Sometimes a great dog is just born. Many of us have had dogs or known dogs like this. It seems like they didn’t need any training, they just knew what to do. My hunch is great dogs are also molded by their people and environment. So, don’t count of your dog being good; develop good traits in him.
Following this plan from puppyhood thru adulthood you can raise a really good dog.
- The Decision
- The Preparation
- Housetraining and Crate or Kennel Training
- The Prevention Phase (7 weeks to 3 years)
- The Socialization Phase (4 weeks to 4 months)
- The Learning Phase, an introduction to training (10 weeks to 5 months)
- The Obedience Training Phase (6 months – 3 years)
- Relationship Development Phase (6 months on…)
- End OF Life Planning Phase
The Right Match
As a professional dog trainer/instructor, the biggest mistake I see people making is not getting the right match for their family and lifestyle. Many dogs are ending up in rescue organization or shelters for this reason. I believe that the breed of dog should be taken into account as well the nature (or what we call his disposition) of the puppy or dog before it is brought home. If you want a dog for protection you might choose a German Shepherd. If you want a dog for companionship you might choose a Labrador. In either case I suggest learning a little about the traits of the breed, how to select the right puppy (or dog) and learn how to raise and train it properly.
A person who gets a dog that is too much dog for them to handle puts that dog at such a disservice, because it is always the dog that suffers in this case.
So, when deciding which dog is right for you, think about ….you. Think about your personality, your likes and dislikes, your time commitment, and really think about what you can handle or not.
Some people do not want to put much effort into a dog and feel it should just learn how to fit in with their family. If this is the case, I sure hope they find the perfect mellow dog for them. Otherwise, that dog may end up being given up. Some people are permissive and need a dog that is not going to challenge them. Others are “follow the rules” kind of people with strong leadership ability and could handle more of a dog.
Some people bring home a new puppy or dog and realize what a big commitment of TIME AND ENERGY it really is. This is especially true if you have selected a pup with a propensity to be high energy. You will need the ambition to "parent" this new family member. So, before you go get a new dog or puppy take a step back. Examine your motives. Why do you want a dog? Buying a dog for your children or someone else is almost always a recipe for disaster. What type of owner will YOU be? Are you willing to be this dog's owner forever? Are you ready to make the TIME commitment? Are you ambitious enough to wake up at 3 a.m. to take your new puppy outside, to walk & interact with it daily, to learn how to train the dog properly from the get go? Are you prepared to handle biting, barking and chewing behaviors as they arise?
Making a smart decision regarding a puppy is more complicated than most people imagine. But, with some research, planning, a good dog trainer and a little luck you can find yourself the perfect match.
Over the years, I have heard every story there is about our customer’s problems with their dogs. In many cases (not all), even the most serious of problem might have been prevented with some prior planning. The home environment you’ve set up for your puppy can make or break your ability to mold it into a stable, confident and trustworthy companion as an adult.
If you are getting a puppy and are interested in learning all you can about training, you are off to the right start. So, I pass on this advice to you with every intention of providing you with knowledge in hopes that you will set your dog up for success and a long happy life with your family.
- Your puppy/dog should have a fenced in back yard w/ a kennel enclosure where you can secure your dog when needed.
- Your puppy should sleep in a crate next to your bed for the first 6 months to help in the bonding process.
- Your puppy/dog should not have the entire run of the house and yard all day long. Use a crate (for puppy) or kennel (for adult dog) to secure your dog and keep him safe from getting into trouble.
- Give your puppy boundaries, structure and rules because this will create respect & dependency which are both needed to have a happy & healthy relationship with your dog.
- Do not allow jumping-up, rough play, biting or growling (remember wrestling and rough housing will teach the puppy to bite). Your puppy should not be allowed to run and chase children. Put the puppy away or on the leash. Teach children to respect the puppy and to never to engage the puppy in play. This can come later when the dog is raised and has respect for the children.
- Dogs want 4 things out of life: Freedom, food, exercise & attention (bold heading). Make your pup dependent on you for these things and you will have a stronger bond and well-mannered dog.
- Start your puppy on basic obedience commands: sit, come, down, heel, stay.
- Do not give your puppy/dog real meat bones. Even a young puppy can become possessive over a bone and learn to back you off by growling or snarling at you. Don’t start this very dangerous pattern.
- Your puppy/dog should have a few select toys, not an entire room full of them. I recommend a Kong, a nylabone, & rope toy. No soft, plush toys. They feel a lot like the carpet, dog beds or car upholstery and teaches your pup to chew on soft things.
