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Your little bundle of joy has arrived home, and is rushing round, weeing in every corner, chewing anything he can get in his mouth, biting your ankles, and you are feeling exhausted. How do you bring up this 'flying furball with teeth'? Here we offer you ways of channelling your pup's energies into more acceptable behaviour, so that you and he can enjoy each other's company more.

The focus here is on preventing problems by teaching your pup how to behave before the problems get serious. There's also a lot of emphasis on the most common puppy issues, like housetraining and playbiting. Behavioural Problems gives more help with curing problems in adult dogs and older pups.



It's best to start out feeding your puppy on whatever he is used to eating, and make changes gradually, even if you don't approve of what he was being given by his previous owner. It's safer to get pups used to changes in their diet gradually, introducing one new food at a time, and in small amounts, so a changeover to a completely new diet takes around a week. This helps both to avoid digestive problems, and helps to prevent allergies. Pups need to eat digestible foods, which is why commercial puppy foods often use rice, a very digestible cereal. Scrambled egg is also easily digested.

Go for a high-quality puppy food, and it's safer to avoid foods with colourants. Colourants don't make the food more attractive for dogs, and have been linked to behavioural and health problems. Different pups have different needs. Some breeds are especially prone to allergies, for example, so what suits one pup may not suit another. Try changing your pup's diet if he is often squitty, gets itchy, eats grass more than usual, or is abormally over-active. It's normal for dogs to eat grass, but regular avid consumption of every possible blade is not normal. Dogs will sometimes do this if they need more fibre, for example if they have anal gland trouble. Puppies are often more active than owners would like, but extreme over-activity can be triggered by exposure to certain ingredients in food. You can be certain of what ingredients are in your pup's diet by preparing the food yourself, but you do need to research diet thoroughly if you plan to give your pup home-prepared food (see Dogs and Diet).

The one time you may want a complete change in diet is if your puppy gets a bit squitty. Then you can switch to white rice and scrambled egg or cottage cheese for a few days, as it's easier on his digestive system. This is not a good long-term diet, so shouldn't be fed more than a few days. Do check with your vet if the squittiness persists more than a couple of days, and contact the vet immediately if he is squitty and looks down in the dumps - depressed or lethargic - or appears to be in pain.

Puppies will eat just about anything, so be very careful when you introduce new foods. Just because the pup eats them doesn't mean they are good for him. Cow's milk and yoghurt isn't really good for them because they can't handle high levels of lactose, but cottage cheese is safer, as it contains less lactose. Puppy milk is available from vets if your pup is very young. It's worth checking prices online if your vet charges a lot. Acid fruit like sharp apples, can upset dogs' stomachs, and grapes can be poisonous. Most foods can be tolerated if the dog doesn't eat too much, but pups tend not to have a 'stop' button, and can carry on eating things they shouldn't, only learning after upsets that some foods are not good in large amounts. Many commercial dog treats can upset pups' stomachs if you give the pup a lot of them at a time. Try feeding your pup ordinary kibble (small pieces of dry dog food) as a training treat, it's cheaper, and less likely to upset his digestion. Pups also eat balloons, polystyrene meat packaging, and poisonous plants from your garden. You need to be very careful about what they get in their little mouths, and check what comes out at the other end! Keep a watch on your pup when he is outside, and scan the room for anything he might chew that he shouldn't, when you leave him indoors.

Young puppies need to be fed little and often. Their tummies can't hold much food, so they need to be fed about four times a day at seven to eight weeks, with the number of meals gradually being reduced to two a day by the time they are six months' old.

The amount you feed at each meal depends on the puppy. Start out giving the pup the amounts he is used to eating, and gradually increase this as he gets bigger. Use the manufacturers' guidelines as a rough guide. Reduce amounts if he appears to be getting too fat, increasing if he seems to be getting too skinny. You can get a trainer, vet, or someone who sees a lot of dogs to assess his weight if you aren't sure. Your pup's needs will vary a lot according to how hot it is, how much exercise he gets, and whether he is going through a growth spurt. Sometimes pups go through periods of not eating much. See a vet straight away if he is not eating and seems generally unwell, but if he is lively and just not eating as much as usual, he is probably going through a dormant phase in his growth.

Titbits for training should be very small, or the puppy will spend ages chewing them, or will get too fat. Some people freeze dry liver, others use kibble. The titbits sold in small packs tend to be expensive, and can make some pups squitty, so if he'll work for his ordinary kibble, this is a better idea. Do include titbits when you work out how much your pup is eating - often dogs become obese when they are eating quite small meals, because they get lots of titbits.

Any human food leftovers should also be included in your calculations. Some pups can eat a wide range of human leftovers and appear to thrive on them, but it's safer to check which foods are safer for dogs (see Dogs and Diet) before giving him leftovers, and only feed small amounts. It's also a good idea to put leftovers in his bowl rather than feeding him while you are eating, or he will soon learn to beg, and this may annoy guests you have round for a meal. People who give dogs titbits while they eat aren't usually able to eat uninterrupted. Those who wait and the pup titbits until after they have finished still tend to have an audience when they eat, as the puppy waits for his share. People who wait longer and put the food in the puppy's bowl and give it to him at his meal time tend not to get any begging at all, because the pup has learnt that it doesn't produce results. Puppies are studying us all the time!

Exercise and games

Puppies need exercise and entertainment, and are likely to be better behaved if they are able to play energetic games. They do best with short periods of exercise, rather than hikes over long distances, which can actually damage them, especially the giant breeds. Stop to give your pup a rest if he looks tired on a walk. It's good practice for him to learn to stay by your side watching the world go by, as well as ensuring that he doesn't over-tax himself. The distance covered is more important than the time you spend out of doors. A four-month-old pup can be fine on an hour-long walk, so long as you take it at a steady pace, and sit down with him now and then, while a half-hour stint of running round like a mad thing could leave him exhausted.

Games are very useful for wet days when your puppy is bored and fretful, and they are a fun way to train your puppy. Try teaching your pup games that involve him doing something for you in exchange for you doing something for him, like retrieve games where he has to give up a ball for it to be thrown. You can also play tug games with a throw after a few tugs, where he has to drop the tug before it's thrown, or 'sniff' games, where he has to sniff out hidden titbits. Pups often want something fun to do in the evening when you are tired and just want to watch TV or read. Try summoning the energy for a ten minute game, which can have a wonderful settling effect on your pup.

Children and pups can have a lot of fun together, and adults can enjoy a little peace if they can delegate some playtime to willing volunteers. Small children and pups do need to be supervised though, because of a tendency of small children to pull puppies' tails and ears, and poke them in the eyes. Older children can have fun training the pup - children like to be able to get puppies to obey them. You can give the kids their own puppy training book when you get your pup, so they know what to do. Kids who are given responsibilities, and are included in the pup's training programme, are much more likely to play responsibly with the puppy, and less likely to subvert your training by feeding the pup under the table at mealtimes! You may still need to look in on the kids and the pup, especially if you hear lots of shrieks of laughter, since kids and pups sometimes get each other a bit too wound up.


