Puppies are at their most impressionable between 8-14 weeks old. The keys to success are supervision, consistency, patience and praise – ideally you’ll be with your puppy so you can have heaps of fun, and recognise and fix problem behaviours early.
Always positively reinforce good behaviour, but never punish your puppy for getting it wrong. If these methods don’t work and you feel frustrated, your vet can recommend a dog trainer.
Toilet training your puppy
Choose a spot for them to do their business and stick to it. After playing, sleeping, eating and drinking, take your puppy out to their designated wee and poo spot and encourage them with a chosen command such as ‘hurry up’ or ‘quick quick’, and reward the desired result.
You’ll soon be able to recognise when they need to go – look for them heading for the door, circling or squatting. Give it at least a month of error-free toileting before you let them go it alone.
Never, ever punish your puppy for going inside – clean up and move on. If you punish your pup, they can become scared to go in your presence. Try to be more vigilant and help them get to their spot in time.
Discouraging your puppy from nipping and biting
It’s normal for your pup to nip and bite as they use their mouths to explore. It can become a problem though when they’re older! Here are some tips you can try, to discourage this behaviour:
- Stand still and don’t give them attention until they settle down.
- Say ‘ouch’ (like you mean it) and ignore them for 15 seconds.
- Give them a chew toy before they start to nip you.
- Play the treat game: give your puppy a treat; offer another but in a closed fist; give your puppy the treat when they stop nipping/pawing your fist.
Never hold your puppy’s mouth shut or flick their nose, as it hurts them – this is negative treatment and may encourage them to nip harder.
Preventing separation anxiety in your puppy
Give your puppy time alone during the day so they gain confidence in being on their own. Here’s how:
- Encourage your puppy to lie down and stay while you go to another room.
- Ignore them if they follow you around, or whine or paw at you.
- Gently try again until they stay for a minute or so. Praise them!
- Slowly build up the time you leave them alone.
If being on their own is a positive experience, they’ll be less likely to become anxious.
Stopping your puppy from jumping up
All you have to do (and train your family and friends to do it too) is turn your back on your puppy and ignore them until they settle down. They’ll soon stop jumping up, as you’re not paying them attention. Command them to sit, and then reward them with a huge fuss!