Is Your New Puppy a Good Canine Citizen?

What joy bounds when there is a new puppy bouncing around the house, especially during Christmas holidays! Giggles and laughter permeate the house. However, too often, these puppies are not taught good manners (as a good canine citizen), but instead grow into unruly, uncontrolled dogs that will easily be a part of the household for sixteen years plus. If good manners and behavior is not taught early, these fun pups may be exchanged from household to household. Rescue organizations are built from these dogs because the dogs are out of control – lacking training to be a good canine citizen.

The degree of training each puppy receives will depend on your plan for the puppy. But in general, all puppies should know five basic commands to recognize as good citizens:

1. Heel
2. Sit
3. Lay down
4. Come
5. Stay

You will be the best trainer of your puppy for basic commands if you take the time. While professional trainers and handlers may help, your puppy needs to learn your desires and respond to you. Training requires two important things from you: patience and repetition.

Start training your puppy shortly after he arrives at your home. Puppies as young as seven to eight weeks may learn simple commands such as sit, down, and stay. Young puppies have short attention spans so keep training lessons to less than five minutes. Use praise and treats to encourage the desired behavior. Two to three training sessions a day is better than one long session. Never become angry or use discipline to train these puppies. If the puppy is not focusing, reschedule later in the day when there are less distractions.

As the puppy becomes older, training sessions may be extended up to, but never more than, fifteen minutes. Always be open to shorter sessions as necessary. Remember, repetition is important. In order to establish behavior as permanent, you will need to continue training sessions for months beyond simple recognition of commands. Over time, you may reduce the frequency of sessions you need to continually reinforce learned behaviors.

While all of these are important, in my experience, the most important yet often neglected command is heel. As you are walking, your dog is to be beside you, either on left or right (your choice but make it the same each time). The dog’s head is even with your knee and the leash is held loosely. Puppies that learn to heel are a joy to walk. You have seen untrained dogs on a lead 10-15 feet ahead of their owner walking around. Don’t be that owner! In addition, the constant pulling ahead or lunging forward is unpleasant for the owner and even dangerous for the pet’s neck and body.

Once trained to the leash and collar, remove any slack in the leash and keep the dog’s shoulder even with your knee. It is time to praise and reward them. As you start walking say “heel”. If they lunge forward, correct by bringing them back and starting over. Repeat this process until they walk by your side easily and calmly.

In addition to these basic commands, there are many things you could teach your puppy to make veterinary visits more pleasant. Teach your puppy to be handled. Handle the feet and run your finger between the toes. Pick their feet off the floor. Open the mouth and run fingers along the gums. Place your fingers in their ears. Lift his tail to check the tail base. While none of these things will hurt, they are common activities performed during a routine physical examination. Many dogs resent such activity and make it difficult on the owner as well as the veterinary staff.

Obedience classes are also of great benefit. You will learn useful ways to train your dog and it will enjoy themselves seeing other dogs in training. Most of all, make the process fun for you and your puppy.

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