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It is important with all breeds of dogs to start training as early as possible. With some breeds, particularly those dogs that tend to be dominant, this is absolutely essential to prevent aggression and stubborn or dominant behavior during training. Starting your puppy off with positive reinforcement and training in very natural type situations is the very best option.
There are several key factors to consider when training the puppy. The first is that they are just like babies and toddlers and they will need lots of practice as well as lots of opportunities to learn a new behavior or to respond to a command. Puppies do not learn by harsh punishments such as spankings and shaking, and they certainly don't do well with people yelling at them. Puppies that are treated harshly either by physical reprimands or harsh verbal correction will either become very aggressive, defiant adults or will become very timid, shy and fearful of people, neither option being desirable. The best possible option for puppy training in the first few months is to use positive reinforcement for a job well done as well as use a simple "no" and ignoring for correction.
Since most puppies bond with people and love attention, positive reinforcement such as a pat on the head and a "Good dog" will really go a long way to training the puppy to respond. Pairing this with a very small little healthy training treat will help in getting the puppy to understand what he or she is being rewarded for. It is critical to pair the verbal praise and the petting with the treat to avoid dogs from only responding when they think a treat is arriving. Many dog trainers recommend training puppies without the use of treats or treats used only very sparingly and randomly throughout the process, such as at the end of the complete training session.
Always use the puppies name when giving a command or when giving praise. This will help the puppy quickly learn their name and look at and listen to the speaker. Use the puppies name before the command and make sure you have their full attention before giving the command or else the puppy make be focusing on a toy or other object in the environment and may not hear what you are saying. One of the easiest commands to teach is "come". Puppies, especially when left alone for a short period of time will automatically run happily towards people approaching. Use this natural behavior to simply say, "Fido, Come" as soon as the puppy is heading your way. When the puppy arrives, give them lots of attention including "Good dog Fido", using the name as often as possible. Sit can often be taught using a similar process. Positive reinforce is the most effective way to train any breed of dog, however the owner must spend time praising, petting and rewarding the puppy for a job well done.
Another critical aspect of puppy training is socialization. Socialization includes introducing the puppy to new people, places and things in a positive way. Puppies should be socialized with children, cats, other pets and other dogs to avoid them from being frightened and defensive or aggressive with other people and animals.
Socialization must be done on a regular, frequent basis when the puppy is young. The mother and littermates start the socialization process and this is why breeders typically do not allow puppies to be removed from the litter before eight weeks and many breeders now recommend at least twelve weeks with the litter. This socialization teaches the puppy such essential concepts as bite inhibition, or how to learn to play without hurting or biting. It also teaches the puppy the hierarchy of the pack, essential with dominant breeds of dogs. Dominant breeds that don't have early socialization will be headstrong, stubborn and often very aggressive towards humans and other animals.
Early socialization can also help timid or shy breeds from developing these characteristics as they mature. While some breeds are more standoffish and reserved than others, all dogs want to be part of a family or group, so using this natural behavior when they are young to get used to new people, places and things is very important. Shy or timid dogs can become aggressive if they feel trapped or cornered and are typically not good dogs around children. Socialization can help reduce these tendencies and allow the puppy to mature into a well-adjusted and tolerant dog.
What To Expect
It is important to understand that a puppy will have good and bad days, days they can concentrate and days when they are scattered and inattentive or distracted. Some points to help make training fun and pleasant for both you and the puppy include:
Keep training sessions very short and always end on a positive note when the puppy has done something correctly. If necessary, give a very simple command and provide praise even on a bad training day to end the session.
Avoid a lot of repetitive commands if the breed is not good with doing things over and over. The more intelligent the breed the more easily they will become bored and non-compliant with repetitive types of commands and training sessions.
Don't try to train when the puppy has just finished eating, most puppies will want to sleep or just relax after eating.
Don't train right before a meal as puppies, just like people, have trouble focusing when they are hungry.
Always exercise the puppy before training. Too much built up energy will result in silly behavior that is not conducive to learning.
Never reward for non-compliance, no matter how cute the puppy was in getting out of the task. Ignoring for non-compliance will work with most puppies.
Never spank, hit or yell at a puppy in training or in general interactions. This can seriously damage the trust and bond that the puppy needs to build with the owner.
Try to focus on one person working with the puppy until he or she has mastered the command. Then at that time allow other family members to work with the puppy using the same command and prompts.
A great idea is to take you puppy to a puppy obedience class. These classes are typically available in most communities and are ideal for both training as well as socialization of the puppy.
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