It’s a good thing puppies are cute, because they behave like – pardon the expression – wild animals. You’ll have to invest a lot of time and energy molding your cute little face licker into a well-behaved dog that will follow instructions and act the way you expect him to.
Dominance training – sometimes called “alpha dog” training – is based on the premise that you and your dog are members of the same pack, and you outrank him. Accordingly, he is expected to act as you allow him to.
To communicate this hierarchy to a dog, dominance training relies on the use of “correction” techniques whenever a dog exhibits an undesirable behavior. This may come in the form of a sharp verbal correction (“No!”), mock bites, choke chains or electric shocks, which are delivered by a specially designed collar.
Many dog trainers embrace dominance-based techniques and apply them quite effectively. However, some owners lack the self-discipline to carry through with the training, and others feel that such treatments are unnecessary and cruel.
Positive Reinforcement Training
Also known by the slightly pejorative term “treat-slinging,” positive-reinforcement training requires the owner to provide treats or other positive stimuli when their dog exhibits a positive behavior. When a dog exhibits an undesirable behavior, or he fails to follow instructions, he is not scolded or corrected. Instead, the trainer or owner simply withholds the treat, toy or attention, until the dog performs the desired action.
This is currently a very popular training style, although it can require significant amounts of patience (not to mention treats). Regardless of these challenges, positive reinforcement is undoubtedly the training method your dog would prefer.
Many people (the author included) embrace parts of both approaches and try to employ a blend of dominance-like techniques as well as positive reinforcement. For example, treats, toys or attention are often helpful for teaching a dog a new skill or trick, while a sharp vocal correction is often necessary to stop an undesirable behavior or action.
Just be sure that your dog understands the type of feedback you are giving them, as confusion will only lead to frustration for both the trainer and the trainee.
Crate training is a behavioral modification strategy specifically applied to the problem of housebreaking. Essentially, it is carried out by keeping your dog in his crate until it is time to take him out to go to the bathroom. After taking him outside and allowing him to relieve himself, you can allow him to stay out of his crate for a brief time, but you must be sure to put him back in his crate before he needs to go to the bathroom again.
While older dogs can easily go 6 hours or more between bathroom breaks, young puppies will need to be taken outside every 3 to 4 hours, if not more often.
Many people find crate training to be effective, and although some owners feel bad for confining their dog in a crate, you’ll usually be able to housebreak your pup in a relatively short time – perhaps a few weeks.
While you can probably train your new pup with nothing more than the love in your heart, the tone of your voice and a healthy dose of body language, it is certainly easier to do so with a few important training tools. You do not need all of these tools, but you’ll probably have better success training your pup if you employ the ones that make the most sense for your situation.
- Training Lead – While all dogs require a good leash, you may prefer to use a longer leash when going for a casual stroll, and a shorter leash during training sessions.
- Heeling Stick – A heeling stick is a short wooden or aluminum staff that can be used to help train dogs the proper place to stand or sit when being commanded to heel. Simple ones consist of little more than a stick, while premium models often feature rubber tips and a soft hand grip.
- Clickers – Clickers and other sound-producing devices are often used in conjunction with treats or praise in the course of positive-reinforcement training styles. Over time, the sound of the clicker can replace treats and praise, and serve as its own reward.
- Choke Chains – Choke chains are comprised of little more than an interlocking chain that is attached to a lead. When the dog exhibits an undesirable behavior, a quick tug is given. This is often claimed to mimic the biting action of a dominant dog.
- Electric Collars – Electric collars produce a sharp electric shock when activated by a button in the trainer’s hand. They are frequently used by those who embrace dominance training.
- Soft-Toy – A soft, durable toy can be just as effective as a treat for some dogs. Any beloved toy will work, but a soft toy is safer to use in this context. It’s often helpful to use a special toy during training sessions, and not one of your pup’s day-to-day toys.
- Treat Pouches – Training pouches give you a convenient way to carry and access treats during training sessions. Although they aren’t strictly necessary, they’ll certainly make training time a little easier.
- Whistle – Whistles are helpful for “cutting through” your dog’s consciousness in the face of a distraction, and they are also very useful for communicating with your dog at a distance.
We wish you luck as you embark upon your puppy-training adventure. Just remember to learn all you can about the method(s) you intend to implement, and that you provide your dog with a loving, healthy home to ensure he is ready to receive the instruction. Keep training sessions short at the outset, and always ensure that you and your dog enjoy your time together.
We’d love to hear your thoughts or questions about puppy training techniques in the comments below. What training methods have worked best for you? Which ones have proven most successful? Let us know!