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Become an expert: Educating a puppy

Golden labrador puppy advice © Shutterstock

Educating your puppy is an essential part of your life with your canine companion. It is important to put in the effort to teach a pup some basic rules on how to behave indoors.

By Ashley Murphy

If you want to learn how to train a puppy not to toilet indoors, chew things up, or run around like crazy (although a bit of puppy madness is to be expected) read on!

Toilet training a puppy

Your dog will probably never learn to use your human toilet. But it is important to train your puppy to know where it is appropriate for him to do his business – and it’s probably already on your mind.

The key thing is to be consistent. Never punish your dog for eliminating in an inappropriate place. At best, he won’t understand you. At worst, he’ll misunderstand, might become afraid of you seeing him while eliminating, and start to do it in hidden places around the house.

Instead, use positive reinforcement. Use praise, treats, and lots of fuss, whenever your puppy goes in the right place. 

Your puppy will use the same areas more and more, so it is important that you ensure that he eliminates in the right places (e.g. in the garden) and not the wrong ones (e.g. the entrance rug). So how do you teach him what the right place is?

Set up a routine. A young puppy (2-3 months) needs to eliminate several times a day, especially after they wake up, after eating, and after playing. As they grow up, they become able to hold it for longer periods of time. In all of these occasions, you need to take him out, or put him in the garden. It’s also good to make sure his meals and play times are always at the same time.

You also need to learn to look out for those moments when he’ll  need to go ‘off-schedule.’ This can happen if he starts to whimper, become agitated, or if he starts sniffing around for somewhere to drop. Yes, he’s trying to tell you something. 

If you’re too late, and catch him in the act, simply pick him up and put him outside to finish and then praise him a lot for using the right place. 

Training a puppy not to chew house items

A puppy really isn’t so different from a baby. It’s literally a baby dog. And like a baby, he will try to learn about the strange world around him by putting things in his mouth.

This might also be due to teething. You can deal with a teething dog by giving him a freezing wet soft toy to chew on. Just keep an eye that he doesn’t try to swallow any bits.

It’s important to teach your dog what he can and cannot chew on, before he becomes big enough to chew a leg off the table, and old enough to be unable to shake off the habit.

Know that your puppy will chew stuff. Dogs need to chew at any age and it takes time to learn what is OK and what is not. So when you adopt a new dog, whatever the age, keep any expensive object out of his reach. He will always chew the thing you least expect. He doesn’t know the human value of human things so you can’t blame him. 

But that doesn’t mean you should let him chew human stuff that you consider expendable! If you allow him to chew on an old slipper, he’ll learn that your new slippers are fair game, too. Instead, give him a dog chew-toy, and make a ritual of it, (you can even gift-wrap it if you like), so he knows it’s for him.

Don’t chase your dog if he has something he shouldn’t. He’ll think he’s invented a wonderful new game he can play with you! Instead, teach him how to ‘leave it’ and offer him a treat in return.

And don’t punish him when you find he’s chewed something. He won’t know what you’re punishing him for, which will make him anxious - excessive chewing of house items might be a sign of anxiety too! Instead, reward him when he’s good, and keep him entertained enough that he does not need to chew your furniture to have fun.

Training a puppy to be calm at home

Life is beautiful when you’re a puppy. Every next step could be the greatest step the world has ever known. Sometimes, in their enthusiasm, they will try to take this step, and the next one, and the next one, perhaps a bit too quickly for you.

To some degree, doggo will grow out of this one as he becomes an adult. But it is also important to teach your dog when and where it is OK to be active.

Give him plenty of exercise when you are outdoors. Sure you need to give him garden time – but it needs to be engaged garden time. Play exciting games outside. But don’t confuse him by playing wild games indoors. Have calm activities indoors, such as nose-work or problem solving.

Reward him with praise or a treat when he’s calm, such as when he is in his bed. Reward him when he listens to you. Teach him ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ and reward him when he complies.

You lucky thing! You have a dog in your house!