- You will have more of a chance at raising a calm puppy if its home environment is calm. If there is going to be a lot of commotion going on in the house, put the puppy away in his kennel/ crate. Getting the puppy all excited & rambunctious will lead to the puppy wanting to jump-up and starts the biting game.
- 2 crates (one for your bedroom & one for living room)
- 6’x5/8” leash (or smaller for petite pups) and flat nylon collar
- 12 cow hooves
- 1 nylabone dura chew (not edible)
- Kong Toy
- Rope Toy
- Same food as breeder until 10 weeks old then, Life’s Abundance Dog Food
- Stainless steel water and food bowls
- Baby gates as needed to keep pup out of certain rooms of the house
- No bed, no plush toys. Letting puppies chew on these will start bad habits.
HousebreakingHousebreaking or Housetraining is a simple task when done correctly. The trouble comes when people who acquire a young puppy accept advice from everyone and his brother, most of who know nothing about dog behavior and have never done it themselves. Puppies will relieve themselves in the house once as an error (mostly on our part for not taking them out when they need to go). Dogs have scent chemicals that are passed with the waste and trigger them to repeat the process in the same area. So, I will be suggesting that you do not give your puppy freedom to roam the house unsupervised. If you can’t hear or see your puppy he may be wondering to a back room to find a quiet spot to relieve himself. Make it your goal to prevent your puppy from ever eliminating in your house. Do not encourage him to go in the house on papers or in a specific room. Remember the goal is: not in the house. So, never take your eyes off him!
Praise for doing it rightTake your puppy outside ON LEASH to the same spot every time. When your dog is going to the bathroom where you want him to go, use slow verbal praise as he’s going. “Goooooooood boy, Goooooood boy.” Slow praise in a comforting voice will encourage the feeling that this is a comforting positive experience for him. Repeat the word that you want him to associate with going to the bathroom like “go potty”. Soon you will be able to tell him to “go potty” and he will. End the experience by giving him a lot of verbal praise and hand praise, and a food treat when he’s finished.
Oops, there he goes!Just as he makes his attempt, let out a loud, “NO!” and clap your hands and/or stomp your foot. This should be just loud enough to get his attention and should stop him in the act. Shoo him in the direction of the door. If you need to, take him by the collar and lead him outdoors but, do not pick him up. Once he’s out the door pat him on the back to show him that you still like him and then wait for him to relive himself. It might take five or ten minutes. Reward him with verbal praise when he’s in the act and verbal & hand praise when he is finished & a treat.
Helping your dog correct himselfSometime around the second or third week you might try to set your puppy up with an opportunity to eliminate in the house with the chance to correct himself. Let him out of his crate in the morning (after he has been crated all night) and bring him to a room with a door cracked open so that he could exit through it on his own. Lay down his morning feeding and then position yourself so that your puppy is between you and the exit. Sit down and watch him without letting him know you are watching. When he finishes his meal watch for him to start sniffing around to find a location to eliminate. Just as he makes his attempt, let out a loud, “NO!” and clap your hands and/or stomp your feet as you herd him out the door. Once he’s out the door pat him on the back to show him that you still like him and then wait for him to relive himself. It might take five or ten minutes. Reward him with verbal praise when he’s in the act and verbal & hand praise when he is finished.
Simple House-Training Schedule for a young puppy from “The Art of Raising a Puppy” by the Monks of New Skete
- 6:30 a.m. Rise, Walk pup briefly.
- 7:00 a.m. Feed pup and offer a drink of water. Walk pup, do simple training exercises. Return home and play briefly with pup. Pup stays in crate.
- Mid morning Walk pup. After walk, pup stays with owner for 15 minutes. Pup stays in crate.
- 12 noon-1:00pm Feed pup second meal and offer water. Walk pup. Return home and play with pup. Pup returns to crate.
- Midafternoon Offer pup water. Walk pup. Pup returns to crate.
- 5:00 p.m. Feed pup third meal and offer water. Walk pup. Allow pup to play around while your dinner is being prepared.
- 7:00 p.m. Walk pup briefly, do simple training exercises. Return home and play with pup. Put returns to crate.
- Before bed Walk pup. Pup sleeps in crate in your bedroom.
