The festive atmosphere of picking a new pup and taking him home to meet the family is an exciting time for all. There will be plenty of oohs and ahhhs as everybody comments on the puppy. Now that you have your pup, you must realize the responsibly that inherently comes along with him. Over the years I have seen several new dog owners make the assumption that the pup is an accomplished hunter. These poor pups will be put in a kennel in the back yard and will see their master five minutes a day when they come out to feed and water them. As that pup grows and matures in the solitude of that kennel, he will develop his own independence, personality and habits.
Several years ago I was visiting with a friend of mine that raised Brittany’s. The conversation turned to a 7 month old pup he had in his kennel. Seems he sold that pup when it was 8 weeks old to a man in Texas. The Texan had recently brought the dog back to Carl complaining to him that the dog would not hunt. After a little investigation, Carl found out the man had kept the pup in a kennel without any further training since he purchased it and had recently took it out to go hunting. The pup had no formal field training, didn’t know what to do. When he messed up the man beat the tar out of that pup. That’s all it took, that pup was a soiled hunting dog. Long story short, I bought that pup from Carl and after two years of patient, careful training, he came out of his shell and made a dog any hunter would be proud of.
When you take a pup home, you are committed to the proper health care, housing, training, and nutrition of your new family member. The bottom line is that puppy can be a joy or a burden, it’s your responsibility to direct which path he takes.
So what do you do next? First let’s get that pup socializing with other pups or humans to build some confidence, security, and character into the little guy. Between 45 and 65 days old you should look for every opportunity to allow the pup with others. The puppy has got to build trust in his new surroundings and master. Your actions toward the pup should always be in a positive manner, encourage the little fellow. The best thing I have found to aid in socializing a pup is to take him to the local playground. Hold him in your lap and let the kids pet and scratch him. The interaction with human touch is going to benefit you down the road when you start training the pup. Allow him to explore, with your careful supervision.
If he is going to be an inside dog, then you will also need to start potty training him and also consider kennel training the pup soon after you bring him home. There are several good articles related to both on the internet. Training a dog to the kennel will save you a lot of trouble when traveling overnight with your pet. It also gives them an area that they realize is theirs, an area they feel safe in. Pups have short attention spans; they can get bored with activities or the lack of activity. Please keep in mind that puppies love to chew on things. When they get bored, they will chew on things just chew. Whatever area you choose to keep pup in, whether it be inside or outside, make sure the area is clear of any chemical or valued item you would not want them into.
Early training your pet is all about encouragement; teaching the pet to socialize, and repetitive interaction to start the education process. You can’t fill every minute of the pups early life with interaction, but you can give them attention in the morning before work and evenings when you get home. Make special time with them on your days off. Make sure the pup is getting proper exercise. This routine will start sticking with the pup, or as I call it, branding. Repetitive actions become expected routines.
Training a pup to master the basics, sit stay and here, is going to take a lot of patience on your part. The pup has no idea what the words mean the first time they hear them. He will have to learn them before he can understand them.
Start off with short training sessions. Remember the pup has a short attention span. I start with teaching the sit command first. Get a little extra training session in around the house when you can. When you see the pup starting to sit down, verbally tell him to sit. He will start to get the idea of the results of his action. Try not to repeat the drills more than five or six times when you are first starting out. Do not wear them out or take short cuts with your training. I will not beat my dogs. I want them to respond to my commands out of respect, not fear.
Keep them interested in the training. If the pup is just not interested in the training, then stop. Come back the next day and do it again.
To teach them to sit place your hand under the pups chin and with the other hand placed on the top of their hips, tell them to sit as you apply downward pressure on their hips and holding their head steady with the other hand. Do these four or five times in the morning and in the evening. Within a week that pup should have the sit command down mastered. Remember if you build that trust in that pup he is going to want to please you. You want to get pup to hold a second or two when he sits. Work up to ten, even twenty seconds and eventually to a minute. When pup breaks before you are ready for him to, calmly start the drill over. Always end every training session on a positive note.
Once the pup has a good understanding of the sit command, it is time to introduce the stay command. I take my commands I want a pup to learn one at a time. The worst thing you can do is overwhelm that pup. Besides, taking commands one at a time helps pup learn faster and seems to embed the command in pups mind better.
After telling pup to sit and he is holding for a bit you should start introducing the stay command. To be honest with you I am on the fence with this one. This is going to depend on the wishes of the master. My retriever is trained to sit when I say sit, and I mean sit! She will not move until instructed. But there are those who like to use the command "stay." That’s fine; the stay command is an extension of the sit command. If you are going to use the stay command then instruct your pup to sit, hold out your arm with the palm facing pup and firmly say, "Stay," at first you may have to repeat it often. If pup gets up, move them back to the same spot, telling them to sit and going through the stay command again. Enough repetition and the pup are going to catch on.
Once the pup has picked up on sit and stay, (if you choose to use it), we can move on to the "here" command. Something that you can actually do prior to starting the "here" training is to get an eighteen inch cotton cord. Preferably a one quarter of an inch in diameter piece. Connect it to pups collar and let him drag it around for a couple of weeks. Ensure there is nothing that will hang the puppy up in his kennel area with the cord. Several things happen by doing this. The pup will get used to the tugging on the cord making the here and heal command training easier. This also teaches pup to yield to another force whether it is another dog stepping on the cord or the pup himself. When it is time to start training with a lead rope the pup will have already gotten used to it.
With a thirty foot piece of lead rope you are ready to start the "here" command training. Attach the rope to pup’s collar and tell pup to sit. Walk a few yards away from pup, extend your hand toward pup and give the "here" command, while pulling the rope through your extended hand with your other hand. When the pup reaches you tell him to sit. Praise pup for doing it right, then step about five yards away from pup and do it again. Continue to repeat this process until the pup can perform the drill with all of the lead rope extended. Do this drill five times a week for a month and the pup will have the "here" command branded in his mind.
Never beat or abuse your dog, if you are getting upset with the outcome of the training, then stop. Clear your head and come back another day. You will be much more successful when your dog responds out of respect, instead of fear. When the pup does something right, praise him. Dogs love to please their master. When pup does not respond correctly, then react with a firm "NO." Go back to the starting point and repeat the drill again and always end training sessions on a good note. Try to train with the pup four to five times a week and no more than fifteen to thirty minutes. If you can work it into your schedule, hold morning and evening sessions. Don’t push for results, be calm and patient and allow the pup to pick things up at his pace.