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 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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Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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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