Puppy Behavior Training – Training – Sit, Down, Stand and Stay

How do I teach my puppy to sit on command?

Using a food treat, hold the food over the dog’s nose and slowly move it up and back over the dog’s head. As the puppy follows the food with its head it will sit down. Now couple the word “sit” with the action. The upward motion of the hand as you hold the food treat also serves as a visual command for the puppy. If the pup lifts its front legs you are holding the food treat too high. As soon as the puppy sits, say “good sit” and give the treat. Many repetitions may be necessary for the pup to learn the association. Next, practice getting the puppy to rise from a down position into a sit by bringing the food treat up and back. As soon as the puppy will follow the treat into the sit, begin to use the hand motion and the word sit but keep the treat hidden so that your puppy learns to respond to the hand signal or verbal command and not the sight of the treat. Gradually, as the puppy understands what you want it to do, only give the treats intermittently. The goal is to have the puppy learn to sit from any position (standing or lying down) and to then progress to a variety of locations around the home as well as outdoors.

“For some puppies, teaching the “down” command can be very difficult.”

It is especially important to teach your puppy to sit by the front door. A dog that readily sits by the front door will do better when greeting guests. If the puppy sits reliably and consistently, practice sit training before feeding, giving toys or treats or during play. In fact, any time the puppy is to be given a reward of any type, whether food, a toy, a walk or even affection, it would be a good time to practice a training command such as sit. For puppies that are easily distracted and hard to be focused, consider using a leash and head halter to prompt the puppy into position and then release and give the treat as soon as the sit is achieved.

How do I teach my puppy to lie down on command?

Start with your puppy in a sit position. To get the puppy to lie down, take a treat and lower it between the puppy’s front paws and say “down.” Usually the puppy will follow the treat and go down. If the puppy does not lie all the way down, slowly push the treat between the paws and if the puppy lies down give it the treat and, of course, add “good dog”. If the puppy stands up, start over. For some puppies, teaching the “down” command can be very difficult. An alternative method is instead of pushing the food treat backwards is to slowly pull the treat forward. If that does not work, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and slightly bent at the knees. Take a hand with a treat in it and push it out under your knee from between your legs. As the puppy tries to

get the food treat, slowly bring it back under your knee. As the puppy tries to follow, it will usually lie down. Once the puppy understands the “down” command, make sure that you vary the starting position. You should try to get your puppy to “down” from both a stand and a sit.

How can I teach my puppy to \”stay\” on command?

Puppies can be taught to stay for short periods of time at a young age. Once they sit on command each and every time they are asked, without the need for food inducements, training can proceed to more difficult concepts such as “stay”. First the pup is taught to stay without moving as you stand in front for 1 to 2 seconds. Remember you are actually teaching two things; first, “don’t move” and second, “don’t move when I move.” Initially, give the puppy the “sit” command, say “stay” (using a hand as a stop sign can be a good visual cue), take one step away, and then return to the puppy and reward it for not moving. Be very careful that the puppy does not stand up or move as you present the reward because then you will have rewarded “getting up.” Gradually increase the distance by a step at a time and the length of the stay by a few seconds at a time, until the puppy can stay for a minute or more with you standing at least 10 feet away.

“Using the concepts discussed, a dog can be trained to perform anything that it is physically capable of.”

It is important to set up the puppy to succeed. Proceeding very slowly, and keeping a long lead attached to the puppy so that it cannot run away can help ensure success. Be patient. It can take a week or more of daily training to progress to a “sit” and “stay” for 1 to 2 minutes. Over a few months it should be possible to increase the “stay” to 15 minutes or more, and to be able to leave the room and return without the puppy rising from its “stay.” For these longer stays it may be better to use a “down-stay” (lying down and staying in place) combination, and to train the dog in a favored resting or sleeping area. A leash and head halter can help to more quickly shape gradually longer sit-stays since a gentle pull is usually all it takes to keep the puppy in the sit position. Once extended ‘sit-stays’ are accomplished, the command can be used to prevent many potential behavior problems. For example, if you practice “sit and stay” by the front door, this command can then be used to prevent running out the door and jumping on company. Have your puppy sit and stay while you place the food on the floor and then give him an OK or release command. This will help establish your control.

How can I teach my dog to stand on command?

Place your puppy in a “sit” position. Take the food treat palm facing up and move it forward and away from the pup as you say “stand.” Your puppy should again follow his nose and stand up. Don’t pull your hand so far away that the puppy follows you, but just until it stands up.

What else can I teach my dog?

Using the concepts discussed above, a dog can be trained to perform anything that it is physically capable of. A “down” or “sit” can be extended from several seconds to many minutes as long as we progress gradually or “shape” the dog’s behavior. In shaping, we determine our ultimate goal, such as a 20-minute stay, and reward successive increments of the behavior until we reach that goal. For example, once the dog will sit for 3 seconds before the reward is given, we can repeat the command and when the puppy sits we wait for 4 seconds before the reward is given. Proceed very slowly, ensuring that the puppy is performing the behavior properly a few times in a row before proceeding to the next step.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, DECAWBM © Copyright 2013 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Puppy Behavior and Training – Handling and Food Bowl Exercises

What are handling exercises, and why might they be useful?

Exercises that use gentle and positive handling can help to increase the enjoyment and decrease any fear associated with handling and restraint. In addition, they provide a means for achieving a relaxed state, which might then be used if the dog begins to get excited or aroused. Verbal and physical exercises can and should also be used to help achieve a relaxed state. While the physical contact and attention you provide may be sufficiently reinforcing for most puppies, food treats can also be paired with handling to mark and reward the desirable response.

One important principle to always keep in mind is that the hand should always be an indication that something good is about to happen (e.g., the hand is a friend). This means that physical punishment and forceful handling must be avoided.

At what age should handling exercises begin?

Young puppies should be handled regularly, at least a couple of times a day. In fact, puppies that are handled each day from birth onward are generally faster to develop, more able to handle stress, and perhaps more social than those that have not been handled regularly. Therefore, obtaining puppies that have been reared in a home environment with regular handling would be very beneficial.

From the time you first obtain your new puppy, you will want to engage in frequent handling simply to provide regular and positive physical contact from family members. Over time, handling should progress to all parts of the body, including mild forms of restraint (such as a soft hand on the chest to stop forward movement), so that you gradually and positively accustom your puppy to procedures that might be needed later in life. For example, gentle handling around the muzzle, face and ears might help your puppy adapt to, and enjoy handling these parts of the body. Similarly, stroking and rubbing all areas of the body when the puppy is in the mood for affection, can help to accustom the dog to grooming, while handling the feet can help to prepare the puppy for nail trimming. Training the dog to be lifted and carried, or to roll over on its side or back for a tummy rub can also be valuable exercises to ensure safety in later handling. Remember to keep each handling exercise positive; a few food treats given with each exercise can be helpful. Ending the session when the puppy is relaxed and calm can help in establishing these handling exercises as one method of settling your dog when it gets excited. If there is any resistance, proceed more slowly and increase the value of the toys and treats used to distract and reinforce the puppy. Some goals for handling would be lifting, teeth brushing, brushing, bathing, cleaning ears, giving pills, and applying a leash and collar or head halter. If the rewards are sufficiently motivating the puppy should learn that each of these forms of handling is positive.

These exercises are not intended to force your puppy to accept handling; in fact, forceful handling such as pinning and rollovers are likely to lead to escape and defensive behavior, and fear and anxiety about further handling. Therefore each session should end on a calm note and must not proceed beyond a level that the puppy will not tolerate.

What type of exercises might help to get my puppy used to handling?

Body handling

You will do yourself and your new pet a favor by teaching your new puppy to allow you to handle his body. Throughout the life of your dog, there will be times that you need to restrain your dog, lift your dog or handle various parts of the dog’s body. This may become necessary when its time to brush your dog’s teeth, trim its nails, give medication, or clean its ears. Yet if you have never handled an adult dog these simple tasks could become impossible. Handling also serves to simulate the physical contact of the bitch, other puppies or another dog in the group. The young puppy must be taught to feel comfortable with this type of handling.

Gently handle your puppy daily. Pick a time when your puppy is calm, such as just after a nap. Do not try to start a body handling exercise when your puppy is excited, rambunctious or in the mood for play. Place the puppy in your lap (either while in a chair or for larger puppies while seated on the floor) and touch the feet, open the mouth, look in the ears and under the tail. All the while, praise your puppy for being good, even offer a few tasty food treats. Be sure to keep initial sessions very short, since you want your puppy to succeed and not struggle. If the session is too long you run the risk of the puppy struggling and getting free. This is not the message you want your puppy to learn. Gradually increase the amount of time you handle your puppy so that no struggle ensues. Soon the puppy will allow and perhaps anticipate these handling sessions. All family members should participate in this exercise. An adult should supervise young children. If you see any hesitance or reluctance on the part of the puppy, you will want to repeat the exercise until you can accomplish the handling without resistance. Do not punish, scold or reprimand your puppy for wiggling or even aggression during this exercise. Punishment will not decrease fear, arousal or anxiety about the exercise. It may make the puppy sit still or be quiet this time but it has not ensured future successes! Do the same exercises a little more gently or in a slightly different location, give some tasty treats for compliance, and progress gradually to more difficult situations. Never force the puppy to the point that it exhibits fear or attempts escape. On the other hand if you do not gradually overcome the resistance, the puppy may never allow the handling as an adult. Over time, your puppy should allow you to place pressure on the back of its neck while it is in a down position, to roll it onto its side, to grasp its muzzle like you might administer medication and to be lifted. These forms of handling should not be used for punishment.