Puppies spend a lot of their day sleeping, and this is good for them. It helps them to grow and allows them to recharge their batteries. Pups may need to have their nap time enforced in lively households, especially where there are a lot of children. Make sure that children respect the pup's naps, and wait until he has woken up before calling him to play. Dragging a sleepy pup out of his cage is not pleasant for the pup. You can explain to children that they seem like big bald giants to the puppy, and they probably wouldn't want big bald giants to drag them out of their beds when they are asleep. They would probably be a bit grumpy at first. Puppies are also very like small children in that they can get fractious if they have been awake for too long and are tired. They can also get overexcited playing games with children, and it helps to put the pup on his own for a little while if he is overexcited, and to leave him for longer if nothing you say seems to calm him and he has had enough exercise. He will usually drop off to sleep very quickly, after an initial protest.


Puppies need both sleep and exercise, so schedules are important. To some extent your pup can adapt to whatever schedule you set up, but it helps to 'go with the flow', and schedule a period of active games, like retrieve, at the time your pup is most active, often in the evening. Some pups have a manic period at a particular time of the day, when they are prone to get up to mischief such as chasing ankles and playbiting, or rushing to the window and barking. You could anticipate this, and give your pup something more civilised to do, by inviting him to play active games around half an hour before he usually starts rushing around. This can help to channel his energies into something more constructive than rushing round and being a pain, and it gives you more control over your pup. You could teach him to play retrieve, or shut him out of the room and hide titbits under plastic containers, then let him in and tell him to 'sniff' them out.

Scheduling games or walks before you leave your pup alone when you go out will help him to sleep, rather than barking. A game or a short walk before bed time not only helps him sleep, it means he is more likely to poo before he goes to bed.

Your pup also needs a quiet period before and after eating, so he has a chance to digest his food. Regular feeding and exercise schedules are especially important for house-training, since they mean that your pup is more likely to wee and poo at predictable times, because his body clock will adjust to the time you get up, feed him, and play with him.


Housetraining involves a big investment of time for the first couple of weeks, but it pays off in the long run by saving you a lot of time cleaning up 'accidents'. It's not difficult to teach. Your puppy has a natural instinct not to wee and poo in his den, and this is a great help. So long as you take him out often enough and at the right times, you're 'home and dry'! If you leave it too long, he will get in the habit of weeing and pooing indoors, and this habit is difficult to break. So how often is 'often enough'? It depends on how old the pup is, and what he is doing. Little pups usually need to go as soon as they wake up from a nap, after they have been active (which tends to stimulate bowel movements) and after they have eaten. Your pup will also give signs that he wants to 'go', by sniffing. A lot of the work involved in housetraining is anticipating when your pup needs to go. You can make your task easier by not waiting for the signs, but taking him out immediately after waking, eating, etc. Some owners even carry very young pups outside, to ensure they have their 'waking up wee' in the garden. Do this very gently, and talk to your pup softly as you carry him out, so that he isn't startled.

How often should you take your puppy outside? Some people recommend taking young pups outside every hour during the day. This is difficult if you also have a family to look after, and are trying to earn a living, but it's true that the more often you take your new pup outside, the faster he will become housetrained. Guides often recommend the pup's age in months plus an hour, but this varies a lot from pup to pup, and the time of day. It helps to keep a housetraining diary, recording when your pup 'goes' so that you can predict his needs, and how long he can be safely left without risk of accidents. You should gradually be able to leave the pup for longer between each trip outside, though you will probably find that it's not as simple as, say, 'every four hours' in the daytime, since pups tend to need to wee and poo more often during the part of the day when they are more active. Your puppy may be able to hang on for five hours in the morning, at the age of four months, yet need to go out every two hours at least in the evening. By this age, your pup should be telling you when he needs to go, by whining, standing by the door, or climbing on your lap. Different pups try to communicate to you in different ways, so watch your pup to see what he is trying to tell you.

Your puppy does need to be accompanied when he is outside. If you just shove him out of the door and wait for him to 'perform', he is likely to want to come back indoors to be with you. Likewise, if you just leave the back door open and stay indoors, your puppy is quite likely to go outside for a sniff, and come back indoors for a wee, especially if you have thoughtfully provided him with newspapers to wee on. Never mind if you are in your dressing gown, it's 9am, and the neighbours can see you, your pup needs you! You'll have to get dressed if you have no garden. You can keep easy-to-put-on clothes by the bed, like tracksuit bottoms and a jacket, until your puppy can last the night.

Praise your puppy when he 'performs' outside, so he gets the idea that outside is where he is meant to go. You could even give him a small titbit now and again, while he is very young. Give him a little game after he has performed too, if it's not too cold and wet in the garden. This teaches him that fun happens when he 'goes' - whereas if you take him straight indoors and ignore him once he has 'performed', he could delay 'performing' because he doesn't want to go indoors. Pups may also delay a wee if you start to play games with them as soon as you go out, so give him some sniffing and weeing time before you play games, as well as sniffing and weeing time after a game.

Some people get their pups to 'perform' on command, by saying a word or phrase (like 'hurry up') when the pup 'goes', which can trigger the pup to 'perform' faster on a cold and rainy night. This works better if you use the same area every time, either a spot you choose, or one your pup seems to prefer. You can either 'go with the flow' and speed up production by going to the spot your puppy has chosen, or try to influence the choice by taking your puppy on a lead to a weeing spot of your choice, and rewarding the puppy for weeing there.

What do you do if you catch the puppy in the act indoors? It's tempting to shout 'NO' and drag the small offender outside, but this can be counter-productive. It can make the pup fearful of weeing and pooing when you are around, which will make it more difficult for you to housetrain him because he'll be reluctant to go when you take him out. It's better to walk fast to the door, calling your pup's name and saying 'outside', in an excited and happy voice, like 'outside' is a good place to be. If your pup has already left a little puddle or heap, scolding him probably won't have any effect, since he may not understand why you are cross, and may just come to see you as scary. Just clean it up - there are special deodorising cleaning liquids you can buy at pet stores - and try to keep him off difficult-to-clean areas, like those with a carpet, when he is unsupervised.

What do you do at night-time? After all, you need to sleep. Thankfully, it doesn't take long for puppies to last the night - they can usually manage this by the time they are about three and a half months, but you do have to take them out for a last thing at night wee, and as soon as you wake up in the morning - what's the first thing you do when you wake up? Exactly what your pup wants to do! Older pups can be taken for a short walk round the block last thing at night, since this is more likely to be productive in terms of a poo than just taking them into the garden. Don't forget your poo bags! With younger pups, you just have to sleep a bit less than normal, if you want to house train your pup fast.

Owners of older pups, especially single male pups, may find that their pup is reluctant to wee and poo in the garden, which can be a problem if you live in a rough area and don't want to go round the block late at night. You can try playing a quick ball game in the garden to get his bowels moving. Another trick, to get him to wee, is to invite his friends into the garden during the day. They will tend to wee on his territory, which in turn will stimulate him to wee where they have weed.