Crate and kennel TrainingAs den animals, dogs have an instinct to hide in an enclosed area such as under a table or bed. This sort of enclosure gives them security. Young puppies will instinctively move away from their den. I train my puppies to sleep in a crate. Crate train your puppy from the day you bring him home. He should sleep in his crate at night next to your bed. That way you can hear him whimpering and take him outside to go to the bathroom. The crate should be a positive experience so feed your pup in the crate, give him something special to chew on and always get him to walk into the crate of his own free will. DO NOT pick the pup up and shove him into the crate. Young puppies will need to relieve themselves more during the day than at night. Coming home on a lunch break may be required to let your puppy go to the bathroom outside & play around a little before you return to work. Leave something for your pup to chew on in the crate to keep him busy. Your pup will only be happy being left in a crate until about 4-5 months old. Then, he may not tolerate the confinement. This is when a larger dog kennel should be considered. We call it a babysitter; A safe place where you can leave your puppy or dog when you cannot supervise him. It should be at least 3 times the length of the adult dogs body length and secure enough that he cannot dig out or climb out.
PreventionFor about the first 3 years of your new dog’s life prevention is the name of the game. You will do yourself, and your puppy or new dog, a favor by not letting bad habits form from the start. Your puppy will want to chew on things, dig, nip & bite, chase kids/cars/cats/livestock, steal things off the counter, potty in the house etc... That is what they were born to do. All of these things are a result of drive and instinct. If you didn’t want to have to deal with them, a better pet for you may have been a hamster. Many people ignore these habits and then wonder why their couch is chewed up or landscaping has been demolished, or their carpet has been ruined with dog urine. Then, they end up locking an adult dog up in a kennel for most of its day or give the dog away. What a shame! Prevent your pup from having habitual destructive behavior by not allowing him access to things he can chew on when you are not able to supervise. Control his freedom with a leash and a crate and supervise him when he is free. Puppy Proofing the house (smaller bold heading) The best way to prevent a puppy from chewing up furniture, slippers clothing or other items is to remove them from the area. Think ahead. For everyone’s protection and happiness, the following guidelines are offered:
- Keep toxic and harmful objects out of puppy’s reach. Medicines, cigarettes, nail polish, cleaning fluids, antifreeze, bug repellents, garbage and trash, soaps and detergents, shrubs and houseplants are all dangerous, some are poisonous.
- Make sure the puppy cannot chew on electric wiring of any kind.Close access to areas you do not want the puppy in. Open stairways and closet doors invite puppies to investigate, which can lead to its getting hurt or in trouble.
- Shoes, socks and clothes left lying on the floor present open invitations to chew.
- Items placed on low coffee tables can easily be reached and destroyed by curious puppies.
- Puppies love to chew newspapers, magazines and books. Keep them up high until the puppy grows older.
- You wouldn’t leave a toddler alone in a room by themselves. Use this same logic with a puppy.
- Never leave a puppy unsupervised, even for a few minutes! Major accidents can happen when you turn your back “just for a minute.” Trust us on this!
- Never give a puppy the freedom to wander alone through a house or it may mistake all of your rooms for bathrooms.
From the age of 7 weeks to 4 months, your puppy is at a critical stage in his life and how you treat him now will determine what sort of dog you’ll have as he gets older. So, socializing him now is your only opportunity to mold your dog’s personality (or what we call his temperament). Many people underestimate the importance of socializing a puppy. But, take our word for it, socializing your puppy is the single most important thing you can do. If you don’t socialize your pup properly you may end up with a dog that lacks confidence, is fearful and likely to be aggressive later in life.
So, the bottom line is, protect your puppy now because you can’t go back and do it over!
Socialization with other pups (4-6 weeks)
This is a very important time for a puppy. A puppy removed from its litter and mother at this time will have missed a very important stage of development. They are just starting to play with each other. This play is critical to the pups learning the language of dogs. A pup who is taken away to soon will often have a propensity to be dog aggressive as an adult because they missed this most critical interaction with their mother and littermates.
During this time, they are also learning how to urinate and defecate on their own. Eventually, learning to go away from the den. This is also the time pups are weaned. This ushers in another change for the pups, the periodic absence of the mother. They begin to pay more attention to each other and rely less on mom.
Responsible breeders take this time very seriously and know how to usher pups thru. Puppies who don’t have the right socialization during this phase, or who experience a bad experience (like the mother or another adult dog biting/attacking them) will have psychological scars for the rest of their life.
Socialization with people (5-12 weeks)
Now the socialization begins to shift mother and littermates towards humans. The perfect time to take a puppy home is around 7-8 weeks because of this reason; they are ready to bond to humans and why not to their new owners. During this time they require all the attention they can get Now that you have your puppy home it is your job to properly & safety socialize your puppy in a way that enhances his development into a stable, confident, happy adult dog.
