Puppy Obedience Training, Part 1: Setting Boundaries

How can you become the best puppy owner-trainer around?


Puppyhood is one of the most challenging phases of owning a new dog because puppies, like human babies and toddlers, need a lot more love, attention and affection than your average adult dog.


Dog owners who fail to see puppyhood as a crucial time for obedience training may experience some difficulty training their dogs later in life.


Social hierarchy must also be introduced during puppyhood.  


Dogs are pack animals and even the youngest puppies have an instinct to follow the alpha dog, or leader.


As the owner of the puppy you are automatically given the responsibility and privilege of being the puppy’s alpha dog. If you have a family, your family members will be seen as dominant members of the puppy’s pack.


Training a puppy for the first time can be frustrating because puppies don’t have the same focus and determination as adult dogs Some dog owners may even say that puppies are “spoiled” and “bratty.”


Why are puppies more difficult to train than adult dogs?


While it is true that puppies are capable of romping and running around like adult dogs, their mental abilities are far from developed.


Puppies also have many immediate needs (like human babies) that need to be fulfilled as soon as possible. If these needs are not fulfilled, they won’t be in any shape or form to be formally trained.


As the owner-trainer, you should view these immediate needs with love. After all, when you were a baby, your parents knew that you were helpless and needy and that you needed all the love and attention you could get.


Similar principles apply to puppies; they need lots of love from their owners and they shouldn’t be harshly reprimanded if they “have an accident” on the carpet or when they mistake your favorite shoe for a chew toy. Puppies should be corrected, not punished.


How can you avoid spoiling a puppy?


Puppies, like small children, can become spoiled if they are indulged too frequently.


Your puppy needs to realize that there is a social structure (with you as the alpha dog) and that it needs to follow rules and boundaries. A pack leader is not only responsible for keeping the members of the pack safe but he is also responsible for enforcing limitations.


Don’t worry: rules don’t make dogs unhappy. These animals actually crave rules because they feel safer knowing there are some things they must not do.


Of course, there will times when your puppy will still do something naughty. Corrective measures must be taken to enforce your role as a pack leader at all times.
Food, toys and belly rubs should be given as rewards for good behavior.


Of course, there will be times when you will feel like giving your puppy some tasty treats just because you want to. It’s alright to give your puppy occasional treats but if you overdo it, your puppy will fail to understand that it should work for treats by behaving properly in different situations.

When is the right time to begin training puppies?


The minimum age for obedience training for puppies is five months. Don’t worry; you can prepare your puppy for formal, structured training by accomplishing the following:


  1. Social Structure – Teach your puppy that you are the pack leader and that you’re in charge. This means breaking up fights between puppies, leading the way during a walk and providing treats whenever you see good behavior. Your puppy may not understand what you want it to do all the time, but at least it has started to learn the basics of following a pack leader.


  1. Correction – Small puppies should be corrected whenever they commit mistakes, such as chewing on shoes or relieving themselves inside the house. Redirection and routines can help train a young pup early on. Don’t use any form of physical punishment, as this will teach your puppy to avoid or ignore you at an early age.


  1. Pack Safety – As a pack leader, it’s your job to keep all the members of your pack safe from harm. The best way to keep any dog safe is by setting limitations and boundaries, even if your puppy is just romping around the yard.


Again, your puppy will feel much safer if it knows what it can do and what it must not do.


Many people find this concept hard to understand, but we must realize that dogs aren’t like humans and they have a very different concept of social hierarchy. Humans may see rules in a negative light but not dogs. Dogs instinctually know that they need rules in order to survive.


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