If you will spend the time training your pup during the first year, and especially the first 6 months, you will have a confident, well-adjusted adult dog and a lifelong friend. Paul and I (Kristyn) became trainers because we were saddened by homeless dogs that could have had a very different life had their owners trained them to be well-mannered members of the family. If you have purchased a puppy from us and are experiencing a problem, call us and we will endeavor to help you work through any problem (the first three consultations are free to our customers).
AN EASY WAY TO START TRAINING
Sometimes you will be working with a puppy that is more interested in his surroundings than in you, or just doesn’t understand what you want him to do, and that’s when we use a technique called “all or none” reward training. It’s basically waiting silently until the pup does what you want him to, then rewarding him for it. We go into our puppy pen when our puppies are only 4-5 weeks old and just sit in a chair with the pups (pick morning or evening time when they are more active). Eventually one will come up to you (wondering what you’re doing) and sit. Immediately reward that pup with a treat. The others in turn learn from that puppy to come up to you and sit for a treat. You can begin to say “sit” when they start to get the idea. This works well for an older pup that is overly excited or not paying attention – wait for the response that you want. It may take 5-10 minutes, but it teaches pups to look to you for guidance.
OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FEEDING & TRAINING YOUR PUPPY
1. We recommend training first thing in the morning, teaching your pup “sit, down, and stand” (and “come” when called for meals). See our
videos for training examples. If you puppy is biting too hard when taking the treat, yell loudly and pull your hand away without giving him the
treat. Then say “gentle” and offer the treat again. Repeat if necessary – he’ll learn. After 10-20 minutes of training, free feed your pup all he
wants (usually takes about 10-20 minutes), then take the bowl away.
2. Next, fill a Kong and give it to your pup during the day. This will help entertain your pup while giving him/her an appropriate chew toy. It will
also give him some nourishment during the day but not so much as to interfere with evening training. If you have more than one dog, make
sure both have a Kong chew toy and that one of them does not have both toys.
3. Train the second time in the early evening, and again free feed your puppy afterwards. Take away the bowl when the pup is finished and
provide a stuffed Kong overnight.
4. You may train only once a day or you may be fortunate enough to be able to train three times a day, so just adjust accordingly. Just remember,
your pup must be hungry to train well, but a pup that is too hungry gets overly excited by the food and acts hyper and grabs at the food in
your had too vigorously (in that case, feed him half what he normally eats and try again, or just free feed him all he wants and train later). The
secret is find that balance were your pup is hungry but not starving.
5. If filling a Kong is too demanding (and it can be – it takes time), just give him one during the day and leave his food bowl out a little longer at
night. If he starts chewing on other objects (I had one that loved drywall), supplement him with various other chew toys. Cardboard boxes work
well (if you don’t mind cleaning up after them!) – just make certain you get to your UPS packages before they do!
TRAINING FOR YOUR PUPPY
1.Everyone must train so your pup learns to respect all members of the family. We recommend you start at meal times since you already have
your pup’s attention (see above), then do additional training when you can before you play with him.
2. At first, train in a small area where your pup can’t wander off (a garage is small enough, but we train in about half that size). As much as
possible, remove distraction from the room (or expect to wait every time you train for him to explore everything).
3. Start with refining your pup’s recall. At this point, you are probably kneeling or siting for training so that you are on his level. Every time you call
your dog’s name, he should look at you for instruction. Do this by calling his name a time or two, then wait for him to respond. Repeat if
necessary. Make fun noises if he’s ignoring you and call him again. Then be patient. Wait for him to come to you. He eventually will and when
he does, praise him lots and treat. Repeat these steps until he comes to you easily. You can also use two people if it’s easier - one on each side
of the room.
4. Part two of this step is to have him sit when he comes. If you’re working with him at meal time, he should already do this. Have him sit in front
of you while you sit in a chair and hold treats in one or both hands away from your body. He will naturally look at the treat but we want him to
look at you. Say his name and when his eyes shift you your face, treat him. You can also just sit there silently and wait for him to look at you as
if to say, “What’s up? I see the treat; why don’t I get it?” Your pup wants to understand you as much as you want to understand him.
