Puppy Obedience Training –
How to Care for a Puppy

Set up a schedule and carefully supervise our puppy.

The little puppy is very curious and will get into trouble every chance he gets.

To save ourselves a lot of pain and to save our puppy from stress, we want set up a fixed schedule which includes crate time, play time, walk time, as well as handling and grooming time.

When our puppy is out and about in a non-dog-proof area, we need to supervise him closely. Close supervision will give us the opportunity to teach puppy right from wrong, without too much damage to our furniture and belongings.

If I do not have the time,

  • I usually crate puppy, when he is home alone, or
  • I put puppy on a tie-down, when I am home but unable to fully supervise.

If you are concerned about crating your puppy, here is what the Humane Society of the United States and the American Dog Trainer’s Network have to say about dogs and crates.

When I am away for a long period of time (> 3 hours), I put puppy in a long-term enclosure. This can be a secure puppy pen or a safe room (e.g. kitchen). I make sure there is nothing in the enclosure that my puppy can destroy. I also put in some bedding, a water bowl, puppy pads, and safe chew toys.

As a general rule, the longest time to crate a puppy is (age of dog in months) hours. For example, an 8 week old puppy can be kept a maximum of (2 month old) = 2 hours in a crate. Note that this is just a general guideline for the maximum crate time.

Most puppies need to go outside more frequently than that, for exercise and potty training. I take my puppy outside as soon as he wakes up, and right after any kind of vigorous play. In the beginning, Husky puppy Shania needed to potty after about 10-15 minutes of play. Here is a more detailed table of maximum crate time.

At night, I crate my dogs in the bedroom. Sleeping together helps with the bonding process, and shows them that they are part of the pack.

Puppy Obedience Training 2

Keep a drag-lead on our puppy.

I put a drag-lead on my puppy when he is roaming freely in the house.

This will help us control our ball of energy without resorting to chasing games. When my puppy tries to run away, all I need to do is step on the drag-lead.

I use a regular, thick (1 inch wide), flat collar or harness and not an aversive collar (choke chain, prong collar). I make sure to cut off the loop on the leash, so that it does not catch on anything around the house. I start with a longer (6 feet), light leash, and then shorten it depending on my puppy’s behavior. I only do this while I am around to properly supervise my puppy.

Once he matures and is better behaved, I switch to a leash tab or remove the drag-lead altogether.

It is best to use a secure 6 foot leash during puppy leash training and not the flexi-leash. The 6 foot leash gives us better control of our puppy, and is necessary to keep him safe when he decides to go chasing after dogs, cats, or squirrels.

Puppy Obedience Training 3

Start with reward obedience training.

It is most effective and least risky to start our puppy with reward obedience training. I started out with aversive techniques, and it made my Shiba puppy develop additional behavioral issues, including aggression. In fact, my aversive based dog trainer said that it was inappropriate use pain based techniques, such as leash jerks and alpha rolls, on dogs that are younger than 6 months old.

Today, I prefer to use reward training because it is more effective at motivating my dogs, stopping undesirable behaviors, and building a strong bond.

With reward training, we establish ourselves as the pack leader by controlling our dog’s resources through the Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF) program. This simply means that my puppy has to do something for me, for example a Sit, before he gets any resource (e.g. food, toys, affection, freedom) in return. Any bullying will be ignored, or will result in the removal of that resource.

Many people make the mistake of equating pack leadership with the use of aversive training. Aversive dog trainers say that difficult, strong-willed, dominant dogs require stronger, punishment based methods in order to show him who is boss.

This is not true.

One of my dogs (a Shiba Inu) is extremely strong willed, and can be quite difficult, but he responds much better to reward training.

Be careful of advertisements for 10 minute puppy obedience training programs and the like. There are no miracle cures in puppy training.

Puppy Obedience Training 4

Bite inhibition training.

Puppy biting is common because puppies are naturally curious, and want to examine everything with their mouths.

The good news is puppies do not have the jaw strength of an adult dog, and will not do much damage to us when biting. Because of this, puppy-hood is a good time for bite inhibition, or soft mouth training.

One of the best ways to train a dog to have a soft mouth is through hand-feeding.

