Puppies don’t come programed to be good dogs. They require love, nurturing and training to become healthy and happy adults. Without instruction they would rely on feral instincts to survive. Dogs are directly descended from wolves. This is not the behavior you probably want in a family pet. Luckily dogs have been domesticated for many years. Much information has been collected about training techniques. Not every new puppy owner has to “reinvent the wheel.” Established puppy training methods perfected through years of trial and error. This knowledge is available to ensure the new addition develops into the well behaved cherished family member both the puppy and the owner deserve.
A major goal in puppy training centers on educating the new owners about dog behavior and human to canine interaction. There are many misconceptions about dog behavior, intelligence, and perceptions. Understanding what drives a dog’s action is necessary to control how the dog acts. Classes are offered at two levels to meet provide the instruction that owners need and address common problems for the dog’s age.
This class is ideally provided when the puppy is 3-4 months old. The owner will learn basic dog training techniques including how to control unwanted behaviors and appropriately reward desired behaviors. The puppy will learn basic commands and will start to form a healthy relationship with its owner. The teamwork skills established here between dog and owner will benefit both throughout the dog’s lifetime.
Provided as a five week course this segment is a continuation of the basic instruction. At this point in the puppies development training centers on following commands in the presence of environmental distractions, learning additional commands and reconditioning any specific behavioral problems the dog expresses.
Basic Puppy Concepts
There are several concepts to consider when training a puppy.
• Dogs are not humans. They do not respond to higher thought and reasoning the same way as people. They do not experience the same range of emotion or reasoning and cannot be expected to learn the way humans learn.
• Canines have an extremely short memory. Rewards must be given quickly and consistently. Undesirable behavior must be likewise approached immediately. After a few minutes they have no idea why they are being rewarded or redirected. This is the basis of primary and secondary rewards.
• Consistency is most important. In operant conditioning responses must be routinely linked to stimuli. If the principles and techniques learned in the class are not consistently enforced at home no progress can be made. Worse, the inconsistent owner confuses the animal making future attempts to train more difficult.
• The general philosophy in training is to reward desirable behavior and ignore or redirect undesirable behavior. All training needs to be done humanely with kindness and support. Physical punishment for negative behaviors prevents a trusting and loving bond between owner and animal.
• Puppies have an expected timeline for neuro-behavioral development. Understanding what can be learned at each developmental stage prevents disappointment in performance from unrealistic expectations. This is why training with distraction occurs later when control is developed.
• With few exceptions there are no bad dogs, only bad handlers. Any persistent undesirable behavior in the dog simply means the solution has not been addressed and consistently applied by the human.
Proper conditioning trains the dog that appropriate behavior results in reward. The expectation of the dog is very simple and basic. Rewards in the form of food and affection are derived from doing what is expected. Failure to meet expectation results in no reward. It is a basic nature of all living things to seek reward and avoid behaviors that fail to provide reward.
Getting a puppy is a lifetime commitment. Depending on the breed of the dog, the time together will be between ten and twenty years if not more. The time to start developing a healthy relationship that will provide an optimal experience for both dog and owner begins immediately. Puppy training by an experienced professional enhances the outcome for both dog and human.