During your puppy's first six months she will be most inclined to look to you for guidance. Training turns your dog into a reliable companion. As the American Kennel Club's Dog Care and Training guidebook (Hungry Minds, 1991) explains, "Training gives you an animal you can trust. It establishes a channel of communication between you and your dog that significantly enhances your mutual respect and friendship."
Dogs are practical creatures and look to achieve optimal results with minimal discomfort. Training teaches your dog that meeting your demands results in praise and attention while disobedience leads to a correction. Dogs will invariably choose the behavior that brings praise and affection. Remember too that dogs are pack animals, and need a leader. If you don't establish yourself as the leader, your dog won't see the importance of paying attention to your commands.
Every dog needs to know basic commands like come, sit, and heel. You don't need to attend obedience classes to teach your dog the basics, but classes do make it easier, especially if you're uncertain about what to do. The American Kennel Club Complete Dog Book (Hungry Minds, 1997) says that "the key words in training are persistence, confidence and consistency." In other words, you must be confident in your ability as a trainer (and as "pack leader") and your responses -- whether praise or correction -- to your dog's behavior must be consistent and constant.
Check out these helpful hints for basic puppy training:
- Leash training. Start by outfitting your puppy with a flat, buckled or snap collar. After your puppy is used to the collar, attach the leash and let her drag it around (supervised, of course). When it is time to eliminate, direct your puppy to her elimination spot with her leash. Place your puppy on your left side when walking her on the leash -- this will make it much easier to teach her how to heel.
- Heel. Now that your puppy is used to her leash, you can teach her how to heel. Stand with your puppy at your left side and issue the command "Heel!" Talk to your dog while trying to keep her engaged and by your side. Inevitably, she will get distracted and pull ahead. You can gently pull back on the lead until you are even with her and repeat the command. Another approach is to say "Heel!" and make a sharp U-turn to the right. Your puppy will then be behind you and will rush to return to your side. Whichever method you choose, be sure to praise your dog and repeat as necessary.
- Come. Feeding time is the ideal time to begin teaching your dog to come on command. Call out your dog's name, followed by "Come!" at feeding time. When you are outdoors, step away from your puppy, call out his name and say "Come!" Every time he responds correctly, give him plenty of praise.
- Sit. By the time your puppy is 8 weeks old, she is ready to learn the command "Sit." To show her what you want her to do, say "Sit!" in a firm tone, get her attention with a piece of dry food, move the food above eye level and, as your puppy follows the food, she will sit. Praise her and give her the food. The next time you say "Sit!" skip the food and reward her warmly with praise.
Continued on page 5: Socialization