Food bowl handling

Another important exercise is to acclimate your puppy to having his food and possessions touched by humans. Dogs in the wild may guard their food to prevent its loss, while that is not necessary in the home your puppy may have a natural, instinctive tendency to protect what it has. You need to teach the puppy that you are not going to take away the food and not give it back. Handle the food bowl while your puppy eats, pet and praise your puppy, give a special treat and every now and then lift the bowl, place in a special treat, and return it. Similarly, when walking past the puppy while it is eating, you can place a treat in its food bowl, or reach down, pat the puppy and give a treat. This should be an “A” reward. This way the puppy learns not only to tolerate intrusions and disturbance while it eats but is being conditioned that when people approach really wonderful treats are associated and the puppy will have a pleasant association with this situation. Once these lessons are learned a puppy is less likely to be startled and react aggressively should something unexpected happen when eating. If the treat you add is tasty enough, the puppy will pause when you approach and anticipate that you may have something better! Families often worry about children being bitten by a dog that is eating; as much as good parenting should involve teaching the children to never approach a dog while eating, children may still approach a dog at meal time either intentionally or accidentally. If the dog has been taught to expect a treat, praise or toy when people approach then the dog is more likely to greet a child with curious enthusiasm than aggression. If any growling should occur you should seek professional guidance immediately. Punishment of growling will only ensure that this puppy becomes more aggressive. Realize a growl is dog communication for “if this continues, I will bite”; it is a warning and tells you how the dog feels. Punishment is not going to make him feel better about your approach. If there is competition with other dogs over food, the puppy should be fed separately or perhaps even in another room. Not all puppies will respond to these interventions, their desire to protect their food could be quite strong and is a natural, innate trait.

“Don’t punish dogs for growling to protect food or toy items.”

All physical reprimands must be avoided however, since they will tend to increase the anxiety about eating. Physical corrections for growling may be effective at stopping a dog from growling without changing his underlying emotion; in which case you have a dog that feels threatened but won’t communicate by growling so when a bite occurs there was not a warning. Consultation with a veterinary behaviorist is recommended.

Most dogs will benefit from having their food provided inside toys that require chewing, rolling, pawing, shaking or flipping to release the food. Your dog may be just as possessive about these toys; however, since you will be giving a number of toys with smaller amounts at each meal time rather than a Don’t punish dogs for growling to protect food or toy items. bowl filled with food, many dogs will allow you to give new toys in exchange for the empty toy. In time if you have the puppy sit or even come away from its toy and sit before you give the new food toy, the puppy may learn that you are the source of new food and toys, rather than a threat to removing toys. Therefore, feeding small amounts of food in toys, provides multiple possibilities to provide food as long as your puppy leaves its food toy and sits patiently for the next toy. Again if there are any threats or your puppy is not willing to leave its toy for a new one, you should proceed only with the use of a head halter for training and seek the guidance of a behaviorist if there is any possibility of injury.

Toy handling

You should also practice gently taking toys from the puppy. Quietly and calmly place your hand on the toy and tell your puppy “give” as you remove it from its mouth. Then say “thank you” or “good boy” with lots of praise and animation. Then return the object as you tell your puppy to “take it.” Repeat this training task multiple times daily in multiple locations. At times take the object and offer a really great treat. The value of the treat must far outweigh the value of the toy. Be careful not to overdo the exercise. The goal is for your puppy to anticipate that good things happen when you approach while he has a toy. Excessive repetitions of this may actually teach the dog to be protective. The puppy should always see you approaching with something better and the motivation should always be that there is more in it for him if he releases his toys to you.

“Quietly and calmly place your hand on the toy and tell your puppy ‘give’as you remove the toy from its mouth.”

If the puppy enjoys chasing the toy, you could also play a chase and retrieve game. It is generally best to schedule play times regularly throughout the day rather than allowing the puppy to initiate games of tug and chase. In this way, attention-seeking behavior is not reinforced, and toys can be used as a reward for desirable behavior. In fact, toy-handling exercises can be used to teach the ‘give’ command. If the puppy learns that something good comes when relinquishing objects, you should soon be able to handle any toy that your puppy has. Your puppy will learn that it is okay and even

desirable for you to handle its possessions, and that you will give them back. The puppy should then be unconcerned should you need to remove something from the mouth. Occasionally there are likely to be items the puppy really wants, such as very delectable food items or chew bones. If the puppy protects these items, lure the puppy away with another treat and go back and get the items. Avoid a confrontation; it will only make it worse in the future. Avoid giving those items to your puppy in the future.

What if my puppy resists these handling exercises?

All dogs need veterinary care, grooming and handling of their personal space. If this is taught to puppies by a calm, pleasant, positive approach then the benefits of the lessons described here will last a lifetime. Some puppies resist certain forms of handling and may try to escape or even become defensive. Although invasive or intensive forms of handling should initially be avoided, it should be your long-term goal to overcome this resistance through positive reinforcement and shaping. To achieve success, especially with puppies that resist, follow a few basic guidelines:

  1. Begin these exercises when the puppy is in the mood, but not necessarily when the puppy is demanding affection or attention, as this might reinforce demanding and attention seeking behavior. Wait for a time when the puppy is calm and quiet, perhaps just as it is awakening from a rest time. In addition, if you give the puppy all the affection it wants, whenever it wants, then there may be times when it is resistant and doesn’t want any more. Therefore the first rule of thumb is to use a “learn to earn program” where affection and social contact is given as a reward for desirable behavior. Try giving a “sit” or “lie down” command when the puppy seems to want attention and then give the affection as a reward. Another option is to call the puppy (e.g., come) or go to the puppy to give attention when it is resting quietly on the floor or when it is chewing on a favored toy. Be aware of any threats or anxiety however, as this might indicate emerging possessive behavior.
  2. Ensure that the puppy is enjoying itself during petting and affection. Try to end your session with the puppy relaxed and still in the mood for more, rather than when the puppy resists and indicates that it has had enough.
  3. Shape gradually more desirable responses by beginning with the type of handling that the puppy enjoys and craves (e.g., stroking the head, rubbing the belly) and then progress to other areas of the body such as around the muzzle, the back of the neck, the body, the legs and feet, the belly and around the tail.
  4. At any point, if the puppy resists or objects, you should attempt to settle the puppy down and stop the exercises. While we do not want to force the puppy to accept something that it does not like, we also do not want the puppy to learn that escape or biting will be a successful way to end the session. A head halter might be considered for further training to ensure a successful conclusion to each session. You may give a sticky treat like peanut butter or squeeze cheese to help settle and focus your puppy so the lesson could continue. The treat should come at the same time as the handling. For example, you can wiggle his tail with one hand while simultaneously releasing cheese from the can from the other.
  5. If you have encountered resistance during a previous session, determine the puppy’s limits and use food treats or favored toys to distract the puppy as you begin to handle these areas. Once the pet associates the handling with something positive, you can proceed slowly, always ending on a positive note. Your goal is not that your puppy tolerates these exercises, but that he enjoys and looks forward to them.
  6. Ultimately you will want to progress to procedures such as turning the dog onto its side, back or belly, lifting, brushing or combing the coat, brushing the gums and teeth, trimming the nails or even taking the dog’s temperature. Therefore handling exercises should be designed to achieve these goals while the puppy is still young and manageable by progressing very slowly and using favored rewards for distraction and counter-conditioning whenever necessary, to ensure a positive outcome. Luring techniques may be used to help a puppy successfully get into side lying positions without force. Remember sessions should be short, puppies have short attention spans and tolerance.
  7. Continue to progress by proofing your puppy against the types of handling that it may someday need to confront At this point, verbal commands may also be useful. For example, lifting may be proceeded by the “up” command and your dog can receive favored rewards while being carried. During a “down” exercise you might consider adding some light pressure downward on the neck or back (as might happen if a child were to rest against the dog). During standing the tail might be lifted or handled; during the sit the muzzle might be gently grasped; and during the sit, stand or down, gentle hugging might be practiced. While it is generally advisable to avoid these types of handling, as a rewarded exercise during training these forms of physical restraint can be valuable learning experiences. For adapting puppies to nail trimming and tooth brushing.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, DECAWBM © Copyright 2013 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Puppy Behavior and Training – Biting

Why is my puppy nipping and biting family members?

