Pets are such a huge part of Australians’ lives, so training them to be the best possible companion is essential. With a recent Real Insurance survey finding we spend close to half of our waking hours (47 hours per week) on quality time with our dog,1 it’s important that you instil good behaviours in your dog from the outset while they are a puppy. We reveal some simple hacks to get your puppy training underway! Download your free puppy training checklist to get started.
Teach your puppy how to sit
‘Sit’ is the first basic command you should teach your puppy, as it’s easy to do and forms the basis for their entire training regimen. You’ll use sit at meal times, when on walks, when meeting new people and dogs, and a whole range of other scenarios.
You might actually be surprised by just how easy it is to teach the sit command – even to an eight-week-old puppy! Here’s a puppy training video to get you started.
- Use a treat your dog loves. That might be kibble, but usually the smellier the better for getting a puppy’s attention.
- Stand in front of your dog and get their full attention.
- Show them the treat, but don’t feed it to them.
- Hold the treat at the dog’s nose then drag your hand over their head.
- As you make this movement, use the command ‘sit’.
- When your dog sits, immediately praise their behaviour and give them the treat.
- Then use a release command, such as ‘here’ or ‘come’ and reward your dog when they obey.
Repeat regularly until your puppy is able to follow the sit command without treats.
Depending on whether your dog is an inside-outside dog, or strictly outside, will affect how you toilet train them. However, for this run-down we’ll assume your dog is sometimes allowed indoors.
First of all, always ensure they follow a regular feeding time, as this will build up an unconscious pattern for them.
Always be aware that your puppy may simply ‘go’ when it needs to go. So take them outside every 30 minutes to an hour, and always to a designated toilet spot, whether that’s in the backyard or on a toilet training mat.
Finally, never yell at your puppy if they have an accident inside. If this happens, gently move your puppy outside as quickly as possible, then lavish praise on them when they finish their business in the designated toilet spot.
Over time, your puppy will naturally take themselves outside – or stand at the door to alert you – whenever they need to relieve themselves.
Walking properly on a lead
Daily walks are great for both dog and owner, but there are some common problems you’ll want to eliminate when they are a puppy. For instance, many dogs pull on their lead, get easily distracted, lunge at people or other dogs, or simply stop mid-walk and refuse to move.2
All these issues can be rectified with proper training while your puppy is young
So, start each walk the same way, making your dog sit while you put on their lead or harness. Then make sure you have a pocket full of tasty treats for your outside time
If your puppy starts sprinting ahead, pulls on the lead or changes direction suddenly, simply stop moving. When they stop pulling on the lead, praise them and continue the walk, keeping the lead firm but not tight around their necks.
When they are walking well, continue to praise them and give them treats from time to time, as this will build their confidence while in unfamiliar environments. Also, be sure to train up your puppy’s recall while on walks, giving them praise and treats when they return to you when called. This will pay dividends when you can eventually let them off the lead in dog parks and off-leash areas.
The ‘come’ command and boosting your dog’s recall
The best way to start using the ‘come’ command is when your puppy is already on their way to you. This will instill the command in their head and connect it with the activity of coming to you.
When you get home from work and your dog rushes you, or when you give them treats, for example, are great times to use ‘come’.
You can boost your puppy’s recall by using their name in conjunction with the ‘come’ command. Start off in a quiet environment with no distractions. Walk away from your puppy and call their name followed by the ‘come’ command. Make sure you lavish praise on them when they come to you so they know that they’ve done a great job. Over time you can start increasing the distance that you call from.
Make the ‘come‘ expression more visually exciting for the dog by spreading your arms out wide. They will be better able to distinguish you from other people.
Emotional health through socialisation
Finally, while one-on-one training is great for teaching your puppy human commands, it’s when they are among other dogs that they will learn what it is to actually be a dog.
While safety should always be your main concern, especially in dog parks with unfamiliar animals, it’s important to let your dog socialise and acclimatise themselves to different sounds on their own.
It’s best to start small by going to a dog park but not going inside on the first one or two occasions. Let your dog get comfortable with the environment, and then slowly let them enter the dog park when their confidence is high.
Anti-social behaviour is common in dogs that aren’t around other animals from a young age, so make sure you get your puppy playing with others as early as possible – but always while you are monitoring them.
Before you let your puppy socialise with others – especially at a dog park – they’ll need to be vaccinated to protect them from common diseases like Canine Cough, Canine Parvovirus and Infectious Canine Hepatitis (which can be fatal in puppies). Some pet insurance plans will also cover a portion of the cost of vaccinations, so be sure to read your PDS for more information.
Nearly nine out of 10 Australians say their pet is as much a part of the family as their partner or children.1 As you would with any family member, we all want to give our puppy the best start in life, and this often begins with having a plan for their care.
Having a Plan B should the unexpected happen is the first step. For peace of mind knowing you’ll be financially covered should your puppy require care, pet insurance could be just what you need.