My first dog would not poop anywhere in the house than on newspaper. Wow, I thought this is great. Put down some newspaper and problem solved. Then I got my second dog. Maybe she read the paper. That would explain her reluctance to soil any part of it. No sirree. Anywhere in the house but on that newspaper.
The most success I’ve had with training puppies is in the summer. This has nothing to do with the puppy’s intelligence, and everything to do with my preference for going out in the yard in the summer instead of the winter. So, consider the time of year when you decide to get a puppy.
What I have learned is that, although the puppy might want to please you, he won’t be able to control his bladder until he is at least four months old. So, expect accidents even once you think the puppy has finally GOT IT.
If you have recently gotten a puppy, here are some ideas I wish I had thought of with my second dog.
- When we first get our cute little puppy, we are highly tolerant. After all, we want him to feel welcomed into our home. Big mistake. Start training as soon as you get your puppy. If you let the puppy pee in the house, he will get the idea that you are okay with that behavior.
- Choose a spot in your yard where you want the puppy to eliminate and bring him there each time. I’ll admit I’ve never thought of doing this but it would save the grass for sure.
- Bring him out on a leash. This will show him that this is not fun time—no playing—this is toilet time.
- You might want to put a bell on your door hanging from a rope. Ring it each time you take the puppy out – better yet get the dog to ring the bell when you are going out. Give the dog a treat if he rings the bell then eliminates. If he rings the bell and doesn’t eliminate…no praising, no treat. You don’t want him ringing that bell whenever the dog wants to take you out.
- Have one word for “the business”. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated, unless you want to impress your neighbors. “Do your ca-ca” is fine.
- Reward the puppy when he does his business.
- Bring him out first thing when he wakes up and 20 minutes after he eats.
- Play time should be done only after “the business”.
- Clean up after your dog right away. This will prevent him and other dogs from eating poop. See my article on that distasteful (pardon the pun) topic.
- If your dog poops in the house, take the poop and place it in his designated ca-ca spot in the yard. (That’s another task that is way easier in the summer.)
So, how will you know when your puppy gets the urge? If you see him doing circles or semi circles, it’s time to take him outside.
I could have titled this – When your dog gets too smart for his own good.
You are training your dog and you notice that he has already moved on to the next trick. Or, you ask him to do something and he does every other trick he knows. Or, he does the last trick he finally learned no matter what command you give him.
- Cross your arms. Don’t look at dog. This will usually calm the dog down.
- If at first you thought this behavior was cute, you probably gave the dog positive reinforcement even if you didn’t realize you were doing so: a smile, a laugh, telling him/her it was cute. (I am so guilty of this. Sinatra always learns the tricks first so when Mr. Beans learned Scoot (going through my legs backwards) before Sinatra, I was so thrilled that I overdid the praise. Now he wants to Scoot all the time.) So, be mindful that you aren’t giving positive reinforcement unless the dog does the trick you want.
- Work on one or two commands only per session. Make sure the dog does only those commands. (This is boring, right? I hear you.)
- Ask for only one command at once. I am also guilty of this. Sit and Down seem to go so well together, but I can see how saying them one after the other could make the dog do them one after the other all the time. So mix it up.
- Watch your hand signals. Dogs really cue in on hand signals. I realized how close my hand signals for Scoot and Spin and Go Through were so I changed them up a bit.
- If the dog does something you don’t want, absolutely no treat. It might be cute that the dog gets your slippers, but if you didn’t ask for them, don’t treat out of guilt.
- Slow down. Here’s another one I’m guilty of. Once the dog knows a trick, I am anxious to move on. Sinatra is an especially fast learner so I have to give Mr. Beans time to catch up. This means putting Sinatra in a sit position and leaving him there to “watch”. He doesn’t like it, but I do reward him for staying put, so he does it.
- Dogs are show offs. Sinatra finally learned “You’re under arrest.” He is so impressed with himself that he wants to show off his new trick all the time. I ask him to “Go Around” and he does his new trick. He learned “Go Around” a long time ago so he doesn’t find it a challenge anymore. He’d much rather do his new trick. Again, no positive reinforcement.
Here’s a story that will illustrate just how much a command can get into a dog’s head. My husband and I were visiting my mother-in-law. She was buzzing around – as mothers often do when their children visit—and my husband wanted her to sit down and just enjoy our visit. So he said, “Ma, sit down.” And didn’t our dog sit down obediently.
We used to clap whenever the dog caught the ball off the wall without having to chase it down. In other words, she was catching it right off the bounce on the wall. One summer we were traveling with her across the country and we stopped at a free outdoor Jazz Festival. Every time the audience clapped, she thought it was for her and she was looking around very perplexed. So, choose your praise signal carefully.
I believe my way of training is the best for my dogs or I wouldn’t use it. I think my method works best with dogs that are “people pleasers”, dogs like the Border Collie, the Shetland Sheepdog, the Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever.
See a list of dogs here
Some dogs were bred for a purpose (like getting rid of rats on boats) and they are not interested in doing tricks. On the other hand, personality plays a big part. For instance my dog Sinatra (jumping in picture) is much more of a “people pleaser” than my other dog, Mr. Beans. Mr. Beans seems to think that being cute should be enough. He only recently began to show a keen interest in training. I’ve no idea what finally clicked for him—most likely the type of treats which are now very small (for his small mouth) and soft (he has bad teeth). (This kind of goes against the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…because it is only now that Beans is in middle age that he wants to learn more than ever.)
What follows is a list of training sites. It is not extensive. I took my own training locally, and they hold training only periodically so I did not include their site. The training was given by the local kennel club and if there is one in your area you could definitely start with them. If you have a PetSmart, they also have training. I list Cesar Millan first, only because he is the best known right now. However, I am not promoting one method over the others (except mine of course!).
The following are not in any order and I have not tried them.
Dog Training Basics
If you know a site, please submit it
I thought I’d share a document that I recently wrote up for distribution. Hope some of you find it helpful.
Dog Training – Basics
If you want to download that’s great. If you want to share it, please refer people to my website so they can get their own copy and see what else I might have to offer by then. Much appreciated.