9 tips for easier puppy training

When you bring your puppy home, this is the best time to start teaching him and then continue for the duration of his life. The earlier you start, the more memorable moments you will share, and every bit of time you invest in your puppy will bring you great rewards. But keep in mind that puppies should stay with their mother and siblings for at least 8-10 weeks, preferably 12 weeks, as they are still growing and strengthening, and improving their socialisation, observation and orientation abilities.


Make it fun

Always use reward-based training with treats, a toy or verbal encouragement. Puppies, as with any pet, should not be punished. Safety is a priority, and because a puppy is still growing and his growth plates (the part of the skeleton where the bones grow) are not fully developed, it is best to start with simple things and wait with tricks that can affect his healthy development. Things like learning to sit up with his front paws in the air, dancing, walking on two legs, or jumping up should wait until he is grown, at about a year old, to avoid the risk of injury or potential spinal problems later in his life.


Start with the basics

  1. It won’t be long before your puppy learns his name and responds to your calls. Make mealtimes fun and teach your pup to come when called for his meal.
  2. Your puppy needs to be potty trained, and this may require patience on your part. You always want to reward your pup for doing the right thing instead of reinforcing the wrong behaviour by scolding him. If you catch your pup in mid-squat, distract him and take him out to finish the job in the right spot. Praise him for doing it right. Do not scold him if you find a puddle or a mess; clean it up and supervise him better next time.
  3. Another important skill your dog needs to learn is socialising with other animals and interacting with them in different situations. Start introducing your puppy to controlled environments, and make sure that these are fun experiences. A puppy school is a great start for healthy socialisation.


Settling in

  1. Start with simple cues such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. Be sure to always use the same cue for the same action. Wait until he is older and has mastered the cue to stay before you teach other cues.
  2. Your puppy is ready to learn to walk with his collar and leash at about eight or nine weeks. It may be relatively easy, but in some cases, you will get some resistance, either way, persist. Soon your puppy will understand that the leash means a walking experience and an outing, so learning to walk on a leash is an important first skill. Never pull your puppy when he is on a leash. Rather, allow him to explore in the garden with the leash on, and once he has mastered walking with a leash, you can venture out and about.
  3. Your puppy is active, and although puppy antics are cute, remember that certain behaviours can become problematic when he grows up. Punishment won’t get the desired result and will lead to an anxious or frustrated pup or dog later on. So, be sure to be quick with recognition or a treat when he does the right thing. Don’t put his nose in his ‘business’ as this will frighten him.
  4. If he is biting your fingers, let out a high-pitched ‘ouch’ to indicate your displeasure.
  5. If your puppy jumps up when he is excited, it may become problematic later on, especially if he is a large breed. Be consistent with a return command of ‘sit’ and stay consistent every time he jumps up.


Puppy school

  1. Puppy classes or joining a puppy school is a wonderful idea, and although ongoing training is recommended, puppy school gives both owner and dog a great foundation. You will learn how to communicate with your puppy and how to teach him. It is recommended that you attend puppy school prior to your puppy reaching 16 weeks of age.


Training and advice

Your puppy should be well rounded by 16 weeks and if you have any concerns, you can contact a professional animal behaviourist to assist. You can find a registered professional from COAPE Association of Applied Pet Behaviourists and Trainers at www.capbt.org.za.


First birthday

Your pup is no longer a pup, and at one year, he is ready to engage in dog sports and more advanced training – depending on his breed. Larger breeds should wait until they’re fully developed. Speak to your vet to find out if your dog is ready or not.

When your dog’s skeletal structure is developed and it is safer for him to jump, you can try advanced tricks. Remember that breeds with short legs are more at risk of spinal injuries, and it is best to avoid things that can cause this. There are so many fun activities you can choose from, and engaging in sports is as enjoyable for the owner as it is for the dog.


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