Don’t punish or give attention to negative behaviours. Distract the puppy with a loud noise such as a cough, clapping hands, banging the wall/floor or throwing a ball, as soon as the puppy stops to see what is happening reward them for positive behaviour such as standing still or sitting.
Pat your puppy around the sides, tummy and chin, not the face as this encourages mouthing behaviours and biting. Avoid patting your puppy with your other hand while they are biting/mouthing you as this is a reinforcement of this behaviour. Teach your puppy that biting hurts by saying a loud ‘OW’ and stopping play/ignoring puppy. When your puppy settles down, sits, or another nice/calm behaviour, reward them with your attention again.
Get your puppy comfortable with its lead by attaching a soft, light lead – always when supervised – let them walk around the house pulling it as this provides no resistance to them. Put their food bowl down at dinner time, take puppy to the other side of the room and hold the lead as they walk to their bowl. This is positive reinforcement for walking on the lead.
Encourage your puppy to always come to you and every person in the house rather than following your puppy. For dogs, the subordinate always comes to the superior to gain attention and not the other way around. The ‘come’ command is useful in many ways and will also ensure your puppy knows its place in the household.
If your puppy doesn’t respond to their name when you call, the universal call for a puppy is often ‘HERE PUP PUP’ used by the breeders when feeding them at a young age.
Never take the puppy’s dinner away from them as this can teach them to guard it. Show them it is a good thing for children to be around their dinner bowl by having the child add a favorite treat to their dinner as they are eating. This is a positive reinforcement.
Dogs use body language as 90% of their communication, so be aware of what your body language and hand movements are saying when you speak. Talking to your dog, watching them and patting them are all reinforcing behaviours. Direct eye contact, standing over your dog and sudden hand movements can be taken as threatening to a dog. Use your voice pitch to reflect your meaning and never let a dog stand over anyone.
SIT, STAY, DOWN and COME are important basic commands for dogs to follow obediently in a variety of situations. Once they master these at home, try practicing outside, at friends’ houses and parks. Soon they will master these with the distractions of other people and pets while still concentrating on you.
Your puppy should have an accessible bed/crate to go, where it cannot be disturbed by anyone. This will ensure the puppy feels safe there and if it needs to be alone, from children for example, it does not resort to negative behaviours for its own space. This is where teaching the puppy to ‘come’ is handy (as children and adults can call the puppy to come and play, not go over and collect) and will reinforce the command as well as reinforcing the puppy’s subordinate position. This space is useful for teaching the puppy to be left alone from people and other animals so that it is not consistently reliant on company.
Crate training is a proven method of toilet training. This should be a positive place for your puppy to stay, with enough room to turn around and sleep. This technique works on the knowledge that a dog won’t toilet where it sleeps and will teach it to hold on for the short periods it is kept inside. A play pen is also helpful for when puppy is unsupervised when toilet training. See ‘crate training’ handout.
Clicker training is an effective training technique to ‘capture’ the precise moment your puppy is doing an appropriate behaviour. This is for both training and behaviour modification.