Let me begin by saying that each and every puppy is different. This means that
there is no hard and fast rule for what will work when it comes to
training your dog. While most basic training concepts will
work for the average puppy, you will often need to adapt and change the
finer points of your training routine to fit your unique situation.
You may also have situations crop up in which you will have to try
several approaches before you find the one that works for you and your
Remember that there is
a ton of information and advice available from your breeder, your
veterinarian, from books (see my suggestions for reading material by
and on the internet (see my
for other training resources). These resources can help you
quickly resolve training issues and can help you stop unwanted behavior
before it becomes an ingrained bad habit. However,
regardless of how knowledgeable your resource is or how much experience
they have had with training dogs, you must always keep in mind that YOU
are the one in charge of your puppy's training and you are the person
who knows your puppy and situation the best.
Just because someone claims to know how to train dogs doesn't mean they
always know what's best for your dog.
If one of your
training resources suggests a training routine or activity that makes
you uncomfortable or that you think is inappropriate for your puppy,
then DON'T do it! The fact that someone has written a book or has
an article posted on the internet does not make them an expert on YOUR
puppy. You must always consider your individual situation and use
your own best judgment when working with your dog. If
one person's technique makes you uncomfortable or if you don't think
that approach is right for your dog, then find another resource for
information. Continue reading, asking questions and researching
other options until you find something that you are comfortable with and
that you feel is appropriate for your situation. There is no one
"right" way to train a dog! Keep looking and learning until you
are satisfied that you have made the right decision for how and what to
teach your dog.
One of the first things I suggest doing, even before you get your puppy,
is to research your local kennel club. (This can be done from the
Your local kennel club will often sponsor puppy kindergarten and
obedience training classes. I think a puppy kindergarten and
at least one basic obedience course are a MUST for ALL new puppy owners.
These classes are a great tool in helping you learn to train your dog,
helping you teach your dog basic manners and in helping socialize your
young dog with strange people and other dogs of various sizes and
shapes. The puppy must be
8-10 weeks old for the kindergarten class and six months old for the
regular obedience class.
I recommend your local kennel club's classes over most other training
facilities because the people teaching for the kennel club are generally
all people that are (and have been for some time) involved in training
and showing their own dog(s). Trainers at other facilities may
have taken a two day training course from their employer and been
pronounced knowledgeable enough to teach others to train their dogs!
Or they may have just hung a sign on the fence and taken out an ad in
the yellow pages because they have owned a couple of dogs and they think
this qualifies them to teach others. Be sure to thoroughly
investigate any company or group you choose, or if you are referred to a
specific teacher or organization, be sure your referral is from a
No matter where you take your dog for training, keep in mind my advice
from above. YOU must always be the one in charge of your dog's
training. There can be bad teachers in any organization and you
must always be prepared to do what is right for your puppy. This
could mean having to withdrawing your puppy from a class or activity
that you do not feel is safe or appropriate for your dog. Even if
it is embarrassing or means losing the balance of monies paid for a
series of classes, please do not ever let someone push you into doing
something that you believe is inappropriate or unsafe for your dog.
Remember to be
flexible but also stick to your guns when it comes to making your new
puppy mind. Like children, puppies will push their limits sometimes just
to see what you will let them get away with. If you are consistent in
requiring your puppy to do as you ask, he will quickly learn that he
must mind you all the time. Of course the secret here is to never give a
command that you cannot enforce. Telling Fido to "sit" from across the
room and then having to chase him down to correct him is NOT the right
approach. NEVER give a command unless you are WILLING and ABLE to
Before you bring your new puppy home, you need to make some decisions
about what behaviors you consider appropriate and inappropriate for the
new puppy. Have a family meeting with all the family members present
that will be helping to train the puppy. Make a list of the behaviors
that each person feels are important for your puppy to learn and that
each person feels are inappropriate.
Your list should
be personalized to include all of the things that will help you make
your new puppy a true family member.
Remember that if you have neighbors with children or animals, your
puppy must learn to interact with them. If you entertain frequently, it
will be important to teach your dog to behave properly around a lot of
people. If you travel it will be important that your dog adapt easily to
different sights and sounds. One of my personal pet peeves with
canine behavior is animals that bolt through open doors. This is
not respectful of the owners position of authority, is dangerous for the
dog if he should be able to run into the road and can cause injury to
humans that get tripped by the pushy animal forcing it's way through the
door. The above examples are just a sampling of situations you
should consider when thinking of what will be important in your puppy's
training. There are any number of other considerations
that will influence how you would like your puppy to behave, so consider
your situation carefully to be sure that you have a full understanding
of issues that will need to be addressed once you get your puppy home.
