Starting out right
Training a puppy or dog takes time and patience, and every puppy or dog is different and will learn at their own pace. But investing time training early on will pay dividends in the long run.
House training (toilet training) a puppy or a dog takes time and patience and, just as with children, every puppy or dog is different and will learn at their own pace.
To make the process of toilet training successful and as efficient as possible, you need to use reward-based positive reinforcement training. The first step is to give your dog plenty of opportunities to go outside. The second is to reward the dog every time (or as often as possible) they toilet in the place where you want the dog to go.
The reward must occur immediately after the event (within a few seconds), not when the dog comes back inside, as the dog will not make an association between going to the toilet in the right spot and the reward unless it is given straight afterwards. The reward can be in the form of praise (a pat on the chest or saying ‘good’ dog in a pleasant tone of voice), offering a food treat, or giving the dog their favourite chew toy.
This system relies on you supervising the dog as much as possible throughout the day so as not to miss the opportunity to reward the dog for the good behaviour. The more often you can do this, the faster the dog will learn. You should also look out for signs showing the dog is about to go to the toilet so you can take them outside and are ready to reward them as soon as they have finished. When dogs are about to go to the toilet they tend to sniff the area, circle and then pause in the spot (though individuals may vary, so owners will need to watch their dog to get an idea of what they do).
Remember to take your puppy or dog to the toilet area first thing in the morning, as dogs will often need to go to the toilet at this time. Take them to the toilet area frequently during the day thereafter.
It is very important to note that young puppies often do not have full control over their urination until they are a bit older. That is, urination is a developmental process, so very young puppies can make a toileting mistake without being able to prevent or control it.
BASIC TRAINING COMMANDS
Good manners are as necessary for dogs as they are for people. A dog who jumps, pulls, barks or lacks self-control often finds himself left out of family activities. An untrained dog may also put your housing situation at risk if you’re a renter or belong to a home or strata owners’ association. Teach your dog a few basic obedience commands (such as sit, down, come and stay) using positive training methods, and you will be rewarded with a well-behaved dog who can handle most everyday social situations.
In dog training, timing is everything
Timing is very important. You must mark your dog’s behaviour the instant she complies with the command. Saying a single word such as “Yes!” or using a clicker is a good way to mark a correct behaviour. It lets your dog know immediately that she’s been successful.
Rewards work better than bribes
Rewarding your dog’s good behaviour with a treat is an excellent training tool, but if rewards are overused, they can become bribes.
To avoid the treat becoming a bribe, stop luring your dog with the treat as soon as he begins to catch on to what you’re asking him to do. Ask him to “sit,” wait two or three seconds for him to comply, then give him the treat if he sits. Your goal is to teach him to follow a verbal command alone; this will help during those moments when you may not have a treat handy but need him to be on his best behaviour.
Give your dog life-rewards
Food is the easiest reward to use when you are just learning to train your dog, but it is not the only reward you can use. A toy, a game of fetch, or going for a ride in the car can work, too.
For example, let’s say you want to train your dog not to run out the door when you open it. Try this:
Tell your dog to sit-stay by the front door of your house. If she complies, praise her, open the door and let her go outside. Going outside is the reward. If she gets up as you open the door, close the door and try again. Repeat the process until she stays in position while you open the door. Only then does she get the reward of going outside.
Use the same technique for opening the car door so your dog can go for a ride. If she remains in position, she is rewarded by getting into the car and going for a ride. (Reminder: Never leave your dog unattended in the car).
When dog training, mind your P’s and cue’s
Your posture and body cues tell your dog a lot. Your dog learns to read your body language much as you learn to read his.
Stand up when you give your dog a command. If you only give commands while sitting or squatting on the floor, your dog will learn to respond only when you’re in that position.
Keep your hands out of your pockets. If his treats are in your pockets, hands in the pockets becomes the cue that he will get a treat if he does what you ask. You want your command to be the cue, not the hand in the pocket. If your hands are always in view, you can keep him guessing.
Similarly, don’t hold a bag of treats in your hand while training. Your dog will learn he only needs to comply with commands if he sees the treat bag, not every time you ask him.
Train your dog everywhere, not just in one room of your house. If you only practice in the kitchen, your dog will learn he only needs to do a command in the kitchen.
As your dog learns to do a command reliably in one location, move to other rooms of the house and the yard. Practice wherever you can, even on your daily walks.
Puppy classes are designed for puppies aged eight to 16 weeks. During this time, puppies benefit from exploring new places, having new experiences, and accepting new situations. This makes it the perfect time for introducing puppies to lots of people, other dogs, and the big wide world in which it will live.
Although the curriculum may vary from place to place, puppies typically learn to accept being handled, basic obedience, and how to interact and play nicely with other puppies. Owners generally learn about normal puppy behaviour, body language, proper nutrition, and the importance of ongoing socialisation and training.
Why is Puppy Preschool Beneficial?
Benefits for puppies include early socialisation with other puppies and people, while the benefits to owners include expert advice and support during the early stages of dog ownership.
It is your own personal decision to attend puppy school or not – some people find it beneficial to undertake the training on their own, or to confine it to the family environment. Either way, training your puppy is a fun experience and, if approached with the right attitude, will lead to great reward.