Many owners have their pup in the bedroom in a dog cage (also called an indoor kennel, or crate) by the side of the bed. This means that the pup is safe - not likely to wander round the floor and be trodden on by a large, sleepy human, and the owner can hear the pup if he wakes up in the middle of the night and whines to be let out for a wee. Some behaviourists frown on pups sleeping in the bedroom, because they argue that it can encourage separation anxiety, since pups need to learn to be alone. However, if your pup is left alone for part of the day, he has already learnt how to be alone, and he shouldn't get too clingy sleeping in the same room as you.

Cages have to be big enough to house the pup as he grows, with enough space for him to turn around. Think what size he'll be in a few months' time when you buy the cage. Give him a chew to settle him at night. You can leave water inside in a container attached to the crate wall, so he doesn't knock it over. Pups don't like to wee in their dens, so they won't usually wee in a cage, if they can help it. They should always be let out when they ask for a wee, and should never be left shut in a cage in the daytime for long periods, otherwise you may force your pup to wee in his den. This will please neither you nor him! If you leave a very young pup outside the bedroom at night, it's kinder to leave the cage door open and give him access to a toilet area, in case he needs to go and you can't hear him. Pups take longer to housetrain if they are allowed to wee indoors, but not everyone can handle 3am trips out into the garden.

You may take your pup outside only to find that the trip is unproductive. This may simply be that your pup is learning to hang on for longer, though there are other reasons. Bitches may delay a wee until they have pooped, and a poo takes longer to produce than a wee, so walk her round a little and see if this helps. Bitches too tend to have their favourite weeing spots, and generally prefer to wee on grass rather than tarmac or pavements. Dogs generally prefer to wee where another dog has been, and this becomes more important as your male puppy gets older. Some dogs may become inhibited about 'performing' with a human watching, especially if they have been shouted at for accidents indoors. If this has happened, you may need to stand at a discreet distance. You have to judge what is happening from what you know about your pup. If he simply doesn't need to go, take him indoors and try later, making sure he's closely watched, or somewhere he isn't likely to wee, in the mean time.

You can tether a pup to your waist if he is reluctant to go outside and then leaves little puddles as soon as he gets indoors. This is especially effective for pups that have become inhibited about peeing when their owners are watching, which may be the case with rescue pups. Use a fairly long line to allow him to lie down comfortably but still be near you. Take him out for long periods too, with rests, so that he is bound to want to go while he is out.

You may think that you have housetraining sorted, only to have your pup regress. This is common after a period in kennels, and when bitches have their first season. It can also happen if there are noises in the early morning, eg a neighbour leaving for work, which wakes your pup up and reminds him his bladder is full. Just be patient, try to let your pup sleep somewhere relatively quiet, and go back to the routine for a younger pup, tethering him to you if needed. Do check with your vet in case your pup has a urinary infection, if you can't think of any obvious reason for his regressing.

Rescue dogs may have forgotten any toilet training that they had learnt, or may never have learnt to 'go' outside. They can be treated as though they were pups, and they do learn, even if it takes a little while longer, and the puddles are a little bigger!

Puppy owners may have to leave their pups alone for several hours at a time. You may have to go out to work, or work from home and not be able to keep a watch on your pup. You can use a cage for short periods, but keep an ear alert for your pup if you work from home, and make sure he is not confined to his cage for long periods if you go out. This is not just because he may not be able to hold it in for very long, even adult dogs should not be left in cages for longer than four hours in the daytime, because they need to be able to stretch their legs. You should be able to tell how long your puppy can comfortably last from your diary. Pups can be left in a puppy-proofed room with a toilet area, with the cage as a den with his dog blanket and chews, and the crate door open. You can fence off part of the room if you can't puppy-proof the whole room, or your house is open plan. Bathrooms tend to have washable floors, so are one option, if yours is big enough, only make sure the pup can't reach the toilet roll, since pups do like festooning the bathroom with tissue paper!

Lastly puppy owners often want to know when their pup will start lifting his leg. This very much depends on the pup, and his circumstances. Some male pups start very young, and are leg-lifting regularly by the time they are five months' old. Others never or rarely go in for leg lifting. This applies especially to neutered dogs in isolated areas, since leg lifting is about marking, and neutered males tend to mark less, while dogs that don't live near other dogs have no need to mark. There are also dogs that wee like a bitch in their own gardens, and lift their legs in areas frequented by other dogs. Bitches may pee in a way that is similar to dogs, doing a crouch squat with a little leg lift. This seems to be more common among certain breeds, especially northern breeds. Some people see leg lifting in bitches as a sign of 'dominance', though if it is, it's to do with competing with other bitches, and your bitch may be a sweetie with you, and still lift her leg.


Chances are that your adorable puppy will sink his little fangs into your ankles, jump up for cuddles, and yap to get attention. Before giving him an indulgent cuddle, think ahead to when he is 18 months' old, and ask what you will do if he still bites people, jumps up on meeting new people (especially if he is a large breed) and barks at everyone... You love your little pup, and want him to have a nice future, so teach him good manners. This is part of socialization, or learning how to behave with people and other animals.

The first lesson is bite inhibition. Little pups need to learn that it is unacceptable to bite people, and this is the most valuable lesson you can teach your pup. They also need to learn not to mouth you, or take you in their mouths without biting, because it's too close to a bite. Most people manage to housetrain their pups, but not everyone manages to teach bite inhibition, yet it's possibly the single most important skill you can teach a pup. An adult dog that can be trusted not to bite will be safer with children, groomers, vets, anyone who looks after him when his owner is away, and of course his owner. Once you have taught your pup bite inhibition, you will feel a lot more confident about handling him, and you relationship with him will be much better.

Some people argue that puppies should be allowed to bite and nibble their owners at first, in order to learn how not to bite hard. The problem with this is that humans, especially children, have much more delicate skin than dogs, and can damage easily. Your puppy can learn how to bite softly by biting other pups, he doesn't need to bite people to learn how to do this. You also have to phase out biting altogether at some stage, since some people can be terrified by a bite, even if it's just a gentle one, so it's best to stop pups biting people as soon as possible.

One method that can have rapid results is simply blowing a very gentle raspberry when your puppy is having a relaxed chew of your hand. Make sure you do this in a gentle, low key way. Have the pup close while you are sitting, even in your lap. As soon as the pup starts to chew, blow a gentle raspberry in the pup's face. The pup usually stops in surprise, and tries chewing you again, so blow another gentle raspberry. The pup will usually then lick you. Then give long, calming strokes to show you are friends with pup, and to reward him for licks (at least better than bites!). Long, slow strokes are more calming than faster, caressing movements. Don't try blowing loud farty raspberries with a manic pup, or you will probably just encourage more wild behaviour, do this gently when the pup is relatively calm and just having a reflective chew of your person. You may want to give your pup something more acceptable to chew as well - he may chew you because he is teething, so after telling him that chewing people is not OK, you could offer him a chew, which tells him 'this is what you chew, not me'!