Now is the time to
decide whether Fido is allowed on the furniture, in the kitchen or
dining room during meal times, sleeping in the bed, etc., etc. Be sure
and include things like licking, jumping and chewing. Have every
one contribute to a list of the pros and cons of each behavior and then
discuss this information with each other. Some examples of
questionable behavior are:
Giving Kisses - many people love
to get kisses from their dog(s), but others are thoroughly disgusted by the
Jumping Up On Your Legs - some people want their dog to jump up to say hello, but what if
you have a young child visiting that is easily knocked down or
intimidated by a puppy that jumps up? And will you really want Fido to
jump up to say hello when he has wet feet and you're dressed to go out?
Playing Rough - some people like to play slightly "rough" games with their dog and don't
mind light tooth contact from the dog. However, homes with young children
need to discourage all types of mouth contact with humans. Children are
not capable of setting consistent limits for the puppy and "rough" play
can quickly get out of hand.
find this practice annoying and do not want their dog to put on a show
every time they open the refrigerator. Keep in mind too, that if
you feed your dog from your plate, he may feel free to snatch food if
someone should leave a plate unattended.
Once you and your family have made your decisions on what behaviors are
acceptable and which are not, make sure that everyone in the family understands that it's not fair to the puppy for one
person to allow the dog on the furniture if another family member is
going to discipline the puppy for that behavior. Everyone must be
consistent in what they expect of the puppy.
A dog that is well-trained
is a joy and pleasure to have around. An untrained dog is many
times viewed as a nuisance and cause of frustration. Many dogs
ultimately wind up relegated to the backyard with little or no
attention, or abandoned entirely, because the owners are unwilling to make
the commitment necessary to properly train the dog. Before you purchase a puppy,
PLEASE be sure that you are ready to make a commitment to that dog for
his entire life-time and that you and your family are willing to do
what it takes to ensure that the dog is well-trained and an accepted
member of your family.
House-training is, of course, at the top of the list of desirable
behaviors. I have a couple of separate articles dealing with this
issue, so please click on the following links for further information on
The first (and most important) step in training your new puppy will be
establishing yourself and other family members as the dominant "pack"
leaders. Like wolves, dogs are pack animals. In the wild, each dog
would have a specific
place in the pack that is determined by age, condition, sex, etc. These
rankings are necessary to keep order. Most dogs prefer to be on the
lower end of the rankings where they are told what to do and will
happily assume a subordinate position if they feel that they have a
the "pack leaders" of your family, the adults in your household will
need to be the puppy's dominant figures. The pack leaders' body
language and the way each of your family members deal with your puppy are very important.
Pack leaders must not appear
hesitant when dealing with the puppy. Be confident, move quickly and
surely when you are handling him. When you have your puppy in your arms,
roll him over on his back and make him stay there for 20-30 seconds. This is the most submissive position for a dog
and one you should insist your dog be willing to assume. If the
puppy fights and you can't do this with him in your arms, try laying him
in the indention between your legs. You can rub
his tummy and talk to him while he's on his back but try not to let him
up until he has quit fighting has remained passive for at least 10 seconds.
your puppy to be submissive and to submit to you rolling him over is a very
important exercise. This behavior will not only help you establish
his position as a lower member of the pack but it will also be quite
handy when you have to brush his long coat out after he is all grown up!
In addition to your puppy letting you roll him over, you
should also get your puppy used to having his muzzle held and his mouth
inspected. Dental hygiene is important and you need to be able to
inspect your dog's teeth regularly for problems. I assure you, your vet and
groomer will thank you for this training.
handling/training goal is to be
able to pick up and handle your puppy's feet. Like teaching your
dog to roll over and lay quietly, teaching your puppy to have his feet
handled is a dual training exercise. This type of training
helps establish your
dominance in the pack AND will help you take better care of your puppy
too. Being able to handle your dog's feet will help
considerably if you need to trim the dog's toenails at some
point and will be necessary during wet weather when you will want to dry Fido's feet before he
There are many other dominance exercises that you can use to show your puppy that you
and/or other family members are
Don't feed the puppy until after the family has eaten. In the
pack, the "alpha" dogs always get to eat first.
If the puppy is lying in
your way, don't step over or walk around, make him get up and move out
of the way.
Always lead the way
- go through doors first; when walking, make the dog change
directions - if he's pulling to go left, make him go right.
puppy is young, he will be afraid to be left alone. Take advantage of
this by deliberately turning your back and walking away when you know
he's watching. Encourage him to follow you and don't go very far without
stopping to reward him with ample praise. The idea is for him to get
used to having to follow you. This will also encourage him to pay
attention to you. If he doesn't want to be left alone he will have to
keep his attention focused on you.
