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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.