Another way to teach bite inhibition is to say 'ouch' and ignore your pup. The pup wants to play with you, and wants your attention, so ignoring the pup when he bites, and giving him attention when he behaves nicely teaches him that he gets what he wants if he has good manners. Try ignoring him for just half a minute at first. He should get the message, and his behaviour should improve, but if it doesn't, and if ignoring him makes him more manic, go out of the room and shut him in alone for a couple of minutes, so he can't bite you. Some pups, especially terriers, may be hard to detach from your ankles or trouser legs. Just walk to the doorway, and shut the door on the pup's nose, retrieving your leg, and leave pup alone for a few minutes.

Smacking a pup for playbiting is not usually effective. It may just encourage him to play with you more roughly, and if you smack your puppy hard enough so it hurts, he's likely to come to fear your hands, which could mean that he later bites you when you put your hand out to him, as a way of protecting himself. Trying to hold him down may also encourage him to wriggle, struggle, get more excited, and carry on biting. Using him time-out can give him a chance to calm down.

Running can trigger encourage playbiting, in pups that have not learnt bite inhibition, because the pup may see your ankles, or shoelaces as prey. It helps to move your hands and feet slowly if you are worried that your pup might playbite. Some pups get very excited when they play ball games, and try to grab the ball when you are picking it up, nipping you in the process. Try putting your pup in a sit before you throw the ball if he does this.

You can teach pups not to paw you in the same way as you teach them not to playbite, though not everyone minds being pawed, and remember that a dog has to be able to get your attention in some way, for example, if he wants a wee.

Your pup is more likely to learn not to playbite if everyone reacts the same way when he does it. If you let visitors or other members of the family roughhouse your pup and encourage him to playbite, he won't get the message! It's especially important for children to take part in this training, since it's so important for your pup to behave well with kids, who damage easily. It's safer for kids to ignore the pup than blow raspberries, unless you can be sure that they are able to do it very, very gently and only when the pup is relatively relaxed, in case the kids get carried away, and wind the pup up with big farty raspberries! In any case this method usually either works fast, or doesn't work at all, so if it doesn't work, it's best to try something else.

Your puppy may still playbite despite all your efforts. This is especially common with pups taken on when they are older, if no-one has yet taught them manners. A good trainer can help by checking out your pup, and watching you and your dog together, to give you advice that is especially tailored to you and your pup.

Some puppies bite people seriously, and can cause damage. This may have a medical cause. It could be a painful abscess that you can't see which means that it hurts the pup to be touched where the abscess is. The puppy may be deaf, so be frightened when picked up with no warning, or there could be other medical problems, so first get your puppy checked by a vet. Puppies may also start issuing threats to retain a resource, for example, a location, like the sofa, or a piece of stolen food. They may growl, and then snap if challenged. This sort of behaviour can start as young as three months, which is why early training in bite inhibition is so important. Puppies may also bite when cornered, if they feel threatened and see biting as the only option, for example if they are being teased in their cages by children and can't escape.

Puppies that bite seriously and find that this works are likely to carry on doing so. They can learn that biting means that they get to retain the resource, or the threat goes away. Get help straight away if your puppy starts biting seriously. See a vet to rule out medical problems, and see a trainer. The younger the pup is when you tackle the problem, the more chance you have of his becoming a civilised adult dog. Play safe in the mean time, and avoid situations where he is likely to bite or show aggression. You can put objects on the sofa so he can't get on it, keep him out of the bedroom so he doesn't get on the bed, make sure there are no objects within his reach that he can steal, and call him, rather than pulling him out, if he is in his cage.

Owners are often bitten when they fail to see warnings or heed growls, and try dragging a pup by his collar to get him out of somewhere, or off furniture. It's safer to get him to come to you of his own accord. You can do this by pretending to ignore him, and doing something very interesting, like eating a very tasty and smelly sandwich (with Stilton cheese, or meat in it), or playing a game of ball on your own. He is very likely to want to join you, and then you can act pleased and surprised, ask him to do something simple like 'sit', and give him a reward for obeying you.

Games are important too. 'Tickle his tummy' games and laughing when your pup bites you might send him the wrong messages, so you know what to do if he starts biting seriously! Ask your trainer about games that encourage your pup to behave well. Generally, games that involve the pup doing something for you in order for you to do something for him, will tend to encourage good behaviour.

It can be very upsetting when a puppy bites seriously. You may worry about mistakes you have made, or about whether his problems can be solved. Even experienced people can make mistakes though, since all pups are different, and some pups are more difficult than others. What's important is learning what works and what doesn't work. So long as you get help fast and work out a training programme that suits you and your pup, you have a very good chance of turning such a pup into a well-behaved adult dog.


Some pups don't bark much, others bark a lot, and this has a lot to do with breed differences. The main way to control attention-seeking barking is to wait until the pup is quiet before giving him what he wants. Excess barking to be let out can be controlled by getting your pup to sit and be quiet before you open the door. Your pup has a right to tell you he needs to go out, of course, but once he has told you, he needn't repeat the message. Barking at visitors can be controlled by making sure they only give him attention when he is quiet, and by teaching him how to greet visitors nicely. Alarm barks are an attempt to give you information about goings on the pup thinks you need to know about, so saying 'good dog' can help in getting him to be quiet - you tell him you have got the message, so he needn't repeat himself. Whispering tends to be more effective for quietening a barking pup than shouting. It's also possible to teach pups to bark on command, by rewarding them for doing so, with a command word, and then you can more easily get them to be quiet. Very barky breeds will always bark a fair bit. The important thing is to be able to control your pup when you need to, for example late at night when people want to sleep, and in training classes.

You will want your pup to be quiet while you are out, and not annoy the neighbours. He's more likely to sleep if you have taken him for a walk, or played some games with him in the garden before you go out. Little pups shouldn't go on very long walks, but he needs enough time outside to let him do his business, and check out the world. Having someone come in and walk him helps too, when you are out for a long while. This will help break up his day, so he spends more time sleeping, and doesn't get bored and fretful. You can also give him a Kong with peanut butter inside to occupy him when you are out. Pups often bark out of boredom. It helps too, to make sure he is left somewhere where he isn't disturbed much by noises and sights from the street - otherwise he is likely to try to guard the house for you! Other tips that can help include leaving a radio on, one with soothing classical music, rather than raucous music that might get him excited. Try playing music to him, and see what calms him, then find him a station that suits his musical tastes.

Greeting visitors nicely (without jumping up!)

Some pups like to 'mob' visitors, they are ecstatic when someone comes, and a little too effusive in their greetings. You can teach pups to sit nicely when greeting people rather than jumping up by using rewards for good behaviour and withdrawing attention when he jumps. This means you reward the pup with cuddles when the pup is sitting quietly, and pretend to ignore him when he jumps up or barks - turn round so you have your back to him for half a minute. You can also hand visitors a little back of kibble or other reward, and ask them to give the pup a treat when he is sitting quietly. This has the good effect of teaching pup to greet visitors nicely, and making him see visitors as good people.