Although often thought to be a teething behavior, nipping, mouthing and biting in young dogs is generally a form of social play. Teething is more likely to involve gnawing or chewing on household objects. The first thing you must do is to provide a regular daily routine that includes ample opportunity for play (see Enrichment, Predictability, and Scheduling and Play and Exercise). Social play with people could involve controlled chase and retrieve games, as well as long walks or jogging. Many dogs also enjoy engaging in tug games, which may be an excellent outlet for play biting, providing the games are directed toward appropriate play toys and objects (see below) and under human control. However, if the puppy’s play becomes too rambunctious or aggressive, these games may not initially be acceptable.

“Puppies need to learn to limit the force of their bite, commonly known as bite inhibition.”

Puppies need to learn to limit the force and strength of their bite so if mouth contact is utilized, the message is communicated with minimal damage, commonly known as bite inhibition. This is something they start to learn while with their littermates. It is one reason that puppies should not go to new homes until 7 to 8 weeks of age and they have had time to practice social skills with other dogs. Often littermates play very rough and may even seem loud and aggressive. Sometimes one puppy bites another one too hard and screams out; this startles the offending puppy and teaches him how hard to bite during play. These lessons are essential for a puppy and people should not intervene in most littermate puppy – puppy interactions. In addition, after puppies have been adopted into the new home, it can be extremely beneficial to have regular interactive social play periods with other dogs or puppies in the home or in the neighborhood (see Play and Exercise). One of the things that puppies need to learn is how much pressure from their jaws causes pain. Without this feedback, a puppy does not learn to inhibit the force of its bite. Because all dogs can and will bite at some time, this lesson is vital for human safety.

How can I stop play biting?

Be sure you are providing the puppy adequate and appropriate play, exploration, attention and exercise opportunities. Strategies to stop play biting include:

  1. Prevention: Adopt a puppy at 7 weeks so he has had the opportunity to practice normal, social play with littermates and mom.
  2. Set up to succeed: Provide a “mouthy” puppy with toys for oral stimulation; soft toys, food toys and tug of war can help satisfy these puppies’ oral and exploratory needs. Kingsbrook Animal Hospital 5322 New Design Road, Frederick, MD, 21703 Phone: (301) 631-6900 Website: KingsbrookVet.com
  3. Be consistent: Family members should agree that the puppy not be allowed or encouraged to bite or nibble on people’s hands, feet or clothing. What seems cute and innocent in a puppy will not be at maturity.

How is this lesson taught?

When puppies play with each other, if one puppy bites another too hard, the bitten puppy will yelp, and may also stop playing and leave.

This sends the message to the puppy that its bites were too hard and if it wishes to continue to play, it needs to be gentle. However, people often do not send this message to their puppy. In the beginning, some owners might allow their puppies to chew and bite on them without reprimands and the puppy assumes that the behavior is acceptable.

Children appear to be most vulnerable because their attempts at stopping the biting may not be properly timed or sufficiently abrupt to stop the puppy from biting. In fact a child’s response is often seen by the puppy as an invitation to increase its level of chase and play. Adult supervision or a head halter for training (discussed below) should help to ensure more immediate success.

The message people should send is that mouthing and chewing on hands is painful and it leads to immediate cessation of play. All family members must consistently follow the rules for the puppy to understand and learn what is considered desirable behavior and what is not. However, regardless of the technique, you cannot expect the play biting to cease until you first ensure that you are giving regular and sufficient opportunities for play. If your puppy begins to bite or chew and tug on clothing, immediately stopping play (negative punishment) is the preferred response or walk away if the puppy persists. The message is that all social interactions with you will stop as soon as biting begins. Sometimes a sharp “off” command can be helpful to indicate that social interactions will cease if the biting continues. Playing with the puppy when it is not attention seeking, nipping or biting is the goal. In fact, all forms of play and attention soliciting behavior should be ignored, as these might escalate into more intense biting. If all family members are consistent in their responses, the puppy should quickly learn that play biting actually leads to inattention rather than play. If you teach your puppy to sit or lie quietly before each play session, you should soon have your puppy trained that these behaviors, and not play biting, will be rewarded with a play session (see Learn to Earn – Predictable Rewards).

“If the puppy persists, chases or immediately repeats the behavior, closing a door and walking out of the room can help to teach the puppy that biting leads to immediate inattention.”

If ignoring the puppy and walking away does not stop the biting, then you will need to work on training desirable behaviors and discouraging the undesirable behavior. Having a leash attached at all times during interactions and play can be an excellent means of preventing undesirable behavior, as well as prompting and teaching desirable behavior. Another technique is to emit a sharp “yip” or “ouch” as soon as biting begins so that the puppy backs off. Remember any contact with the skin should lead to an immediate cessation of play and attention. This sends the message to the puppy that the bites are painful and that biting will cause the end of play. Alternately, a sharp “off” command and quickly backing away can be effective. Using a verbal cue such as yip, ouch or off or enough is intended to interrupt the behavior and indicate that play and attention will now cease. This training usually works for those family members that most immediate, consistent and clear in their responses. If the puppy persists, chases or immediately repeats the behavior, closing a door and walking out of the room can help to teach the puppy that biting leads to immediate inattention.

What if my puppy keeps biting?

Other techniques are often suggested for play biting. Some involve harsh discipline, like slapping the puppy under the chin or forcefully holding the mouth closed. Remember, pain can cause aggression and cause the puppy to become anxious, fearful, defensive or perhaps more excited (see Using Punishment Effectively and Why Punishment Should Be Avoided). These techniques also require that you grab an excited puppy, which is not an easy thing to do! Some puppies may even misinterpret the owner’s attempts at punishment as rough play, which in turn might lead to an increase in the behavior. Physical methods are not recommended. Owners who cannot inhibit the puppy with a yelp could consider a shaker can, water or air spray, noise alarm, or ultrasonic device as soon as the biting becomes excessive. The loud noise or spray is used to startle the puppy, and it will likely back up and stop biting. When that happens the puppy should immediately be praised and gentle play and interactions resumed. The use of a head halter with a remote leash attached allows the puppy to play and chew, but immediate pressure on the leash can redirect and successfully close the mouth and stop biting or chewing as soon as it becomes undesirable. By simultaneously saying “no biting,” most puppies will quickly learn the meaning of the command. As soon as the puppy stops the tension on the leash can be released. If the biting resumes then a gentle and immediate pull and release may be needed until the puppy remains calm at which point the play can be resumed as long as biting does not begin again. This is one of the quickest and most effective approaches to stop the biting and get immediate control of the muzzle and mouth, and is useful for owners that are not gaining sufficient verbal control (see Training Products – Head Halter Training and Training Products – Head Halter Training – Synopsis).

Remember that this kind of biting is a component of play behavior in puppies. Play is a form of social interaction and your puppy is practicing his social and communication skills. Realize that your puppy is trying to play with you, even though the behavior is rough. Play motivated bites still hurt! Also remember that each puppy and each breed has a different level of intensity or a slightly different form in which play is exhibited so try and match the length and type of play to the needs of the puppy. Be assured your puppy is not trying to dominate or control you. Your puppy needs adequate play and each puppy has different needs (see Play and Exercise and Dominance, Alpha, and Pack Leadership – What Does It Really Mean?). Be certain that you are initiating attention and play often enough to meet your dog’s needs. Hounds may enjoy games in which they use their nose to find interesting treats or just a long walk with opportunities to spend time with nose to the ground. Retrieving, agility, flyball and even tug games with toys, encourage play that should not lead to mouthing of the owners. If you allow your puppy to initiate all play and attention sessions with pawing, barking, jumping up or mouthing, then these may escalate into more intense attention soliciting or even play biting if you subsequently try to ignore the behavior. On the other hand, if you teach your puppy to sit or lie down calmly in front of you prior to play then these behaviors can be rewarded. In addition, you should end each session abruptly if biting occurs. One strategy is to use a command such as sit or down, and reward the behavior with a chew or feeding toy. Another is that if the play gets too rough and involves biting, immediately end the play session and leave. Social withdrawal can be a very powerful tool. Leave the puppy alone long enough to be confused by your absence. If upon your return the biting resumes, leave again. Your puppy may be as active, wild or animated as you will allow but you are teaching him that biting doesn’t have a place in your interaction with him. Although it is tempting to pick the puppy up and take it out of the room, your puppy may interpret this interaction as additional play and the biting may continue as you carry the puppy to a confinement location. Keep track of which types of play seem to get the puppy too excited and these should be avoided to help prevent biting behavior. Be sure to provide enough appropriate outlets for energetic puppies; if you aren’t meeting your puppies social, exploratory and energy needs then these strategies will not work!

Can I play tug-of-war games with my puppy?

Games of tug and pull can be a good way for the puppy to expend energy while playing with family members. In this way the puppy can be given an acceptable outlet for pulling, biting and tugging rather than on the clothing or body parts of people. The rule is the person should stop the game abruptly and socially withdraw anytime the puppy’s teeth touch human skin or clothing or the puppy becomes overly excited and agitated. In addition, the tug of war game provides an opportunity to teach the puppy to give up toys on command.