5. Once he is paying attention to you, start teaching standing up. Make sure he is reliable with both voice commands and hand signals (hand
down is “down”, hand up is “sit”, hand out to the either side is “stand”, but you can use whatever you want, just be consistent). Now you can
expand your commands to whatever you need (stay, off, up, in, out, take it, let go, fetch, etc.), and you can also move outside if he has a reliable
6. This type of training works well with whatever you want your dog to do. With any new activity, or if you pup is at all hesitant to do something,
start with breaking down the new activity into small steps. As you introduce each new step, reassure him. Reward for the major steps such as
sitting before getting into the car or accepting the new lamb.
TRAIN PROPER MANNERS WHEN EATING!
All pups/dogs need to learn to accept your hands in their food, as well as the hands of every member of the family. Start with the feeding and training suggested above, and remember, every member of the family should help train. If you have two or more dogs, make both sit and wait until you put their food down, and never allow one dog to steal another dog’s food. Each should have his own bowl and eat only from it. If necessary, tether them in one spot so they cannot go to the other’s bowl or feed them in separate rooms. And praise them when they contently eat their own food. Secondly, never just take food away from your dog, but rather offer better than what he already has. If he has his normal food and you offer a liver treat in your hand, he will learn to love your hand coming near his food. Start with treats in your hand while training; when you get to actual bowl feeding, he should be used to your hand bringing good stuff.
Expose your pup to the leash the same way as any new experience – slowly. Let him smell the leash, then reward. Next clip in on him, then reward. Then kneel down, clip in on him, and wait for him to come to you (reward). Do this the next time, then take a step backward, are reward when he comes to you and waits patiently. Keep taking these “baby steps” until he understands that the leash is not a bad thing, but something rewarding. As he learns each step and is no longer fighting the leash, stop rewarding for that step. Rewards are only for new things learned – we don’t want him reward dependent. As you walk him on leash, stop often and call him to you. When he returns to you and looks at you, reward him (you may want to reinforce this step with rewards more often than the other less important steps – sporadic rewarding works well). Don’t let him pull you around on the leash – repeat this last step often. Other rewards you may want to use on walks are letting him sniff something really interesting, but only after you notice he really wants to and you’ve called him to you, made him sit, then given the command “go sniff”. You need to always remain in control, not him.
EXPOSE YOUR PUP TO NEW EXPERIENCES SLOWLY – HE’S ONLY A BABY
As puppies grow and develop, they become more aware of their surroundings and sometimes become scared of unfamiliar objects and experiences. They may even have a “season” of timidness – during this time you may have to introduce your pup to new experiences very carefully. Regardless, you never want to stress your pup beyond his/her threshold so watch carefully for adverse reactions, especially when they are young. If they appear nervous or scared, retreat to familiar ground and reassure them (don’t treat yet). Once calm, reintroduce the new stimulus or person slowly, and treat them when they don’t react. Have strangers offer a treat once your pup has accepted them. When done well, the new experience can become one of your pup’s favorites. Puppies must be exposed to many new and various experiences so that they will learn confidence and be able to face whatever comes their way as adults. An adult dog that bites is often a fearful one that did not gain confidence as a pup. A good idea is to expose your puppy to something new every day for the first six months. Start with common items around the house such as fans or hair dryers, then move on to things outside such as ponds and thunder (many of our dogs love water). AND expose him to people whenever possible – taking him shopping with you is a great idea. Take treats with you to reward him for good behavior, or give them to strangers to feed him (a great way to get him to love people). Finally, expose him to other dogs (dogs catch diseases from other dogs, not people, so this has to wait until all immunizations are done – that’s also the reason why we carry the pup when young).
First check your city ordinances because most say a dog is only a nuisance if he is barking after 9pm and before 7am “ish”. Your neighbors won’t be happy with you, but you usually aren’t breaking any law unless they’re disturbing the peace at night. However, we all want to be good neighbors and if you’re dog is barking all day, it does need to be stopped. Start with determining why your dog is barking:
He may be bored and barking to entertain himself, or perhaps he just likes to hear the sound of his voice (somewhat like a talkative kid). I had a dog that I often brought in at night and as soon as I let her out in the morning, she started barking as if to say, “Hi, world, have you missed me?” She was just happy and voicing her enthusiasm, as well as letting every other dog in the neighborhood know she was around. Another dog we dealt with would run around the yard barking at what seemed to be nothing on and off all day driving the neighbors crazy. This guy was bored.
These dogs can often be cured of a lot of their barking by just giving them something more entertaining to do than barking. Our first suggestion is to dig a good sized area in your yard by turning the dirt over as if to start a garden, then burying a choice bone in it for the dog to discover. As he gets good as finding buried treasure, dig it deeper so he had to really search. Not only will this keep him busy finding the bone, it will keep him busy chewing the bone once he has it.
