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The Art of Training a Puppy


Discipline, Not Cruelty


Puppy training should never involve harsh punishments or cruelty. These techniques will only teach your dog to avoid doing something for fear of being severely punished for it. It does not teach a dog self discipline. If your dog makes a mistake or fails to follow a command during a training session, it is enough to give a quick tug, or pop, on the leash while saying “no” in an assertive voice. Do not give your puppy verbal or physical encouragement until she has successfully performed the skill you are teaching her. This technique is designed to get the puppy’s attention without causing pain, and for demonstrating to the puppy that you are the pack leader. This should be able to convey your displeasure in her disobedience without hurting her.


When she does follow your commands successfully, you should praise her immediately so she associates the specific action with your response. Being able to reliably associate your response to a specific behavior will give your puppy the confidence of knowing how to earn your praise and affection. Your pleasure in her good behavior should be evident in your voice and in your body language so that she knows that you are really happy with what she did.


The same is also true when you reprimand your puppy. You must do it immediately after the mistake is made so that she is able to associate the incorrect behavior with your displeasure. It is not necessary or advisable to frighten or hurt the puppy for disobeying, but you will need to use a flatter and deeper voice pitch when speaking, and you must refrain from physical affection until she has performed successfully. While this appears harsh to some people who may feel wary of hurting their puppy’s feelings, it is the only tried and true method for teaching a puppy which behaviors are appropriate and which are not. You are not responding in anger, you are responding with an approach to discipline. Think of yourself as a compassionate military commander, and remember that you want to be able to take your dog anyplace without fear of her behavior.


As the leader that your puppy looks up to, you must be able to give praise and correction accordingly and consistently. There is no room for guilt when training a puppy to be a well received member of both human and animal society. You should also be able to correct your puppy without being too emotional about it, and the only way to do this is to take a no-nonsense approach to teaching your puppy what is right and what is wrong. She is depending on your confidence as her pack leader.


Remember that corrections are meant to guide your puppy towards good behavior, and in the process, you are also learning your puppy’s individual character. Just as you do, she has her own individual personality, and through the process of training, you will be encouraging her to be the best dog she can be while respecting both her potential and her limitations.


You must also remember that your puppy is bound to make a mistake at one point or another, as we all do when we are learning something new. Do not be disappointed. Just continue to be patient, consistent and encouraging, and your puppy will follow suit.


Image: Ginny / via Flickr