Learning to become a member of the family

The first few weeks with a new puppy are very exciting as you begin to bond. This is also an important time for training as puppies learn to live as pets. Early training is vital to help them grow into good canine citizens. 

Puppy mouthing 

From around three to six weeks, a puppy’s first teeth will break through. These baby canine teeth are needle sharp and puppies need to be taught what is acceptable biting behaviour. 

Mouthing, biting and grabbing people’s clothing are ways puppies learn about the world around them. If dogs are not taught bite inhibition when they are very young, it can lead to potentially dangerous situations in the future, when they are adults with powerful jaws. 

At around 12 weeks old, puppies start to lose their baby teeth as their adult teeth grow through. They can experience pain and discomfort during teething, just like babies and one way they can relieve this is by chewing. It’s very important your home is puppy-proofed to keep electric cables, furniture and your best footwear out of reach. 

The natural reaction for an owner if bitten by a puppy is to yelp or push them away, but this is likely to be viewed as a game. The best way to deal with puppy biting is to ignore it. This is not always easy especially if a pup is hanging off the hem of your skirt  but try to turn away, get up and leave the room, or tuck your limbs out of reach. 

Distraction is your best friend so ensure you have a good supply of puppy-safe toys for them to chew. If they begin to bite or pull at your clothes, deflect them towards a toy. The idea is to make the alternative much more exciting than the behaviour you are trying to stop. 

Toilet training 

As soon as you bring your new puppy home, take them to the area you’d like them to use as a toilet and allow them to explore. If your puppy relieves themselves, give them lots of praise so they build a positive association with going in your chosen place. 

The key to successful toilet training is knowing when your pup needs to go and getting them to the right spot in time. Puppies only have tiny bladders and need to go frequently, so watch for signs like whining, circling, or sniffing. Make sure you take them out every hour, plus after eating, after waking and before bed. 

Accidents in the home are to be expected so never punish or shout at your pup. This teaches them it’s scary to go in front of you and will make your training journey more difficult as they search for places out of sight. Simply clean up without making a fuss, ensuring you use an ammonia-free cleaning product. If the area continues to smell like a toilet to your pet, they’ll use it again! 

By setting your pup up to succeed with ample opportunities to toilet in the correct place, they’ll get the hang of toilet training in no time. 

Teaching sit 

One of the most important things you can teach a new pup is ‘sit’. When a dog is sitting, they cannot do things that could put 

themselves – or others – in danger. For example, a sitting dog can’t lurch in front of oncoming traffic or jump up at a small child. Master the ‘sit’ early on and it’s a brilliant foundation for all future training work. Here’s how you do it! 

  • Find a quiet location where your puppy will not be distracted and arm yourself with plenty of tiny treats 
  • With your puppy standing in front of you, hold a treat to their nose so they can give it a sniff 
  • Slowly move the treat up and over their head towards their bottom 
  • As your puppy follows the treat with their nose, their bottom will naturally go down into a sitting position 
  • As soon as their bottom touches the ground, immediately give the treat and lots of praise. 
  • Repeat regularly until your pup is reliably sitting and then gradually fade out the treat. Use your empty hand to lure instead and reward with a treat from the other hand when they sit 
  • Next, introduce a cue word like ‘sit’ and say it before you give your hand signal 
  • With a little practise your puppy will be sitting on the verbal cue alone 

If your pup is struggling, take a break before you get frustrated. Keep training sessions short as they have a small attention span and always end on a positive note. 

Further training 

When they get a bit older ask your vet to recommend a local puppy class for expert help with other training like recall, walking on the lead and meeting other dogs. 

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