Basic puppy training is where it all begins. On this page, we describe two important items concerning basic puppy training, i.e. the ‘socializing period’ and ‘rules and boundaries’.
1. SOCIALIZING YOUR PUPPY
From the third until the twelfth week, your puppy goes through a socializing period. During this period, anything or anybody your puppy comes in contact with will be stored on his hard disk for the rest of his life. After this period, you still can learn your puppy to get used to certain situations, but this can be a long learning process.
If you selected a good breeder, he should have already started this basic puppy training. This means that he already got the puppies used to for example a vacuum cleaner, a ride in the car, little children, other animals, and so on.
Once you take your puppy home, it is up to you to go on with this basic puppy training and get your puppy in contact with as many things and situations as possible during these first weeks. From the moment your puppy has settled down in his new home, you can take him out on his daily walks and for example include a visit to the train station or a drive on the bus or boat. You can take him to places where there are lots of people and noises and maybe even cars.
If you and your dog, for example, want to go bike riding once your dog is full-grown, the best time to introduce him with a bike is during these first weeks. You can go by foot with your bike on one hand and your dog on the other hand. This way, your puppy gets used to the bike and to the turning of the wheels, so this won’t be a problem anymore once you decide to go bike riding with your dog.
Basic puppy training during the socializing period also means getting your puppy used to be handled by different people, like for instance the vet, which can come in handy for any medical checkup in the future. Imagine you’re planning to enter dog shows, your puppy must allow strange people to touch him and even let them look at his teeth without a fuss.
Although it may not be necessary, these first weeks are also the perfect period to get your puppy used to groom. If you gently introduce him from an early age to the brush or even to the sound of the trimming clipper, grooming your puppy won’t create stressful situations later on in life.
Most important in basic puppy training, is to always stay calm and alert. If your puppy gets scared when confronted with a certain situation, don’t go all weak and start off pampering your puppy. This will only encourage his fear and by doing so, you will get the opposite result. Don’t act overexcited either, but stay calm and relaxed and act as if everything that is going on at that moment is the normal business. Your body language and attitude will tell your puppy that everything is OK and eventually he will carry on with his actions and shake of his fear.
Situations for socializing
- Taking your puppy in a car, on a bus, boat or train trip
- Introducing him to other animals, like cats, horses, cows, sheep, and so on.
- Getting him used to being handled by strange people.
- Getting him used to noisy machines, like for instance a vacuum cleaner, the lawnmower, and so on.
- Taking him to a restaurant where dogs are allowed and where he has to be quiet while you are eating.
- Getting him used to roller blades, a bike, ….
- Getting him used to be groomed.
2. RULES AND BOUNDARIES
Basic puppy training is also learning your puppy rules and boundaries, like for instance not to pull on the leash or staying off the couch. Under the topic ‘choosing a family dog’, we described dogs as being pack animals, which follow a pack leader. When you bring home your puppy, you take over the role of the mother, who was the pack leader in the puppy’s first weeks. It is now up to you, to convince your puppy that you are a good leader. You have to act like the best hunter, the best playmate, the best protector, in fact, be the best pack leader, to gain your puppy’s respect.
As said above, it is very important in basic puppy training that you are at all times calm, relaxed, but alert so you can anticipate your puppy’s behavior. It is of no use to yell or shout at your puppy, as this is a sign of weakness. Pack leaders never show weakness, so it is only natural for your puppy not to follow these signs. By using your own body language, your attitude and your energy, it is perfectly possible to get the wanted behavior from your puppy, even without making a sound.
You are now promoted to pack leader, so now you yourself have to obey the rules of the pack. A pack leader never follows the other dogs, in fact, it is the other way around. Your puppy has to follow you. A pack leader never discusses or admits bad behavior, he or she ignores it or corrects it. You and the other family members have to get on the same line about what the puppy is allowed to do, and whatnot. The key to basic puppy training is not to confuse your puppy, you have to be consistent on these rules, yes is yes, no is no.
Short tips on rules and boundaries:
Always leave and enter your house first, then let your puppy follow you. You can even make your puppy sit, then you yourself pass through the door and then you invite him to follow you. Don’t make a big deal of taking your puppy out. Remember, the more you act agitated, the more your puppy will get excited. If you stay calm yourself, this calmness will reflect on your puppy. By staying calm, it will be much easier to exercise basic puppy training.
When playing with your puppy, you have to be in control. You decide when to start and end the playtime. Remember that a puppy is still tired very rapidly, so it is up to you to end the playtime before he gets too tired and ends the playtime himself. Whilst playing with your puppy, never allow him to nip you. If he does so, stop playing immediately and turn your back on him. You can even make a high squeaky sound to let him know he hurt you. Basic puppy training is also learning your puppy not to get too excited and that nipping is a behavior we will never allow.
Don’t let your puppy pull the leash on your daily walks. The perfect walk for you and your puppy is when he is following you. Remember, the pack leader is the one to follow.
If your puppy is pulling on the leash, just stop walking. He will stop and turn around to look what is happening. Start walking backward and call your puppy to you. When he is back with you, then you can move forward again. It may take a while, but eventually, your puppy will understand that pulling on the leash will result in stopping the walk.
Another way to stop your puppy pulling the leash is walking in the opposite direction and at the same time calling your puppy. By doing so, you can gently force your puppy to follow you. If you change the walking direction regularly, you will encourage your puppy to stay focused on you and pay attention to what you will be doing next. This is the behavior we want, we, in the center of our puppy’s attention.
Forget how you might look like on these first walks, moving forward and back all the time as if you don’t know what direction to go. You are training your puppy and what others may think is of no interest to you!
If you, as a family, decide that your puppy is allowed to sit on the couch, remember that he will also sit on the new couch you just bought. A dog doesn’t know the difference between old and new! It is however perfectly possible to learn your dog to only sit on one of the couches and not on the others. But, remember, you have to be in control. Your dog can sit on the sofa, but only when you invite him to.
The same goes for sleeping on your bed. It cannot be the intention that your dog is claiming your bed, and that you have to sleep on the carpet. He can sleep on your bed, but only on your conditions and when you allow it.
It may perfectly be possible, that the pantry is a forbidden area for your dog. However, you and the other family members have to be consistent and never allow the dog into the pantry. Most of the time, a simple “shht” or hand signal can be enough to make your puppy understand that he isn’t allowed in this room. This can also be used for other areas where you don’t want your dog to come like for example the garage.
It is only common sense that tells you which puppy or dog behavior is acceptable and which not and this acceptable behavior can vary from one family to another. It is up to you to anticipate your puppy’s behavior and either reward good behavior, ignore or correct bad behavior, but always in a positive way.
The tips above are only a few suggestions on the items ‘socializing your puppy’ and ‘rules and boundaries’. Basic puppy training can be a totally different thing from training your puppy commands like sit, stay or fetch. By socializing your puppy and teaching him rules, you are molding your dog into a perfect companion, a dog which you can take everywhere and do anything with.