A Dog’s Eye View: Puppy Diaries: Puppy training 101
September 20, 2012
While managing and guiding Willa through the maze of household rules is tops on my priority list, some basic obedience training also is important and easily can be assimilated into Willa's daily routines. "Sit" is a powerful yet simple behavior that's relatively easy to teach and make your puppy's default behavior — one she offers when all else fails. For instance, at meal times, you can teach your puppy that in order to get her food, she needs to "sit" first. This may require a bit of waiting and patience on your part, but the payoff is well worth it.
Jumping up, mouthing and chewing all are typical functions for a new puppy, and they have no idea that these normal puppy behaviors are not smiled upon in the human world. They jump up, primarily to get closer to us, while mouthing and chewing are methods to explore and learn about their world. We, as their teachers and guardians, must take time to instruct and educate. As previously has been written, bringing that new puppy or dog into your home is like bringing a foreign exchange student into your world: There is a language barrier that must be breached. While your new puppy or dog needs to learn our language, we also should strive to learn theirs so that the lines of communication remain fluid and open. We need to learn to speak dog as much as they need to learn to speak human.
Fundamental to Willa's education is learning what is and what isn't appropriate — such as what is OK to chew and what isn't, etc. How I manage this aspect of her training is important in Willa's overall development as a healthy, confident, happy puppy. Instead of constantly correcting and telling her what she shouldn't do, which can be frustrating and draining for both puppy and owner, I seek to teach her what she can do and what is acceptable.
"Chew this toy rather than that sweater I carelessly dropped over there."
"When you run to greet me, if you 'sit' instead of jump up, I'll happily give you my attention and affection."
Imagine constantly being reprimanded for doing something and yet not being told what to do instead.
After her first veterinary wellness visit, I enrolled Willa in a Head Start Puppy class where, while expanding our obedience techniques, we'd also hear about dog behavior and training philosophies. I love the class atmosphere because while you're learning to communicate with your own dog, you also have the opportunity to observe and learn from other dog owners in a safe, structured environment, practicing in front of teachers who are there to guide and answer questions about anything that might confuse or stump you. Believe me, I had a lot of "stumps" to be tackled. Going to school with others is a blast. You're learning while making new friends. Many a puppy play date has come from attending puppy classes.
Learning for Willa and me will be a lovely, continuing endeavor that began the day she came into our home and will continue for our lifetime together, with each day bringing new adventures and the opportunity to learn about and from one another.
Next up: Puppy kindergarten!
Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.