Puppy Proof Your Home to Set Them Up for Success.
Trying to prevent inappropriate behavior is much easier than trying to correct problem behavior once it has become a habit.
• Pick up or secure trashcans, hampers, books, magazines, and breakables.
• Put household cleaners, poisons, pesticides, and medications behind secure cabinet doors or out of reach.
• Run electrical cords through conduit or attach them to baseboards.
• Rid the house and garden of toxic plants and poisons (see Section 3 on Puppy Health).
• Keep cigarettes and ashtrays out of reach.
• Dispose of bones and keep trash out of reach.
• Close bathroom doors or toilet lids especially when cleaners or deodorants are used in the toilet bowl.
• Keep screens or windows shut especially in upper story rooms.
• Keep holiday ornaments out of reach—shiny glass bulbs and tinsel are attractive and dangerous.
• Keep scented candles out of reach. They may smell and taste good, but they can cause intestinal distress and make the puppy very sick.
• Keep sugar-free peanut butter, gum, or other products sweetened with xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs, out of reach.
• Keep medicines, both human and canine, out of reach.
Bringing Your Puppy Home
When you arrive home, the 1st thing you'll want to do is to take your puppy to their designated “pee/poop” spot. Give the cue to “go pee.” Once he pees, give him immediate praise. Now you can focus on taking the puppy into your home and slowly introduce him to his new surroundings. Limit the puppy to just 1-2 rooms at first. Too much freedom in the house will increase the likelihood of “accidents.”
Introduce your puppy to all the things in the room. When he finds something inappropriate, distract him with an upbeat tone of voice (“puppy, puppy, puppy!”), provide an appropriate toy and then reward the puppy with a piece of kibble and praise. This new puppy is like a two-year-old child—he will investigate everything and has a very short attention span. Temporarily put up or remove anything that could be dangerous to him. Trying to prevent inappropriate behavior is much easier than trying to correct problem behavior once it has become a habit.
Slowly introduce the puppy to each room in the house over the next few days or weeks. Remember to distract her from inappropriate activity, and reward and praise her for bad behavior. Never leave the puppy loose and unattended for at least the first month or two.
Introducing other animals
If you have other animals in your home, introduce them to the new puppy one at a time in a controlled setting. Keep the puppy in his crate or behind a gate while you introduce your pets. Once the excitement has settled down and you have an idea how they will react, let each animal individually greet the puppy. Don’t expect your pets to immediately adore the puppy-like you do; it will take time for them to adjust. Your current dog or cat may need to “tell the puppy his place” in the household a few times before life settles down and they can be trusted alone together.
Socializing & Familiarizing the Puppy
Providing a rich social environment for the puppy is an important responsibility. He needs to experience and be comfortable in a wide variety of situations and environments to develop into a sound, stable dog.
USA Purebred Labs makes every effort to breed dogs with good temperaments for both assistance dogs and pets. You are an important part of guiding the puppy through various familiarization experiences to make him a stable, well-rounded pet.
Early positive exposure to new environments is crucial for puppy development. If you wait, the puppy will miss out on important familiarization time. After five months of age, puppies less readily accept new sights and sounds. Look for a wide variety of environments that include stairs, different footing surfaces, elevators, noise, traffic, crowds, adults, children, squirrels, and riding in vehicles so the puppy can learn to take these things in stride.
NOTE: Do not take your pup to dog parks until they are at least 12 weeks and have received their rabies and 12-week shots.
Before you train, understand the dog
Dog are self-interested. They have no desire to please. They do what works to get them what they want. Dogs that appear as though they want to please are doing what is necessary to get what they want. The dogs that seem the most willing to please are either dogs with self-interest that matches what they are getting or a dog that has learned that everything it wants comes through its handler.
Dogs are opportunistic. Whatever they want, they want NOW! If a dog perceives an opportunity to get what it wants, it will take it.