However, tug games are only acceptable if they remain under your control, and if play biting and over exuberant play does not result in aggression if the puppies teeth remain on the toy rather than human body parts, and if possessive behavior does not develop over the toy. Select a few tug toys for playing this game and be certain that you are the one to start each session. It might be best to keep the toy(s) out of the puppy’s reach until its time to play the game and to use the game and toy as a reward for training (e.g., sit before play or retrieve). Throughout the play session, if the puppy gets too excited or begins to grab hands or clothing, immediately cease play and begin again only when the puppy is settled down. Animation and exuberant play is acceptable; biting on people or their clothing is not! Food rewards can also be used at the outset to encourage the puppy to stop and give up the toy. At the end of each tug session, teach the puppy to give up the toy and reward with a favored chew or feeding toy. If successful, this type of play provides you with a means of controlled interactive play, as well as teaching the puppy to give up the toy on command.

Following each play session, give the puppy a chance to eliminate and some down time (see Enrichment, Predictability and Scheduling). Try and use a crate or confinement pen with object play toys e.g., food stuffed toys and chews, (see Crate Training – Positive Confinement – Why to Crate Train, Crate Training – Guide – How to Crate Train, and Crate Training – Synopsis) that have been saved for confinement time so that the puppy can play with the toys or take a nap until the next scheduled play, exercise, training, or elimination session is due.

Additional Help

There are many options available for more help with your dog. One of the very best in our area is Smart Dog University. Check out their website at SmartDogUniversity.com for helpful newsletters, classes, and just cool dog info.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB

© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Puppy – Training Come, Wait and Follow

How can I get my puppy to come when called?

Teaching a puppy to “come” on command is a very difficult but important task. Start early because a puppy that will come when called is safer! In addition, most young puppies do not like to stray too far from their owners. All it takes is a kneeling owner and a happy “come” command, and your young puppy may willingly approach (without the need for any food or toy prompt). Similarly, most young puppies will automatically come and follow as you walk away.

However, by 3 to 4 months of age, as puppies become a little more independent and exploratory, more appealing rewards may be needed. The two most important rules about teaching your puppy to come to you are to set up the puppy for success (so that you never fail) and to ensure that each training session is simple, fun and pleasurable.

“Never call your puppy to you for discipline!”

Start by backing away from your puppy 1 to 3 feet and wiggle a food treat or a favored toy (prompt) in front of its nose. At the same time say the puppy’s name and “come.” Use a happy inviting tone of voice. When your puppy comes to you, praise it lavishly and give the treat or toy. Then repeat. Start by only moving short distances, and then gradually have the puppy come further to reach you. Reinforce this task by calling your puppy multiple times daily, giving a pat or a food treat and sending it on its way. Try to avoid only calling the puppy to you to bring it inside, to put it in its crate or to otherwise end something fun. Be sure to spend time calling the puppy over and then releasing it; this will help the puppy learn that by coming to you, good things happen. Remember it is critical to succeed with every training session. Stay close to the puppy, make certain that there are no distractions and proceed slowly.

Over time, the puppy should be very slowly taught to come from progressively farther distances and in environments with a greater number of distractions. If there is any chance that the puppy might escape or disobey, have the puppy wear a long remote leash (which can be left dangling as the puppy wanders and investigates). Then if the puppy does not immediately obey the “come” command, a gentle tug of the leash can be used to get the puppy’s attention, and a repeated command in an upbeat, happy voice (along with a food or toy prompt) should ensure that the “come” command is successful and rewarding.

How can I teach my new puppy to “wait” or “follow”?

Teaching a puppy to “wait” or “follow” are extensions of the other tasks you should have already taught. To teach your puppy to follow at your side (heel), use a food treat, place it by your thigh and entice the puppy both vocally and with the food to “heel.” As the puppy follows its nose to stay near the treat, it will also be learning to heel

For dogs that constantly walk ahead or pull, teaching your dog to follow should begin in a location where there are few distractions, such as in your backyard. To ensure success you should keep a leash or leash and head collar on your dog. Begin with a “sit-stay” command, and give a reward. Start to walk forward and encourage your dog to follow or heel as above, using a food reward held by your thigh. Be certain to allow only a few inches of slack on the leash so that if your dog tries to run past you, you can pull up and forward on the leash so that the puppy returns to your side. Once the puppy is back in the proper position (by your side for “heel” or behind you for “follow”), provide a little slack in the leash and begin to walk forward again. Continue walking with verbal reinforcement and occasional food rewards given as the dog follows. Each time the dog begins to pass you or pull ahead, pull up and forward on the leash and release as the dog backs up.

“Training sessions should begin when there are no external stimuli outdoors.”

Although the dog could be made to sit each time it pulls forward, the goal is to have the dog return to your side. In fact, what your puppy is learning is that if he wants to walk forward he will only succeed if he keeps the leash slack. Another method to keep the dog walking by your side or behind is to turn and walk in the other direction. Remember to reward or praise as long as the leash remains loose. If the dog “puts on the brakes” and will not follow, all you need to do is release the tension and verbally encourage the dog to follow. Once you have the dog successfully heeling in the yard with no distractions, you can proceed to the front yard and the street, at first with no distractions, until good control is achieved ( see Teaching Loose Leash Walks, Backing Up, and Turning Away, Training Products – Collars and Harnesses, Training Products – Head Halter Training, Training Products – Head Halter Training – Synopsis, and Training Products – To Choke or Not to Choke).

How can I teach my dog to wait?

Although much the same as “stay,” this command is important for the dog that might otherwise bound out the front door, lunge forward to greet people and other dogs, or run across a busy street. Begin with “sit-stay” training, until the dog responds well in situations where there are few distractions such as indoors or in your backyard. Next, find a situation where the dog might try to pull ahead, such as at the front door, so that you can begin to teach the “wait” command. Training sessions should begin when there are no external stimuli outdoors (other dogs, people) that might increase your dog’s motivation to run out the door. Use a leash or leash and head collar to ensure control. Begin with a “sit-stay” by the front door. While standing between your dog and the door, and with only a few inches of slack on the leash, give the wait command and open the door. If the dog remains in place for a few seconds, begin to walk out the door and allow your dog to follow. Then repeat, with longer waits at each training session. If however, when you open the door or begin to walk out, your dog runs ahead of you, you should pull up on the leash, have your dog sit, release, give the “wait” command and repeat until successful. Once your dog will successfully wait for a few seconds and follow you out the door, gradually increase the waiting time, and then try withdistractions (dogs or people on the front walk). This training should also be tried as you walk across the street, or before your dog is allowed to greet new people or dogs it meets.

To achieve a progressively more relaxed response see Teaching Calm – Settle and Relaxation Training and Teaching Loose Leash Walks, Backing Up, and Turning Away.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, DECAWBM © Copyright 2013 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Puppy – Training Basics

At what age can I start training my new puppy?

You will be training your puppy from the moment you bring it home and start to house train. Puppies start learning from birth. Good breeders begin handling and socialization from birth. Some training can begin as soon as the puppy can open its eyes and walk. Young puppies have short attention spans but you can expect them to begin to learn simple obedience commands such as ‘sit’, ‘down’ and ‘stay’, as young as 7 to 8 weeks of age. (Ask for our handouts on ‘Behavior Modification – Reinforcement and Rewards’, ‘Puppy – Training Sit, Down, Stand and Stay’; and ‘Puppy – Training Come, Wait and Follow’ for training on the specific tasks).

Formal dog training has traditionally been delayed until 6 months of age. Actually this juvenile stage is a very poor time to start. The dog is beginning to solidify adult behavioral patterns, dominance behavior is beginning to emerge, and behaviors learned in puppyhood may need to be changed. In addition anything that has already been learned or trained incorrectly will need to be undone and retaught.

“Puppies can be taught to ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘stand’ using a method called food-lure training.”

When training is started at 7 to 8 weeks of age, use methods that rely on positive reinforcement and gentle teaching. Puppies have short attention spans, so training sessions should be brief, but should occur daily. Puppies can be taught to ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘stand’ using a method called food-lure training. We use food treats to entice the dog to follow its nose into the proper positions for ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘stand’, and ‘stay’ (See our handout on ‘Puppy – Training Sit, Down, Stand and Stay’).

How do I get started using food lure training?

Small pieces of food or a favored toy can be used to motivate your puppy to perform most tasks. Provided the reward is sufficiently appealing, the puppy can be prompted to give the desired response by showing the puppy the reward, giving a command, and moving the reward to get the desired response. For example, food held up over the puppy’s nose and moved slowly backwards should get a ‘sit’ response; food drawn down to the floor should get a ‘down’ response; food brought back up should get a ‘stand’ response; food held out at a distance should get a ‘come’ response; and food held at your thigh as you walk should get the puppy to ‘heel or ‘follow’. By pairing a command phrase or word with each action, and giving the reward for each appropriate response, the puppy should soon learn the meaning of each command. The use of rewards and the specific training commands are covered in separate handouts on ‘Behavior Modification – Reinforcement and Rewards’; ‘Training Dogs – Teaching Give and Drop’; ‘Puppy – Training Sit, Down, Stand and Stay’; and ‘Puppy – Training Come, Wait and Follow’.

