1) Toilet training.
In the early days puppies need to relieve themselves approximately every hour. Practicing the following procedure in a calm, structured manner is an excellent way to create a sound habit for the future.
Take your puppy on a lead to the door. Keep a treat in your back pocket, place your puppy into the sit position and give the ‘Wait’ command using a flat hand signal. Slowly open the door resetting your pup should he jump outside before being asked. Once the door is open, step outside turning to face your dog and then invite him to follow you after a brief pause.
Walk him to a designated place and then use your key phrase to encourage him to do his business. I like the term ‘Hurry up’ for example. Praise your dog in a calm way as he relieves himself and once he takes a pace away from that spot, lean in to give the treat and offer pleasant physical and verbal praise.
When re entering the home, again ask for a brief sit and wait before opening the door. Insert a brief pause before inviting the dog to return back inside with you. To complete this routine ask for the ‘Sit’ and then release him from the lead using a cheerful ‘Okay’ command.
2) Introducing the recall.
The most important aspect of any dog’s behaviour in a public space when off the lead is his readiness to return promptly when called. This means we have a dog that is safe and can enjoy his walks to the fullest. Starting recall training in the home is an excellent way to create the first steps to a reliable puppy, enabling the owner to develop the method as the dog matures.
A method I favour and use frequently is to set aside about half of the pup’s daily food intake and place this into a jar or two to be used for short training sessions each day. This way the dog is working for his food creating a greater motivation in the process.
Working with a partner, take a small handful of food each and go to opposite ends of the room. One person, the holder, leads the puppy to their end of the room using the collar or lead. Both people sit on the floor facing each other. Then, the person not holding the dog, the caller, will need to give a bright recall command. The caller should open their arms and with a bright voice and lots of encouragement, call the dog using a simple phrase such as ‘Charlie come!’ Once the dog is wriggling to be released, the holder can let him go to run into the open arms of the caller. As he enters the space of the caller, they should ask for a sit holding a treat above the dog’s head to encourage that position and then feed him immediately, giving warm verbal and physical praise.
Turn the puppy to face the other person ready to repeat the process. The holder should remain quiet so as not to confuse or distract the dog, allowing the caller to be the encouragement and exciting place to run to.
Once your puppy is reliably running between two people when called, sitting on arrival and understands the rules to this fun game, you can begin to extend the distances by using a long hallway for example. As your pup improves, make each stage more challenging by continuing to extend these distances. Placing the caller out of sight just behind a door for example is a great way to introduce a more challenging recall. Start by using adjacent rooms and in the end this could be from in the garden back into the home. The variety is really down to your imagination!
1) No jumping up.
Having confidence that your dog will sit politely when being greeted and made a fuss of is more enjoyable than owning a dog that leaps all over people in or out of the home. All family members should practice this simple technique in your own home each time you greet the dog to prevent the unwanted action of jumping up. Naturally, the bigger the dog the more serious this issue can be!
When any family member returns home or comes back into the room after a period that creates enthusiasm in your dog, it’s advisable to keep these returns calm and non-excitable. Dropping to your knees and making a huge fuss will only serve to reinforce over excitement and this will often lead to your dog jumping up on you. The behaviour we practice in the home will invariably become behaviour shown outside of the home. Prevention is much easier than a cure; so do keep the returns to your dog low key.
When returning to your dog after a short time apart ask him to sit whilst holding the treat back over the dog’s head to encourage the desired position. As soon as your dog sits lean in and offer the treat without delay. Then, with one hand place a thumb under the collar to gently hold the dog in that position, whilst your other hand gives calm affection to your dog. Depending on the size of the dog you may like to go into the kneeling position.
Should your dog attempt to jump up into your face whilst you are giving affection, use the collar holding hand to stop this upward action whilst issuing a brief ‘Ah-Ah!’ type sound to let him know this is unwanted behaviour. Once he is in a settled position you can finish your mini greeting session with a release word such as ‘Okay…’ as you then stand up and walk away.
If when returning to your dog he is showing excessive excitement, you should walk away and ignore him until he is calm enough to carry out the method as described above.
Setting these foundations in place will enable you to cope with visitors to the home much more easily and combining the above method with placing your dog on a lead before people enter the home is an ideal way to retain calm, controlled behaviour. In summary, the consistent rule for your dog is that calm behaviour whilst sitting equals the desired greeting.
2) Go to bed.
Teaching a young dog to go to his bed and stay there for a determined period of time can make life a great deal more relaxed when for example you eat your own meal or to place your dog out of your way when you have a guest in your home who may not love dogs as much as you do.
With your dog next to you and a few feet away from his bed, throw a treat into the bed and encourage him to go there and eat it. Once in his bed give verbal praise and reward him there with another treat.
Call him to you to bring him out of the bed and repeat this routine a few times so that he associates his bed as being a great place to be where he is treated with food. Once you are happy that he is willingly going into his bed for the food, you can then introduce the verbal command ‘On your bed’ whilst he is doing so. This way you place a label on his actions ready for future use.
The next stage will be to point to his bed without throwing the treat whilst issuing the ‘On your bed’ command at the same time. Once he is sitting or standing in the bed you can reward him with the treat immediately.
Once this is consistent, you can begin to insert short ‘Stay’ commands by using stuffed food toys to encourage a longer stay in the bed. Use the ‘Okay’ release word to let him know he can move out of the bed. As always, build up the duration of the ‘Stay’ command in keeping with his progress.
1) The ‘Find it’ game.
The ultimate simple game that can be adapted for dogs of virtually all ages and breeds in virtually any location. Watching your dog furiously beat his tail with excitement whilst searching out an item you have hidden from him is a real thrill.
As with all new training methods or games, start off with small and easy steps making it harder in keeping with your dog’s sense of increased skill and enthusiasm as you progress together.
With the help of a partner (or use the ‘Sit and Stay’ command if your dog knows it) they should hold the dog by the collar as you place a favourite treat or toy under an item such as a light flower pot on the floor or a cushion on the sofa. Allow the dog to see you placing the item there from a few feet away. When you’re ready release him and use the ‘Find it!’ command in an encouraging tone and allow him to move to the hidden item. Praise him warmly once he has found it and if it’s a toy use the ‘Give’ command after a brief play with that item.
To develop this game you can begin to carry out the same method above but from greater distances whereby in the end you could place the item in a room upstairs and you release him from a downstairs starting position. Hearing your dog thunder up the stairs and along the landing is a really fun way to keep any dog busy and to hone his senses at the same time!
Nick Jones MA. MCFBA
0775 909 3394