Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Surviving the Puppy Years - Practice, Patience, Consistency

Training your puppy can be very challenging at times. I'm sure all you puppy owners out there have good days and not so good days. That's ok.

Our energy and emotions have a huge impact on how our puppies act. They are well aware of how we’re feeling and act accordingly. To be a good leader for your dog you have to be calm, assertive and fair. You can’t fool your puppy, if you are angry, sad, anxious or frustrated you will have a harder time getting him to respond to you.


It takes a lot of time and practice for your puppy to become a well mannered and behaved dog. The saying “practice makes perfect” is very true. It’s important though to start practicing commands in areas where there aren’t a lot of distractions. Start inside your house and practice in every room. Then eventually move outside, to parks, on your walks and even busy places like downtown. Don’t assume that just because your puppy follows your commands in the house that will be do the same in a new area. Introduce distractions gradually as your puppy improves. Don’t go from your house straight to the dog park. You will likely be disappointed.


It takes a lot of patience to raise a puppy. If you find yourself losing your patience, take a deep breath and relax. Take a break from training and try again when you’re feeling calm. It will make the world of difference. Learning anything new is always more effective when done in a positive environment. This is true for dogs and humans.


You have to be consistent with your puppy especially when they are young and impressionable. If you aren’t consistent you will confuse your puppy and likely not get the results you want. For example, if you want your puppy to sit and wait for his food, then never put the bowl down until he is sitting. If you are consistent he will eventually learn that meal time always starts with him sitting down nicely.


Tone is so important and can make a huge difference with your puppy when used correctly. It can be fun and upbeat, encouraging, calming, soothing, firm and insistent. Be careful though, a tone that is frustrated and angry can have the opposite effect. Think back to when you were a kid and your Mom or Dad was yelling at you to “get over here”!!! You knew you were in trouble and going to find out just how much was the last thing you wanted to do. It’s the same with your puppy. It is to your advantage to associate coming to you with a positive outcome. I know how hard it can be to do this, especially when your puppy is just not listening to you. But it’s worth the effort on your part in the long run.

Training Methods

Whichever training method you use, you have to feel good about it. If you do, virtually any method will bring results. There are many to choose from like treat training, non-treat training, clicker training, positive reinforcement training or a more correction based training. Some trainers believe you must be the leader, some believe in a more relationship based approach. I like to take from each what I like and feel works for me and my dogs. I believe a lot has to do with the dog. Some dogs require a strong and firm leader and others don’t. That being said I do believe the human should be the one in charge. One good way to ensure that is by using the “Nothing in Life is Free” approach. It’s very simple, your dog has to essentially ask or “say please” for things he wants. Your dog’s wants are food, toys, to go outside, to play, etc. He can say please by performing all the commands she knows like sitting, lying down, shaking a paw, barking on command, rolling over, etc. Dogs are very smart and will pick this up quickly if you are consistent.

Raising a puppy is a journey that will teach you a lot about yourself. Be open to what you learn whether good or not. Take the opportunity to improve. It's not easy but if you keep trying and strive to be the leader your dog knows you can be, it will be so rewarding for both of you.


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  2. Thanks for sharing