Getting started with your new puppy
The golden rule of puppy training is that she needs positive not negative reinforcement, to be rewarded for getting it right, not punished for getting it wrong!
Puppy training is dependent on the connection you have with your dog, she will automatically look to you as 'pack leader' and will instinctively want to follow your lead (commands).
Establish a bond based on trust and affection and your dog will want to please you, a bond based on dominance means your dog will be afraid of displeasing you.
It's easy to use punishment to condition a dog into not doing the 'wrong thing', but that creates psychological problems.
Your dog won't trust you, so what seems to be a well-behaved obedient animal is a ticking time bomb which will eventually explode with dire consequences for the owner, the dog and any unfortunate third-party.
Dog ownership is a love thing
A dogs favorite things are:
- Being able to please her owner
- Food, even Labradors will not eat if they think it make their owners unhappy
- Tasks to keep her busy.
The reward of being shown she has pleased you combined with food treats and toys she loves are all the tools you need to be able to train your puppy to a very high standard.
Keep her busy with activities that reward her and you will have a well-rounded obedient and loyal companion who will give you years of pleasure and very little problems.
Your dog is going to be an intergral part of your family, don't train it to be the problem member
Your new puppy will go to great lengths to please you, it's up to you to show her how to.
Before you start with your puppy training remember she is a blank canvas, she has no idea of what rules you have and the only way she can learn is from you.
Puppy training is about introducing your rules and boundaries in a way that makes it easy for her to understand and follow.
Your puppy needs her boundaries to be clearly defined and to do so you have to be constant, allowing one kind of behavior one day and then stopping it the next gives a confused message, your dog will have no idea what you want her to do and a confused puppy will grow into an unhappy dog!
It's no use getting upset when your full-sized Labrador jumps onto your sofa if you allowed her to start doing it when she was a pup, dogs do not reason in human language, she cannot understand when you say "your too big for that now" she is only following the guidelines you set for her in the beginning, most issues with mature dogs start from bad puppy training.
Remember your doing the training not her, dogs are intelligent and if you do not assert yourself as the alpha she will train you to let her do what she wants, when she wants.
Puppy Training - The Basics
As you read this you'll notice I write a lot about acting displeased or upset if your puppy gets it wrong, the emphasis is on ACTING.
I do not mean getting angry, shouting at or berating your puppy, dogs read human emotions and respond to them so if you feel upset your dog will pick it up, act sad when she gets it wrong, she won't like it and will try her best to make you happy again.
Get angry, she will get scared and confused. If for any reason you do get angry with your dog, walk away, go and cool down and understand your anger is with your inability to communicate, not with her failure to understand. Its your problem not hers!
Shouting is punishment and you should never have to punish your dog, if she doesn't do what you want her to it's your fault, you trained her so why punish her for your mistake?
The only time you raise your voice to your puppy is when you are issuing a command, and this should never be done in anger but always firm and controlled.
You will need plenty as 'good girl' rewards in the initial stages of training but beware, those innocent looking doggy treats are very high calorie, avoid overfeeding by taking a handful of the dry food out of her daily allowance and use a couple of bits at a time to treat her.
If you do use shop bought treats avoid the processed commercial ones and weigh them in with her daily food allwance so they form part of her controlled diet.
As a healthy alternative give her bits of fruit or raw carrot as treats instead those exorbitantly expensive 'organic, holistic, sustainable, Eco-friendly, save the planet while harmonizing your dogs inner self' ones
OK lets get started
You may want your puppy to sit, roll over, jump through hoops and count to ten, but before you do any of this you have to teach her the simple basic commands to ensure that you can take her out safely and to stop her getting into danger.
She needs to be able to come when called and stop doing whatever she is doing when told, no matter what she is doing or however distracted. Her need to please you by obeying your command must outweigh whatever other delights she has found to entertain herself with.
The first three commands you teach your puppy are come (recall), stop and leave (as in leave it alone), if each of these are prefixed with her name she will understand the command is for her, you can then leave her name off the last two but continue using her name with the recall and she should respond to either the come command or you calling her name.
The reason is that sometimes when a dog is in imminent danger, such as about to chase a rabbit across a busy road, the owner can panic, forget the command needed and just shout out their dogs name in desperation. If she is trained to recall on calling her name that will be enough to turn her around and away from danger.
