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Prepping Your Pup: How to Get Your New Friend Ready For Class

It is a common misconception that there are age limitations to training our canine family members. A dog is never too young or too old to learn a new trick. The VBSPCA Pet Academy is ready to help you and your pup with your training journey, and we’ve put together the following training tips to help you prepare for class. 

But, before we get started, here are a few key things to keep in mind: 

  • Nothing is more vital than maintaining a positive relationship with your puppy. Please do not use any method of punishment with your puppy despite any frustrations during the training process. Studies have shown that it can lead to more severe behavior issues. Please refer to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s (AVSAB) stance on punishment to learn more.
  • Keep training sessions short — no more than 10 minutes. Keep in mind, puppies have short attention spans much like a young child. Your puppy may need frequent breaks in order to focus on the task at hand. Every animal is an individual and training session durations may vary. It is important to stop a training session before your puppy gets bored. 
  • Finally, the most important thing to keep in mind is to be patient and have fun!

At Home Puppy Training Tips

  • One of the biggest things to focus on with your puppy is socialization. Exposing your puppy to as many sounds, sights, people, textures, and other sensory experiences is a key component to having a well-mannered/well-rounded adult dog. Pair these new things with a rewarding items such as toys, treats, pets, etc. Your new puppy should soon learn to associate these new things with rewarding items. Keep things as positive as possible and go at your puppy’s pace. Once your puppy is comfortable with something, work on exposing them to those things in different environments.
  • Ouch! We have all been exposed to those up and coming daggers known as puppy teeth. Mouthing is something that many puppies need to work on. Bite inhibition is the ability to control how hard you bite. It is very important your puppy learn this, as this is how you avoid your puppy drawing blood when mouthing/biting you or when taking treat from your hand. This is a skill that can save your puppy in the future if he/she is ever put into a situation where they are “pushed” to bite. An easy way to work on bite inhibition is to say “ouch” and remove attention away from the puppy for a few seconds. Please keep in mind though we only want to do this if your puppy is biting too hard right now.  Putting things in their mouths is how they explore their world. Continue to play with your puppy, but if he/she continues to bite at you remove yourself from the room. When he/she has calmed down you may interact with your puppy again. We want puppies to learn that biting too hard is not a rewarding behavior. This will take time and continuous repetition so be patient and do not give up. You can survive puppy biting.
  • A fun and interactive way to get involved with training is to use a clicker. It’s never too early to begin using a clicker with your pet. To begin you will want to “load” the clicker. This simply means you click and treat in rapid succession until you can see the metaphorical lightbulb pop up above your puppies head going “click=treat.” Once your puppy has that eureka moment you can begin to use the clicker to capture behaviors such as keeping all 4 paws on the ground when greeting people, remaining quiet, walking nicely on leash, checking in on walks, and other desirable behaviors. If you do not have a clicker available, you may use a designated word to mark the behaviors you want instead.
  • Puppy pads, potty breaks, and the constant agony of ”where is that smell coming from?” Let’s be honest, puppy house training can be one of the biggest headaches for pet owners. It is important to note that puppies, compared to adult dogs, have a much smaller bladder and will need to go out more frequently. The general rule of thumb for puppies is that they can hold their bladder for 1 hour per month old (ex. 2 month old puppy = 2 hours), but it is important to keep in mind that just like us, all puppies are individuals and may not be able to hold it quite as long. One of the most recommended ways to house train is by using a crate. Dogs naturally seek den-like spaces and do not want to lay or eat where they urinate or defecate. By using a crate, you’re not only giving your puppy a safe place to go when it needs a break, but you are also getting a place to put your puppy when you cannot supervise them. Unsupervised puppies are more likely to have accidents or get into things that we do not want them getting into. 
  • To start off you will want to pick a crate that is just big enough that your puppy can stand up in and turn around. Next, you will want to make the crate as positive as possible. You can do this by feeding your puppies meals in the crate without closing the door. Once your puppy is comfortable with going into the crate you can begin closing the door for a few seconds and then rewarding him with an extra tasty treat. Ideally, you will want to continue to increase the duration you leave the door closed. Soon your puppy will learn that crating is a positive experience. It should also be noted that if you are leaving your puppy in the crate, you should provide some form of enrichment for them (i.e. chew toys, puppy kong, etc.).
  • If you need to crate your puppy for longer periods of time it is recommended that you enlist the help of a dog walker, friend, or family member to give your puppy potty breaks so that accidents can be avoided.
  • While house training, it is important to get into a regular routine. The first thing you should do when you wake up is take your puppy out. This should also be the last thing you do before you go to bed. Puppies should go out after eating, drinking, play sessions, and waking up from a nap. Always reward your puppy for going to the bathroom in appropriate areas. If your puppy does have an accident in the home, be sure to clean up the mess with an enzymatic remover. If an enzymatic remover is not used to clean up messed your puppy may go back to the same spot to urinate or defecate again.

Training a new puppy can be time consuming and take a good deal of effort, but with a bit of repetition and patience you can easily set your puppy up for success. Good luck!