From 7-10 weeks the main focus for new puppy owners is to keep the puppy at home (since he is not fully vaccinated) and work on the following:
- Potty-training the puppy
- Socialize with people at home or take pup on car rides where pup stays in the car be sees or gets petted by people
- Protect from diseases or virus by keeping the puppy at home, in your arms out in public or in the car. Do not put your pup on the ground outside of your yard.
Fear/Avoidance Phase (8-10 weeks)
This is an important time for new puppy owners to know about. During this time, puppies may become more tentative and cautious. This is a natural adjustment to full adult sensory capacities. Responsible breeders and educated owners take this time very seriously and know how to usher pups thru. But, it is important for new owners to take this responsibility seriously. Puppies who don’t have the right socialization during this phase, or who experience a bad experience, like being scared by a loud noise, or person/child who scares them, can have psychological scars for the rest of their life.
No bad experiences
At this young age, your pup is learning rapidly and what he learns will have a lasting impact on him. Although his attention span is short, he will quickly make associations to things that he experiences. These associations will make a strong impression on him and will be resistant to change.
For this reason you need to be very careful about what your puppy is learning – and believe me, he’s learning even when you think you’re not teaching. If you want to raise a stable, confident dog your most important task during this time will be to see that your puppy does not have a bad experience with people, children, other dogs or his environment. Bad experiences can be such things as loud, unexpected noises – like something falling down next to him, or people suddenly screaming at him – a wild ride in a car, an overly aggressive dog, or being struck or knocked around, basically anything that would cause him to shy away or be afraid. You many have known a dog that was afraid of the vacuum, hose, or worse, children. This is often the result of a bad experience. Any frightening or painful experience at this time will have a more lasting impact now than it would if it occurred at a later time.
A significant amount of scientific and experiential research has been done on the topic of puppy development. Some of the best writings can be found in The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete.
“Negligence by a breeder or new owner during this time can scar a puppy for life” - The Monks of New Skete, The Art of Raising a Puppy (pg.19)
This time – your dog’s “puppyhood” – is an excellent time to start training. Believe me! A way to think about all the training phases of your dog’s life is that you are laying a foundation for the rest of his life.
Training your puppy now will help him to:
- see you as the authority figure in his life
- set him up for an easier process when he starts adult training (about 6 months)
- develop self-esteem by giving him the joy of receiving reward for accomplishments
- be comfortable in a variety of situations and places
At this age of 10 to 5 months or so, your dog can be taught an amazing amount by using the positive reinforcement of food.
Training a puppy during puppyhood will not result in obedience that will last, it is simply an effort to teach your dog how to learn and lay a foundation for future training.
Finding a trainer who can help you make the most of this time is important. Learning is a critically important part of your puppy’s development. Through training you will learn how to best take an active and effective part in the process.
To train a puppy you will need:
- 5/8” X 6’ nylon leash and flat nylon collar
- A hungry puppy & a handful of the pups regular food (no treats)
- Puppy Pre-School 10 weeks- 5 months
- Two 5 min. training sessions a day to teach the puppy to walk a on a leash, sit, break, come, down, drop & take it commands
- Patience, repetition & consistency
Helpful link to resource book 'Who’s the Boss':
At the age of 6 months your pup is now ready for formal obedience training. And, your young dog is ready for, and able to, handle more discipline in his life (and you are probably ready to have a pup with better manners.)
Contrary to popular thought, obedience is as much your responsibility as it is your dogs. During obedience training you will be shaping your dog’s behavior, learning how to communicate with in him a way he understands, how to read your dog, anticipate your dog and, as a result, your dog will learn to listen to you out of respect for your leadership.
While completing my adult dog obedience program you will learn how to teach your dog what you want him to do or not do, how to correct a mistake and how to proof your training under distractions. This training is intended to last the lifetime of the dog.
Some of the most important things that you should teach your dog during obedience training are:
- How to walk on a leash 3 different ways without pulling or jumping up
- To respond with one verbal and hand signal to basic obedience commands like sit, come, down, stay, break, drop & take it commands
- To come back to you off leash the first time to call him without ignoring your or running from you (playing the chase game)
- Temporary and permanent boundaries as a way to control where your dog is allowed to go (like not jumping out of your car until called)
- Temporary and permanent don't touch commands so you can keep him from approaching something or someone you don't want him to (so you can take him in public and have him look as well trained as a service dog)
You should also learn how to handle barking, digging, fence jumping, and aggression towards other dogs and/or people.