Other pups are a little more timid, and hide, or become glued to their owners. Again, it helps to arm visitors with a bag of titbits. They can ignore the pup, just pretend he isn't there, and let him come out in his own time to sniff the new arrivals. Then, when he seems relaxed, they can ask him to sit, and offer him a titbit. The pace depends on the pup - if he is still timid, then it's best to ignore him, and let him work out that these new humans are quite safe!

Visiting toddlers will need supervision when they interact with the pup. They can get a lot of pleasure from stroking puppies, though go clowly if your pup seems nervous. Even if he is happy, watch for attempts to pull the pup' ears or poke him in the eye. Older visiting children will need to be supervised until you are sure that they can handle the pup well. If you have kids of your own who have become good handlers, they can usually explain to them the best way to behave with the pup.

Getting your dog to see visitors as friends should help curb barking tendencies among the barkier breeds. Obedience training should also help - then before your dog starts to launch into a long barking spree, you can ask him to do something else, like sit, or go to his dog basket, or his cage/indoor kennel.

General socialisation with people

Greeting visitors nicely is part of a pup's socialisation training. He needs to be able to behave well with people you meet in the street as well as visitors, and this means getting to know people of all shapes and sizes, who behave in different ways, like people with glasses, funny hats, beards, umbrellas, tennis racquets, paperboy delivery bags, uniforms, limps, and children and elderly people. You can have dressing up parties at your house, where guests don various disguises and offer your pup titbits in exchange for a nice sit. Do stress to guests that he should only be petted when standing, sitting or lying, not when he's jumping up, and train guests to accept that sometimes he needs time out. Time out, or rest time, is especially important if your guests are children - kids and pups can easily wind one another up, but adults can be just as bad when presented with cuteness! Give your pup a safe space, like a basket, and teach him to settle there by making it attractive with a chew, or something else he likes. If you do this when you're alone with him, it's easier to get him to settle when there are guests. 

Your pup also needs to get used to children running, screaming, skateboarding, cycling and jogging. Take him to watch sporting events, and if you don't have kids, sit on a bench with him and let him watch children playing in the park. Give him titbits when he is sitting nicely. You can offer people who want to pet him titbits, and ask them to give him a command like 'sit' in exchange for the titbit. Children especially enjoy saying hello to puppies, stroking them, and making them obey commands. You can also take your pup to the pub as soon as you can rely on him not to wee on the floor, and get him used to lying down and keeping still when people don't want to pet him. It's best if you do this at a quiet time so he isn't overwhelmed, or encouraged to indulge in bad behaviour by customers who have drunk too much to listen to your pleas that he only be petted when he has all four paws on the ground.

Pups need to meet new people regularly so that they are able to accept strangers. You can easily meet people dog walking, and it's usually easy to start a conversation with someone with a friendly dog by complimenting them on their dog. This way you get to meet interesting people too, and share tips on puppy care, as well as catching up on the local gossip! 

Your puppy's early experiences, before he came to live with you, affect how he relates to people. Pups that come to you with little experience of people, such as those raised in a garage or kennel, will need more work, and it helps to get in touch with a trainer straight away, especially if they're older pups. You have to be a dedicated owner to take on such a pup, and it's a good idea to get advice from a trainer before taking on such a task. Pups that have come from households where there's a lot of noise and bustle, and where they have played a lot with the family tend to be more outgoing, and if they come from a family with well-trained children, this gives them a firm basis for getting on with kids that you can build on.

Grooming and handling

Puppies need to learn to accept being groomed and handled. They don't usually mind much when they are very little, though they may wriggle a bit, but if they aren't handled much, they can become fearful and wary as they get older. You can start out by grooming your pup regularly, whether or not his coat needs it. Choose a comb or brush that is suited to his coat - it should be able to deal with tangles, and be comfortable for your pup, rather than pulling at his fur painfully. Start out with back scratches, which most dogs like, or work out what he most likes when he is groomed. Some pups are happy about being groomed, others are a pain. If your pup is a pain, then it's worth grooming him every day for a short period, just so he gets used to it, then, once he is better behaved, making sure you groom him at least once a week as an adult, even if he doesn't need it.

You want your puppy to behave nicely at the vets, so it helps to get him used to things that happen in vet surgeries. Look regularly in his ears, and between his toes, and generally feel him the way a vet does at a check-up. Watch your vet to see what he does when you take your pup for his shots and the vet checks out your pup. You can ask friends to 'examine' your pup, so he gets used to being handled by strangers. Pretend examinations mixed with titbits and scritches behind the ears, should get him to feel quite happy about being examined at the vets. This is especially important for large breed dogs - small cuddly, cute-looking dogs in families with kids tend to be petted a lot, and get a lot of handling from admirers, while larger dogs may not get as many cuddles. It's worth finding people who get on with your pup, and making sure he gets cuddles and handling from lots of sources.

Dogs may have to be lifted, onto a vet table, or into a car. Little puppies tend not to mind being lifted, but they may start to protest as they get older, especially if you often lift them up to stop them doing something they want to do, like lying on the sofa. Try not to use lifting as a punishment (in the dog's eyes), to stop them doing things. Pups tend to be quite happy if they are lifted when they're playing, after they have run to you and shown they want contact with you, so this is a good time to lift your pup. The same applies to rolling your pup over. If you roll your puppy over when he is relaxed, and then give him little scratches on his belly, he should be quite happy about being rolled over. It's worth keeping this up, so your pup is used to it, and doesn't get tense when he has to be rolled over as an adult, for example is he is lying on something you want, or if a vet wants to look at him. 

Puppies also need to get used to having their collars taken on and off. Some people take off their pup's collar in the house, because they are worried about the collar getting caught and strangling the pup. Accidents do happen, especially when dogs have been playing and one dog's jaw gets caught under the collar of another, damaging both the jaw and tightening the collar round the other dog's neck. There are quick-release collars, which can be undone fast in case of accidents. Collars can also mess up a dog's ruff, while flea collars can tighten without owners realise it, so many owners prefer only to have something round a pup's neck when absolutely necessary. If you take your pup's collar off in the house, he'll be used to having it put on and taken off (and early microchipping is an especially good idea for pups that go around a lot without collars). Otherwise it's a good idea to take the collar off and on when you're playing with the pup, so that he doesn't become collar shy, and again this has to be kept up in adulthood.

Handling involves trying to see the world through your pup's eyes - 'how would I feel if…?' It's possible to overdo it - little, cuddy pups often get a bit too much handling, because it's so pleasant to lift them up and cuddle them, even when the pup would rather be doing something other than sit on your lap. A trainer should be able to help you if you're not sure how to handle your pup. A lot depends on timing, and understanding your pup's body language, to get an idea of when and how to handle him, from reading him to see whether he's happy about being handled. Your trainer can help you with learning this, by watching you and your pup, and pointing out signs that give an idea of what he is feeling.

Learning how to behave well with other dogs

Your pup needs to learn how to behave well with other pups and dogs of all ages and sizes, also part of his socialisation. At first he won't be able to walk where the big dogs walk, until he has had his vaccinations, but you can take him to see friends with healthy, vaccinated dogs, and play in their gardens. Some puppy classes also allow pups to attend after their first vaccination, and if not many dogs go to the classes, and all are vaccinated and healthy, the risks are low. You can also carry your pup around when he is little, using a sling, or putting him inside your coat with a belt round the middle. Walking your pup round pet stores or in public parks and car parks is not recommended, however, until he has completed his vaccinations.

