While affection for your new puppy might come naturally, knowing how to train it is something most people have to learn. Training works best when you start from day one, teaching your new pet how to behave.
While puppy training is not rocket science, it can be frustrating or even upsetting if things don’t go to plan. There are some common mistakes people make, which can make the training slower or less effective. Let’s take a look at the top five…
1. You don’t train your puppy enough
Training is about having your dog practise a behaviour until it becomes second nature. This requires regular sessions; ideally short bursts two or three times a day. If you leave it too long between sessions, the dog will forget what it learned. It is also important to keep training fun for both you and your puppy, to maintain motivation. Teach new skills as well as going over established commands. If you simply go over the same ground all the time, your dog will soon get bored and may even stop responding.
2. Being inconsistent with your puppy
Remember, you are teaching a young animal to respond to orders in a language it doesn’t understand. In time, your dog will recognise words, but this happens much quicker if you use identical verbal commands each time. Likewise, be consistent in rewarding good behaviour to help your dog understand when they have done the right thing. Start by giving food treats then slowly replace with praise.
It is confusing to give inconsistent rewards for the same action.
3. Failing to use authority with your puppy
Many trainers encourage a dignified ‘pack leader’ persona around a dog, so it obeys you without being unduly submissive. Dogs are happiest when they know someone is in charge. Many canine annoyances, such as excessive barking, lead-pulling and chewing, stem from dogs thinking they run the show.
Good training establishes your authority, showing that you are to be trusted and respected. If you are calm and consistent, it will develop naturally. Being overly emotional, either with anger or with affection, will ultimately undermine your authority.
4. Using punishment of your puppy as a training tool
Punishing your dog causes them to become stressed and anxious, making it harder to learn. While you need to establish firm boundaries when your dog does something seriously wrong, violence or shouting are counterproductive, particularly if a punishment is delayed.
Use positive reinforcement instead; for example, reward your dog for going to toilet in the right place instead of punishing it for doing it in the wrong place.
5. Only training your puppy in one place
Many dogs will obey a command perfectly at home, but it’s a different story in public. If you only ever train your dog to obey a ‘sit’ command in your garden, the dog might not understand that it should do the same when out and about.
Starting somewhere peaceful is a good idea, but to be effective training must slowly move into busier environments. Otherwise, your pup could think it’s just a game you play at home.
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