This little chap is super cute and so easy to spoil
But get it wrong and this sweet bundle of joy will turn into an uncontrollable rouge, she will ruin your garden, chew you furniture and possessions to bits and probably drag you over a cliff or under a car and it will all be your fault.
To start puppy training you need 2 things :
- Patience (the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious)
- Perseverance (persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success)
If you can't master these 2Ps then don't try to train her, you will just ruin your dog, take her to puppy school it will be money well spent.
Labradors were originally bred to retrive game and fish from water so are very easy to train to a very high standard
Known as the 'recall' COME is the very first and most important command you will ever teach your dog, you call and no matter what she is doing (whatever the distraction, other dogs, an interesting find in the bushes, running after pigeons), she stops immediately and runs to you.
The recall can stop your dog from getting into a world of trouble, from running into the road, being attacked by unfriendly dogs or just going somewhere she should not be (such as that field you didn't realize had farm animals in it).
Fortunately this is the easiest command of all to teach, the trick is to make her do so when she is more interested in going somewhere else.
Your puppy will naturally come to you when you call her so start by fussing over her and giving her a treat when she comes as you call her name (food is your No.1 doggy training aid).
She will start to associate approaching you with getting both a treat and making you happy and run to you without being called. Pet but do not give her a treat when she does this, as coming to you should always be a pleasurable experience for her, but you need her to associate coming when being called as earning a reward, not running to you when ever she fancies a snack!
This is the second most important command, sometimes you don't want your dog to run to you, you just need her to stop whatever she is doing and stay where she is.
Suppose she has wandered across a road, you certainly don't want her running back across it to get to you, you need her to stop and stay where she is until you can safely go and get her.
This one requires what I call the voice of doom: Put your puppy on her lead and walk her a short distance then shout loudly with as much dread in your voice as you can muster "STOP" and stop dead keeping as tense as possible.
Your dog will be startled and follow your lead, you need this startle effect to snap her out of whatever she is doing or thinking and focus on you.
She will sense something is wrong (danger) and follow your lead automatically stopping when you do. As her pack leader you have sensed danger and she will rely on you to deal with it, after a few seconds relax tell her to come on or walk on (or whatever command you are intending to use to tell her to walk).
As she learns to come whenever you call cut down on the treats but keep up the fuss, plenty of good girls (or good boys) in pleasant soothing tones, show her you are pleased she has obeyed you.
When you call and she takes her time coming, never go to her you are doing the training not her!
Don't take the recall command for granted, even after many years of companionship a dog still likes being fussed over, whenever you call her still give her a good girl, a pat and the occasional treat.
This will reinforce that responding to the call is a good thing, always more rewarding than what else she was doing at the time.
Be aware that if you call your dog and she does not come as normal but starts barking or yapping it is usually an indication that something is wrong, you must go and attend to her at once. Dogs are far better at sensing danger than humans so pay attention when she feels it necessary to warn you.
Don't overdo this and it's best when approaching something unfamiliar to your dog, that way she will associate your doom laden "STOP" with an unknown quantity and understand she is being told to stop for her own safety.
While training extend this in to when she is playing around in the park or your garden, from a distance shout the stop command, she should immediately stand still and look towards you for guidance, initially walk to her clip the lead on then walk her back with you.
Get her used to the fact that stop means don't move until I move you. Later you can let her stop for a while than give her the recall command letting her know the dangers over and she can safely come to you.
Again don't over do this, the stop command has such potency that you don't want to diminish it by over use, so once learned save it for times of real need.
As you advance in training you will learn to use the stay and wait commands to halt your dog and have her either stay put and wait for a new command or stop for a certain time ( such as wait until I throw the ball before running) before continuing.
These do not have the same urgency of imminent danger as The Stop Command.
This is the preferred command to "NO", bad dog, naughty, stoppit, don't or the host of words we use when our dogs are doing something we don't want them to.
"LEAVE" is a generic command, it can be used for a variety of occasions as it means stop what you are doing now.
If you want your dog to stop chewing, not eat that cigarette butt shes found, stop trying to lick that child, not play with that other dog, stop chasing a cat etc... Then how convenient to have one command which stops her doing all that and more.
Start by waiting for your puppy to do something you don't want her to, (it's no use doing this after she has done it, she must be 'caught in the act' so she can associate leave with unwanted behavior) gently take the item away from her she shouldn't be eating or chewing or pull her away from what you don't want her to be doing and firmly say "LEAVE", or if you prefer "LEAVE IT" as the harsh sound of the it on the end may carry a little more weight.
