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The best way to train a puppy

The best way to train a puppy


It’s easy to believe that young puppies aren’t ready for any training, but they are. You just have to take into account distractions, a puppy’s attention span, and the basics you expect them to learn. (Photo by: Tony J. Peterson)


Eight weeks is pretty standard for puppies to go from breeders to their forever home. At this age, whether he’s a Labrador, GSP, or some other breed, his number one redeeming quality is being lovable. This leads us to treat them like stuffed animals rather than real animals, reasoning that they are simply not ready to learn. But they are. In fact, the first few weeks after bringing home a puppy are full of learning opportunities. These, when used correctly, begin to set the stage for your dog’s entire life. This matters, a lot.

Underestimate at your own risk

You won’t triple-blind recoveries or witness a perfect five-minute recovery point with an eight-week-old pup. You can teach them to sit, lie down, come and stand, which is nothing.

You can also start working on some stability aspects of the commands, even if you just ask your pup to wait half a second longer than normal. Add in the benefits of establishing a working relationship, the reality of a reward for certain behaviors, and the beginnings of eye contact with your dog, and you begin to realize why this is important.

train a puppy
As soon as the puppies leave their breeder and arrive at your home, it’s time to start teaching them some basic obedience. This is crucial to a dog’s development throughout its life. (Photo by: Tony J. Peterson)

All of that sounds good on paper, but it’s kind of hard to beat in person. I recently interviewed dog training legend Bob West and he mentioned it several times. West was working with a puppy and said that he not only committed to developing basic obedience early on, but also took the pup into new environments to read his levels of confidence and boldness.

This is good if you understand how to always put a puppy in a situation that is safe and allows them to develop trust and curiosity. Couple that with those simple commands and the realization that even a baby puppy is primed to learn, and it all starts to fall into place. But the training is not the same as with a senior dog.

Puppy Training Realities

Some trainers scoff at training with treats at any age. Most of the ones I’ve interviewed and absolutely respect don’t. They use it, and they use it wisely. Counting around 15,000 to 20,000 years of domestication in your rearview mirror, our dogs will gladly work for food. It’s encoded in your genes, and making the connection between a requested behavior and a positive outcome is the basis for many of the most important requests in the future.

An eight-week-old puppy who learns to sit up for a single kibble the day you bring him home will be happy to lie down for that caloric treat or come when called. He will also begin to see you as the provider, which is not a bad thing either. Better yet, he’ll learn to look you in the eye quickly, which is when you know the relationship is starting to click. That’s important, and it’s easy to encourage him with treat training.

train a puppy
The benefits of working for food are encoded in a puppy’s genes, which makes treating training dogs as young as eight weeks of age an excellent idea. (Photo by: Tony J. Peterson)

Now, as a puppy matures, he will work on more praise and less treats, but there will be time for that later. When you have that new addition to your family home for the first few weeks, a pocketful of kibble is your friend. If you know when to use it.

puppy training time

There are few things I wanted more as a parent than to surprise my twin daughters with a puppy when they were old enough. That moment came last summer and it has been controlled chaos ever since. While they are able to train little Sadie with me, they are also nine years old and often more of a distraction than anything else.

This means that when it’s time for a five or ten minute potty training, I sneak the pup out to the yard or drive down the road to the neighborhood park. The idea is to close as many of the puppy’s browser windows as possible so that when you create a small training window, the dog gets the most out of it because (mostly) he’ll be focused on you and not distractions.

train a puppy
While it’s a great idea to start training the basics as soon as you bring a puppy home, it’s also wise not to get too far ahead of the easier lessons. (Photo by: Tony J. Peterson)

Now, many of these distractions are based on proximity and you can’t completely get rid of them (nor would you want to). I love training in parks or near soccer fields where I know there will be distant activity. A pup that learns to work in a dynamic environment is one that will eventually solve more problems for you while you’re hunting, like quail that are tucked into certain spots in a hedge or roosters that are huddled right in the middle. from the plum bushes. This type of training environment also allows for some breaks for socialization, because if you take an eight-week-old puppy out for a walk with someone, they will want to pet him.

The key to all of this is to remember to try to minimize distractions and work with the few minutes of attention you can get from any given session. There is no room for marathon training sessions with puppies any more than there would be a reason to teach math to kindergarteners for six hours straight. Keep the exercises short, sweet and effective.

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train a puppy
Your pup’s training begins the day you bring him home and open your mind to the reality that he is so much more than a live-action version of a stuffed toy. (Photo by: Tony J. Peterson)

final thoughts

Those kindergarteners who couldn’t handle hours of math lessons could learn the basics of the alphabet and the more rudimentary lessons of reading and spelling. Understanding words and language is a huge asset and can set young children up for a lifetime of academic success.

The same rules apply to the basics of obedience and general manners you want your puppy to learn. The sooner you start with these exercises and lessons, the sooner your pup will start to become a better dog, that’s no coincidence, a learning machine. This literally changes the arc of your dog’s life and, by default, the trajectory of yours.

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