How to Train your puppy Tips for the first few weeks to Train your Puppy Tips for the first few weeks
So the day has finally arrived and you are the new proud owner of your first working dog, the next four weeks are crucial for developing your new companion’s skills for the future.
First, check that the list of equipment needed is ready.
- A crate
- A bed
- Correct food from the breeder
- Vet vaccination and vet check booked
- A piece of cloth from the mother’s bed
Your puppy should already have had their first vaccination and they should have been microchipped and checked over by the breeders’ veterinarian which should include your puppy’s first worming and feeding information and your first five weeks of Kennel Club Insurance should be included along with your KC paperwork. Once the insurance period is over there are many insurance companies that you can look into for cover, but beware they are not all the same.
On the day of collection spend some time watching your puppy, try to see its personality traits, does it interact well with its siblings, is confident or shy, this will all help with developing your puppy’s training. Some puppies may be very confident, some may be very shy. The next important part is the journey homewards, put the puppy safely in the crate on the back seat and have somebody sit next to the puppy for the journey home, they will be stressed, remember you have just separated them from their mother, make sure the person sitting with the puppy gives them lots of assurances, avoid putting your puppy in a puppy box in the back of the car this will stress the puppy out and if its a three-hour journey home it will get your ownership off to a very bad start for you and the puppy building up a negative car experience. On arrival take the puppy ideally in the crate and put them somewhere in the home that is quiet and safe, try not to over excite the puppy, they are already learning from you and assessing what pushes your buttons, these are very clever dogs. Once the crate is in place, find another place for a day bed, somewhere the dog can relax, by a garden door or somewhere where the dog can see the world happening, you will need to get your puppy used to going in the crate, every time the puppy goes into the crate praise them and give them a toy to chew or play with, this will build up a good experience and the puppy with happily go into the crate voluntarily.
Now the next stage begins, toilet training, the crate will be your puppy’s safe place where they can retreat to when stressed, a puppy will not like soiling their crate, it may happen a few times but generally, they will not like it, go to your crate and start to build a routine, take your puppy from the crate, I use my left hand, and using a command word like HEEL, take your puppy to your garden or puppy pad and then place them on this and then use the command TOILET, then start your recall of HEEL they should start to follow, or even a short whistle, repetition is key when you have returned to the house either put them back in the crate or on their day bed and reward them treat like some kibble and praise. At the early stages, we are sowing seeds of command, HEEL meaning keep left, TOILET meaning toilet, and a HEEL or WHISTLE recall to return with you and the puppy starts to learn to work to these few commands, Repeat is the key, how many times will depend on your puppy and you, be strong with these commands, they need to know and give treats and praise when they follow your commands, in the early days I would do this as much as possible from the crate every time the door is opened, when out of the crate make sure you take your puppy for regular toilet breaks with the same routine, HEEL pick up with a left hand, take to garden or puppy pad, TOILET, then HEEL back to daybed or crate and reward with praise and treat. Some dogs pick this up very quickly, some take a little longer, it is best to try to share these duties with another member of your house as it will get tiresome.
Overnight is the next hurdle to get over, we need to keep positive, even in the middle of the night when the puppy has been crying for hours and you haven’t slept, if you have done regular crate training during the day, putting the puppy in the crate with their toys or chew and getting them used to the crate environment then the night will get easier, try to keep the crate away from the early morning light, keep it in a darker area, especially in the summer months when it gets light at 4 am, if its light your puppy will be up and ready very early. Blackout blinds help or just a blanket over the crate at night gives the signal that is nighttime. There is going to be a balance of not letting the puppy too stressed, although you need to let the puppy know that you will not be coming to them whenever they cry and bark its a judgement call as to when you need to go and reassure them that everything is ok. We then start using a command to stop them when they have bad behaviour like barking or crying, a LEAVE, when you come to see they are ok, is what can be used along with a stroke through the bars of the crate, then leave the room, this will start to build a relationship that the puppy knows you are there and they begin to understand that bad behaviour will not be tolerated. It’s not an instant thing, repetition is key and you may have many sleepless nights, puppies feed on your emotions, if they see your shouting (barking) they will bark too. It’s about slowly teaching your puppy the rules, by putting them in the crate during the day for a few hours they learn to understand that it’s normal and it’s their safe place, the same goes at night, start with an hour, then two, then four and slowly they will understand that you will be returning at some point and they have not been left, the puppy can learn in as quick as two to three days if you are consistent and calm.
Feeding your puppy, this is where you have control and your puppy will be most receptive to learn for their life journey, the most used and easiest of all commands is SIT or a whistle can be used, a simple way to do this is to raise the dog’s food bowl above their head and they should naturally begin to sit, as they begin to sit use the SIT command, as they begin to eat introduce the FETCH command. This is slowly creating a vocabulary of commands for your puppy later down the road. The fetch command creating a positive command while eating will let them know that fetch is good, you will be feeding your puppy three times a day, to begin with, so these commands combined with the toilet commands begin to add up over the next few weeks and your puppy will by the end of the first four weeks have learnt, to HEEL, TOILET, SIT, and FETCH to a good degree. Working Spaniels are very clever dogs and the more you work with them the quicker they will learn the rights and wrongs, if you don’t work/train them regularly they will get bored and then boredom leads to naughty. After the first month, the duration of the sit command should increase, make a cup of tea is a good example of how long to get them to sit, but remember to reward their behaviour on return with a treat like Kibble and lots of praise.
You will be the positive lead in the relationship and with that, the introduction of the dog lead is a very important part of your puppy’s development, at the beginning when placing the lead over your dog’s head reward them, so they know that having the lead on is a positive experience. Do this regularly over the first few weeks so they get used to wearing a lead for short periods, keep the walking very short in the early days, with a lead in the left hand and some Kimble in the right, walk the puppy in your home, to begin with, walk forwards with the lead in your left and your Kimble in the right, saying heel and let the puppy know the treat is in the right hand, using the command HEEL when you change direction, by changing direction the puppy learns it cannot second guess that it wants to lead you and should stop your puppy pulling, so lead in the left hand, treat in the right, walk a little, HEEL as you change direction, repeat and reward with a treat.
This should hopefully give you a small insight into starting your journey with your new partnership.
P.S. Do not let your puppy share your bed, you will regret it when they are 20kg and you wake up with them sleeping on your legs.