Repeat this whenever you catch her doing something she shouldn't be, have a treat hidden so as soon as she stops what she is doing on command treat her and say "good leave", pet her and act pleased.
You have now associated stopping what she is doing at the command "LEAVE" with a reward, as well as not traumatizing your puppy by screaming "NO" or "BAD DOG" at her so it's a win for her and a win for you
You are going to be taking your dog out for walks and you will need to keep her on a leash in public areas, that's not just common sense its the law.
The biggest problem dog owners have is their dog pulling on the leash., the reason they do this is because the owners have allowed them to.
It's no use blaming the dog, you're in charge and she picks up her cues from you so you need to teach your puppy to walk on a loose leash.
Dogs love to roam it's an inherited ancestral trait and walking fulfills that instinctive need, this is why dogs love to go 'walkies' it follows then that if she learns that pulling on the leash = no walkies, then her beloved walking becomes a reward for good behavior (not pulling on the leash).
First things first though, you need to get your puppy used to a leash, so as soon as possible put her on one and gently trot with her letting her run behind you (your puppy will naturally chase you).
As soon as she moves in front or lags behind drop the leash, do not let her get the feel of a tight leash as you do not want her to associate this with having fun.
When she is used to having a leash clipped on sit her down put it on and use the command you will use for walking (walk on, walkies or whatever) then start to walk, as soon as she gets ahead and pulls on the leash immediately stop dead.
Say nothing don't move, as soon as the leash slackens start walking again, initially you may only walk 2 or 3 steps then stop for a couple of minutes, but every time you do this your puppy is making the connection 'tight leash no walkies, loose lead walkies'.
As soon as she walks a few yards on a loose leash slip her a treat and say "GOOD, WALK ON" or whatever walk command you use.
If you give in and occasionally walk on with your dog pulling on the leash, she will associate pulling with walking and think that if she pulls she will get to go where she wants, every time you let a dog pull you forwards you are training her to pull on the leash.
When do you use no?
When puppy training you realize the word you use most of all is no, you must be aware of this and limit its use.
When your puppy gets it right right use the word good, as in "GOOD SIT" or "GOOD HEEL" etc... Along with treats and petting, she associates "good" with doing something right, in her mind right is pleasing her owner, wrong is displeasing he owner.
"NO" is the opposite, if she gets a command wrong you say "NO" to indicate she has got it wrong then give her a chance to do it again. Make "NO" very specific so she doesn't get confused by having it shouted at her for a variety of reasons.
If you use "NO" to modify behavior such as no to climbing on the sofa or no to trying to grab food on the table then make sure you have an alternative task which she can be praised for.
IE:- If she climbs on the sofa say "NO" act displeased and gently push her off, take her to her spot in the room (mat, cushion or the area you prefer her to sit or lay in ). When she sits in this area act pleased, pet and praise her but do not give her a treat.
If you treat her she will jump on the sofa thinking that's how to win a treat, you want her to learn that jumping on the sofa makes you unhappy, going to her own spot makes you happy.
Remember that the very first thing your Labrador wants is to please you.
Labradors are bred to be working dogs and do well at agility training
Once you have mastered the basic commands the world is your oyster as far as training goes, you will obviously want to teach the basic sit, lie down and stand up commands.
These are easily done by giving the command while physically encouraging your dog to assume the position you want, as soon as she does this on her own you treat and reward her reinforcing that the sit command means sit, you've sat so good girl I am happy now and here is a treat and so on.
The next commands you need are going to be heel and stay. Heel calls your dog to a particular position sitting beside you slightly behind your leg, heel when walking instructs your dog to walk close to a particular leg with her attention on you preventing her from being distracted by her surroundings. Very useful when walking on pavements or in crowds.
Stay means she stops or is placed in a particular position and does not move until she is instructed to, even when you are out of her sight.
Heel to sit
Give the come command place your dog in the position you want to be when you call heel (usually sitting just to the side and slighty behind your left leg) and say "HEEL" firmly
Iif she sits still treat her and praise her with "GOOD HEEL". Repeat this several times then try just calling "HEEL" she should be getting the idea and come to the heel position, use treats and plenty of praise when she does.
This command is very effective when walking off the leash and you need to call her to sit close to you, such as when traffic is approaching on narrow country lanes.