How often should I give the command?

Ideally you should give the command phrase once and then use your food to move the puppy into positions. Once the puppy has performed the task, add in verbal praise and an affectionate pat, which are known as secondary reinforcers (see below). Some trainers also use clickers as secondary reinforcers. If the puppy does not immediately obey on the first command, then you are likely proceeding a little too quickly. If you keep repeating the command, the puppy will learn that several repetitions are acceptable before it needs to obey. Keeping a leash attached can help to gain an immediate response if the puppy does not obey.

“If you keep repeating the command, the puppy will learn that several repetitions are acceptable before it needs to obey.”

Remember that, early in training, your puppy does not know the meaning of the word. Therefore you could just as easily teach your puppy to sit with the word bananas, (or sit in any other language) as you could with the word sit. The key is to associate the word, in this case “sit”, with the action of placing the hind end on the floor.

How should I phase out the lure and food rewards?

At first you are going to let the puppy see the food in your hand so that you will have her attention and can use it to guide her into position. As your puppy begins to comply more readily, you can start to hide the food in your hand, but give the command and repeat the motion or signal that she has learned to follow. Soon the puppy will come to expect the treat each time she performs the task. Then, signal and give the command, but when she performs the task, reward only with praise and give the puppy an affectionate pat. Next, you can begin to vary the frequency, giving praise with ‘good dog’ and perhaps patting each time, but giving the food randomly, perhaps every 3 or 4 times. In time, the puppy should respond to either the hand signal or the command.

“Over time, the words “good dog” or the affectionate pat become secondary reinforcers.”

Over time, the words “good dog” or the affectionate pat become secondary reinforcers. Because they have been paired with food in the past, they take on more meaning and become reinforcement in themselves. It is important to use secondary reinforcement because you will not always have food with you when you need your pet to obey. In addition, if you rely on food to always get your puppy to comply, you will have a puppy that will only do the task when you have a treat.

At first training may begin in designated sessions throughout the day, with a variety of family members. All rewards should be saved for these training sessions. Over time however, you should begin to ask your puppy to perform the tasks at other times.

How much time should I spend training my puppy every day?

You do not necessarily need to train in a set session daily. Rather, integrate these tasks throughout the day. A goal to strive for is at least 15 minutes of training every day. These can be short 5 minute sessions spread throughout the day. Try to have all family members ask your puppy to do these tasks. Remember to try and train in every room of your house. You want your puppy to ‘sit’, ‘lie down’ and ‘stay’ everywhere, not just in the training location.

“To have a well-trained dog, you need to be committed to reinforcing the training tasks on nearly a daily basis for the first year of your puppy’s life.”

Use these training tasks as you integrate the puppy into your life. For example, ask your puppy to ‘sit’ prior to receiving her food, ‘sit’ before you let her in or out the door, and ‘sit’ before you pet her. These are times when your puppy wants something and is more likely to comply. In this way you are training your dog all the time, throughout the day and also establishing yourself as the leader, the one who controls the resources. Training your puppy prior to getting each reward also helps to prevent problems. Having your puppy sit before getting a food or treat prevents begging, while teaching your dog to sit before opening the door can prevent jumping up or running out the door. Be creative. The time you spend training your puppy now will pay off when you have an adult dog. To have a well-trained dog, you need to be committed to reinforcing the training tasks on nearly a daily basis for the first year of your puppy’s life. The more you teach and supervise your puppy, the less opportunity it will have to engage in improper behaviors. Dogs do not train themselves, when left to choose their behavior they will act like dogs. For more information see our handouts on ‘Training Dogs – Learn to Earn and Predictable Rewards’, ‘Training Dogs – Enrichment, Predictability and Scheduling’, and ‘Behavior Modification – Working for Food – Dogs and Cats’.

What can be done if my puppy is too distracted or excitable to control?

Training should begin in a quiet environment with few distractions. The chosen reward should be highly motivating so that the puppy is focused entirely on the trainer and the reward. Although a small food treat generally works best, a favorite toy or a special dog treat might be more appealing. It might also be helpful to train the puppy just before a scheduled mealtime when it is at its hungriest. For difficult or headstrong puppies, the best way to ensure that the puppy will perform the desired behavior and respond appropriately to the command is to leave a leash attached and to use a head collar for additional control. In this way, the puppy can be prompted into the correct response if it does not immediately obey, and the pressure can be released as soon as the desired response is achieved (see our handout on ‘Training Products for Dogs – Collars and Harnesses’). Clicker training is also an excellent way to immediately and strongly reinforce the desired response (see our handouts on ‘Behavior Modification – Reinforcement and Rewards’, and ‘Training Products for Dogs – Clicker and Target Training’).

Should I also consider training classes?

Pet owners who are novices at training can begin a training program with these few simple steps. It takes repetition, time and perseverance for the puppy to be able to predictably and reliably respond to commands in a variety of situations.

However, a training class serves many functions. Trainers can demonstrate techniques and help guide you through the steps in training. They can help advise you on puppy training problems, and can help you advance your training to more difficult exercises. The puppy will be learning in a group situation, with some real life distractions. And, considering human nature, the pet owner who takes his or her dog to a puppy class will be forced to practice (do their homework) throughout the week if they do not want to fall behind by the next class. Finally, a training class is a good place to meet and talk to other new puppy owners and see how all puppies behave.

Training classes for young puppies are also an excellent way to socialize your new puppy to a variety of people, dogs, and other stimuli in a controlled environment. In addition, you will learn how to prevent problems before they can begin, or deal with them as they emerge, rather than having to find a way to correct problems that have already developed. Your puppy might also make some new friends of the same age. You could then visit these friends (or vice versa) with your puppy for social play and exercise sessions. Since the primary socialization period for dogs ends by 3 months of age, puppy socialization classes are most valuable for puppies 8 weeks of age and older (ask for our handout on ‘Puppy – Socialization and Fear Prevention’). If all puppies in the class have had initial vaccinations, are healthy and parasite free, the health risks are low and the potential benefits are enormous. Discuss the location of classes in your area and when to start them with your veterinarian.

Additional Help

There are many options available for more help with your dog. One of the very best in our area is Smart Dog University. Check out their website at SmartDogUniversity.com for helpful newsletters, classes, and other cool dog info.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB

© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Puppy – Socialization and Fear Prevention

What is socialization?

This is the period in a puppy’s life where it develops relationships with other living beings and also learns how to behave and act in new experiences.

“…the first 12 -16 weeks seem to be the most important time for young puppies to learn about their environment.”

While socialization takes place throughout the first year of life, the first 12 -16 weeks seem to be the most important time for young puppies to learn about their environment. This critical period is when the puppy develops social relationships with other dogs and with other species, including humans. Therefore, this is not only the optimal time for the puppy to spend time learning to communicate and play with other dogs, but is also the most important time to have human contact (as well as exposure to other species with which it might live, such as cats). The balance between socialization with other dogs and with humans can perhaps be best met by having the puppy stay with its littermates and mother in a home where there is also human contact up until about 7 to 8 weeks. Then, it can be adopted into the new human household, where it can hopefully continue its socialization with other dogs (i.e. if there are dogs in the family or through puppy classes).

Two other important aspects of a pup’s development are “habituation” and “localization”.

What is habituation?

As all animals develop there are numerous stimuli (sounds, smells, sights and events) that, when unfamiliar, can lead to fear and anxiety. Habituation is the process whereby dogs get used to repeated stimuli, and stop reacting to them, provided that there are no untoward consequences. For habituation to occur, the owner should avoid reinforcing any undesirable responses such as fear.

What is localization?

Localization is the process by which the puppy develops attachment to particular places.

Why are these processes important?

To reduce the possibility of fearful responses as a puppy grows and matures, it is essential to expose young puppies to many stimuli (people, places and things) when they can most effectively socialize, localize, and habituate to these stimuli. Early handling and events that occur during the first 2 to 4 months of life are critical factors in the social development of the dog. Dogs that receive insufficient exposure to people, other animals and new environments during this time may develop irreversible fears, leading to timidity and/or aggression.

What can I do to improve my chances of having a social, non-fearful dog?

a) Puppy Selection

The genetics of the breed and of the parents in particular play an important role in how sociable, playful, fearful, excitable, or domineering a puppy becomes. Choose a breed and parents (both male and female) that have the type of behavior that you would like the puppy to have. Of course, there is a great deal of variability between individuals, so that breed and parental behavior will not always be indicative of what the puppy will be like. If the parents have been previously bred together, the behavior and health of these siblings from previous litters may provide additional insight into how your dog might grow and develop.

b) Puppy assessment

Although you should avoid selecting puppies that are shy, withdrawn or fearful, selecting a friendly and non-fearful puppy does not ensure that this behavior will persist into adulthood.

