By Patty Dobson
Congratulations, you have a new addition to your home! Now comes the part that for many, can sometimes be a discombobulating, exasperating, or frustrating – housebreaking your pup. Here are some helpful tips to build a strong, loving, respectful, and rewarding relationship with your puppy:
- Be patient – Remember your dog is just a baby and doesn’t know any better. He’s learning and doing his best. Expect accidents in the beginning but keep patient with him.
- Be a pack leader – Dogs are hard-wired to follow a pack leader. Demonstrate leadership by remaining consistent, confident, stable, and strong. Puppies sense our confidence levels, and often misbehaving occurs when they sense our confidence levels sliding. The role of pack leader should be maintained through the entire dog training to create consistency for your puppy.
- Create a safe space for your puppy – Whether potty training or walking your puppy, choose areas where he’ll feel safe. When potty training, find a place that feels and smells safe and familiar. Every morning, take your puppy outside to the same area and keep consistent so that your puppy can learn this habit. Remember to reward your puppy through approval and/or a treat to express success.
- Be clear and consistent with “house rules” – Is he allowed on the bed? In this room? On the furniture? At the dining table. Decide on the “house rules” and be consistent with it to avoid confusion.
- Be consistent – Consistency is key in creating good habits and preventing confusion.
- You get what you reinforce – Similar to consistency, you get what you reinforce. Say your puppy wants you to play, and he drops a toy on your lap. He barks, and you throw the toy. Your puppy has learned that barking gets you to do what he wants. Let’s say you ignore the bark, and he begins to bark even more. So, you give in and throw the toy. He’s now learned that persistent barking will get you to do what he wants. He may begin to bark whenever he wants something. To teach him new reinforcing habits, as him to “sit” when he wants to play, then play with him.
- Listen to your puppy – Like their human counterparts, puppies come with their own personalities and dispositions, their likes, dislikes, and discomforts. Learn to listen and pay attention to your puppy, understanding and acknowledging when he expresses fear or discomfort without forcing the issue. It could help him healthily turn around a fear or discomfort or prevent something from becoming a complex.
- Tell him what you want him to do – While there’s nothing wrong with saying “no” to your dog, it can cause confusion, as puppies don’t know what we want them to do. Instead of telling him no, try telling him what you want him to do. For instance, if he jumps up to welcome you and/or guests, either ask him to “sit”; ignore him or turn your back to him until he settles down. Pick one method and stick with it, remembering to stay consistent.It will begin to teach him the habit of sitting or expressing his excitement in a non-jumping manner, rather than jumping onto guests.
- Treats aren’t the only form of positive reinforcement – Remember that your puppy also loves petting, praise, walks, and games as ways to bond and as forms of positive reinforcement.
- Have realistic expectations – Puppies like humans have their natural tendencies, like jumping, barking, digging, and chewing things, and changing behaviour takes time, especially behaviour that may feel natural to them.