Pups need to meet other pups, and older, well-behaved dogs. Socialization means more than just letting the pup get on with it. Call him to you if he starts bullying his playmates and they clearly want to get away from him. Bullying is different from normal puppy play, though normal play can seem quite savage. Pups that are just playfighting come back for more and look happy between little wrestling, biting and chasing games. They give playbows to each other, with their bums in the air. Don't force your pup to socialise if he is wary. Let him get to know other dogs in his own time, and hide behind your legs at first if that is what he wants to do. Ask other owners to give him space if he seems to feel crowded, but don't touch him, pick him up or 'baby' him for being nervous either, he has to learn. Even the most timid pups tend to come out from behind your legs for a cautious sniff, once they realise that it's safe. Likewise, don't force older dogs to socialise with your pup. If they run away or make hostile noises when your pup approaches, pay them attention, or your treasure could get a bite on the nose.

It's especially important to give older dogs a refuge to get away from pups when you introduce a pup into a home where there is already an older dog. Older dogs tend to value their peace, however patient and tolerant they may be for short periods. Your older dog may initially be welcoming, or run away from the small intruder. Whatever happens they are likely to get on better if your older dog is allowed some respite from the small intruder now and then.

Some owners may worry about their puppy being attacked, especially if they have a small breed pup and have to walk in an area where there are a lot of dogs off the leash that are not under the control of their owners. One solution is to arm yourself with a water pistol. Ask owners to give your pup space, but if the owner isn't around, or doesn't take any notice, and the dog looks like he might attack your pup, try a firm 'NO', then give him a good squirt if he persists.

Novice owners are often unsure about the intentions of dogs who approach their pups. Most dogs are very tolerant of young pups, though they may be much less tolerant of older pups as they reach puberty. Friendly dogs tend to move in a relaxed way, and just give your pup a sniff. Less secure dogs may move stiffly, and it's a bad idea for you to let your pup rush at a dog that looks worried about meeting a pup. You'll get a feel for canine body language after a while, and how it varies slightly from one breed to another. Going to training classes is a good way to see different breeds, and how they communicate, and you can ask your trainer to help you interpret dog language in different breeds.

Other pets and livestock

Cats need a chance to escape from your puppy, and it is safer to supervise first encounters. Train your pup to sit on command when your kitty is about, and reward him with a titbit for looking at you rather than the cat. Your pup also needs to learn not to chase sheep, horses and other livestock. If you live in the countryside, just taking him on the lead past a field with livestock will help him get used to them. The first few times he may bark and lunge, but after a while he should ignore them. It's safer never to let your pup off the lead near livestock unless you are 100% certain that he will come back when called, or he lives on or near a farm, and you can trust him not to annoy livestock.

Dogs may also attack other dogs they see with their owner, or even with another friendly human they have come to regard as part of their pack, especially if this friend has a new dog. It's a good idea to introduce a new dog with someone else handling him, other than the person the dog sees as part of his pack, and to do this outside, with both dogs on the lead at first. Then give them plenty of space to get to know each other, before taking them indoors. Keep hellos to the dogs low-key and even-handed. If you have a new dog and there is squabbling when you get home, ignore all the dogs at first, and then get them to lie down, and reward them all for being good.

Getting used to new noises and activities like travelling

Pups also need to learn to behave well when you vacuum, and use other household appliances, and they need to learn how to travel. It's not a good idea to laugh if your little puppy attacks the vacuum cleaner - it is likely to become a problem when he gets bigger! You can try caging him with a chew or a kong while you are busy, so he can be safe watching you using food mixers and other loud appliances, without getting under your feet.

Work out what your rules are for travelling in a car (for example, on the seat or off, or in the back with a cage) and start out as you mean to go on. Try taking the pup on short journeys to pleasant locations - he is less likely to get carsick if the journeys are short, and more likely to be happy about travelling if it means he gets to go somewhere pleasant. It's safer to ensure the pup is not allowed to get out of the car until you have given a command, so he doesn't rush out into traffic. You may also plan to take your dog on trains and buses, if so, it will be easier if he starts out young, otherwise he may later find public transport too frightening to be able to travel safely.


Your puppy needs to learn how to cope with traffic, sitting at the kerb until you give the command, and walking nicely along the pavement while traffic goes past. Frequent walks along the street help get the pup used to traffic, and you can use a titbit to get the pup to focus on you and sit at the kerb. Pups tend to react to noisy vehicles like motorcycles and big lorries, so try to spot them coming, attract his attention, and give him a titbit beforehand. Just ignore him if he is worried, so you don't encourage fearful behaviour, and give him titbits when he is looking brave, and has obeyed you by sitting calmly and being focused on you.

Learning to be alone

Pups need to be able to be alone without panicking, and this is one reason why some guides advise owners not to let pups sleep in the bedroom. You may go out to work and leave the pup alone, in which case the pup already has the experience of sleeping alone, and can sleep in your bedroom without becoming a 'velcro dog'. Owners who are home 24/7 do need to ensure their pups have some time alone though. This is especially important if you are taking time off work to be with the pup, and then plan to work full-time, it's a big jump for a pup to have company all day, and then find himself alone. Gradually wean him off you, giving him time in a separate room from you, and going out and leaving him for gradually longer periods. Most times, pups just sleep when we are not around to entertain them, but kongs with peanut butter inside can be useful for giving them something to do.

You may have more than one dog, and here it's important to ensure that all the dogs are able to be alone with neither canine nor human company without worrying too much. You may have to leave a dog alone, say at the vets overnight, and this will be very stressful if the dog has little or no experience of being alone. As with weaning the pup off you, try keeping the pup in a separate room for short periods, and take your other dog(s) out and leave the pup alone on a regular basis.


Some pups are diggers, others aren't. Chews help take a dog's mind off digging indoors, while you can provide an sandpit as an outdoor digging area for him out of doors, hiding chews in it, so it's fun for him to go there and search for buried treasure.


Pups will tend to chew most things they can get in their little mouths, but they usually grow out of it. In the mean time you need both to train your pup and manage the situation. You train the pup by taking away whatever he has that be shouldn't have, and replacing it with a permissible object. You manage the situation by trying to ensure that he cannot get access to 'forbidden objects'. Pups will literally chew anything though, including walls, so this is not easy! Puppy-proof all rooms your up has access to, by keeping the floor clear and anything in his reach, or create a safe area, like a playpen, with an open crate for a den, water, and lots of chew toys. A Kong smeared inside with something tasty, like peanut butter, will also help keep him occupied.

Pups aren't being 'naughty' when they chew. They explore the world by chewing it, and chew because they are teething, or to relieve tension. They also chew out of boredom, so playing games with your pup can also help to curb his chewing.