“Little or no predictive value has been found in assessing puppies under 3 months of age…”

In fact, little or no predictive value has been found in assessing puppies under 3 months of age, since these puppies are still developing their social skills and many problem behaviors do not begin to emerge until sexual or social maturity. However, as puppies age these criteria do begin to become more reliable.

c) Early handling

Puppies that are stimulated and handled from birth to five weeks of age are more confident, social, exploratory, faster maturing and better able to handle stress as they develop. Puppies obtained from a breeder or home where they have had frequent contact and interaction with people are likely to be more social and less fearful as they develop. Puppies who have spent a large amount of time in pet stores or confined in cages may not have had the environmental stimulation needed to easily transition to a new home.

d) Primary socialization

There is a sensitive period in the development of most species when they develop social attachments with their own and other species, independent of punishment and rewards. In fact, both positive and negative events seem to accelerate socialization. The events that occur during this socialization period determine the puppy’s future social partners, as well as the species with which it feels comfortable. By recognizing the critical time frame in which canine socialization develops, you can help to ensure a healthy social attachment to people and other animals, including other dogs.

The primary socialization period for dogs begins at 3 weeks of age and is already diminishing by 12 weeks. Peak sensitivity is at 6 – 8 weeks. Fears begin to emerge around at 8 weeks of age, so that beyond 12 weeks of age, fearfulness may surpass sociability. Although there is a great deal of variability between breeds and individuals, dogs should be socialized to as many people, animals and situations as possible before the sensitive socialization period begins to wane. However, regular social interactions should continue through adulthood so that puppies do not regress and become more fearful as they grow and develop. The 6-8 month period appears to be another important time where social contact should be maintained, or social skills may diminish and fear may escalate.

To help develop a healthy social relationship with other dogs throughout life, dogs should maintain their social contacts with their mother and littermates until 6 – 8 weeks of age.

What is the best age to obtain my new puppy?

Since it is critical for the puppy’s development to interact, observe, play and learn with members of its own species, the puppy should remain with its mother and littermates until about 7 weeks of age. Then when placed in the new home, social contacts can be expanded to new people and species while still in their primary socialization period. Also by this time puppies will begin to develop preferences for elimination sites, so that this is a good age at which to begin house-training. For more details, see our handout on ‘Puppy – House Training’.

What can I do to assist my puppy in its social development?

Generally, there should be little problem with a puppy that is less than 12 weeks of age developing healthy and lasting attachments to the people, sights and sounds in its new home.

“Your puppy is most likely to become fearful of stimuli that are not found in its day-to-day routine.”

Your puppy is most likely to become fearful of stimuli that are not found in its day-to-day routine. Make a conscious effort to identify those people and situations to which the puppy is not regularly exposed. For example, if there are no children in the home, you might arrange regular play sessions with children. If you live in the country, make a few trips into the city, so that the puppy can be taken for walks on city streets, or through neighborhood plazas. Conversely, a puppy that grows up in the city might become fearful or aggressive toward farm animals that it was not exposed to during its early development.

Introduce your puppy to as many new people and situations as possible. People in uniforms, babies, toddlers, the elderly, and the physically challenged are just a few examples that might lead to fear and anxiety unless there is sufficient early exposure. Similarly, car rides, elevators, stairs, or the noises associated with traffic, trains, airplanes, or hot air balloons are some examples of events and experiences to which the puppy might be habituated.

One way to facilitate the introduction of the puppy to new situations and people is to provide a reward such as a favorite toy or biscuit each time it is exposed to a new stimulus. Having a stranger offer a biscuit to the puppy will teach it to look forward to meeting people and discourage hand-shyness, since the puppy will learn to associate new friends and an outstretched hand with something positive. Once the puppy has learned to ‘sit’ on command, have each new friend ask it to ‘sit’ before giving the biscuit. This teaches a proper greeting and will make the puppy less likely to jump up on people.

Be certain that the puppy has the opportunity to meet and receive treats from a wide variety of people of all ages, races, appearances and both sexes during the formative months and well into the first year of life. There will of course, be times when your puppy is in a new situation and you do not have treats. At those times, use a happy tone of voice and praise your puppy for appropriate responses.

If your puppy seems to panic, back off a little and try again later, rather than aggravating the fear. Be sure to identify any emerging fear and work to revisit the situation slowly and gradually using favored rewards to turn the situation into one that is positive.

Is it healthy to take my puppy out in public at such a young age?

There is always a concern about the risks of taking the puppy out of its home before it is fully vaccinated because it may be exposed to an infectious disease before the protective immunity has developed. However, the benefits gained from these early public experiences can be enormous, and without them the risk of the puppy developing permanent fears or anxiety is a serious concern.

One solution is to have people and healthy vaccinated animals visit the puppy in its own home, until it has completed its primary puppy vaccination series. A compromise is to take the puppy out to meet people and other pets in low risk environments. As long as you are following your veterinarian’s recommended vaccination schedule, taking the puppy for walks along the sidewalk and avoiding neighborhood parks where stools and urine might accumulate is generally safe.

“Enroll the puppy in puppy socialization classes.”

Another valuable aid is to enroll the puppy in puppy socialization classes. If these classes are held indoors in a room that can be cleaned and disinfected, and all puppies are screened for vaccination and good health prior to each class, then these classes provide good exposure to people and other dogs in a low risk environment. In addition to insuring that vaccines are up-to-date and each puppy is parasite free, requiring that all puppies in the class have been in their new home for at least 10 days before enrolling will help reduce the risks of disease transmission. This time period is longer than the incubation period for most of the serious contagious canine diseases. Not only do these classes offer an opportunity for play and socialization with a variety of people and dogs, they also help guide the owners into proper training techniques from the outset. Recent studies showed that taking puppies to puppy socialization classes decreases the chances of relinquishing puppies and increases long-term socialization, thereby providing your puppy with better tools to cope with future situations.

Additional Help

There are many options available for more help with your dog. One of the very best in our area is Smart Dog University. Check out their website at SmartDogUniversity.com for helpful newsletters, classes, and other cool dog info.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB

© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Puppy – House Training

How long will it take to housetrain my puppy?

All it requires are a few basic rules to house-train puppies within a short amount of time, sometimes as little as a few days to a few weeks. This does not mean that the puppy will be able to be trusted to wander throughout the home without eliminating. What the puppy should quickly learn is where it should eliminate, and the consequences of eliminating indoors when the owner is supervising. However, anytime your puppy is unsupervised and eliminates indoors, this can further delay successful housetraining since the puppy will have learned that there are alternate indoor elimination areas that can be used without untoward consequence.

“The goal of housetraining is to encourage and reinforce desirable elimination.”

The goal of housetraining is to encourage and reinforce desirable elimination. Do not focus on trying to teach your puppy where it is not allowed to eliminate, as there are literally hundreds of locations in your home where your puppy might have to be deterred.

What site should I choose?

It is advisable to select a site that has an easy and direct access to the outdoors. Puppies may more easily learn where to eliminate if a single location is used. Over time, the location, the substrate (surface underfoot) and the small amounts of residual odor help to establish a more regular habit of returning to the area. If you do not have immediate access to the outdoors (e.g. high rise living) or if your schedule requires that you leave your pet longer than it can control itself, you might need to train your pet to an indoor litter area. If this is your best option, you can follow the same procedures outlined below, but will instead take your pet to its litter area, rather than to the outdoors. Paper training, discussed below, is another option. However, it may be more difficult to train your pet to eliminate at one site (e.g. indoor litter) and also expect it to eliminate in other sites (e.g. outdoors).

How do I housetrain my puppy?

To housetrain a puppy quickly and efficiently, follow the steps below:

A. Puppies have a strong urge to eliminate after sleeping, playing, feeding and drinking. Take your puppy to its selected elimination area within 30 minutes of each of these activities.

“…most puppies need to eliminate every 3 to 4 hours during the daytime.”

In addition, although some puppies can control themselves through the entire night, most puppies need to eliminate every 3 to 4 hours during the daytime. With each passing month, you can expect your puppy to control itself a little longer between elimination times. The puppy should be taken to its elimination area, given a word or two of verbal encouragement (e.g. ‘Hurry up’) and as soon as elimination is completed, lavishly praised and patted. A few tasty food treats can also be given the first few times the puppy eliminates in the right spot, and then intermittently thereafter. This teaches the puppy the proper place to eliminate, and that elimination in that location is associated with rewards. Some puppies may learn to eliminate when they hear the cue words (‘Hurry up’).

B. If you take your puppy to the elimination site and your puppy is only interested in playing and investigating the environment, take the puppy indoors after about 10 minutes and strictly supervise him until you can try again, approximately each half hour. Always accompany your puppy outdoors so that you can be certain that it has eliminated. When you first start house training, be certain to reward elimination immediately upon completion and not when the puppy comes back indoors.

C. When indoors, your puppy must be supervised so that you can see when it needs to eliminate and immediately take it outdoors to its elimination area. One of the best techniques is to leave a remote lead attached. Should pre-elimination signs (circling, squatting, sneaking-off, heading to the door) occur, immediately take the dog to its elimination site, give the cue words, and reward the puppy when it eliminates. If the puppy begins to eliminate indoors you must be supervising so that you can immediately interrupt the behavior, such as with a verbal reprimand or shaker can.