Walk to Heel
Walk as normal but shorten the leash so she has to walk very close to your side, every time she moves in front of your leg put your hand in front of her nose and say "HEEL" and push her back, gently pushing on her nose should do the trick
As she moves back behind your leg say "GOOD HEEL" if she moves in front say "HEEL" again, as soon as she walks a few paces at heel treat her, reinforcing it with praise and plenty of "good heel"s.
Once she seems to be getting the hang of it take her off the leash call her to you and walk giving the "HEEL" command, using the same tactic of pushing her back into position and treating when she conforms.
Your dog will associate the heel command when given standing still as meaning sit to heel, and when given while moving as walk or run to heel.
A simple but effective command which requires your dog to stay where she is placed until she is told to move, even if you are out of her sight. The stay command is very powerful as an obeidant dog given the command will stay in that place until hunger or thirst forces them to move.
Start by telling your puppy to sit then slowly back away from them look them in the eye and say "STAY" as you move back.
If your dog gets up to follow say "SIT" (a dog cannot walk while it is sitting and this forces it to stay in place ) then follow it by "Stay". Start with just backing away a few yards, if your puppy sits and does not move towards you go back to her say "GOOD STAY" and give her a treat, this rewards her for not moving . Repeat the backing away to the same distance, then call her and give her a treat and pet her.
Keep doing this backing away further each time, only treat her for staying the first couple of times, this shows her that by not coming after you when you walk away after a "STAY" command you are not upset with her (Remember her natural instinct is to follow you).
The first time you do a "STAY" and step out of her sight, expect her to run after you losing sight of her owner is unnerving for a dog she will feel abandoned, when she does this it's time for the "NO" with a degree of disappointment, then lead her back to the stay spot and repeat.
Step out of sight count to 10 then step back in sight call her, treat her and make a big fuss. Each time you tell her to "STAY" and step out of sight increase the time, help her to understand that she is not being abandoned but asked to wait until called, and each time you come back, or call let her know that you are just as pleased to see her as she is to see you
Dogs will chew, it's natural behaviour so teach them to chew the right things
A Dog will chew, it's natural behavior, we don't like it when it happens to our handbags, shoes and phones so what you as an owner have to do its let them know what they can & cannot chew by directing their natural behavior where it will do the least harm to your goods & furniture.
Have a good selection of chew toys available, get hoofs. pigs ears and other tasty & natural chewables from the pet shop (don't forget those roasted knuckle bones), variety is the key here.
From day one use the "LEAVE" command whenever your puppy chews anything, and I mean anything. You might think that the puppy chewing your partners slippers amusing, but show her chewing footwear makes you happy and she'll happily munch her way through your £200 Jimmy Choo trainers, are you going to be laughing then?
Make sure you act upset (not angry) let the dog sense your unhappy with her, take the article away and substitute one of the chewables, as soon as she starts chewing on it pet & praise her, no need for a treat she is chewing on one! Swap the chewables around so she gets her scent on all of them.
Do not give up on this be persistent.
She will learn that (at home anyway) there are things she can chew, her stuff, and things she cannot chew, your stuff. If you master this before she looses her baby teeth and really starts to munch ( a Labrador can happily chew through a table leg) you will save a fortune.
Dogs like people can have a variety of issues, both mental and physical which can affect them in various ways, you may experience unexpected difficulties or have a problem with some aspect of your dogs training.
Don't get frustrated, get advice.
Getting frustrated will make your dog believe you are displeased with her for something she may have no control over will only make the problem worse.
There are a host of dog training and behavioral experts and advice, whatever you are facing take comfort in the fact that others have had exactly the same issue and have found a way to effectively deal with it.
The following links are provided as a starter to help solve any training or behavioral issues you may have.
Known as the 'Dog Whisperer' from his very popular TV series Cesar is regarded by many as one of the best dog trainers in the world, his focus is on training the owner to learn from the dog.
Some of his methods are controversial and not all agree with some of them, famously our own Alan Titchmarsh, but Cesar does get some remarkable results, so it's worth having a look at what he has to say. He may have the solution to your particular training issue.
This is a free to join forum based website dedicated to everything Labrador, Training, Puppies, Health and more.
You can discuss anything Labrador with hundreds of other owners, trainers, vets etc... across the country.
This is a free to join UK wide discussion platform for all pet owners.
The link in the title will take you to the Dog Training And Behavior Page, the chances are that whatever issue you have with your dog, someone else will have had it and posted it here and possible solutions will have been discussed.