I hand-feed my puppy at least some of his kibble every day. If he bites too hard when getting his food, I do a sharp ouch or yelp and ignore him for a few seconds. Then, I retry the exercise. If he takes food from me gently, I praise him and continue feeding without any breaks.

We can also combine hand-feeding with obedience commands, and dog grooming sessions. Hand-feeding also helps with food aggression issues, so I continue with it even through adulthood.

Ian Dunbar’s book After You Get Your Puppy, gives a good overview of bite inhibition, and how to best train our puppy to have a soft mouth.

A puppy, and ultimately an adult dog who has a soft mouth is a great asset. Because my Shiba Inu has good bite inhibition, we were able to solve many of his behavior problems, which would have been difficult to deal with if he were biting at full strength.

Puppy Obedience Training 5

Practice calm and assertive energy.

This is something that is always emphasized by Cesar Millan (the Dog Whisperer) and it is extremely important; especially for a hyperactive puppy.

If we interact with a dog using nervous, submissive, fearful, or otherwise weak (non-assertive) energy, the dog will sense that and start acting out even more.

Anger, impatience, frustration, and all other non-calm energies will only excite our puppy, and cause him to exhibit even more extreme behaviors.

In order to achieve calm, assertive energy, we must first overcome whatever fears we may feel toward our dog, and become his pack leader. This is much easier to do if we have achieved good bite inhibition.

Puppy Obedience Training 6

A busy puppy is a good puppy.

Puppies have a lot of energy, and will get into trouble if we do not keep them busy.

I make my puppy work for ALL of his food. Instead of presenting everything to him in a silver bowl, I use his daily kibble and treats for obedience sessions, bite inhibition training, handling, and grooming. If there is food left over, I put it in interactive food toys.

I also schedule play time with my puppy. Some games that my dogs like include flirt pole, the water hose game, and sometimes soccer.

When I start with a new game, I make it fun by handing out lots of treats for effort. Once my puppy understands the game, I switch to only treating his more stellar performances.

Make sure to always have control of a puppy’s play-time. This means that we own all the toys, and we decide when to start and stop the games. Play-time can be very useful in training our puppy to calm down, and to pay attention to us even when he is excited.

I also schedule two or three short obedience training sessions (10-15 minutes) with my puppy every day. This helps to establish me as the leader, gives my puppy some mental exercise, and provides a good bonding experience.

Other good ways to exercise our puppy (after full vaccination) include neighborhood walks, walks in the park, dog playgroups, and dog sports.

Puppy Obedience Training 7

We are not alone.

The most important thing to remember while bringing up a difficult puppy is that we are not alone!

Our puppy journey will be filled with a lot of joy, but there will also be challenges and pit-falls. Sometimes, we may feel discouraged by our puppy’s behavior, or with his performance in dog obedience class.

We are not alone!

There are many support groups out there where we may post our questions. I also find it helpful to visit these groups when I feel discouraged, or when I feel like my puppy is some mutant strain of devil dog.

Do not think that you are a bad dog owner or trainer when your puppy behaves badly. Many other dog owners are facing the exact same problems. Also remember that with proper rules and training, our puppy’s behavior will improve with time.

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  1. Nicola says

    I am trying to train my 4 month old puppy to pee outside and go for a walk on leash around the yard. She is so obsessed with eating every rock and leaf that I can’t even get her to walk, let alone run to expend done puppy energy. I say so when she tries to eat something and move her away from it but there’s is always another object for her to move on to. Help!

    • shibashake says

      When my puppy bites on something she should not, I redirect her attention onto a sanctioned object, e.g. a toy. As soon as she redirects, I engage her in a fun game with the toy. In this way, she learns that playing with certain objects are very rewarding, and results in a very fun but structured play session. My Shiba often brings toys over to me when he wants to play.

      A mistake I made when I first got my Shiba, is to simply say no and try to physically stop him from doing something. However, I have since learned that it is much more effective to no-mark, and then redirect him into doing something else that is positive. I can then reward and reinforce that positive behavior. In this way, I not only tell him what *not* to do, but also what *to do* instead.

      More on how I deal with puppy biting.
      More on how I set up structure for my puppy and teach her self-control.

