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40–43 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Puppy

How to Handle Canine Incontinence :: A Guide to Treating Recurrent Ear Infections :: How to Trick Your Puppy Into Becoming a Straight-A Student :: A Guide to Advanced Socialization

How to Trick Your Puppy Into Becoming a Straight-A Student

Does your puppy sit like a king, stay like a statue, but wouldn't lie down to save his life? Your pup may already be a straight-A student in obedience training, but even the best students have a subject or two that is difficult for them. Using objects such as toys and enthusiasm can help even the most stubborn puppy learn that last command or two. These tools can also tempt your puppy into behaving better all around.

The signs of doggie rebellion are pretty clear cut - your puppy pulls away on his leash when he doesn't want to do an exercise or is indulging in a behavior problem despite your attempts to correct it. Looking for reasons behind the rebellion in training or behavior is the first step to fixing the problem. Then, determining which object your puppy responds to the most is crucial. The final fix depends on relying on those skills you learned in Jr. High theater and creating a positive, exuberant environment to encourage your pup.

Why is My Puppy Misbehaving?

It's very natural for a puppy to perform certain exercises with expertise and to shirk from others. Rather than get frustrated with your pup's rebellion, it is important to determine why he isn't responding to a command. In each case, using enthusiasm and/or a toy as either a distraction, encouragement, or reward will help the situation.

  1. Down - "Down!" can be a tough one to do if you haven't established your role as Alpha. Use a toy to coax your puppy to the floor and reward him with it as soon as he's down. Asserting yourself as Alpha also can help.

  2. Come - Some pups just don't seem to get the concept of "Come!" They either stay put or run excitedly toward the garbage can. Enthusiasm may not be enough for these guys, though jumping up and down helps. You can also use a toy here to tempt your pup to you.

  3. Heel - Your puppy might be easily distracted when walking and here an enthusiastic "Watch me!" coupled with a squeaky toy in hand are very useful. Give your command and squeak the toy holding it at your side above his head.

Finding That Favorite Temptation

This is a simple process of elimination. You start with two toys on the ground in front of your puppy (don't hold them as you may inadvertently move one hand towards him). When your puppy chooses a toy, replace the loser with another toy and on and on for about 10 tests. Puppies lose interest in favorite toys eventually, so be sure to test again in a few weeks.

The use of a toy as a tool may seem easier than the summoning up theatrical enthusiasm. Remember that your puppy does not know it's "put on" and is not embarrassed by your silliness. Dogs react strongly to the display of our moods and a puppy who is running away is more likely to want to come play with a silly you than a dour one.

Implementing a toy in your training can be so helpful, especially if you have a pup who isn't food driven or a pup who's desensitized to treats. It's helpful to keep your puppy from developing "treat dependence" where he will not perform a task without one.

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

Start Training Your Puppy Right Away

Even though the old saying goes, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," in reality you can start training a dog at any age - if the dog is nine weeks, nine months, or nine years old.

Even if you bring home a very young puppy, training and working on wanted behaviors starts immediately after the dog comes home with you. You would start teaching the dog to recognize her name and get her used to a set schedule of when you go outside, when she's fed, when it's time for walks and when it's time for bed time. Even playtime can be training - you're teaching her what she can and cannot play with, not to bite your hands, and rules for your games (such as, when you bite me, the game ends).

Formal training, such as sit, down, and come, can be started at a very young age as well. It's never too early to "shape" behaviors using positive rewards. A good time to enroll into a class is around 6 months old - puppy class.

~Chris & Brian C., owner of German Shepherd

Dealing with a Puppy That Chews Everything in Sight

Try offering your puppy a variety of chew toys. Notice the texture and softness of what he usually chooses to chew on (that he's not supposed to chew on) and try to pick a toy with that texture and softness. But don't get any toys shaped like any of the inappropriate items he chews. Dogs don't know the different between a chew toy shaped like a shoe and a real shoe.

Also, redirect the behavior. It's very simple to do this. All you need to do is when you see him chewing inappropriate items, show him the chew toy and encourage him to chew that instead. Praise and richly reward him for chewing the right things. Whenever he chews the wrong things, just redirect.

~Tiffany C., owner of Papillon mix

Tips on Housebreaking a Puppy

The best thing I found was crate-training at night, and when you're away from home. I didn't keep my dog crated when I was home with him, I locked him in the kitchen the first week, staying in there to play with him. On the second week we slowly let him have more freedom in the house.

We were always watching, and after all activity (sleeping, eating, playing) took him out right away. I took him out as much as every 15-30 minutes. We took him out the same door always, out to the same spot (by a big field we have beside our yard), said 'go potty, go potty' (he's 2 now, and still goes to the same area to poop) and petted/praised like crazy when he did (good BOY, good potty!) Then right back inside....no playing right after potty. If we played, it was inside, then back out to play, so he'd 'get it' that that trip out was for potty alone. When you pair whatever words (like "go potty") to the action, I think it helps...and he'd go potty on command after awhile. That's nice when you're getting ready to go somewhere in the car, and need him to go!

If he had accidents when in the crate, I never scolded...never. Just cleaned everything up. Nature's Miracle worked wonders for me; it cleans spots and odors great. We would never rub the puppy's nose in it if there were accidents in the house. That's what worked for me.

~Donna C., owner of Labrador Retriever

Training Your Puppy to Sleep Through the Night

My trainer told me that puppies can usually hold it longer during the night, when they are sleeping.

If your pup is waking up and crying to go out at night, you might try pushing her potty breaks back a little. If she normally wakes up at 12, wait an hour, then take her out at 1. If shes fine with that, push it back another hour, til 2, and so on. That's what I did with my dog and it worked well and quickly. Instead of taking her out at 5, I'd wait til 5:30. Then 6, then 6:30, etc. She was sleeping through the night by 12 weeks or so (but I'm sure every pup is different).

~Dana S., owner of German Shorthaired Pointer

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