Your new puppy must bond with all the members of your household, not
just one. Allow everybody (that's old enough) to have some individual
time with the puppy and take turns with the clean up, care and feeding.
If the puppy seems more attached to one family member, try having someone else
feed him, take him outside, supervise his playtime, etc. The idea is to
teach your puppy to love everybody, not just one person.
Your puppy will
need to socialize with strangers on a regular basis. This is
where the puppy kindergarten classes can really help. They are a great way for
your puppy to interact with strangers and other animals in a controlled,
non-threatening environment. And as an added bonus, you'll both pick up
some training tips too!
Whenever possible take your puppy out with you -
to the park, the pet shop, a walk around the block, the bank (most
drive-up tellers keep dog biscuits on hand!) Let him meet new people
(bring some treats for the new people to give him), and let him see and
experience new situations as often as possible. For more
information on this subject, check out my
Try to keep your relationship with your new puppy 100% positive. It is
much better to prevent your puppy from making mistakes than to have to
correct him because you were inattentive. All puppies are going to have
accidents and make mistakes, but the damage can be mitigated if you are
vigilant. Do your best to help your puppy by paying attention when he's
out of the crate and by using your crate correctly. There is so much a
puppy has to learn and it will take a lot of patience on your part to
get through it all. Remember that Cockers are very sensitive and are
easily disciplined by a simple change in the tone of your voice.
One of the most important commands you will teach your puppy is "come". This command is essential in keeping your puppy safe. If your puppy
should get away from you or should happen to get into something that's
potentially harmful, you need to know that he will willingly come to you
every time you use this command. This is one of those crucial times that
you never use this command unless you know you can enforce it. When you
do use this command it should always be said with a happy, positive
voice and there should always be a huge reward when the dog complies. NEVER, EVER use this command to get the dog so he can be punished.
relatively easy to start this training when your puppy is small as they
will usually come running any time you whistle or kiss to them.
Not only that, a young puppy will want to stay with you and will gladly
follow where you lead. This means that you can practice the
command often and with predictable results. As the
puppy gets older, be sure and practice this command with the puppy/dog on a leash so you can reel him in if need be.
A regular "refresher" training course with this command is highly
recommended to be sure your dog knows he must always come when called.
Earlier I mentioned that you should walk through doors first as the
dominant pack leader and that a well-behaved dog should never bolt out
an open door. The following training tip will combine these two goals and, as an
added bonus, it helps your puppy learn to let you know when he needs to
go outside. When it's time to go out, take your pup to the door and ask him
to sit. In the beginning you will have to push his butt down to get the
correct response, but that's OK. Once he sits, open the door and take
him out. Do the same to come back in. As the pup gets older, make him
sit to go out, to come in and once again when he's inside the door. This
is handy when you need to dry his feet during wet weather too! This
training can also
help with dogs that submissively urinate or that have excitement
urination issues when greeting people at the
door. Giving the dog a job to do will let them concentrate on
something besides the exciting or threatening arrival of a new person coming into the house,
so it can help eliminate these unwanted behaviors. As the pup gets
older, he will also learn to go to the door and sit when he needs to go outside.
training techniques are good for dogs of all ages. You CAN teach an
old dog new tricks if you are consistent and committed to the process. Remember that
when training dogs, failure is usually the fault of the
teacher, not the student!
Don't forget to reward your dog or puppy the
instant they respond correctly to a command. Positive reinforcement will encourage
your dog to respond to your commands instantly and consistently.
Also keep in mind that
walk, every playtime, every single minute of time you spend with your dog is a
learning opportunity. Use your time wisely. Think about the ways you
interact with your dog and be sure that you are encouraging appropriate
behaviors and discouraging those that could lead to unwanted behavior.
When introducing your
puppy to new people, places and things, remember to go slowly.
Don't overwhelm the puppy with 20 new things every day. It's stressful enough
leaving mom and siblings to go to a new home without being confronted by
a zillion other scary new experiences at the same time. Take time to let your
puppy adjust to the new family and home before gradually introducing him
to other new
experiences outside of the home.
You also need to take your time with how many commands you are
asking a new puppy to learn. Remember that you are already asking
perform in a number of new ways - walking on a leash, staying alone in a
crate, interacting with new family members, eating, drinking and pottying on a schedule.
Don't rush ahead with too many more commands until he has settled into a
pretty solid routine and until you are sure he has a good understanding
of the basics.