Preventing and dealing with possessiveness

You may find that your little treasure tries to defend his possession of objects that he is chewing when you try to take them away. One way to prevent this is to give him something else when you remove an object from his mouth. Take titbits on walks, and when you remove disgusting bits of takeaway food, give him a titbit in return. Likewise, if he is just chewing (rather than eating) something, give him his favourite chew in exchange. If he tends to run away when you approach, don't approach him, but try to get him to come to you. Chasing him is likely to make him run away and try to hide, while cornering him could make him defensive. If he won't come to you, get better titbits, and do lots of practice at recall when he is not trying to defend an object, and ignore him in the mean time if the object he has stolen is not important.

Pups that have started to defend objects can be trained out of it using trading games. Offer pup some tissue paper or other goody, then offer him something he likes more in return. You can teach the 'drop' command in this way, by giving the second object to the pup when he drops the first, and as he drops it, saying 'drop'. You can also use retrieving games, which involve giving up an object, and which have a built-in reward, ie he drops ball, and the reward is that you throw it. You can also teach the 'leave' command, for example, by holding something he wants in your fist, and saying 'leave' when he shows interest, then asking him to sit. Then you can say 'take it', and give the object to him.

Owners sometimes take away a puppy's bowl when he is eating, to try to make him less possessive. This can have the opposite effect - imagine you are enjoying your lunch, and someone keeps coming up and taking your plate away. What are you likely to do? Maybe grab your plate and hold on to it! But if someone comes and adds food to your plate now and then, you are likely to sit back to let them put it on. That's a good way to get a pup to feel happy about people coming up to him when he is eating, just go up and add a few tasty titbits to his bowl.

You really do need to get your dog to see a trainer as soon as possible if he is snapping at you when he tries to retain objects, or growling as you go past his food bowl when he is eating. It's likely that he needs more work on bite inhibition and general obedience, and a trainer can give you general help on dealing with his problems safely.

Training classes and using cues

Training classes are very helpful, especially for first-time dog owners - see Choosing a Good Training Class. Pups benefit from socialization, and you benefit from learning how to train your pup and from being able to meet others in the same position. You can also nip little problems in the bud if you can ask your trainer for help. Training classes don't train the dog though - they help you to train him. There is more about training in Basic Training - here is some help specifically geared to puppies.

Everything you do at home is part of his training - he is learning all the time, not just in his training class sessions, so it's important that what you do in training is incorporated into his everyday life.

The first thing you need to be able to do is to get your puppy's attention. He may look at you eagerly every time you call his name, or say something - that's wonderful. But often pups take no notice of their owners. Why might that be? Perhaps because what they are doing is more fun than what we offer. Playing games with your pup is fun for both of you, and it means that he looks to you as a source of interesting things to do - more interesting than raiding the rubbish bin or chewing the rug. You can make yourself the centre of your pup's world by interacting with him on walks. If you just go to the park and let him off to play with his friends, and never play games with him or talk to him, he's less likely to come back when you call than if you take him to a quiet area and play retrieve with him.

Puppies are also more likely to pay you attention if they realise that not doing so has consequences. Say your puppy has just come home from a walk and is muddy, and you don't want him to jump up on you. He won't take notice of your 'sit' command if you decide that once he has jumped up you may as well pet him because he has already put a big pawprint on your clothes - that is rewarding him for not obeying you, and teaching him that what you say is not important. You need to be firm, and if he doesn't obey you, he doesn't get rewarded.

Puppies may not pay attention to what we say because we don't make it clear what we want. Your tone of voice and body language are very important. Puppies are more likely to come to you if you call enthusiastically and make a gesture. They are more likely to respond to a simple command, such as 'off', followed by 'here' than a long, plaintive complaint, such as 'puppy, do get off the sofa, you horrible little animal, I have just washed the covers'! The actual words you use for each command aren't important, you can invent words if you want. It helps for different words to be used for different things you want your dog to do. For example, your pup may understand 'sit' and 'lie down', while 'sit down' may totally confuse him - is this a 'sit' or a 'lie down'? Using gestures as well as words, and backing them up with the tone of your voice gives added meaning for your dog. Just try telling him to do things without words, use expressive grunts, or nonsense words, backed with gestures and the most expressive body language you can muster, and you will be surprised at how well you can communicate with him.

Your pup needs to be able to 'read' you, and, for communication to be two-way, you need to be able to 'read' your pup, so you can recognise from his body language whether he is happy and relaxed, fractious and overtired, or fearful, or about to bite! There is really no substitute for spending a lot of time with dogs, though you can learn a lot about dogs' body language from drawings, videos and photos. Being able to 'read' dogs is especially important when you take your pup to his first training class, so you can check to see whether he is happy about the experience, or needs a bit more space because he feels too stressed.

You'll be taught how to get your puppy to sit in your training class, but if you can already do this, the pup will get more benefit from the class, and will be more closely tuned to you, less distracted by the other dogs. All you have to do is get a titbit and put it in front of standing pup's nose. Move it backwards slowly, and pup will sit. The titbit has to be close to the pup's nose, and he will tend to jump to get it, if it's too high. You can say your dog's name and 'sit' at the same time, so pup gets to realise that 'sit means sit'. The pup gets the titbit once he has sat.

The 'sit' cue is useful when visitors arrive. Give the visitors a titbit and explain to them how to get pup to sit if he hasn't yet learnt. It's also useful to get your puppy to stop jumping around when you want to put on the lead - he soon learns that he doesn't get to go out unless he sits. It's a very good way to prevent your dog from rushing out of the door the instant it's opened, which can be a lifesaver. If your puppy breaks his sit and rushes out when he is on the lead and you open the door, try shutting it again for a few seconds, leaving your puppy outside on the lead. Then open the door and look very pleased and surprised to see him outside. He should soon learn that jumping the gun is no fun.

Lying down can also be taught with a titbit. It's easier to do if the pup is already sitting. Then you just put another titbit near the pup's nose, and lower it to between his forepaws. Pups usually lie down as they follow the food. Their bums may stick in the air, and you can very gently press the rear end down, not giving him the titbit until he is lying down. Some people say 'down' for this command, others say 'lie down' and reserve 'down' for telling a dog not to jump up. You can use this command instead of saying 'no', for example if your pup is trying to 'help' you unpack the shopping.

You'll also learn how to get your dog to walk nicely on a lead in a training class, and again it helps if he has already worked on this at home. Pups tend to dance around when they are first on the lead, but they soon get used to it if you introduce it for short periods as soon as you get them. Do a little training on the lead, involving titbits, so the pup focuses on what he has to do for you to get the titbits, rather than on biting the lead, or dancing around manically. One way to slow the pup's pace and tackle pulling is to ask your pup to sit every time you stand, and reward him, so he gets to sit automatically when you stop, and pays you more attention. Start off with short distances before a sit, then make them longer, when you can see he is paying you attention. Call him back and get him to sit by you when he rushes to the end of the lead. You can also call him and change direction if he pulls, so he has to keep paying you attention.

