A part of the initial training should be just simply focus and attention and teaching your puppy its name. If you don’t have your puppy responding to its name then it is unlikely to pay much attention to anything else you say so this is paramount. Basic obedience training should include the following exercises:
- Come when called
- Puppy leash training
Once you have trained your puppy to pay attention then simple obedience training can be as easy as catching your puppy doing something you like and rewarding that behavior with a food treat. For example, if your puppy sits nicely then reward that or if it lies down then you might like to reward that behavior. If you wish to train your puppy to respond to hand signals or verbal commands then you can use food as a lure to get the puppy into the position you want then release the food once the puppy has performed the behavior. It is best not to use any verbal commands at this point until the puppy has learned the behavior you are training. Once the behavior is happening fairly reliably, then you can add the verbal command before you do the hand signal.
Also, you probably don’t want your puppy to do things only if there is food present, so it is best to start reducing the food at this point also – start by using the hand signal without a food treat in it. Once the puppy has done what you asked you can then give the reward from your other hand as a reward. So now you are introducing hand signals. Only show the food as a lure for every second sit, then every third sit and so on until the puppy has been trained to sit without the food being present. And even food rewards can start being replaced with a play session, pats or anything else your puppy loves.
Puppy training should be very short sessions of only two or three repetitions of one exercise and then finish with the puppy doing the behavior really well. Or you might catch the puppy lying down, give it a reward and that’s it. This is just taking advantage of the puppy offering a behavior that can be reinforced which will increase the probability of that behavior occurring again. If you do too much at once your puppy will lose interest. Young puppies have the attention span of a flea, so making the most of capturing your puppy doing something you like and rewarding that is a great way to house train your puppy rather than doing lengthy training sessions. Keeping it very short means it is easier to focus on some really good work and also keeping things fun and relaxed for both yourself and the puppy.
Another tip is to use your puppy’s dinner as rewards for good behavior so rather than feed out of a dinner bowl ask the puppy to work for its food. While you are hand feeding your puppy for good behavior you might also like to teach your puppy to be gentle with taking food out of your hand rather than snatching and being hard mouthed. So really you are training your puppy two things here – take food nicely from your hand as well as perform a behavior.
So you can see that puppy training doesn’t necessarily mean formal dog obedience training but is something which can be started as soon as you bring your new puppy home. By first training your puppy to focus on you and to respond to its name. It is also something you don’t need to set long periods of time for but by capturing your puppy in the act of doing something you like and reinforcing that then it is likely that the puppy will repeat that behavior.