Another idea is to give him a Kong or a similar toy that can be stuffed with his favorite kibble (maybe with a little peanut butter or bacon grease). If he ignores it, feed him a little less in the morning so he is still hungry enough to go after it. If he gets to where he can empty it too quickly, moisten the food first then stuff it so it won’t be so easy to get out. And if he still gets it out too fast, freeze it first. Toys like this will entertain him and give him hours of enjoyment, and a chewing dog can’t bark at the same time.
The third option is giving him card board boxes, if you’re willing to clean up the mess afterwards (and if you do this though, always make sure you get to the UPS truck before he does – we’ve had some gifts chewed up!)
Also practice the steps outlined under #2 – training your dog to stop unwanted barking.
The more likely reason your dog is barking is that there are predators nearby and he is trying to protect your livestock and warn you (he will likely view an unknown person as a threat and sometimes another dog). These are the hardest dogs to stop barking because they have a legitimate reason to be barking, and you’re going to have to spend some time teaching them “hush” or “quiet” (or whatever word you want to consistently use). Train at a time when you know they will bark and have small treats on hand that you know they like. Give the command “hush”, wait only a couple seconds and reward them if they’re quiet. They really only have to be quiet a second or two, but you can gradually extend that time. Dogs don’t have human minds so they don’t correlate that their barking is what got you outside in the first place; they just learn that if they’re quiet, they get rewards and you’re happy. Also, remember to be proactive. If during the morning/day/evening they are quiet, reward them. I stop and praise my dogs on and off during the day just to let them know they are behaving in the way I want them to, and I sometimes tell them how much I appreciate their “quietness”.
A dog that feels that he/she is responsible for your welfare will often bark more and even sometimes be more aggressive, so you dog needs to know that you have everything under control. This is accomplished through training simple commands such as “come, sit, down, stay, etc.” Your dog needs to obey you to feel you are in command. We’ve seen great dogs go bad because the owner didn’t train them at all, so they did what they wanted when they wanted.
When all else fails, find a good trainer that will come to your house. Your dog is worth it. And don’t send your dog somewhere else to be trained; they don’t act the same in an unfamiliar environment. It needs to be at your home.
NIPPING OR PLAYFUL BITING
Puppies love to chew and bite on everything; that’s why we feed them often out of Kongs. They need to learn what’s okay to bite and chew on and what’s not, and it will take effort on your part. Luckily though, it can generally be done along with their routine training.
There’s two types of biting: One is taking food too roughly when you reward them while training (or give them treats), and the other is playful biting at you or your clothes.
Biting too hard when hand feeding: Every puppy needs to learn the command “Gentle.” If you start basic training early in your pup’s life, the accidental bite isn’t too bad. First step though is to watch hunger lever closely; If the pup is overly hungry, he’ll grab the food more aggressively as he jumps all over. If he’s not hungry, he won’t train at all. Find that balance.
Next, teach the “sit” command as you hold the treat over his nose between our fingers (as opposed to flat handed – you need to know when he is being too rough. If your pup bites too hard, pull the treat away and softly say “Gently”, then try offering the treat again. This may take several repetitions to get your pup to understand, and you may have to accept him being less gentle than you want at first. Gradually expect more and more from him.
The second type of biting is playful biting. Some people love to run and play with their pups as they nip and bite at their heels, but if you don’t want this behavior when they are adults, we don’t recommend you encourage it now. Teach good behavior first, then teach chase or the use of tug toys later when your dog is older. There are lots of ways to play with your dog other than having him bite at you.
If your pup nips at your feet or jeans when you walk near him, stand still and wait for him to stop the behavior. Either give the “sit” command or just wait until he settles down and then praise and pet him. If he immediately gets riled up again, stand up and again wait for him to settle down, then pet and praise him. If you continue to repeat this process, he will eventually learn that you’re not going to pet him until he’s calm. You might want to wear old jeans and tough shoes in the meantime since puppies can take several repetitions to understand what you want from them (they’re babies after all!).
The same process works when you pup is jumping up on you: Give the “off” command and wait patiently for compliance. Always give your commands in a normal voice; yelling at your pup will only excite him. The only time we use an urgent voice is when the pup is in danger, and occasionally with an older dog to let them know we mean business.