Dogs learn in a social context. Be aware of "pack behavior". One animal is motivated to engage in a particular behavior because someone else is doing it. Any species that gather in social groups, such as dogs, will engage in this type of learning. If you already have a dog or pet in the house with bad manners such as digging holes in your back yard, expect that your new puppy will pick up on those bad behaviors. To avoid this be sure to separate older dogs from incoming dogs during times when you expect the older dog to be able to teach the younger dog bad behavior such as digging holes. Even a visiting dog that has bad behavior can wreak havoc on a well-behaved dog. Even after the visiting dog is gone, the stimuli that triggered digging are still present and the resident dog continues to dig on his own. So, be careful who you allow being around your pup.
Please note this training is for pets. Future assistance dogs should be trained with a thorough and methodical approach that promotes learning how to learn and good decision making.
Training your pup is the most important thing you can do. If you are adopting, or have adopted a USA Purebred Lab, protect your investment! Train your pup so that your money spent on health, genetics, pure breed, and temperament will be worthwhile.
We HIGHLY recommend listening to the audio CDs: "The Art of Raising a Puppy" at least 2 times before your pup comes home. It is also available in book form. Be sure to be familiar with these training methods well BEFORE your pup comes home and get everyone in your household on board with how training will work.
If you are not confident in your ability to implement the training concepts below, if you are a Scottsdale resident, you can sign up for dog obedience classes for $40 for six 1 hour sessions, it's $60 for non-residents. Most cities offer similar courses, you just have to locate your city's website, it can be tricky locating their brochure. Click here for the City of Scottsdale's classes, on the left side click adult classes, then special interests. Petco & PetSmart offer obedience classes, but at about twice the cost.
Training can be as easy as showing a pup what to do and then rewarding him for it. For example, to teach sit: Gently push the pups butt to the ground saying "sit" and then give them praise and a small treat reward. Only after a few sessions, the pup will automatically sit on cue expecting praise and reward.
How to phase treats out: As your pup masters (90% success rate) different command words in low, medium, and high distraction areas, you can begin to have your pup do a sequence of commands before giving a treat. Start with 2 commands in a row, then treat. After a few days, step it up to 3 commands to get a treat and so forth.
Never have your pup "come" to you and then discipline them. In doing so, you are sending mixed signals. If you do this, next time you want them to "come", they won't want to because they will associate "come" with displeasure.
Never lose control/lose your temper/overreact. Keep your cool. Training should be methodical with the expectation that they are going to make mistakes. Over time, if you are able to remain calm your pup will learn faster and you will have a stronger bond. Remember, the more he bonds with you, his desire to please you will increase.
Never allow your pup/dog off-leash except in an inspected and closed fenced-in area.
It seems every 3rd episode on Judge Judy is about a dog case. Some dog cases that could be related to labs or any dog is a dog off-leash. Let's say your dog is well trained and off-leash and you encounter another dog that is on leash. If your dog starts to approach the other dog, the owner with the leashed dog has no way to control your dog. Let's say the leashed dog attacks your lab causing injury to both dogs and the leash holder. You are liable! Why? Because the owners who had their dog on a leash had no way to control your dog - it is your responsibility and negligence!
2nd example: Let's say you are at the lake and your dog is off-leash and sees something attractive and starts to go for it. As a result, the dog runs into the street causing a car accident and someone dies or becomes disabled. Due to your dog being off-leash, you could be found negligent and likely will lose every single cent you have ever saved as a result.
Do not allow the pup to climb on you whatsoever – such as on your lap.
Solution: If the pup climbs on your lap, distract it with a toy by playfully placing the toy on the floor nearby to redirect its attention, using “look” or some works to redirect him if you need to. A great method to redirect your pup's attention is to use the "shake & break" method.
Why? If you are allowing a puppy to climb onto your lap you are indirectly teaching it to jump up on you.
When playing on the floor with the pup, the pup should never be on you, you should not be petting it except for praise when it does good behavior. Play should always be the pup with a toy that you are using to interact with the puppy such as dragging it along as if it’s a rabbit or work on training etc, no picking up in active mode.
Do not remove the puppy from your lap. Try to redirect his attention with a toy. EVEN TOUCHING HIM TO REMOVE HIM CAN BE MISUNDERSTOOD FOR ATTENTION/LOVE.
Do not pet, cuddle, or snuggle a pup that has climbed onto your lap or put his paws on you.