Recall will also be taught in your training class, and this is a key skill which you can practise beforehand. Start off in your living room, calling pup and holding up a titbit, rewarding him every time he comes to you. Make sure he is 100% reliable in your house and garden before letting him off in a public space, where he is much less likely to be reliable. You can also take titbits on walks, and call him frequently just to give him a titbit, so he is more likely to come back when there is a distraction, like another dog. It's important to find a very safe area away from traffic when you first let him off, and it's best to keep him away from major distractions like skateboarders, very small children and other dogs when he is first off leash, until he has learnt to walk past them without reacting. It's good for your pup to meet other dogs and play with them, but he also has to come when called, so practise walking past other dogs and not saying hello, and call him to you now and then for a tasty titbit when he is playing with his friends.

One command that is very useful in the home is 'off', to get your pup to get off furniture. Again you can use food to lure him down, and reward him when he has done what you ask. It's better to do this than just pick him up and plonk him on the floor, because you can then give the command at a distance, and he is more likely to obey willingly, whereas he could start rebelling if you keep picking him up and taking him from where he wants to be.

It's also useful to be able to send your pup away to a safe place, such as a cage with an open door, or his doggy basket. You can do this with titbits, throwing the titbit into the crate or basket, and giving a command like 'basket'. If you want him to settle down while you are busy, you can give him a command like 'go sleep', or 'settle down'. You can reinforce the command with a chew, or a Kong with titbits or peanut butter inside, saying 'settle down' as you give the chew, and then ignoring pup, so his chew becomes more fun than you are.

It's important for your puppy to feel his cage or basket is a refuge, and a good place to be. It helps when visitors come, because you can send him to his basket or cage and give him a chew, if the visitors are dog-phobic, or he seems a bit frightened by them. Some guides used to tell you to sit in your dog's den to show him you are dominant! Most adult humans wouldn't fit in a cage, and besides, your pup needs to feel he can go there for time-out and a nap, so it's important to tell children to respect a puppy in his cage or basket, and not plague him by poking him, shouting at him, or dragging him out by his collar. They can call him out if they want him to play. Pups may hide in their refuges when they are frightened, and shouting at them to obey and come out immediately can make them more frightened, as can trying to pull them out roughly by their collars. You can often get them to come out by ignoring them and playing a fun game on your own, like a ball game, so they forget their fears and join you without being called. It's a good idea to ensure your pup is happy about hands in his cage, and a simple way to do this is to do nice things when he looks relaxed in his cage, like giving him a gentle stroke, or a titbit.

General ideas behind training techniques

The general principle when training is to reward your pup for doing what you want him to do, and not reward him for things you don't want him to do. Food is an easy reward to use, but your pup will find other things rewarding, like having a ball thrown, or being let out for a walk. Pups tend to like attention of all kinds, and this can include being chased. If your pup doesn't come back when you call, and you run after him, he may think this is a great game, and carry on running. It's better to walk in the opposite direction, or hide behind a tree, or even sit down and squeak, if you need to get him back and he doesn't answer your call. Some pups even like being smacked - at least you are paying them attention.

Pups need to be trained in a gentle way, but this doesn't mean spoiling them. Some trainers talk about 'pure positive' methods, from 'positive reinforcement', a term taken from operant conditioning (OC) explanations of how dogs learn, explanations developed by psychologists. This sounds as though all you have to do to train your pup is to offer him nice things, which is a bit misleading. Trainers who use methods based on OC also tend to use what OC calls 'negative punishment' or taking away something nice, like your attention, to stop a dog doing something you don't like, like playbiting. They also let a dog know that what he is doing is not what's wanted, for example when they call 'here' when their dog appears to be about to dash off in pursuit of a friend. What they don't see as helpful is to put a lot of emphasis on physically correcting a dog. If, for example, you always push your pup off the sofa, or pick him up and plonk him on the ground without giving him a command, it means you have to be next to him to get him to get off the sofa. It also means that he's suddenly moved without knowing what's wanted of him. He may find this confusing and threatening, so be more inclined to defend himself. It's better to teach him 'off' to tell him you want him to get off furniture, so that he obeys you rapidly from a distance.

There's more to raising a dog than rewards and punishments, though. It's about developing a relationship with your pup. Watching how your pup reacts to food, different sorts of toys, and different tones of voice can help you work out what he sees as rewarding, and what he sees as a punishment. It's also about getting your timing right, for commands or rewards, and about trying to understand how he sees the world. Watch his body language when you feel pretty certain he is happy, and see what he looks like. Contrast that to when you are pretty certain he's fearful, or down-in-the dumps. Just concentrating on your pup and watching him carefully in different situations can help both with timing and understanding what he's saying with his body language. Raising a dog is an art which you can learn with the help of your pup, who can teach you to see the world through his eyes.

What your pup is telling you isn't always what you think it is. Pups don't have the same ideas as humans have of what's right and wrong. They may look 'guilty' when they have chewed the TV control, or left a little puddle, but think of what messages you are sending. A large, annoyed human can be quite intimidating for a little pup, and he'll react to your body language and tone of voice, often looking 'guilty' when he's just worried that you're cross. He may know you don't like him doing certain things, and do them while watching you out of the corner of his eye, just to get your attention. But he doesn't see what he is doing as 'wrong', he has just worked out that he can get you to react by scattering laundry when you're on the phone, or whatever. A pup does pretty well in terms of understanding humans, but can't be expected to understand our ideas of right and wrong.

Other family members need training too, especially if you have kids. Children as young as eight can be very good dog handlers. Get the kids on your side, helping you train the pup, and your work is halved.

It takes time

Pups are time-consuming, and can constantly surprise you with what they get up to, chewing favourite rugs, leaving little 'presents' for you to step on with bare feet, just when you thought you had house-training sorted...but this is a very rewarding period of a dog's life, and it is a great feeling of achievement when you reach milestones in training your pup. All the time invested in teaching your little one should also pay off, because the more you teach him when he is little, the more freedom you can give him as he grows older, and the more you will enjoy being with each other.



Thank you to Berit Aherne, Janet Boss, Margie English, Helle Haugenes and Sarah Whitehead for sharing their puppy knowledge (the ideas and views set out here do not necessarily reflect their views and ideas). Canine instructors, Rug, Tilly and Conor have also been very helpful.

Further Reading:

Bailey, Gwen (2008) How to Raise the Perfect Puppy, Hamlyn. (Sometimes a bit 'preachy', and unrealistic about how much time even dedicated owners have to devote to a pup, but still very useful)

Kilcommons, Brian and Sarah Wilson (1994) Childproofing Your Dog, Warner (Advice for people planning to raise a puppy and children together.)

Pelar, Colleen and Amber Johnson (2012) Puppy Training for Kids, Barron's. (Delegate! Enlist the kids as trainers. They will find it fun with the help of this book)

Smith, Alison and Clair Arrowsmith (2013) The Puppy Bible: The ultimate week-by-week guide to raising your puppy, Hamlyn.

Zulch, Helen and Daniel Mills (2012) Life Skills for Puppies, Hubble and Hattie. A very well written guide to raising a pup by teaching skills like listening, asking politely, and tackling the world with confidence