Training is an important part of your puppy’s development. This takes place at home with you and at puppy school.
Puppy training at home
You can start puppy training from the first day you come home. This includes house training your puppy, and maybe crate training them to sleep at night. Start to introduce some basic dog training techniques – such as teaching a puppy to sit from when they are about 8 weeks old. The key is lots of praise and reward, and never punishment. Watch this short video from Dogs Trust Dog School about how to teach your dog to sit and lie down.
Start teaching your puppy to walk on a lead in the house and the garden. This will help them to get used to the lead before you venture out into the big wide world with lots of distracting sounds, smells and sights.
Read this story: Training my dog the positive way
Clicker training your dog
Clicker training is a type of reward-based training that helps dogs to learn positive behaviours. Dogs learn to associate a positive behaviour with getting a treat. The clicker is used to create the association.
You don’t need to be a dog trainer to clicker train your puppy. There are many resources available online to help you learn about clicker training. It’s also a great way to bond with your puppy. We recommend the book, Clicker Training for Dogs* by clicker training expert, Karen Pryor.
Here’s a few tips to get you started with clicker training:
- Buy a dog clicker*, and either make or buy your puppy some of their favourite treats.
- Before you start training, you will first need to teach your puppy to associate the sound of the click with getting a reward. Start by spending short amounts of time every day for a few days with your puppy, clicking the clicker and then giving them a reward. It’s really important that your puppy gets a treat every time you click, even if you – or another family member – use the clicker by accident.
- Once the association between the click and reward has been made, you can start to use it for basic dog training, such as teaching your puppy to sit.
- First, you will need to use the clicker to shape the desired behaviour. If you want to teach your puppy to sit, you can use the lure technique. This involves using a treat to guide your dog to perform the desired behaviour. Begin by holding a treat in front of your puppy’s nose and letting them sniff it. Then move your hand from their nose, over your puppy’s head and towards their tail. As your puppy lifts their head to follow the treat with their nose this action should lead to them putting their bottom on the ground. As soon as they do, click and reward. Repeat this a few times so that your puppy learns the association between sitting, hearing a click and getting a reward.
- The next stage is to introduce a cue word, e.g. ‘sit’. Continue to use the lure technique with the command word. Follow up straight away with a click and reward when your puppy sits down.
- After a few successful attempts, try using the command word without the lure technique. Click and reward as soon as your puppy sits down.
- Eventually, once your puppy has successfully learned the behaviour you can start to reduce the use of the clicker – and the treats – and just use your cue word. You should continue to praise your puppy with your voice and and give them a treat occasionally when they perform the desired behaviour.
Between the ages of 4-16 weeks, puppies are at their most inquisitive and receptive to new experiences. At this age you need to expose them to lots of different things that they may be scared of if they only encounter them for the first time in adult life. This includes people, sounds and objects. Loud noises such as fireworks are one of the most common fears experienced by dogs. Get your puppy used to different sounds and help them to not be scared of loud noises.
Puppy socialisation list
Your dog’s breeder should have started puppy socialisation training with your puppy. If you used the Puppy Contract when you got your puppy, it should contain information about the sounds and experiences to which they have already been exposed. Now it’s over to you to continue with the puppy socialisation plan. This includes:
Every day, spend time getting your puppy used to being handled, brushed, having their paws touched and teeth checked
Introducing puppies to new people
Introduce your puppy to people of different ages, gender and ethnicity. They should also be exposed to people wearing hats, glasses and using walking sticks. These are the sorts of things your puppy might encounter when out walking.
Getting puppies used to household noises
Introduce your puppy to household sounds. This includes the washing machine, dishwasher, tv, doorbell and doors opening and closing. Introduce very loud household sounds, such as the hoover gradually. Let them see and sniff a hoover first, then move it around without switching it on a few times before you fully introduce your puppy to a hoover in action. Imagine how terrifying it must be as a small puppy the first time they see a hoover coming towards them!
Getting puppies used to outdoor noises and experiences
It’s good to expose your puppy to outside noises such as traffic, planes, cyclists, runners. This isn’t that easy as puppies must also be protected from disease until after they have had their second vaccinations. To overcome this, the Dogs Trust has produced a helpful sound therapy programme for dogs. This includes household sounds and outdoor noises, including fireworks, as well as the other sounds, such as a baby crying to help prepare dogs for the arrival of a new baby.
Introducing puppies to other dogs
Puppies need to learn how to behave and be confident around other dogs. Many vets run puppy parties for 8 to 12 week old puppies. These can be a great way for puppies to meet other dogs, as long as there are just a small number of puppies and the environment is kept calm, quiet and clean.
Life Skills for Puppies*,
written by Helen Zulch and Daniel Mills,
is must-read book for new puppy owners.
It will help you to incorporate
teaching into the every day interactions
you enjoy with your puppy.
Puppy training classes
It’s a good idea for you and your puppy to attend puppy training classes. It’s much easier to train puppies and establish positive behaviours when they are little, than undo negative behaviours. This includes pulling on the lead when out walking and not coming back when called.
Read this story: My dog eats everything, literally!
A quick search on Google will return plenty of options for local puppy training classes. But when is the right time the start puppy training classes and how do you do you choose the best puppy trainer? Here’s what you need to know about puppy school:
What age can puppies go to training classes?
After your puppy has had their second vaccinations, they will be ready to go to puppy classes. These are run by dog trainers or behaviourists as a short course. They cover basic dog training such as sit and stay, come when called and walking on a lead.
Choosing a good puppy training class
You’ll want your puppy to be in the best hands when it comes to training. Finding an Animal Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC) accredited dog trainer is key. Many ABTC accredited dog training networks run local puppy training classes. These include:
How much do puppy training classes cost?
Puppy training prices tend to be in the range of £50 – £100 for a 5 – 10 week course.