“…the goal is to train the puppy where to eliminate though supervision and rewards.”

Then take the puppy outdoors to complete elimination at the proper site. Rather than use punishment to deter undesirable elimination, the goal is to train the puppy where to eliminate though supervision and rewards. Watch the puppy closely for signs it needs to eliminate and soon the puppy will learn to exhibit these signs to get your attention that it needs to go outdoors.

D. When you are not available to supervise, the puppy should be confined to its confinement area (see our handout on ‘Crate Training in Dogs’). Be certain that your puppy has eliminated, and has had sufficient play and exercise before any lengthy confinement. Establish a daily routine that helps your puppy learn when it is time to play, eat, exercise, sleep, and eliminate (see our handout on ‘Training Dogs – Enrichment, Predictability and Scheduling’). If the confinement area is small enough, such as a pen or crate, many puppies will have sufficient control to keep this area clean. This means that when you come to release the puppy from confinement, it must be taken directly to its elimination area. Puppies will generally avoid soiling their crate if they use their crates as a sleeping or play area. However, puppies that are anxious or distressed about being confined to the crate are likely to soil. In addition, if the area is too large the puppy may soil in a portion of the confinement area. If the puppy needs to be left for longer than it can control itself, it should be confined to a small room or pen where paper is spread over the floor for elimination except for a corner that contains the puppy’s bed and feeding area. Once the puppy starts to limit its elimination to some selected areas of the paper, unused areas can be taken up. For owners that intend to continue to use paper for training, the puppy should be supervised when released from confinement, and returned to the paper (and reinforced) for elimination.

Why does my puppy refuse to eliminate in my presence, even when outdoors?

“Puppies that are disciplined and punished for indoor elimination rather … fear to eliminate whenever you are present.”

Puppies that are disciplined and punished for indoor elimination rather than reinforced for outdoor elimination may soon begin to fear to eliminate whenever you are present, regardless of the location. These puppies do not associate the punishment with indoor elimination; they associate the punishment with the presence of the owners. For some puppies, standing quietly off to the side may allow them time to eliminate. It is best if you can be close by, but each puppy is an individual and some may need more space than others before feeling comfortable enough to eliminate.

What do I do if I find some stool or urine in an inappropriate spot?

There is no point in punishing or even pointing out the problem to the puppy. Only if the puppy is in the act of elimination will it understand the consequences (rewards or punishment). In fact, it is not the puppy that has erred; it is the owner who has erred by not properly supervising. Put the puppy elsewhere, clean up the mess and vow to supervise the puppy more closely in the future.

How can I teach my puppy to signal that it needs to go out to eliminate?

By regularly taking the dog outdoors, through the same door, to the same site, and providing rewards for proper elimination, the puppy should soon learn to head for the door each time it has to eliminate. If you recognize the signs of impending elimination and praise the puppy whenever it heads for the doorway, the behavior can be further encouraged. Puppies that have been interrupted or reprimanded on one or more occasions as they begin to eliminate indoors, may begin to try to sneak away, whine or show some form of anxiety when they feel the urge to eliminate but cannot escape from the owner’s sight. If you can pick up on these cues, and take the puppy directly to the outdoors for elimination and reward, the puppy may consistently begin to show these signals when he or she needs to eliminate, and may even begin to take you to the exit door.

“Some puppies can be taught to ring a bell or bark to let you know it needs to go outside.”

Further into the process, some puppies can be taught to ring a bell or bark to let you know it needs to go outside to eliminate. For either of these to be effective, you first must constantly supervise your puppy so you can see the signs of a full bladder or bowel (restlessness, agitation) and quickly take them to the exit location, ring the bell or get them to bark and go outside. Over time the puppy should learn that the signal would get the door open. However, do not rely on signaling until it reliably happens or the puppy will end up eliminating indoors instead.

When will I be able to trust my puppy to wander loose throughout the home?

Generally you will want your dog to have been error free around the house for about a month before you can begin to decrease your confinement and supervision. The first time you leave the puppy unsupervised should be just after taking the dog outdoors for elimination. Gradually increase the length of time that your dog is allowed to roam through the home without supervision while you are home. If the dog has been able to go unsupervised for a couple of hours without an “accident”, it might then be possible to begin going out for short periods of time. Of course, if the dog still investigates and chews, then confinement and supervision may still be necessary.

Additional Help

There are many options available for more help with your dog. One of the very best in our area is Smart Dog University. Check out their website at SmartDogUniversity.com for helpful newsletters, classes, and other cool dog info.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB

© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Puppy Getting Started off Right

When you bring a new puppy into your home there will inevitably be a period of adjustment. Your goals are to help your puppy to quickly bond to its new family, and to minimize the stress associated with leaving its mother, littermates, and former home. If there are already dogs in the new home the transition may be a little easier, as the puppy is able to identify with its own kind. Another option for easing the transition would be to get two puppies together. However, most puppies, especially those obtained before 12 weeks of age, will form attachments almost immediately to the people and other pets in the new home, provided that there are no unpleasant consequences associated with each new person and experience.

“When a puppy enters our home, the family becomes the new social group.”

Dogs are a highly social “grouping-living” species that in the wild is often referred to as a pack. Packs have a leader that the other members follow and look to for “direction.” In fact, each individual in the pack generally develops a relationship with each other pack member. When a puppy enters our home, the family becomes the new social group. Therefore it is essential for the puppy to learn its limits, including which behaviors earn rewards and which behaviors have undesirable consequences. Allowing behaviors that are pushy, disobedient or inappropriate may lead to problems that will become increasingly difficult to correct. Control must be achieved at the outset by the proper use and timing of rewards and by directing the puppy to display appropriate responses, rather than using punishment or physical techniques that can lead to fear and anxiety.

When is the best time to begin training my puppy?

Formal dog training has traditionally been delayed until 6 months of age. In reality, this is a poor time to begin training. The dog is beginning to solidify adult behavioral patterns, challenge behavior is emerging, and behaviors that they have learned in puppyhood may need to be changed.

“It is best to begin training a puppy as soon as you bring him into your home.”

It is best to begin training a puppy as soon as you bring him into your home. One important task to begin early is to establish your role as the leader. This can be done by rewarding desirable responses, training the dog to obey commands, avoiding the reinforcement of behaviors that are initiated by your dog and training the dog to accept some simple body handling techniques. Puppy training classes that begin as early as 8 to 9 weeks of age will ensure both early socialization and early learning.

Are physical techniques necessary for gaining control?

Although there are many physical techniques that have been advocated for gaining control, not all of them are correct. It is the owners’ attitudes, actions, and responses to the new puppy (along with the puppy’s genetics) that are the most important determinants in the puppy becoming well-mannered and responsive, or becoming assertive, stubborn, disobedient and “domineering”.

“Training should focus on teaching the dog what you want, rather than disciplining what you don’t want.”

Dog training literature has often discussed using scruff shakes and rollover techniques to discipline puppies. However, these physical techniques do not mimic how dogs would communicate with each other and such handling by a human could lead to fear, anxiety and even retaliation. Training should focus on teaching the dog what you want, rather than disciplining what you don’t want. This makes a positive learning environment for the puppy to grow up in. There may be a number of advantages to teaching your puppy to assume subordinate postures (on their side, on their back, hands on neck, hand stroking the top of the head, hand grasping muzzle) but this does not mean that they teach your dog to be subordinate in its relationship to you. Having an obedient, well behaved, dog that enjoys handling and accepts restraint should be a focus of puppy training, but needs to be accomplished through reward based training, avoiding punishment or confrontational based training techniques and gradually accustoming your dog to enjoy handling. (See our handouts on ‘Puppy – Handling and Food Bowl Exercises’).

How can I gain control without physical techniques?

The best way to gain control is to teach your puppy that each reward must be earned. This is also the best way to ensure that undesirable puppy behaviors are not inadvertently reinforced. The puppy should learn to display subordinate, deferential postures through reward training, rather than through any type of force. Begin with some basic obedience training, teaching the puppy to ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘lie down’ for rewards. Practice short sessions, multiple times each day. Whenever the puppy is to receive anything of value (affection, attention, food, play and walks) the puppy should first earn its reward by performing a simple obedience task such as ‘sit’ or ‘stay’.

“Teach the puppy that rewards of any sort will never be given on demand.”

Teach the puppy that rewards of any sort will never be given on demand (see our handout on ‘Training Dogs – Learn to Earn and Predictable Rewards’). Also known as ‘nothing in life is free’, a term coined by veterinary behaviorist, Victoria Voith, or “learn to earn” as described by William Campbell, the puppy must be taught that vocalization, nipping, mouthing, and overly rambunctious or demanding behaviors of any sort will never earn rewards. In fact, these behaviors should be met by inattention, by confining the puppy for a few minutes until it settles down, or with training devices and commands that get the puppy to exhibit the desired response. One such option is to immediately control and calm the puppy with a head collar (See our handout on Puppy play biting and head halter training for details). Rewards should be given as soon as the puppy is performing an appropriate response (See handout on ‘Puppy – Training Sit, Down, Stand and Stay’). Each member of the family must follow the same guidelines.