Why? In doing so you are rewarding him for his behavior by giving him attention. Instead, playfully place a toy on the floor nearby and redirect his attention. You can even use words to get him interested in the toy such as: “look, what’s this?”.
Do not pick up your puppy or let ANYONE pick up your puppy unless it’s sleepy/nappy time and they are tiring out from play.
Why? In doing so, you are indirectly teaching it to jump up on you. Puppies should only be picked up when they are starting to get sleepy and it’s nap time. Then feel free to cuddle your puppy, pet them to help them relax, and fall asleep. Be sure to place the napping puppy in their crate after a few minutes.
Do not play finger games, hand games, let the pup gnaw on your finger (no part of your hand should EVER be in their mouth except during hygiene routine), or put toys or objects of any sort close or in the puppies face.
Why? In doing so you are encouraging the puppy to mouth bite. When a puppy wants to entice its a littermate to play, they will get into each other’s face to provoke them. You need your puppy to fully understand that you are their handler/master and fingers, hands, and mouthing/biting are off-limits.
Do not immediately greet your pup when you arrive home.
Ignore your puppy for about 2 minutes before you greet him. By doing so you will help him become an emotionally stable pup. People that greet their pups excitedly and right away are inadvertently creating an emotionally unstable puppy.
Don’t rile the pup up, unless you want a hyper dog.
Keep playtime fun, but don’t make it high level – keep all your interactions low key. To create a calm-tempered, well-mannered dog, all interactions should be kept low-key except during praise as a reward.
Do not chase your puppy
It teaches them to run away from you. Your goal is to make coming to you a lot of fun. If you find you are playing keep away, stop the game. Ignore her, but engage yourself in something she finds interesting. When she moves toward you, be ready to praise and treat. Chasing a pup will teach the puppy to run away from you. This can cause a pup to get hit by a car and put you in a liable situation costing you your house and life savings. If you need your pup to come to you can also try to distract them by jogging or walking away from the pup and say something exciting like “hey, look where I’m going!” Typically they will stop running away and start to follow you. Only chase your pup if it’s a life/death/emergency situation. Try to swoop them up or stop them dead in their tracks with their collar.
Words of Wisdom
When training is not going well, don’t be too hard on yourself or the puppy. We all make mistakes along the way. Do your best to learn from those mistakes, acknowledge that you’ve found something that doesn’t work, so you can try something else that might.
Set your pup up for success.
Always supervise. When you can't supervise, crate them or put them in a small room with anything that can "get them into trouble" is out of reach. Look to reward them for good behaviors with their own kibble. (If you normally feed them 2 cups of food per day at meals, set aside 1/2 cup for treat rewards, reducing their meal intake). Anytime there is an opportunity to reward good behavior, do it.
Example: Playtime is over and now you want to watch TV on your bed where the pup is not allowed. You crate the pup. She whines a bit but then settles. Immediately drop a few pieces of kibble into her crate as a reward for her quiet behavior. Continue to do this at frequent intervals at first and over time increase the amount of time in between intervals until she is eventually weaned off treats during crate time - she's doing it on her own without any reward.
Example: Your pup is lying quietly while you read the newspaper, reward her for her behavior. Over time the pup will associate her good behavior with her getting what she wants - food/treats. Continue to do this at frequent intervals and over time increase the amount of time between intervals until she is eventually weaned off treats during crate time - she's doing it on her own without any reward.
Positive Reinforcement Training
Positive reinforcement training is payment for desirable behaviors and for making good choices. It is proactive, purposeful, and specific. It is teaching that is not based on fear. A soft, neutral tone of voice is used. Positive reinforcement training is not permissive, loud, sharp, forceful, painful, reactive, or dependent on the manipulation of the dog’s body.
With this method, the puppy is reinforced for good behavior with something he values, typically a food reward. Use “yes,” a verbal reward marker, to let the puppy know that the behavior is good and that a reward is coming. The verbal reward marker (yes) gives you time to produce the reinforcement (in this case, food) and feed it to the puppy. The verbal marker for Your pup is the word “yes” spoken in an upbeat manner.