  2. Lynsey says

    I am in th eprocess of getting a new dog after losing Tetley 2 months ago. At the dogs trust, I have been walking a 9 month old 3 legged Husky. We are hoping to bring her home this weekend. I have 3 children, 8, 6 & 3 who are used to (older dogs) Do you think a Husky would be a good breed for us? She is lovely & whilst she has some excitable behaviour I am surprised at how quickly she calms down. How long do you walk your husky for every day? Does she go off the lead ever as I know they are bad at recall? Only just googled 3 legged dogs & came to your site straight away which must be a good sign to go for Skye the Husky!
    Thanks in advance for any advise you can offer.

    • shibashake says

      I am out with Shania anywhere from 1-4 hours. We *do not* walk the whole time. A lot of the time, she is resting, smelling the wind, looking at people, etc. She loves being outside, especially when it is not too hot, so I hang out with her and read a book.

      We did more walking when she was younger. She is now over 7 years old, so we do 2 longer walks per week, and the rest of the time we do more resting. I observe her well and let her tell me what she is up for.

      Does she go off the lead ever as I know they are bad at recall?

      Yeah, Huskies have high prey drive and love to run, so it is recommended that they stay on-leash unless they are in a fully enclosed area.

      The breed is also not reliable off-leash, and no amount of training can make them so. They were bred to run 30 feet in front of a sled, making semi-independent decisions. Remove the sled and they will be gone.
      ~~[Siberian Husky Club of America]


      I did let Shania off-leash a few times, and in the beginning she was really good about coming back, but then it started taking a bit longer and then a bit more, so I quickly stopped doing it. Plus since she is a 3 legged dog, I wanted to supervise her more in terms of where she goes. I don’t want her jumping down high areas, for example. I decided it was just too much risk, especially for a 3 legged Husky.

      I still do recall training exercises though, for emergency situations, for example if she slips out of her collar.

      Do you think a Husky would be a good breed for us?

      That is difficult for me to say since I have very little context of the environment, the dog, etc.

      Shania is still pretty energetic and was even more so when she was young. She also does not know her own limits and will often overdo it, especially when she is over-excited. She is definitely the leap before she looks type of gal. She really thinks she is indestructible. 😀

      As a result, I do have to supervise her a lot more, manage her excitement level, and protect her from doing too much and accidentally spraining her legs. Sprains are not good for a 3 legged dog, because then it becomes difficult for them to get around. Young children do tend to have more excited energy, so that would be an area that I would look at more closely.

      More on my experiences with Shania.

  3. nathalie says

    hello, what can i do for my puppy hes biting me all the time and it doesnt work if i gove him toys he always wants to bite me.

    also, when the ears would go straight for a husky, at what age?

  4. Tracey moorcroft says

    Hi I have recently rescued a Siberian Huskey male approx 12 moths old. We are getting through training quite well, he goes to doggy day care and is socialised very well. There is a slight problem materialising in that when my son is eating his tea doggy will start sniffing and edging toward his plate, when my son says no doggy doesn’t listen – I then interject and tell doggy no then I get howling and acting out. I have read lots of different theories on how to deal with this but wanted to know your thoughts.

    Thank you

    • shibashake says

      What seems to work well with my dog, is to follow-up the no-mark with a command. For example, if my puppy starts nosing at me during dinner, I no-mark, and then I give her the “Down” command. When she does the Down, I make sure to mark and reward that behavior. I continue to reward her intermittently if she continues to stay down.

      In this way, she learns what *not* to do, as well as what *to do* instead. After repeating this consistently for a while, she now goes straight to doing the Down because she has learned that that is the behavior that gets her food rewards, affection, etc.

      More on how I trained my Husky puppy.

      Big hugs to your Husky boy.

  5. Nataly says

    I have a 6month old shiba Inu puppy, who is typically well behaved. He does however NOT get along with out 4yr old pom. Or more accurately, she doesn’t get along with him. From day 1 our pom has not been ok with having a puppy in the house. Typically it’s growling and snarling from afar. Lately though the two have come to matches typically over food. No blood, or injuries but a lot of noise and some physical contact? I try to stop it before it gets started. They also steal from each other, as in if I give them both bones to chew they try to take the other’s bone so that one of them has both. Loki (the shiba) also has no boundaries with people and food- he will jump up and steal it right off a plate. I’ve tried a water bottle squirt, and making him stay down on the floor but it doesn’t seem to work or change his behaviour. Is there any advice or tips?? I’m so frustrated and my poor puppy suffers because of my frustration.

