If you’re adopting a puppy from your local shelter, one of the first things you need to do is start training him so he’ll grow into a well-behaved dog. Follow these tips to minimize biting, begging and jumping.
Adopting a puppy from a shelter or rescue is exciting. A time full of laughter and fun, expectations and plans. And those plans need to include some proper and consistent training. As with all plans, it’s important to lay them out in steps and systematically progress through each step towards your goal. Learning to enjoy and celebrate each step is important. You will soon see that the best laid plans really are the best!
Step by step – stop biting
It’s no fun when your puppy starts to bite you, and bite hard. His teeth can be razor sharp. In fact, some won’t even let you get close before they lunge out. But the fact is, puppies bite. For the sake of teething or to get your attention, they all do it. The main area of concern is what to do about it so that he grows up to be a nice adult dog with bite inhibition.
There will most likely be times in a dog’s adult life when he may bite. It might be from fear, or because his tail gets stepped on by accident. Knowing this, you need to teach your youngster that if he does happen to bite by mistake later on, he should never bite down hard. This is something all pups and young dogs need to know. By teaching him to never bite at all, he will never learn the difference between a hard and soft bite.
Your pup is biting on your hand but it doesn’t hurt. This is fine. He is learning how to have a soft mouth. However, the second that bite turns hard, you are called to action.
1. Loudly say the word “yikes” and remove your hand. I find that word is great as it is easy to remember, easy to say, and usually stops the puppy quickly.
2. Immediately put the flat of your palm directly in front of his muzzle; you should find that he’ll lick it. At that time, you can use the word “gentle”. I find that 99% of the time, the pup will lick your palm as soon as it is presented to him, after the “yikes”.
3. If he continues to bit at your hands after you have tried this, tether him on a small house leash away from you, for a timeout. This gives him, and you, a moment apart to cool down.
Helpful hint: It is very important that your youngster gets enough sleep. Most pups that are getting rile up and nipping a lot do better after a nap. Remember, he will not put himself down for a nap, so it is up to you. Young pups need a good three- to four-hour sleep midday.
Step by step – feed me now!
You know the saying, “old habits die hard”. There is no better reason to set your puppy up to learn the house rules while he is young. One of the biggest complaints I hear is about dogs that continue to beg for food. This can be at the table, from guests that are visiting, and even from other dog parents in the park. This is not only annoying, it can become embarrassing. After all, we all want our fur kids to behave properly.
The begging habit normally starts as soon as you bring your dog home. Any dog. Any age. The reason? Those big brown eyes! They’ll get you every time. The other reason is that people love to feed animals; in many cases, it is a way of showing love.
The problem is that it promotes dogs that pester people for food, and it can become unhealthy if they are fed too much of the wrong sorts of food. If they are given things full of additives, sugar and fat, they can experience multiple health issues later in their lives. People are the same way, but the difference is that we know where are food choices may lead us. Our dogs are not privy to that information, so can’t make a wise choice before they eat that piece of toast with jam.
1. Teach your puppy to lie down and stay on a special mat that is just for him. If you are unclear, ask your trainer to show you the steps. This is a down/stay, so it’s fairly basic, but it will require practice. Reward the pup frequently for being on the mat.
2. Once he learns to stay on his mat, you can reduce the frequency of the rewards. You can allow him a toy stuffed with healthy treats if he stays on the mat.
3. Move the mat from room to room, so he learns to lie down on it and stay there, no matter where it is. Put the mat in the dining room when you have guests or when you are eating. Occasionally, do go to the puppy and give him a treat reward. This will encourage him to stay there, and it will also show him that the treats come when he is on the mat. Plus, if you have to get up off your chair and give a snack to the dog, rather than have the dog come to you, it will reduce the frequency of the snacks, guaranteed.
Helpful hint: As your puppy gets more proficient at this exercise, start to reward him only if he doesn’t jump first.
Step by step – to jump or not to jump
Teaching an alternate behavior is the best way to go when training a puppy not to jump. Instead of telling him what not to do, you’ll be far more successful if you teach him what you would prefer, and reward him for it. By rewarding the behavior you want, with a favorite toy or treat, you dog is far more likely to do what is asked in the future.
1. When your pup jumps up, take a step back from him. You will see he now has four feet on the ground.
2. Ask him to sit. Hopefully, he has already learned the word “sit”; otherwise, teach it separately.
As you can see, training your puppy doesn’t have to be difficult. A positive approach that includes patience and consistency are the keys to success.
Gillian Ridgeway is the Director of Who’s Walking Who Training Centres in Toronto and Ajax, Ontario. She has been featured on many television and radio programs and appeared regularly as the canine expert on Canoe Live. Gillian was recently added to the curriculum of the Psychology Department of The University of Toronto, addressing students on the topic of learning theory, using her own dogs to demonstrate practical application.