What you should know as a puppy owner and tips for training your pup.

General Principles

Your puppy will be part of your family for the rest of its life so it’s important to spend time teaching it the correct way to behave now.

Dogs learn by association so if your puppy does something and gets a reward, that action is likely to be repeated. To be effective the reward must be linked to the action so the reward should be given within one second of the action.

Be consistent. This is essential in training a well-behaved dog. Be clear and consistent in the rules you want your dog to follow and make sure everyone in the home follows the same rules. For example, if you don’t want your dog to beg at the dinner table or get on the furniture, make sure no one in the home gives your dog food from their plate or lets them on the settee .Inconsistency is confusing for your dog.

When it comes to training always use the same commands and get everyone in your house on board with the words and techniques you are using for training. For example if you use the commands “sit” when you want your dog to sit and “down” when you want it to lie down then someone else tells it to “sit down” your puppy will be totally confused.

Your puppy needs to be taught what they can and can't do, so you need to:

  • Reward good behaviour - If your puppy does something good, give a reward.
  • Ignore bad behaviour - Chewing  for example is part of exploratory behaviour and they won't know what they can or cannot chew. You need to ignore such unwanted behaviour, but that doesn't mean you should shout, smack or glare angrily. You should just pretend they’re not there.
  • Interrupt dangerous behaviour - If there's one word you want your puppy to learn it's 'no'. If they do something potentially dangerous or extremely destructive, you should interrupt the behaviour with a firm 'no'. There's no need to shout, just use a low, assertive tone. Once the behaviour stops reward with lots of praise.

To teach your dog a new command you need to TELL it what you want, SHOW it what to do then REWARD immediately. Remember a puppy has a very short attention span, so the reward must be given almost simultaneously to the achieved command.

Don’t try and go too quickly, make it fun and keep teaching session short, just a few minutes, but have several sessions a day. Train your puppy in different environments; in and out of the house and on walks.

Set yourself up to succeed - when training always have a reward ready, this can be food treats, a toy or just praise, whatever works best for your dog. Always use positive re-enforcement and praise when training your puppy. Treats as rewards are very useful when starting out.

Getting your dog’s attention Getting your dog’s attention on you is one of the most important commands you can teach your puppy. Try to refrain from using the puppy’s name to get their attention as their name is not a command and they won’t know what to do next.  Use a command such as “Watch Me”, when they look you in the eye reward immediately.  They will soon get used to it to the point you will not have to reward with treats.Response to puppy’s name - Your puppy should know its name when spoken to.

Play with the Puppy  - Play should be appropriate and always under the owner’s control. If toys are used the puppy should readily give them up on command.  Play fighting is not encouraged.

Handling and Inspection to Maintain Health - This can be achieved by regularly stroking and feeling the puppy all over, particularly around their paws, tummy, tail, ears, gums and teeth. Always make this a pleasant experience for you puppy.

Basic Puppy Positions

Sit - Get puppy’s attention on you using your preferred command.  Encourage puppy to sit by holding a treat above his/her nose (almost touching the nose) then move the treat towards the back of their head.  Usually puppy will sit at this point.  It is important to say the command “Sit” as soon as puppy achieves it. Reward immediately.

Down - Get puppy’s attention on you using your preferred command.  Command puppy to sit then hold the treat to puppy’s nose then gently run the treat down his/her chest to the floor.  Puppy will try and follow it and eventually lie down.  Once again it is important to say the command “Down” as soon as puppy achieves it. Reward immediately.

Walking on a lead -  If puppy walks on your left side hold the lead in your right hand and use your left hand to support the lead.  If puppy walks on your right side hold the lead in your left hand supporting the lead with your right hand. Once again get puppy’s attention on you and command them to sit by your side, from there take a step forward and command “Walk On”.  Walk a short distance then command puppy to sit.  If puppy starts jumping up at you change direction. The puppy will pay more attention to you as he/she doesn’t know what is coming next.

Coming when called (Recall) - This is one of the most important things to teach your puppy. Always make this a nice experience every time your dog comes when called. No matter what they’ve been doing, coming to you should be the best thing that happens to them.

To train a recall, start with your dog on a lead in a quiet area. Back away from your dog while enthusiastically telling it to “come!” Give the command once, but be really enthusiastic. Show your dog a treat to encourage it to come to you. Once you dog starts to come towards you praise it and reward with a treat when it gets to you.

Start indoors and gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. Progress to the garden and other locations adding in distractions as puppy becomes reliable in each setting.

Responsible dog ownership

Exercise – Don’t over exercise your puppy. Being walked for can damage their joints. A good rule is limiting exercise for pups to 5 minutes per month of age no more than twice a day.

Poop bag - It is a legal requirement to clean up after your puppy in public areas and dispose of the bag in an appropriate bin. Always carry poop bag when out with your puppy.

Microchipping - With effect from the 6th April 2016 dogs are required to be microchipped.

Dog Identification Disc - It is a legal requirement for your puppy to wear an identification disc or tag with  your name and address on it. Note:  it should not show the puppy’s name. Telephone numbers are not compulsory.  The disc or tag should be attached to the puppy’s collar or harness at all times  even if the puppy is microchipped.  You can be fined if your puppy is not wearing the correct Identification.

Travelling with your puppy - A car trip will be a new experience for your puppy. Get your pup used to travelling by starting with some short trips and gradually building up to longer journeys. 

For the wellbeing of the dog and everyone else in the car safety is key when travelling with any pet. The Highway Code states: ‘When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.’

Some tips for your journey:

  • Make sure your puppy has had a walk and been to the toilet before you start out;
  • Take a supply of fresh water with you;
  • Break up the journey with some stops so your puppy can stretch their legs and go to the toilet;
  • Pack some toys for the journey;
  • And NEVER leave a dog alone in a car especially on a warm day,