Set limits on the puppy so that it does not learn that it can control you. Having the puppy sleep in its own bed or own cage rather than on your bed or couch helps to prevent the dog from gaining control or becoming possessive of your resources. When the puppy is taken for walks it should be taught to follow. This should begin at the front door where the puppy should be taught to sit, wait, and follow, and never allowed to lead or pull you through the doorway.

How do I prevent my puppy from doing damage or getting into mischief?

“The first step is to establish a daily routine that answers all your puppy’s needs such as walks and exercise, play and training, feeding, and sleeping. “

The first step is to establish a daily routine that answers all your puppy’s needs such as walks and exercise, play and training, feeding, and sleeping. For more information see our handout on ‘Training Dogs – Enrichment, Predictability and Scheduling’. The rule of thumb for dog training is “set the dog up for success”. Supervise the puppy at all times until it has learned what it is allowed to chew, and where it is supposed to eliminate. Keeping the puppy on a 10-foot remote leash is an excellent way to keep it in sight, and to train it not to wander off. This is particularly helpful with a highly investigative puppy or for a very busy household.

“Housing the puppy in isolated areas where there is minimal human contact, such as in a laundry room or basement, should be avoided.”

At any time that the puppy cannot be supervised, such as during the night or when you need to go out, house it in a secure area. An escape-proof crate, a dog run, or a collapsible pen is simple, highly effective, and, most important, safe. The puppy could also be confined to a room that has been carefully dog-proofed. When selecting your dog’s confinement area it is useful to consider a number of factors. The dog will adapt fastest to the new area if it is associated with rewards. Have the puppy enter the area for all its treats, toys, and perhaps food and water. The area should have some warm, dry, comfortable bedding, and should never be used for punishment (although it can, and should, be used to prevent problems). Housing the puppy in isolated areas where there is minimal human contact, such as in a laundry room or basement, should be avoided. In fact, often the best area is a kitchen (so that this can also be the dog’s feeding area) or a bedroom (so that it becomes the dog’s sleeping area). Each time the puppy needs to be confined, it should first be well exercised and given an opportunity to eliminate. Another consideration in selecting the type of confinement area is how long you may need to leave the dog alone. You must provide an area for elimination anytime the puppy will be left alone for longer than it can control its elimination. A room or collapsible pen with a paper-covered area would be needed if the puppy is being left alone for prolonged periods. A cage or crate could be used for owners that do not have to leave their puppies confined for longer than 2 or 3 hours (See our handout for instructions on ‘Crate Training in Dogs – Tips for Crate Training’).

What is the best way to punish my puppy for misbehavior?

“Avoid punishment for new puppies.”

Every effort should be made to avoid punishment for new puppies as it is generally unnecessary and can lead to avoidance of family members at a time when bonding and attachment is critical. By preventing problems through confinement or supervision, providing for all of the puppy’s needs, and setting up the environment for success, little or no punishment should ever be required. If a reprimand is needed, a verbal “no” or a loud noise is usually sufficient to distract a puppy so that you can then redirect the puppy to the correct behavior. Puppies that are supervised with a remote leash can be immediately interrupted with a pull on the leash. (See our handout on ‘Behavior Modification – Using Punishment Effectively’ for further details).

What should I do if my puppy misbehaves?

Undesirable misbehavior must be prevented, or corrected in the act. Allowing the puppy, even once, to perform an undesirable behavior such as entering a restricted room, jumping up, mounting or jumping onto the couch will serve to reward and encourage the repetition of the behavior.

“We want young puppies to look toward a human hand as something pleasant that brings comfort, food and affection.”

There will be times when your new puppy misbehaves. How you respond to the puppy will often influence later interactions. Young puppies are very impressionable. Harsh physical reprimands are contraindicated. They only serve to frighten the puppy and perhaps make them hand shy. Unfortunately, animals can learn in one trial if something is averse enough. We want young puppies to look toward a human hand as something pleasant that brings comfort, food and affection. Most puppies can be easily interrupted with vocal intonation and loud noises. What is equally important is to redirect the puppy to the correct behavior after you interrupt what you do not like. Remember that punishment must take place while the behavior is occurring, not after.

“Reprimands need to occur while the behavior is happening, preferably just as it begins, and never after.”

If you catch your puppy misbehaving, try a loud noise such as clapping your hands or a loud “uh-uh”. Remember, reprimands need to occur while the behavior is happening, preferably just as it begins, and never after. Often puppies will be startled when they hear these noises and temporarily stop the behavior. At that time you should redirect the puppy to a more appropriate task and reinforce with an immediate and positive ‘good dog’.

Another way to interrupt your puppy is with various types of noise devices. One such device is a “shake can”. You can make an inexpensive shake can by putting a few pennies into an empty soda can and taping it shut. When given a vigorous shake it makes a loud noise, which will interrupt the puppy’s behavior. Ultrasonic and sonic dog-training devices are also available (See our handout on ‘Behavior Management Products’).

The most important thing that you can do to avoid undesirable behavior is to supervise your puppy. Unsupervised puppies will chew and destroy objects as part of their natural curiosity and play. Rather than finding yourself with the need to reprimand your puppy, keep your puppy on a leash to avoid bad behaviors. Always provide suitable play objects designed to entertain your puppy so that it will not want to destroy your possessions (See our handout on ‘Destructive Behavior in Dogs – Chewing’ for ideas).

“If you find something that your puppy has destroyed but you did not catch him in the act, just clean it up and vow to supervise your puppy better in the future.”

Most importantly, if you find something that your puppy has destroyed but you did not catch him in the act, just clean it up and vow to supervise your puppy better in the future. Do not go get your puppy and bring him over to the mess and yell and physically discipline him. Remember that you need to punish the behavior you wish to change at the time it occurs. If you did not see your puppy chew up the object, all you are doing is disciplining your puppy for being present when there is a mess on the floor. Since that makes no sense to your puppy, your reprimands could create fear and anxiety, which could lead to aggression and owner avoidance.

How can I prevent problems?

Supervise the puppy at all times that it is not confined to ensure that the puppy does not get itself into mischief, or cause damage to itself or the home. Leaving a remote leash attached is all that is usually needed to prevent or interrupt inappropriate behavior such as garbage raiding, chewing on household items, house-soiling, or wandering off into rooms or areas that are out of bounds. If the leash is attached to a head halter you can quickly correct other problems that might arise, such as nipping, play biting, and jumping up. When the puppy cannot be supervised, confinement (discussed above) will be necessary. See our handout on ‘Puppy – House Training’ for guidance in training your puppy to eliminate in the proper location.

What can be done for the particularly stubborn, disobedient, or headstrong puppy?

“Puppies that are particularly headstrong and stubborn might need some fairly stringent rules. “

Puppies that are particularly headstrong and stubborn might need some fairly stringent rules. Tug-of-war games should only be allowed if the owner initiates the game, and can successfully call an end to the game, with an ‘out’, or ‘give’ command when it is time to call it quits (See our handout on ‘Training Dogs – Teaching Give and Drop’). Rough play must not escalate to uncontrollable play biting that cannot be controlled by the owner.

One of the best management tools for gaining safe and effective control at all times is a head collar. The puppy can be supervised and controlled from a distance by leaving a long line or leash attached to the head halter. The principle of halter training is to gain control over the dog with as much natural communication as possible and without the use of punishment. Positive reinforcement is used to encourage proper behavior. A pull on the leash is used to disrupt misbehavior. Since the halter is attached to the dog’s muzzle, common behavior problems (nipping, barking, jumping up, pulling, stealing food, etc.) can immediately be interrupted without fear or pain by pulling on the leash. The halter places pressure around the muzzle and behind the neck. This simulates the muzzle and neck restraint that a leader or mother dog might apply to a subordinate, and therefore is a highly effective and natural form of control (See our handout on ‘Behavior Management Products’)

What must I do to provide for my puppy’s needs?

“Chewing, play, exercise, exploration, feeding, social contact and elimination are basic requirements for all puppies… New tasks, new routines, new people and new forms of handling can be associated with rewards to ensure success.”

Chewing, play, exercise, exploration, feeding, social contact and elimination are basic requirements for all puppies. By providing appropriate outlets for each of these needs, few problems are likely to emerge. Puppies should be given chew toys that interest them and occupy their time. When supervised, the owner can allow the puppy to investigate and explore its new environment and can direct the puppy to the appropriate chew toys (and away from inappropriate areas). Play, exercise, affection, training, and handling must all be part of the daily routine. New tasks, new routines, new people and new forms of handling can be associated with rewards to ensure success. And, of course, the puppy will need to be provided with an acceptable area for elimination, and will need guidance until it learns to use this area. (Also see our handouts on ‘Training Dogs – Enrichment, Predictability and Scheduling’, ‘Behavior Resources’ and ‘Behavior Modification – Working for Food – Dogs and Cats’).

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB © Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.