If you've recently began the adventure of raising a puppy, you've got a lot on your hands (and you will for the next several months). If you've decided to enlist the help of an obedience school or puppy training program to help in the training process, you'll still have to put in the work at home with your pup to make sure they are learning and developing the right habits. Basically, you have to help them with their “homework” after they go to puppy school. Read ahead for a few ideas of how to best help your dog successfully pass through puppy school with flying colors.
If you're not consistent with your dog during the training period, confusion may ensue. For example, you may have enough patience to use positive reinforcement most of the time, but on rare occasions simply feel too exhausted or stressed and yell in frustration. While it's understandable that you don't want your carpeting permanently soiled or new European sofa destroyed, the animal will feel perplexed by different responses from you. As much as possible, maintain an even temperament and repeat the same firm commands for every misbehavior. The more consistent you can be in your reactions, the more likely your pup will understand how you feel about certain behaviors.
No matter what your puppy does, always have patience with him or her. Using positive methods of reinforcement will help the pup grasp the training concepts faster than negative methods will. Use positive reinforcement rather than punishment or tactics of intimidation. Remember the importance of redirection as well because a lot of behavioral problems stem from instinct, such as chewing on shoes and elimination of waste. Offer him a strong and safe chew toy when he takes a shoe, and always bring him outdoors or to the pee pad if he's had an accident. Any form of negative reinforcement may backfire, creating complications at school and home.
Control All Behavior
Just because your puppy learned to sit at school today, doesn't mean he should get away with nipping all afternoon. While it's very important to let him know he did well with one thing, keep a tight reign on all aspects of his conduct. This will reinforce the training process itself, clearly identify you as the person in charge and create a more stable home environment for everyone. Trying to teach the pup too much at one time will often create confusion, but you can't wait until the day they plan to cover “biting” in puppy preschool before you react to your pup's nipping problem (or any other problems that apply).
Coordinate the Effort
Just as a parent should know what their child is doing at school, you should make inquiries at your dog's training facility. Most programs are set up so that owners are present with their puppy at training school, however, you might send your dog to training sessions where you aren't present. Ask what he learned that day, what his strengths and weaknesses are and how you can reinforce the official training at home. Even if your canine is a star student, practice the routines and commands at home every day to ensure he fully commits to them, both by memorizing words and gestures and by adapting to the process of training itself. Again, you don't want the dog to be confused, so the more you can reinforce what they are learning at puppy school when you are at home, the training process will go much more smoothly.
Understand the Technicalities of Training
There are generally two types of dog training you should be aware of—both of which will probably apply to your puppy. One is behavioral for prevention and correction of inappropriate conduct. The other is obedience training for specific commands. Although most puppies love to learn, their attention spans are limited, and they can be easily distracted. Keep your home training sessions short and focused to best reinforce what he learns in classes. You might not realize it, but taking the puppy to an hour-long training session is a lot to ask of the little guy. He likely won't stay attentive through the entire session, so if you can implement what you are learning at home, it will become natural to them, and feel less like training.
Your approach to puppy training can mean the difference between quick success in puppy preschool or dealing with a puppy-school-dropout. Some dogs are more stubborn and less focused than others, so training can be frustrating. But the most beneficial thing for both you and your pup will be to start early—start forming the right habits early on so that you don't have to correct improper behavior later down the road. If you fulfill your role as coach and mentor well, the process should go smoother for both of you and the result will be a happy, smart and well behaved puppy you can be very proud of.
This article was written by Dixie Somers, a freelance writer who loves to write about business, women's interests, or home and family. Dixie lives in Arizona with her husband, three daughters, and a spunky Jack Russel Terrier who makes life interesting! You can follow her on Twitter: @DixieSomers