    • shibashake says

      With my Shiba, it is very important to set up a fixed routine and a consistent set of rules, including dog-to-dog interaction rules. One important rule that I have is the no-stealing rule. During meal-time, I supervise closely and make sure that each dog works on his own toy, and that each dog has a comfortable space with which to eat in peace. If one gets a bit too close to another, I body-block him away – so that I prevent them from stealing.

      I set the rules, I supervise, and I enforce the rules in a consistent and fair way. In this way, my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. Rules and structure are extremely important for my Shiba because he is very stubborn and independent minded.

      More on how I help my dogs get along.

      Similarly, I have clear dog-to-people interaction rules and there is absolutely no stealing from people either. This is extremely important because stealing food from people can lead to food aggression behavior, which can be dangerous for everyone involved.

      If my dog jumps up on the table and gets yummy food every time, he will keep repeating that behavior because it is very rewarding to do so. To stop my dog from jumping on tables I need to make sure that he *never* gets rewarded for the behavior, i.e. never succeeds in getting any food.

      When my Shiba was young, I trained him to go to his bed during dinner time so that he is not near the dinner table. I make sure to reward him for staying on his bed. If he comes near the table, I get up and get him to go back to his bed. If he tries to jump on the table or to steal any food, that is a time-out offense.

      Shiba Inus are stubborn, independent, and bold. As a result they can be difficult to train, and they really need routine, structure, and rules. I had a lot of trouble with my Shiba when he was young, and it was helpful to visit with good professional trainers who use positive reinforcement techniques, and who have experience with Shibas.

      More on why Shibas are difficult to train.
      More on how I went about looking for a trainer for my Shiba.
      More on my experiences with my Shiba.

  6. Katie Duncan says

    We have just got a 9 week old spaniel beagle cross. He is picking things up very quickley . we don’t have a problem with accidents and he has learnt sit and to come when you shout his name but he can get very hyperactive. In the garden he gets very intense with some trees and plant boxes and doesn’t listen when you call him. I’m the house he can get very overboard with his toys. Is there a good way to calm him down and get his attention away from doing bad things. Would it help to take away his toys till he calms down?

    • shibashake says

      he can get very overboard with his toys.

      What do you mean by overboard? Does he throw them around? What kind of toys? Is his playing risky to him or to people?

      When I first got my Husky puppy, Lara, she was very energetic. What works well with her is to engage her in positive and structured activities.
      1. I set up a fixed schedule and routine for her. Structure helps to create certainty and helps to keep her more calm.
      More on what I did with Lara.
      2. I got her working on a lot of frozen Kongs. Puppies need to eat a lot, so frozen kongs were a great way to keep Lara occupied and I imagine it also helped with teething.
      3. I set up various fun and structured play that I can engage in with her. I have play-rules, so that she learns her boundaries and learns to control her excitement level. However, I make sure to always start small, and at a level where she can be successful. I further set her up for success by throwing in many play-breaks, so that she does not get over-excited.
      4. I also spent a bunch of time doing grooming and touch exercises to get her comfortable with these activities.
      5. Puppy socialization is also important. I didn’t do enough of this with Lara, and now she has a tendency to be more on the fearful side of new things.

      More on how I trained my puppy.
      ASPCA article on puppy socialization.
      More on dog socialization.
      More on how I deal with my hyper dogs.
      More on how I deal with bad dog behavior.

  7. Taylor says

    So our Shiba Inu, Nala, is 9 months old and we have had her for almost 7 months now. Since we adopted her we have worked on potty training and around March and April she started going week after week without an accident and she was all fine until a few weeks ago. Now she seems to go in the house on a daily basis soemtimes even more. We had trained her a while back, taking her out every hour or two and making sure to give her a treat for going outside. Eventually when accidents became less and less frequent she would let us know by whining or scratching at the door when she had to go to the bathroom. We continued to give her treats when she goes outside but since she now let us know when she had to go out, we didn’t need to take her every hour. So we’re confused because she was doing so well for a few months and now everything has regressed back to when we first got her. She knows how to lets us know she needs to go out and even when we take her out every 3 hours she still pees inside. To make it worse she seems to know what she is doing wrong because as soon as we see her crouch down. we get up or mark her with a “no” while we try to grab her but she runs away while peeing, trailing it around the house. pleeeeeease help

    • shibashake says

      Hmmm, does she seem to be peeing more often? Does her pee look normal? Does she seem to have trouble peeing? Is she eating and drinking normally? Does she get punished when she makes a mistake in the house? Did anything unusual happen a few weeks ago when the behavior started? Have there been any other changes in behavior?

