
Not crating your puppy more often early on could significantly delay house training as you find pee/poop accidents to clean up. He learns to go where ever he wants when he gets the urge simply because it works for him. Again, he’s learning even when you’re not training.
All the wrestling on the floor creates an excited puppy which promotes puppy mouthing and biting as an acceptable way to play with humans. And again, he’s learning even when you’re not training.
The more all of these behaviors work for your puppy, the stronger all of the behaviors become. The stronger they become, the longer it will take to make them go away.
A balance in training
So is there a happy medium?
Where can you strike a reasonable balance between your natural nurturing needs and the structure of training your puppy desperately needs?
The happy medium is with obedience training. Teaching your puppy to sit for the things he wants. The happy medium comes in the form of things “earned” like love and affection but all in “moderation.” The key, at least for a while is moderation.
The happy medium is also with structure from day one. Set structure and rules for your puppy on day one with regards to sitting instead of jumping, adequate crate time and appropriate play habits – all in moderation.
Begin working the sit command in everything you do with your new puppy. Sit before going into his crate and before he comes out of his crate. Sit to begin playing with you and sit also ends the game of play as well.
Use appropriate obedience commands (especially the sit) where ever you can think to apply it. He should sit to go out to go potty and to come back inside. You will be absolutely amazed at the difference in your puppy if you set these expectations. He will feel less stressed because he now knows what is expected of him every day.
As you begin your obedience training process, keep a few simple things in mind.
Understanding the training process
Just because you teach your puppy his basic obedience commands doesn’t mean he’s “really got it.” Here’s why. If he won’t sit you need him to sit, like around family and friends, then it’s not working for you and that’s not practical. So here’s how it goes.
• First a puppy has to learn a command like sit.
• Once a puppy learns a command, you have to train him around friends and family members.
• Once a puppy learns a command around friends and family members, you have to train him around more and more distractions.
It usually takes daily obedience training (2 to 3 minutes in length) for 4-6 weeks with distractions around which you need to get good reliable compliance from your puppy.
But remember, he’s just a puppy so don’t push too hard.
Remember also, when training your puppy, always make the wrong thing difficult (not impossible) and the right thing easy.
Let me say that again. Make the wrong thing difficult (not impossible and the right thing easy. It gives your puppy the opportunity to make the mistake in order to learn his lesson.
He learns by instinct, trial and error and training.
I hope I haven’t painted an impossible scenario for your puppy training. While it may seem like a lot to remember and do, just remember, you do have a lifetime with your puppy for training. So here are a few other considerations to keep in mind as you continue on with your puppy’s training.
• Learn the value of being in the process. That’s where the learning takes place. That’s where your puppy will learn the value of your relationship from day one. So do not necessarily focus only on the outcome.
• Puppy training should always be kept age-appropriate. That includes keeping puppy lessons upbeat, happy and very short. Always stop on a high note. That means get a quick “Sit!” and end the lesson with praise.
• Remember, puppies learn fast but reliability will only come with maturity and experience. Don’t push it.
• Setting rules, boundaries and expectations for your puppy the day he arrives is critical to having a puppy that will listen to you.
• Always have realistic goals and always keep your emotions in check.
And then there’s adolescence and beyond
The information I’ve discussed about puppy training is important. If done properly, it will better prepare you and your puppy for missing the next stage of mischief, canine adolescence.
Who knows, if you heed my advice, adolescence may come and “be gone without notice” and in the “blink of an eye” you are admiring your well-mannered adult dog. Isn’t that what you really want?
Thanks for letting me share my dog training knowledge with you. I’d really be pleased if you would come over to my Facebook page to let me know how this article impacted you and the way it made you think about puppy training. Are you looking at it a little differently? Remember:
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Nose to Tail Puppy Training is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your puppy understands what you expect of him because you know how to teach him. You empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home. The result – one awesome puppy and one happy family.
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