National Train Your Dog Month - Our best tips & tricks for puppy training
On the doggy calendar, January officially marks the beginning of National' Train Your Dog' Month, so in honour of all the new puppy parents out there, we thought we'd help you guys out by answering some of the most common questions we get when it comes to training your new furry friend.
We get that alongside all of the new responsibilities that come with bringing a young dog into the family, trying to navigate the world of puppy training at the same time can seem like an overwhelming task. When you're starting, it's difficult even to know the best puppy treats to use during training, let alone know the difference between terms like clicker training and classical conditioning. But as a good dog owner, it is always your responsibility to ensure your dog is adequately trained, so we thought we'd assist by covering the basics so that you can approach your pups' training with confidence.
By investing time and energy into the training process early, your dog will quickly learn what you expect from them, allowing you to build the best possible relationship with your canine companion. So read on to find out all the essential info you'll need before you begin your training journey with your new fur baby.
Why do we train our puppies?
One of the most frequent questions we find new, time-poor owners asking is: Why do I need to train my dog? Training is a significant commitment that requires a lot of time and love dedicated to being effective, and I just don't know if I have the time!
To answer the question, training is an essential part of any dog's life for several reasons, some of which benefit the dog and the owner. Firstly, it provides a form of mental stimulation that helps keep your dog happy. Combined with routine exercise, it ensures your dog will be mentally and physically tired at the end of the day and far more likely to have better quality sleep.
Additionally, training allows us humans to establish a mode of communication with our dogs to easily indicate what behaviours of theirs we encourage and the habits we want to discourage. This strengthens the bond we have with our dogs through positive attention. Plus, training allows our dogs to spend time with us, which is what they want the most - to be close to their human family.
And finally, training dogs is a vital part of effectively socialising them. Without proper training, your dog will struggle to integrate with your friends and family and other animals, causing them to experience feelings of anxiety or aggression when in social settings. These uncomfortable feelings can lead to conflict and perhaps even injury to others, so it is essential to train your dog to avoid these dangerous scenarios.
When do I start training my puppy?
Another common query among owners of new puppies is: when should you start training a puppy? While some age guidelines exist for teaching dogs certain skills, many professional trainers agree that your pup's education starts the second you bring them home, which is usually around 8 weeks old. This is because the puppy will be building habits and learning things the moment they walk into your house, so it is vital to establish your behavioural expectations with them as early as possible.
Additionally, when puppies are between the ages of 6-16 weeks old, they experience a peak developmental stage, in which it is ideal to expose them to all aspects of life. During this period, they are more open to new things, the most receptive to training techniques and have a greater learning capacity. Therefore it is ideal for exploring new people, dogs, places and experiences within this learning period.
What's the best method for my puppy?
Many pup parents also find themselves questioning what the best training method is for their new fur baby. With so many different types of training out there, it's hard to know what methods you can trust to be effective and enjoyable and what ones are simply all bark and no bite.
But before we make any suggestions, it's important to note that all dogs are unique and respond to different training methods differently. Therefore, there is no one blanket method of training that works the same for all dogs.
However, in saying this, most professional trainers recommend that you undertake a method based on positive reinforcement. This consists of rewarding your dog for performing a behaviour that you like, such as coming when called. The idea is not to bribe the behaviour but to train it using something your dog values. Rewards can consist of anything your dog likes. Most people use small pieces of a "high value" food — something special — such as puppy treats. Lavish praise or the chance to play with a favourite toy can also be used as a reward.
Avoid using punishment such as leash corrections or yelling, as punishment can cause a dog to become confused and unsure about what is being asked of them. Patience goes a long way in helping your new puppy learn how to behave.
How long should our training sessions go for?
As a rule of thumb, always keep training sessions short and fun - just 5 to 10 minutes - and always end on a positive note! Short sessions with a break in between not only avoid making your dog bored or frustrated, but they also give your dog time to process what they have just learned. This will help them retain the information more effectively, causing you to see much faster progress in the long run.
If you feel like your puppy is having trouble learning a new behaviour, end the session by reviewing something they already know and give them plenty of praise and a big reward for their success.
So that's our advice for some of your popular puppy training questions. Although it is not an easy process, taking the time to train your new pooch properly is one of the most rewarding life experiences. But remember, the key is consistency with training, and it can take some time to achieve the exact results you want. So be patient and understanding, and eventually, you will be the proud parents of a super obedient fur baby. Good luck!