54 Orchard Hill Road

Pomfret Center, CT 06259


Basic Puppy Training

Basic Puppy Training….

Because a good start can make a world of difference!!!

By Dr. M.E. Norris

Understanding Dogs….

Dogs are pack animals. They communicate well in a group. Their survival depended on it. It still does….Did you know more dogs are put to sleep each year because of behavior problems than any other single disease?

Dogs are looking for a leader. Anytime your dog does something you asked, it is an easy way to remind the dog that you are the boss, and they aren’t. Dogs need someone in charge, and that should be you.

Dogs live in a hierarchy. Dogs do not like to be equal. They will get anxious and feel they have to fight it out to see who will end up on top and who will be on the bottom. Every time a dog greets anyone, they either try to dominate, or they yield (submit). That is how they keep peace in the pack. As long as a dog is sure of its role in the pack, it is happy.

Temperament testing. Most of us like to live with dogs that have the middle temperament- not too pushy and not too shy. Some dogs learn to be pushier than others from their littermates. Dogs that are too pushy by nature- like the first puppy that rushes out from the litter- are often hard to make good pets. Dogs that shy away may have been pushed around by bully brothers and sisters, and not abused by people. We teach dogs by reinforcing the behaviors we like, and by not rewarding the behaviors we don’t like.

What is a reward for one dog, may be a punishment for another. For one dog, any attention, even negative, may be a reward. Some love food. Some love to fetch. Some like to snuggle. Use whatever works for your puppy.

Nothing in Life is Free….

You are providing a lot for your dog:

  • Health Care Benefits
  • Room and Board
  • Family and Friends
  • Occasional Vacations
  • Protection

In exchange, your puppy can learn to be the dog you want it to be.

Anytime you are going to do something your puppy would like:

  • Filling up the water bowl
  • Throwing a ball
  • Taking the puppy outside

Ask the dog to do something first:

  • Sit
  • Come Have the leash hooked on
  • Be groomed or handled

If 90% of the time, when you pup does something for you, something good happens, they will learn to listen. Dogs were meant to be doing work. It keeps them out of trouble. It gives them something to do. The shy dog gains confidence. The pushy dog is given a leader. You won’t be spending your time giving negative corrections.

Praise and reward behavior you like. Anytime your dog is doing something you like, even if it is just chewing on its own toys or sleeping where you want it to sleep, praise it! If it misbehaves, say “NO”! Then signal it to do something you like (such as sit). They praise and reward the behavior you like (bring a toy, or go for a walk).

Listening will become fun!

Meeting your dog half-way…. Or Learning to talk Dog….

“Ouch” and pout.

Your puppy does not want to hurt you. When it plays too rough or bites, it thinks that how you like to play. The way we often try to correct them- pushing them, or hitting them, or running away- can seem to them to be part of the game. The puppy things: “You push me, I jump on you. You hit me, I nip at you. Then we play chase. Isn’t this fun?”

You need to let it know it hurt you the way another puppy would.

The puppy that is hurt will:

  • Cry out: “ouch!”
  • Pout: It will back and not play.

When you signal you are hurt and withdraw, you tell the puppy to back off, in a way it can understand. You will be amazed with how quickly they catch on.


“No!” should equal a growl. If we are not careful, we are saying “No!” to our dog all day long. After a while, they stop listening. When the mother dog is training her puppies, she speaks firmly with a growl, but only when their lives depend on it. They should have a “NO” that would stop a stranger in their tracks. Use it sparingly.

If you say it, mean it…

Always pair the signal with the behavior you want. If you say “Come!”, but do not make the dog come, it can not learn what the word means. If you do not let your puppy know what you want, it will just think you are babbling, and not that you are communicating.

Using a Crate….

Housebreaking is a three step process:

  1. We show them we want them to go outside
  2. We teach them not to go inside
  3. We give them incentive to hold

Puppies do not soil where they have to be. We can take advantage of this by confining the dog to a small place, like a crate. Pick a crate that is about twice the size of the puppy stretched out fully. (You may need to size up as the puppy grows).

When dogs are confined, they feel safe. By nature, they are den animals. The less they move around, the easier it is to hold. They also can’t accidentally destroy your things.

When they come out of the crate, they will need to poop and piddle. Take them right outside.

As they are going, give them a signal. (I say “Outies”, but you can say whatever you like.) The pup will associate the signal with poops and piddles. Then you can signal the pup to go anytime you need it to.

Praise. There is nothing as wonderful as seeing poops and piddles outside.

When you go back into the house, one of three things needs to happen:

  1. Watch them: if they have 100% of your attention.
  2. Leash them: if they have some of your attention, but not all of your attention.
  3. Crate them: if no one is watching. Their favorite toy or treats should be available for crate time only, so the crate is fun.

Dogs want to do the right thing. We need to be right there to show them how!

Two weeks Intensive Training….

Dogs live in the moment…

If they make a mistake, you need to be right there to correct them as they are making it. Use this as a time of close observation to teach them:

  • Which toys are theirs.
  • Where they are allowed to be.
  • How they are to behave with visitors.
  • To be housebroken.

If you catch them in the act of soiling:

  1. “NO!”
  2. Get them outside and give your signal
  3. Praise.
  4. You can give a treat or cuddle. Just let them know they got it right!

You have the choice. Do you want to tell them when they need to go out, or do you want them to tell you? Either way will work. My dogs go out when I tell them, because they have to work around my schedule.

Any signal will work. If every time the dog barks by the door, or sits by your side, you jump up and take them out and stay out until they relieve themselves, they will soon learn not  to give you the signal unless they want to go out. Training is a two-way street.

All you have to do is be consistent. You can hang a bell on the doorknob and teach them to ring it with their foot or their nose. If you watch them closely, and go two weeks accident-free, you are well on your way to teaching them the rules of your house!

If you do not correct them while they are making the mistake, they will understand that you are upset, but will not understand why. Timing is everything!

Remember: Direction, not Correction.

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