The best food reward for a young puppy is a portion of her daily food ration. One cup of puppy food will contain about 150 “treats” for a puppy. Most young puppies will enthusiastically work for puppy kibble. Older puppies working in higher distraction settings may at times need more enticing food rewards, such as high-quality small dog treats, or novel high-quality dog kibble. High-value treats should only be from chicken, turkey, beef, or lamb protein sources.
Observe, Mark, Reward
Puppies are “behaving” every waking minute. It is so easy to overlook good behavior and to only notice your puppy when undesired behavior begins. Every day is full of rewardable moments. Coming to a nice stop on a loose leash deserves a “yes” and a reward. Choosing to rest quietly on his mat while you eat deserves a “good dog” and/or a quietly delivered treat on the mat. Look for and reinforce desired behavior every day!
Starting with the Basic Command "Sit"
Your goal will be to have the puppy sit quietly while you prepare her meal, and wait until you say “okay” before eating.
• Hold the dish containing the puppy’s meal out of the puppy’s reach and wait for the puppy to sit.
• At first you can use the dish to lure the puppy into a sit. If you raise the dish over her head, the puppy will tend to sit so she can look up at the dish.
• When the puppy sits, start to place the dish down. If she gets up before you say “okay,” quickly pick up the dish. Again lower the dish to the floor, but if the puppy gets up, raise the dish again. At first, try to reward the puppy with her meal immediately upon sitting. The puppy will quickly realize that her meal only comes when sitting—a powerful incentive to sit.
• Once you can predict that the puppy is going to sit, add the verbal cue “sit” when presenting the food bowl.
• After the puppy has mastered “sit,” then ask the puppy to hold the sit for a few seconds before you say “okay.” This should never become a test to see how long the puppy can stay. Only ask for a few seconds then release the puppy to eat. Taking this exercise to excess can create possessiveness over the food dish.
There are 2 types of punishment: Taking away something the dog likes or adding something the dog does not like. Effective punishments are Time Outs, Response Cost, and Verbal Reprimand.
An example of a time out is to withdraw your attention from them or put them in their crate for a time out. Be sure to keep time-outs short and be sure that the time-out environment is less rewarding to the dog than the original environment.
Example: Your puppy jumps up on you.
Solution: Turn your back to them, ignore them, remain silent until they settle into the sit position. As soon as they settle, immediately mark the behavior by saying "yes" and immediately administer a treat. Over time they will learn that jumping up causes you to withdraw attention and when they settle down they get a reward.
Response Cost is another effective method of punishment. An example is to remove a toy or remove their playtime. In order for this to be effective, it has to be done when the toy or playtime is important to them. Timing is the key. The dog must lose the toy/playtime sufficiently close in time so that he understands its behavior caused the consequence.
Scenario: You just got home from work, you've already toilet relieved and fed your pup and now it's playtime. Pup mouths/bites your hand. Immediately remove the puppy and put him in a time-out in the crate for a few minutes. This will have a big impact since they've been crated all day. Pup will start to associate his mouthing/biting with losing playtime. After the pup has settled, you can take him back out to play.
"ah-ah-ah!" or "NO!" Used to stop or decrease behavior. To be effective it must be paired with some other form of punishment or a distraction to refocus the dog's attention. Deliver in a firm, deep voice, but not with emotion or anger.
For example, let's say you leave a shoe out (that's your mistake by the way!), and the pup starts to chew it. Startle the pup by saying "No!", remove the shoe and immediately replace it with a toy. Once the pup turns its attention to the toy, praise/reward him.
In general, physical punishment is not recommended, especially with assistance dogs. It can negatively influence your relationship with your dog. It can result in emotional reactions or aggression. It can be easily misused, and in the hands of an unskilled trainer, can escalate to abuse. Most importantly, you may cause your dog to become fearful or lose its confidence to train. However, if you have tried positive reinforcement training and you don't have the patience or you need to correct some bad behaviors, I highly recommend Don Sullivan's "The Dog Father" using the "Command Collar". Get the large command collar - you can remove or add links back at any time to adjust for their size. This training definitely works, it gets results right away, and the physical punishment is limited and easy for anyone to administer.
In the beginning, especially the first week home, it's best not to use any form of correction. It's best to simply distract them from whatever bad behavior or inappropriate object they are into and turn their attention to what you want them to be doing such as playing with a toy.