Is there anything sweeter than puppy breath? Or those roly-poly bellies and soft, fuzzy fur and all those silly antics!
Puppies are the best.
And, as anyone who’s ever raised a puppy can attest, they are also the worst. The very, very worst.
In an instant, they chew up your shoes or have an accident. They knock over the garbage can and tug on their leash.
Puppies don’t come pre-programmed! It’s up to us to teach them what’s appropriate and what isn’t, and it’s actually one of the most fun parts of being a puppy parent. Puppy training takes time, but breaking it into tiny, puppy-approved-sized pieces makes it fun and easy for both of you. Let’s dive into five ways to train your puppy:
Make training fun. This is the time to bond with your new puppy, and simple games make that happen. Plan on spending no more than five minutes at a time playing a game for two reasons: First, a puppy can only focus for so long. Second, five minutes of excitement and treats warrant a bathroom break!
Games can be as simple as tossing a ball (just don’t expect your pup to bring it back right away) or tossing treats for your dog to chase down. Play tug with a rope or burn off a ton of steam with a flirt pole. Whatever game you choose, focus on praising your pup for positive play behavior.
Puppy energy fluctuates. After a walk or play session, your pup likely takes a solid snooze. As soon as he wakes up and takes a bathroom break, it’s time to play again! While a full-fledged play session isn’t practical throughout the day, there are alternatives: Puzzles provide an awesome way to keep your pup enriched and prevent him from getting up to no good.
Consider feeding your new pup in food puzzles to give his brain a workout and to keep him from eating too quickly. Stuff the puzzle, then wait for your puppy to sit--even if he pops right back up in the early days--before delivering the goods. Work in a puzzle a day for a short-but-valuable session on patience that also helps him use his brain!
Train the Basics in Bursts
Build a solid foundation of good behavior in five minutes a day. Puppies’ attention spans are squirrel! Aim for a quick session--like, two or three minutes--a couple times a day. Work on the basics: sit or down, come, and stay. Use lots of yummy treats and lots of praise. Start after your pup has gone to the bathroom but before she’s had a meal. That way, she’s empty and motivated to earn those treats. Keep the sessions short-and-sweet, and hold them in a distraction-free zone, i.e. your living room with the toys put away. She should “win” every time. For sit, for instance, hold the treat in front of her nose and slowly lure her into the sit by slightly raising the treat above and behind her nose. As soon as her bottom drops, give the treat. Do it a couple times, then move on.
Remember: Your puppy is also housetraining and you’re working in a game and puzzle feeders… any more training than a couple short sessions will poop. her. out. Slow progress is still progress, so pick one behavior to work on at a time then add the next once she’s mastered the first.
And patient! No, chewed-up shoes aren’t awesome, but remember that your puppy hasn’t yet learned what is and isn’t OK to chew. Same goes for accidents. She’s probably trying her best. Yelling, scolding, or punishing in any way only serves to break the bond you’re working so hard to build.
Instead, in those cases when your pup doesn’t do what you wanted her to, think about what you can do differently: Keep a level head and put your shoes in the closet next time. Add in another bathroom break or go back a couple steps in training the behavior she’s just not getting. Stay calm, be patient, and know she’ll eventually get it!
Ideally with a laugh… She’ll mess up. You’ll mess up. The important thing is to tackle those mistakes together. Focus on the joy that comes with a puppy. She’ll be behaving like an angel in no time.
Puppyhood goes fast, so take it one day, one bite-sized chunk at a time to make the most of this brief time!