Have you ever welcomed a new puppy into your home and been fit to burst with love as you watch them stumble around the living room for the first time, and fall asleep wherever they drop? Yeah, me too.
But whether we recognise it or not, we humans do expect a great deal from our puppies. Right from the get go we want Rover to come back to us when we call him, walk nicely on a lead, leave that tasty morsel of food we accidently dropped on the kitchen floor…the list goes on! Such a high level of expectation can only lead to frustration both for you and for Rover. So many of my clients say to me ‘My puppy doesn’t do X, Y, or Z. Am I failing as a dog owner?’ My friends, I have been there. I feel your pain. However, my answer to your question is a resounding NO.
It’s true that the earlier you begin training puppies the better because clear, consistent guidelines will help your fluffy bundle of joy navigate the world with confidence. However, there are a few things which I have learned to keep in mind when training very young dogs which I think you will also find useful. So, here are my three golden rules.
#1 Keep sessions short and frequent
Puppies, just like human babies, are born with almost no attention span. This is something that they develop over time as they grow. I often recommend that training sessions last no longer than 5 minutes. However, you can have these sessions as often as you like. Again, I recommend 3-6 times a day depending on your schedule.
#2 Mix up the rewards
Modern dog training is rooted firmly in scientific theory which avoids the use of punishment, and makes learning new behaviours a fun, positive experience for your puppy. That being said, puppies learn really quickly that getting the same reward all of the time is a bit boring so it makes them less likely to engage with you when training. Some dogs like treats. Some like toys. Some like praise. Most dogs love a combination of all three! Keep them guessing for maximum fun and quicker results!
#3 Celebrate the little wins
It’s easy for me to sit here and tell you to be patient with your puppy when it’s just eaten the edge of your designer rug. Or when your puppy sat on command yesterday but doesn’t today. Do not despair. Remember that you and your puppy are in this together. They are constantly exploring the world and learning about their place in it. Any improvement should be celebrated, no matter how small.