Puppy Training

Get the whole family involved in puppy training.


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Puppy Rules
Another topic to bring up at the family puppy meeting is the subject of rules. Just like small children, puppies need rules to help them be safe and teach them how to behave. All family members must understand the puppy's rules and make a commitment to enforce them. If one family member is not enforcing the rules, the puppy will end up confused and its behavior will not be reliable, says Palika.

If you want your puppy to grow up to be a pleasant and safe companion, a number of rules should be strictly enforced by all family members. "Specific rules may vary by household," says Lisa Miller, a dog trainer in Los Alamitos, California. Some people may not want their pup on the furniture, while others have no problem with that. Some behaviors, however, are absolutely unacceptable: aggression, nipping and jumping up on people, for example. These are the kind of behaviors that put a wedge in your relationship with your dog, making it difficult for you and others to be around it.

Here are the basic rules that you and everyone in your family must enforce with your puppy:

No biting: "No mouthing and biting is the most important lesson for a puppy," says Palika. A dog that bites todayeven in playis developing a habit that could end up getting it in big trouble later on.

It's natural for a puppy to play-bite, and no doubt your puppy will do it to you, especially when it's excited. But, no matter how cute it is and how harmless it seems, you must put a stop to biting the moment it begins. Even puppies as young as 8 weeks of age are capable of learning that biting is not acceptable. A simple "No bite!" while you take hold of the puppy's muzzle will get the point across. Consistency is key when teaching a puppy not to bite, so it's vital that everyone in the family enforce this rule, as well as any guests who come to visit.

No jumping up: Teaching your puppy not to jump on people is especially important if you have a larger breed of dog. Nothing is more disconcerting than having a big dog jump up on you, practically knocking you over. This habit can be dangerous when children or elderly people are concerned.

Teach your puppy to sit before it is petted, and correct it swiftly if it jumps up on you by saying "Off!" and pushing it back into a sitting position before it receives attention. Everyone in the family must enforce this rule consistently to ensure your puppy gets the message.

No aggression: When they are very young, puppies learn to get their way with their littermates by growling and being bossy. This kind of behavior has no place in the human family, however, and should not be tolerated. Teach your puppy to readily give up food, toys or any other object without growling or acting menacing toward you. Likewise, you should be able to handle your puppy's feet, ears or any other part of its body without it objecting. If your puppy growls or snaps at you in protest, correct it by taking it firmly, but not roughly, by the scruff and saying "No!" in a low, angry voice. It should get the point quickly. If not, get help from a professional trainer. 

No chewing except on toys: Puppies are notorious chewers and are always looking for objects to gnaw on. Teach your puppy that it's okay to chew on dog toys, but not okay to chew on clothing, shoes, furniture, plants or other people things. If you catch it chewing on something it shouldn't, tell it "No chew!" and quickly replace the object with a chew toy. Praise your pup when it begins to chew on the toy. Meanwhile, eliminate temptation by puppyproofing your house and keeping forbidden objects tucked away. There's no one to blame but yourself when an untrained, unsupervised pup destroys those favorite shoes.

No soiling in the house: One of the most important things you will teach your puppy is to go to the bathroom outside. Housetraining a puppy is hard work and calls for consistency, vigilance and cooperation from everyone in the family. Make sure that your puppy is taken outside to do its business on a frequent basis (at least every hour, and more if needed), and is never allowed to roam in the house unsupervised. Confining it to a crate or section of the house will enable to you to housebreak it more quickly.

Next Step: Rules for People

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