As you welcome your, ‘oh so cute’ new bouncy bundle of fur in to your home, as you arm yourself with puppy pads and training crates, chew toys and comfort blankets; as you do everything you can to help your new puppy smoothly transition from his familiar mum’s side in to your welcoming home you will need to remember that your puppy, not only has to adjust to a new environment, but also to a new language. Isn’t it unfortunate puppies don’t speak ‘human’?
The sooner you start teaching your new puppy words and commands, the easier and more intuitive he will become and reading your body language, your verbal commands, even picking up on the sound and tone of your voice.
Teaching your puppy new words can start as early as when you bring him home. Lots of cuddles, and hugs to help get him through the transition in to your new home but once he is settled you really do want to start teaching him what is acceptable behaviour.
Here are our recommended top 5 new words to teach your new family member. Remember, repetition, practise, constant praise, reinforcement and lots and lots of treats make the perfect combination.
One of the very first things your little bundle needs to learn is ‘No’ and what it really means. Being firm and consistent here is key. The moment he does something that he shouldn’t: chewing on a shoe, picking up some (interesting to him) junk, say to him in a loud, firm voice ‘No’.
If you speak loud and firmly enough, you should have caught his attention and what follows in that split second is imperative. Immediately remove the offending item, again saying ‘No’ then offering an alternative chew toy or treat.
Once he picks up the toy or treat, shower him with lots of praise.
It is really important here to be consistent. Always say ‘No’ to the same things. Do not only occasionally tell him off for chewing your slippers. He will not learn that you actually mean for him to stop.
“No”, consistently and firmly, works.
Puppies with all their enthusiasm and exuberance love sharing their excitement, but their razor sharp nails often make their bouncy greeting more painful than endearing. Puppies jumping up at everyone in greeting, is very common and it’s almost akin to an enthusiastic hug when we meet close friends.
Unfortunately, a puppy jumping up all over your visitors isn’t quite as welcoming and that makes it important to teach your new puppy ‘Down’.
‘Down’ here needs to be differentiated from ‘Lie down’. Whether you use ‘Down’ to mean stop jumping up on someone, or for it to be the command for him to lie down on the floor, needs to be firm in your own mind first. We chose to distinguish between ‘Down’ and ‘Lie down’ make the two different actions clear.
Teaching ‘down’ to an over-excited puppy, typically needs to happen when you greet your puppy after an absence. This is when they are naturally excited to see you and will begin jumping on you.
Be ready with a treat and when he starts jumping up on you, flash the treat in front of him to get his attention, and then draw the treat backwards behind him, saying ‘Down’ at the same time.
This will change his focus from you to the treat and in doing so, he should follow the direction of the treat. Once he is standing calmly or even sitting, give him the treat, along with lots of praise.
Sit is always one of the first things we all want to teach our dog. It just seems a relatively easy first command and what joy it is when your pup, sits patiently waiting for you. Truth be told, that bum will pop up after two seconds of sitting down – it still counts as a sit though.
Sit is most easily taught with a treat in hand. Once your puppy has had a whiff of that treat, you’ll have is full attention. With your hand open, hold the treat with your thumb against your palm, put your hand right in front of his face, then move vertically upwards and slightly over his head.
He will naturally follow your hand and consequently sit down naturally. Remember to say ‘Sit’ to reinforce the verbal command. Once he sits, immediately give him the treat.
Once he’s able to understand ‘sit’ there’s a whole host of difference commands that can be taught following that like ‘Wait’ and ‘Stay’. Don’t attempt all of them at once though. Make sure you master each command thoroughly before beginning a new one.
That pile of poo, disgusting to you but fascinating to your new puppy, or a collection of garbage bags that’s just so enticing to a young, excitable puppy… these are the perfect situations to teach your new pup to ‘Leave it’.
‘Leave it’ in this case, means that they are to withdraw their attention, away from the offensive object.
The best way to teach this of course is with treats. You can practise this with something less offensive, your slipper perhaps or something that your puppy is naturally attracted to, and then before they pick it up or stick their nose in it, a stern verbal command of ‘Leave it’ should be sufficient to draw their attention away from the object.
Once distracted, praise and then offer the treat. It would make sense then, to remove the item.
Repeated practise, will teach your puppy to ‘Leave it’ for anything that you don’t want them to pick up.
Once your puppy has got something in his jaws, teaching him to Drop it, means that you’ll not only be able to play a continuous game of ‘Go fetch the ball’, it also means that you’ll be able get to to release his grip on something that you don’t want him to chew, or something that he really shouldn’t eat.
Teaching your pup ‘Drop it’ is probably easiest with a ball or a toy that he already knows how to pick up in his mouth.
Whilst he has the object in his mouth, with a treat in one hand, place your other hand under his mouth to catch the object. Tell him ‘Drop it’ and show him the treat. A high value treat (something he desperately likes) will make him drop the item immediately.
Catch it, praise him and give him the treat.
Once he has gotten the hang of ‘Drop it’ for his toy, you can try and practise with new foreign objects when you’re out and about.
It’s great fun teaching your puppy new words and watching how they learn to respond and eventually learn English (or any other language) no less! You do need to be persistent and consistent and have on hand, treats that your puppy loves.
Just 10 -15 minutes a day is usually enough to get some proper instruction in. Little and often as they say, will go a long way.
Note: It’s best to start with just one or two words initially until your puppy is familiar with them then slowly add more, one at a time. Always remember to revisit the old commands to keep them fresh in his mind.
Here are some easy reads to take training your puppy to the next level. These books are available on Amazon in hard or soft copy as well as in e-book version.
- Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dog in 7 Days by Brandon McMillan
- Puppy Training in 7 Easy Steps: Everything You Need to Know to Raise the Perfect Dog
- Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution: The Complete Guide to Raising the Perfect Pet with Love
- The Art of Raising a Puppy by Monks of New Skete
- 101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog by Kyra Sundance
- Puppy Training for Kids: Teaching Children the Responsibilities and Joys of Puppy Care, Training, and Companionship by Colleen Pellar
- How to Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond by Ceser Millan