How To Train A Puppy
Welcome to Puppy Training 101 🎓
Puppies are so freaking cute — everyone knows that.
What might not be so cute, however, is the somewhat daunting idea of training a puppy (especially if you’ve never done it before).
Luckily, puppy training doesn’t have to be such an intimidating thing.
The Dodo spoke with Iris Ulbrich, a behavior consultant and trainer with Tully’s Training in Los Angeles, to give you a crash course in Puppy Training 101.
Why you should train your puppy
“Training a dog while he is young will give you the best chance of owning a well-behaved dog once he is fully grown,” Ulbrich told The Dodo.
It’s not impossible to train your puppy when he’s older, but it’s definitely a more challenging process.
“If you start training too late, after the cute puppy phase has worn off, you run the risk of the dog having learned a lot of bad behaviors, such as barking, jumping or chewing,” Ulbrich said.
The obvious reason to train a puppy is to make sure he’s always on his best behavior, but it turns out you aren’t the only one benefiting from puppy training.
“Training is also considered mental enrichment, [and] the more mental enrichment a dog gets, the happier they usually are,” Ulbrich explained.
What you should train your puppy
When it comes to puppy training, you might be wondering where to start.
According to Ulbrich, you should train your puppy in these areas in his first six months:
How to train your puppy
The best — and kindest — way to train your puppy is through positive reinforcement.
“Positive reinforcement training focuses on utilizing tools such as verbal affirmation, eye contact, touch, a treat, a clicker, a toy or outside time in order to reinforce a dog’s desire to repeat a behavior we want to see more of,” Ulbrich explained.
Basically, this means you make sure you’re rewarding your puppy every time he follows a command, or even does something you want entirely on his own.
“It is possible to capture a dog’s behavior when it naturally occurs and then reinforce it, or to teach individual behaviors through operant commands,” Ulbrich said.
Positive reinforcement is effective because it allows your puppy to associate good things with good behaviors, which means he’s more likely to get in that habit of exhibiting those behaviors.
“During training and throughout our dog’s lives, we want to be rewarding the behaviors we like, increasing the frequency in which they happen,” Ulbrich said.
However, you do NOT want to use negative reinforcement training, which is punishing your puppy when he does something you don’t like, because that could be harmful or even inhumane.
“For the behaviors we do not like, we will ignore or redirect into something positive that we can reward,” Ulbrich said.
What you need to train your puppy
In order to effectively train your puppy, you’re going to need a few things.
Ulbrich recommends either a flat collar or a harness, as well as a nonretractable leash for walks and leash training.
She also advises puppy parents to snag a treat pouch you can carry with you for easy access to low-, medium- and high-value treats.
You can even use your puppy’s food as a part of positive reinforcement training.
“During training you need a hungry puppy,” Ulbrich said. “Make them work for their breakfast.”
And you can even try your hand at clicker training, too.
Check out this clicker from Amazon for $4.39
Challenges of training a puppy
“New puppy owners need to realize that puppies go through a lot of developmental phases in the first months of their lives,” Ulbrich said. “Most of them are normal, but need consistent addressing in order to enable a dog to become the best version of themselves.”
“Even if a puppy owner has great intentions, it is difficult to stay consistent on a scientific training approach course with the amount of information people can find online,” Ulbrich explained. (In other words, don’t trust everything you read because there are a lot of ineffective or even harmful training methods out there!)
As easy as it is to spoil your puppy — because come on, he’s SO cute — it can actually make the training process harder for you and your pup.
“Oftentimes all the dog wants is a job, their job being challenged to be obedient,” Ulbrich said.
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