And no, the first two are not obedience …
There are many important things to teach your new puppy, including obedience training and the very obvious house training, however the three top things that we think are most important are possibly things that you might not have thought of, but are common sense, and easy to implement when puppies are young.
It is critical to start teaching your puppy the moment they come home. This doesn’t mean drilling obedience, but rather teaching the house rules, behaviour you require and over all expectations of them in your home.
1. That calm and polite makes good things happen
This is something that is often over looked, but is one of the most important things to teach your puppy. No one needs or wants a puppy who is constantly bouncing off the walls, being demanding, and picking at family members. The easiest way to avoid this is to teach the pup that calm gets them what they want, not crazy.
Quite in the crate or ex-pen gets them released, sitting politely gets them their meal, laying quietly in the sun gets them a game, chewing a bone quietly at your feet gets them some loving. These are just a few examples, and the list can go on and on. It is important to note, that what you give attention to, you reward, so make sure your attention comes when the puppy is in the correct state of mind. One of the easiest way to help teach calm is by utilizing a leash in the house – the absolutely best way you have to control your puppy. You can also create calm with food rewards, however, it is important to note the state of mind in the pup that you are rewarding.
The key with teaching calm though is that you also have to remain calm as well. Sometimes it can be hard, as puppies can be frustrating little creatures, but leading by example can have a dramatic effect on behaviour.
2. How to focus and pay attention
Focus and attention on us are what we all desire in our puppies. The puppy that looks up longingly at us for our next direction. Often times, we forget to teach the pup that is it good and fun to focus on us, and we instead teach that the outside world is so much more rewarding then we are.
Puppies should learn to look to us for direction and guidance rather then external sources. The easy way to do this is to teach them that good things come from us when they pay attention. Both food and toys are excellent resources to teach focus, especially when you are working with a toy or food motivated dog.
Simple eye contact can be rewarded with a treat. As can a look back at you while you are on a walk. For more difficult and distracting situations, a high value toy, or higher value reward (in multiples) can be used to shift focus back to you and teach the puppy that you are the barer of good things. Even using yourself as the reward can have great impact on offered attention – a little game of push and chase when the pup gives you focus on a walk.
These things can very easily be implemented in every day life and it takes no time at all for your puppy to learn that focus leads to rewarding things. This can also greatly enhance your ability to teach your dog the next item which is …
3. Come when called
Probably the number one most important obedience command, it is also a relationship barometer as well as enhancer. If your puppy doesn’t understand the above two items, get them into play before you start working on an all important recall.
Puppies who blow off their owners, act like nuts, and don’t know how to focus will have an extremely hard time learning to come when they are called. Typically there are two reasons dogs don’t come when called; one being the breed (think hounds and terriers) and the other being the relationship dynamic. If you are waiting on your puppy hand and foot and giving them everything for free, that dynamic needs to change before the puppy will find it important to come to you.
The best way to teach recall is to start short and sweet. Grab a handful of high value rewards or a toy, leash up your pup and be prepared to act silly. If you stand in one spot, and command the puppy to come, I can guarantee they won’t be so interested, but if you move away from them, use a high pitched voice and act fun (or well, a bit silly) you will garner more interest.
Wait until you pup is a bit distracted, then use their name, the word come, back away from them praising while you do so, and reward when they get you to. Leash pressure or a tug can be used if there are really checked out. Do this anywhere and everywhere on a short leash, with everyone in the family. Always make it fun to come back, but make sure there is no option not to come back. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Once puppy is getting the hang of this, you can move to a longer leash, or a more distracting area.
Remember, puppies are just babies, and training them at this age doesn’t mean they will remain trained as an adult. Have fun with them, enjoy them, but also know, you need to be consistent throughout their lives, and as they grow sometimes you need to re-teach things. Training is for the life of your dog, not just a week, a month or a year, but what you put in, you get out in many wonderful ways, and the relationship you build through training has no comparison.