Teaching Your Puppy Commands

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Teaching Puppy Commands

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Clear Communication

Leader of the Pack

What you need to know before you start training your puppy: Dogs are pack animals and, as a result, a strict hierarchy is completely normal to your puppy. If you treat him as a partner with equal rights, you may confuse him by giving him too much freedom. To be a happy and well-adjusted companion he needs clear rules and he needs his role, and your role, clearly defined.

There must be a leader of the pack. From the very first day you bring your puppy home he is going to look for his place in the hierarchy of his new “pack.” This gives you the chance to introduce your puppy to rules and roles through playful training exercises. Limit each training exercise to five minutes, and train for no longer than 15 minutes per day. Always praise your pup when he completes an exercise completely. Make sure that you are the one who decides when the game or exercise starts and when it ends. Even if your puppy brings you his complete collection of toys, you should say “no” occasionally – this will remind your puppy that you are the pack leader.

Your tone of voice: When training your pup you don't need to shout to let him know what behavior you expect. The tone of your voice is much more important, and will help your puppy understand whether you are praising or scolding him. It’s best to use a direct, authoritarian manner with your puppy. If you are too polite with him – which in people-speak often means tacking on “if you don’t mind” or “would you please” to whatever you’re saying – your puppy is not going to understand you.

Command words: Always be consistent with the command words you choose for certain actions. Also, to help your puppy recognize the command word, and the action you want him to perform when he hears it, you should choose short, one-word commands, not long sentences. For example, if you are training your puppy to come to you when called, the command “come here!” is actually too long. “Come!” is the right length.

Teaching the “come” command: Begin training your puppy indoors. To get your pup to react to you and come to you when you call him always use the same command word, such as “come.” After you have called your puppy once or twice, he will probably come running to you. Praise him lavishly, and give him a food treat if you wish. Sometimes your puppy may have something more important on his agenda than coming to you when called. If he doesn't come to you after you've called him twice, go to him, pick him up and carry him to the spot from where you gave the command. Then repeat the exercise right away. However, if you have to chase your puppy to pick him up then it’s better to walk away from him rather than have him think you’re playing a new game. If you walk out of the room your puppy will usually follow you.

These training tips don’t apply outside your home. When outside, your puppy should be on a leash until he is fully trained. Obedience classes can help train your puppy or perfect what he’s learned – you may also enjoy working with your puppy in a group. Another important aspect of obedience classes is the regular contact with other dogs. This will teach your puppy how to interact with other dogs, and it will help him develop self-confidence.

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