      Usually, when I notice a change in my dog’s behavior, there is a reason/trigger that causes it. Sudden changes in behavior can sometimes be caused by a physical/medical issue. I usually try to rule that out first.

      Once I am sure it is not a physical issue, then I start looking at other sources for the behavioral change. I try to identify what has changed before and after, and whether there are other changes in behavior. I also observe my dog closely to see if he is under more stress, what his body language is like, etc.

      To keep my dog from running away, I use a drag-lead. Only with a safe flat collar or harness, and only while under supervision. No aversive collars. I do not punish my dog for potty training mistakes because doing so will only increase his degree of stress, and likely make the behavior worse.

      Hope this helps. Big hugs to Nala.

  8. Supreme says

    I recently adopted a 2 month old Shiba named Rico. He isn’t my first dog but he is my first puppy, I had a Pomeranian that was 2 years old when we first got him. I’ve noticed some behavior with Rico that seems odd to me like he seems stand-off ish. I’m not sure whether it’s normal puppy or Shiba behavior, or if there is something I’m not doing.

    First off, Rico hates being in his crate. He doesn’t go in voluntarily, and when you put him in, he cries immediately and barks until he is let out. This can go on for hours and it keeps everyone awake in the house at night. I would love to let him out but he is not house trained yet so I don’t want him eliminating on the floor when no one is around. I do let him roam to an extent with supervision for most of the day though.

    Secondly, he does not want to be walked on a leash. He resists any pull of the leash in any direction and will just sit there. Because I don’t want to pull him, I give up and take it off. Without the leash he doesn’t go far and I pick him up after he eliminates in the yard.

    Lastly, Rico doesn’t eat as much as he should. I’ve taking him to the vet but they say there is nothing wrong with him. He wants nothing to do with dry food and doesn’t eat very much of the canned food either. He does love a certain bone marrow treat but thats about it. At first I blamed all of the above problems on a possible depression after leaving the breeder, but I’m really not sure. He should definitely be a lot more lively and hungry for a young pup. Any suggestions?

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, my Shiba (Sephy) was stand-offish as well. Aloofness is a common Shiba trait. Here is more on the Shiba Inu personality.

      As for the crate, I slowly got Sephy used to it. I start small, keep things positive, and only very slowly increase crate time.
      How I crate trained my Shiba.
      ASPCA article on crate training.

      As for leash training, consistency was very important with Sephy. I also make sure not to inadvertently reward undesirable behaviors. If we take off the leash when our dog pulls, then we are rewarding the pulling behavior by giving our dog more freedom. This will reinforce the pulling behavior and make our dog pull more. When I was leash training Sephy, I used a harness in the beginning so that when he pulls, he will not choke himself.
      More on pulling.
      More on how I leash train my dog.

      As for food, Sephy was also very picky about his food when he was young. There were several reasons for this.
      1. Sephy is allergic to wheat. After we changed to a grain free kibble, things got better.
      2. I was feeding him too much and giving him too many additional treats. Therefore, he would always refuse to eat his kibble because he wanted to wait for the yummier treats.
      3. I was pretty stressed out in the beginning, and did not give him enough consistency and structure. As a result, Sephy got pretty stressed as well, and had less of an appetite.

      Now, I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs. They value their food more when they have to work for it. I also set up a fixed schedule so they know exactly when meal times are, and I make sure not to overfeed.

      More on how I pick food for my dog.

      Sephy was very lively though, when he was a pup. How long have you had Rico? How is his pee and poop? What is his daily schedule like? Is the vet you visited someone you trust? When in doubt about my dog’s health, I visit my vet or get a second opinion from another vet.

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