Now that you have your new puppy you'll want to make sure you're teaching the right skills first. The ones you teach first will be the strongest, so choose carefully!
This is the time to set up good training habits and routines. The more consistent you are, the faster your puppy will learn!
It's easy to make mistakes after you bring your new puppy home, after all, your excitement and those adorable puppy eyes can lead you down the wrong path.
Check out these common mistakes many puppy owners make. With some practice and patience, you and your puppy will be ready for years of success and harmony together.
Mistake #6: Using Pee Pads to Potty Train
If you’ve read any of my resources on potty training you’ll know that I do not recommend pee pads. Even if your pup comes from the breeder or rescue already used to them, I recommend you toss them out the minute that cutie arrives home!
I know you'll be eager to potty train your puppy. After all, it's probably the first thing you'll teach your puppy for your own sanity and the sanity of your household.
But don’t think that pee pads are going to make your life or this process any easier. Pee pads teach your puppy that going potty inside is OK. This is not the message we want to send!
Sure, our pups might use them at first… but soon they start to wander off and miss their target. And as the pups get even older, this pee pad becomes the world’s best chew toy. So you can see we are really getting off track now!
It is way more difficult to change a bad habit than it is to properly teach the desired behavior. So I really encourage you to start off where you want to end off: with potty training outside!
There are some creative ways to work with our puppies if you live in an apartment building, if you don’t have a backyard, or a safe place for a potty spot until the vaccinations are complete. These issues are easy to overcome and the solution does not involve pee pads!
One great way to help your puppy alert you that he or she needs a potty break is using the bell system. We can train our puppies to nudge a set of bells when it’s time to go out. If you don’t want bells, that’s OK, but sit down with your household and choose a signal that you do want. If you don’t know what signal your puppy will use to go outside, he or she won’t either!
I offer a free New Puppy Starter Kit (at the bottom of this page and on my home page) which has a potty training lesson and bell training lesson included. And the troubleshooting tips can guide you through any issues you are having and the most common reasons for them.
Mistake #7: Putting Bedding in Your Puppy’s Crate
There are more types of cute puppy bedding than you can even imagine and, of course, it’s tempting to load up on one that you are sure your pup will love. But please avoid this common – and costly – mistake.
Crate training is an important step in raising a puppy! You'll want to start using a crate with your puppy to keep him or her safe any time you are unable to supervise your pup and while you are at work or away from home.
Many new owners think that a nice cozy bed will help the pup love the crate even more. Sorry, but that’s not recommended! Loving the crate? Yes! Using a bed? Nope!
Having bedding in the crate may encourage a puppy to go potty on this soft, squishy surface that dogs love. Then they may push it off to the side to avoid sleeping in their own mess. We do not need to give our pups any opportunity for a potty break in the crate!
Bedding can also pose a choking hazard if your puppy becomes bored and decides to chew on it. One of my training phrases is “It’s fine until it’s not fine” and that’s a really applicable statement with crate bedding. It’s fine one day and the next day you’ve got a really high vet bill to remove a lot of stuffing that blocked your puppy’s digestive system.
I promise you that your pup will be just fine on the floor of the crate. Once your puppy is trustworthy and past the chewing stage – usually closer to a year old – then you might introduce a bed if your pup seems to want it.
Mistake #8: Being Inconsistent with the Rules
Your puppy doesn't know what the rules of your home are until you teach them. Having different rules from one situation to the next can be very confusing to a puppy.
An example of this would be when you greet and pet your puppy when you come home from work while the puppy is jumping on you. But at another time, when the puppy is jumping all over your houseguests, you try to make him stop.
This inconsistency confuses your pup and will make it very difficult for him to learn what you expect.
Being allowed on the furniture is another common issue many new puppy owners face. It’s up to you if you want to allow your furry friend to have unlimited access to the couch, have it permitted by invitation only or not allow it at all. But whatever you decide, stick to it so you aren’t setting up your puppy for failure.
Remember that what we allow in our young puppies is the behavior we’re going to get when they become adult dogs. Will your dog grow to a size that will make this behavior undesirable? Better to think ahead and teach the right rules from the very beginning. Sit down with the members of your household to come up with a list of rules that you will all consistently follow.
Mistake #9: Missing Training Opportunities
Did you know that mealtime is a perfect time to train? Many new puppy owners don't realize that they can use mealtime as training time.
We suggest letting your dog have part of his meal as he chooses, so when it’s training time he’s not so hungry and maybe a little cranky because of it. But then take the rest of his meal and work through some fun training games, and reinforce all the good behavior you see throughout the day!
Other training opportunities include when you are giving your pup access to something he/she wants, like being let out of the crate, or given time to play outside, or a lovely decompression walk. Build in a few training sessions into this time and you’ll come out ahead!
Remember to watch your dog’s body language for when he’s had enough. We want training to be fun for you AND your dog.
Of course there’s going to be a little struggle at first as he or she is learning what you expect. But if it’s not working well, take a break and try again some other time.
Training is best done when the puppy’s “batteries” are not overly full, like just waking up from a long nap, or overly drained, like when he’s just about due for another nap. Find that sweet spot right in the middle for your best chances of success.
Did you know that ending a training session with a short bout of play can better cement the new information that was just gained? It’s true! That’s something I recommend to all of my students.
Mistake #10: Poor Timing
In real estate they say it’s location, location, location. In dog training it’s timing, timing, timing!
Dogs live very much in the moment. Whatever your dog is doing at the time that you offer up praise, or attention, or a treat, is the activity they’re likely to repeat. Make sure that’s what you intended and it’s not reinforcing what you DON’T want.
Try to remember to capture behaviors the second they are happening.
Taking treats in a training pouch while on a walk and having them in random bowls around the house will better enable you to capture it.
Having treats handy so you can reward positive behaviors immediately helps to ensure your puppy makes the connection between the desired behavior and the reward.
Use a marker word like “Yes!” or “Good boy!” to better control the timing while you’re grabbing that treat.
Some people use a clicker to capture the moment the puppy is doing the right thing. Once paired with the reward, a clicker works well but the humans often need a lot of practice to get the timing right.
For your average canine companion I recommend just using the marker word and the treat.
Reward your puppy the instant they do the right behavior and they will quickly catch on that this makes you happy!
If you missed Part 1 of this two part series, click here to check it out now!
Did you learn something new about raising a puppy?
I have a lot more where that came from!
I’ve had so many different training experiences in my career, I could tell you some great stories that would be an education all by themselves. That’s why I decided to put it all together in an online course to make it easy for people to follow, in the comfort of their own homes.
Check out my course, 30 Days to Puppy Perfection, if you’d like to learn more.
What mistakes on this list surprised you the most? Add your comments below!