Have you decided which puppy you would like to bring home? Are you now thinking about how you can train him? Perhaps you are inundated with training advice and don’t know where to begin. If this is you, and how you feel, please read on. The process of training your puppy is quite simple when you know how.
Any young puppy is a blank canvas, and lucky you are able to decide how and what he’s going to learn, therefore you can decide how he’s going to behave. Which is great isn’t it? But you only get one go at it so it’s important to get it right. That’s why we are here.
First of all you need to know how your particular breed of puppy learns. You can see our last blog post for more information on genetic traits and why research is so important. Then once you know everything there is to know about your breed of puppy let’s move on to the two rules of training success.
Rule One - Communication
Now if you have ever seen a dog of a few months old that is jumping up, mouthing hands and seems to be generally naughty, it is because inadvertently his human family have taught him to behave in this way. Sadly then, because of a mismatch in communication, the dog is accused of being naughty and the family can’t cope. This is how many dogs are given up around the age of adolescence, and is often the reason for many of the dogs in rescue centres.
To prevent this you need to establish communication right from the day that you bring your new dog home. Your puppy does not know how to speak your language. So he will interpret it in the best way that he can. It is important - as he is a baby –you work hard to communicate with him in a language that he understands. The only language to use is one of patience, kindness and gently showing him how to behave.
Your puppy will learn from you, of this there is no doubt, what he learns is the most important thing. So, and it’s easy we promise, you need to teach your puppy to repeat behaviour which you want to become his usual everyday behaviour. This is where rule number two comes in to play.
Rule Two – Understand Reinforcement
You may have heard the term positive reinforcement you may even have heard negative reinforcement. Most good dog training is based on the positive sort. And it is really simple particularly when you begin with a young puppy.
The idea behind reinforcement is that a dog, any dog, will repeat a behaviour which he sees as rewarding. So for instance if a puppy carries out a specific behaviour and you mark that behaviour with a treat, at exactly the time he does it, then the puppy will almost certainly carry out the same behaviour again. In fact most dogs will because they soon realise that the behaviour is beneficial to them.
Think of toilet training. Obviously it’s important to watch the puppy and take him outside as often as possible because at a young age he will only think to pee – and not where to pee. Then, when you take him outside and puppy pee’s you mark the exact behaviour by telling him he’s a good boy and giving him a treat. The next time you take him outside, or at least after a few times, the first thing he will think is to pee for a treat. Easy isn’t it? In our next blog post we will explain to you why reinforcement can actually cause unhelpful behaviour, and how you can reinforce any behaviour at all, by simply giving your puppy some attention for it.
Next time: Puppy Training – React and Reinforce